Monday, March 17, 2008

A Palm Sunday Sung Passion

Video from Trinity Wall Street.

It's from the Gospel of Luke - Year C, perhaps? - not this year's Matthew passion. Here, at the website of Grace Church in Newark, is a PDF file of the Passion According to St. Luke, notated for singing. I haven't gone through the entire thing, but even if there are slight differences between it and the Trinity Wall Street version, they are likely to be more alike than not. It is, though, from the RCL, FYI. (Grace Newark, BTW, is a wonderful chant reference! See this page, for instance: Eucharistic Lectionary Psalms for Sundays and Major Holy Days (Prayer Book Lectionary), where there are links to PDF chant scores for all the Psalms for all three years. Or this page: Gospel Readings for Sundays and Holy Days, Notated for Singing. There are many resources available from the home page as well; this parish has always been very generous in making these things available freely on the web.)

Here's a small section from the "Passion Music" page at Wikisource, quoting from the (1913) Catholic Encyclopedia:
Precisely when, in the development of the liturgy, the history of the Passion of Our Lord ceased, during Holy Week, to be merely read and became a solemn recitation, has not yet been ascertained. As early as the eighth century the deacon of the Mass, in alb, solemnly declaimed, in front of the altar, on a fixed tone, the history of the Passion. The words of our Lord were, however, uttered on the gospel tone, that is, with inflections and cadences. The original simplicity of having the whole allotted to one person gave way in the twelfth century to a division into three parts assigned to three different persons, the priest, or celebrant, the deacon, and the sub-deacon. To the priest were assigned the words of our Lord, the deacon assumed the rôle of the Evangelist, or chronista, while the sub-deacon represented the crowd, or turba, and the various other persons mentioned in the narrative. The interrelation of the alternating voices, their relative pitch, and the manner of interpreting the part allotted to each have come down to us and may be heard in Holy Week in almost any city church, the only change since the early times being that all three parts are now generally sung by priests. The juxtaposed melodic phrases extend over an ambitus, or compass of the whole of the fifth and two tones of its plagal, or the sixth mode. The evangelist, or chronista, moves between the tonic and the dominant, while the suprema vox, representing the crowd, etc., moves between the dominant and the upper octave. The tones upon which the words of our Lord are uttered are the lower tetra-chord of the fifth mode with two tones of the sixth. Later the fourth tone of the fifth mode, b, was altered into b flat, to avoid the tritonus between the tonic and the fourth. Throughout the Middle Ages the Passion was the theme most frequently treated in mystery plays and sacred dramas. The indispensable music in these performances was either the plain chant or liturgical melodies or religious folk-songs. It was not until toward the end of the fifteenth century that the whole narrative received harmonic treatment.

If a video file of this year's St. Matthew passion appears, I'll post it here also. Meantime, here's the Grace PDF of the Passion according to St. Matthew.


Father Mark said...

Being alone to serve at the Monastery of the Glorious Cross (Branford, CT), I sang the three voices of entire Passion According to Saint Matthew. It wasn't fatiguing at all. I took a comfortable pitch, and the chant itself carried me along. I used the glorious melismatic ending.

bls said...

Sounds wonderful.

Blessed Holy Week to you, Fr. Mark.


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