Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Office Hymns of the Octave of Easter

"From Maundy Thursday until the Saturday in the Octave of Easter, no Hymns are sung." So says Hymn-melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books and other Ancient Sources.

Well, that was easy.

It's not quite like that, though; during the Octave of Easter, short chants - in my sources called "grails," a term I believe is derived from "Gradual," even though we are talking about the Divine Office and not the Mass - and verse/responses are sung in place of hymns.   (Follow along with the Offices for Easter Week here, at Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston, 1885); that link sends you to the page for Easter Day.  I'll link-in via iFrame at the bottom of the page, too.)

Here is an mp3 example of each - both quite beautiful - courtesy of the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood:

  1. "A chant for Easter Day (mp3), the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord"; the text is from the Easter Gradual, Haec Dies: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." It's beautifully (and fittingly, for the occasion), melismatic and tuneful. The cantor is using the tune from the Gradual at Easter Day mass:

  2. "A versicle for Easter Day, the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord." ("In Thy Resurrection, O Christ, Alleluia, Let earth and heaven rejoice, Alleluia." Also lovely.)

The text and music for the "grail" I have (that is, the part before the Verse/Response) for all Offices of each day in the Octave of Easter is this much simpler version of the Haec Dies:

The Verse/Response above is the one for Noonday Prayer and Compline on Easter Day; the text for this piece varies, especially at Vespers, throughout the Octave of Easter. For instance, here's the "grail"-Verse/Response pair for Thursday Vespers in the Octave of Easter.

In addition to these short chants/"grails" and versicles sung at all the offices of the Octave, there is a sequence hymn for the mass of Easter Day: Victimae Paschali Laudes; one English translation of this is "May you praise the Paschal Victim."  Here is an mp3 of this sequence hymn from the Benedictines of Sao Paulo.

And here's a video of the song in Latin, apparently sung by "Cantori Gregoriani, Fulvio Rampi."  The images comes from the Basilica of San Marco, Venice:

These are the Latin words - and what I think is a wonderful English translation, which comes from the Episcopal Church's 1982 Hymnal:
Victimae paschali laudes
immolent Christiani.

Agnus redemit oves:
Christus innocens Patri
Reconciliavit peccatores.

Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando,
Dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus.

Dic nobis Maria, quid vidisti in via?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
Et gloriam vidi resurgentis:

Angelicos testes, sudarium et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea:
Praecedet vos in Galilaeam.

Scimus Christum surrexisse
a mortuis vere:
Tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere.
Amen. Alleluia.
Christians, to the Paschal victim
offer your thankful praises!

A lamb the sheep redeemeth:
Christ, who only is sinless,
reconcileth sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended
in that combat stupendous:
the Prince of life, who died,
reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring
what thou sawest, wayfaring:

"The tomb of Christ, who is living,
the glory of Jesus' resurrection;

"Bright angels attesting,
the shroud and napkin resting.

"Yea, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he will go before you."

Christ indeed from death is risen,
our new life obtaining;
have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!

Here's the chant score:

Here's what TPL says about Victimae Paschali Laudes:
Victimae Paschali is the Sequence for Easter Sunday. At one time there were many sequences in use, but the Council of Trent abolished all but a few. Today only four are used: Victimae Paschali (Easter), Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Pentecost), Lauda Sion (Corpus Christi), and Stabat Mater (Our Lady of Sorrows), of which the first two are obligatory and the later two are optional. Victimae Paschali is usually attributed to Wipo of Burgundy (1039), chaplain of the German Emperor Conrad II in the 11th century. It has also been attributed to Notker Balbulus (10th century) and Adam of St. Victor (13th century).

Here's that peek-in to the SSM Breviary:

A post on hymns for Eastertide (that is, the period that begins on II Easter) will follow.


Anonymous said...

If you are still checking this blog I have a question; the "grail" you mentioned and then illustrated in the first document is labeled "Grad 2". Does that mean that Tone (or mode) 2 is being used? Thank you!

bls said...

Yes. The "Grad" part means that it's the Gradual for the Mass of Easter Day - and the number following that is the tone being used.

That's the standard Liber Usualis notation, for any mass chant they list (and for most of the other chants, although not all, I don't think).


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