Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Lenten Array

This is not a chant post at all, but something I thought was interesting. I've been looking around of late at the various customs for Lent - and one that I didn't know much about until recently is the "Lenten Array." This is an English, perhaps Sarum, custom, and consists of removing color during Lent, instead of changing to so-called "penitential purple." Unbleached linens are used for the altar hangings and for veilings and other things; these are often adorned with design elements which use a small amount of crimson (which makes sense) with black or blue. Here's a post from another blog about this, which quotes from The Parson's Handbook on the topic:
The Lenten Array. The adopting of this striking custom during the forty days of Lent is strongly urged as an alternative to prolonging the Septuagesima colour until Easter Even and Holy Week. The Lenten array is not a colour, but is a shrouding or veiling of the colours and gilt as far as possible during that season of the Church's year when the more enervating things of life are laid aside for a time by devout churchmen. Materials of unbleached linen or light-toned holland are used to veil reredoses, pictures, images; and crosses may be veiled in like manner. All these veils may be relieved with symbolic devices stencilled in red, black, or blue; or motifs may be cut out in red, blue, and black felt and applied to the veils. The symbol on the veil should give some hint of the nature of the thing that is veiled. Thus a reredos connected with the Blessed Virgin Mary could have some emblem of our Lady on it. The chasuble and the frontal for Lent will also be of the same material. Dalmatics and tunicles should not be worn. Where there is a triptych, its leaves can be folded and their backs painted to tone with the Lenten array.

Care must be taken that too many devices or symbols are not introduced on to the hangings and veils, or the austerity of the Lenten symbolism will be lost and it will give a 'festive' rather than a restraining atmosphere to the interior of the church.

For the last two weeks of Lent, starting with Passion Sunday, the frontals and the chasuble are replaced by those of Passiontide red with black orphreys, but the veils remain in situ until Easter Even. The red used during Passiontide should be crimson and not vermilion.

The Veiling of Crosses during Lent. It is sometimes asked why crosses and crucifixes are veiled during Lent and Passiontide, that is, at the season when the Cross and Passion are supposed to be predominant in the Church's teaching. Until the eleventh century crucifixes showed Christ reigning and alive on the Cross, with the wounds in his hands and feet glorified by emergent rays or scintillating jewels; and his body was clad in the colobium or kingly raiment and the head was crowned with a diadem.

From the twelfth century popular piety gradually turned to the personal, emotional aspect of pity for the crucified Lord. This frame of mind found no emotional stimulus in contemplating the triumphant Christ on the cross. Hence the custom of veiling the 'Christus Rex' type of crucifix during that season when it was particularly desired to think upon the sufferings and anguish of the Saviour rather than upon his triumphs.

The growing devotion to the Passion of Christ in the later Middle Ages resulted in a change of style in crucifixes and gradually there evolved the type of crucifix showing Christ as the Man of Sorrows with his head crowned with thorns and in the anguish of death. (To the same period belongs the Latin hymn, Salve caput cruentatum, ascribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and known to us in English as 'O sacred head, sore wounded'.) Whereas in the earlier centuries there was considerable reluctance to portray the crucifixion in a realistic manner, by the fourteenth century the custom of veiling all crosses and images during Lent and Passiontide had become so firmly established that it was applied to the later and more realistic type of crucifix also. But there would seem to be a need for a more intelligent discrimination in this matter. A cross showing Christ as the Man of Sorrows might be left unveiled during Lent and Passiontide, while the type that depicts the triumphant Lord or 'Christus Rex' should be covered.

There are some images at that link; I really like the first one especially.

Other pictorials of the Lenten array:

The person who put up the NLM images, Lawrence OP (I assume therefore a Dominican brother), grants the "Some rights reserved" license (thank you, sir!), so I can show you some of these images:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Giovanni Vianini's Inno page

As anybody who reads this blog realizes in short order, I'm a hymnody nut. Gregorian hymnody in particular, but most anything will do.

So naturally, I went to Mr. Vianini's YouTube Channel and did a quick search on inno (Italian for "hymn"). And here it is; there are at least 50 hymns here, many of which I've posted about on this blog. Most are Gregorian chant, but he posts Ambrosian chant, too, and perhaps other forms; I haven't had a chance to go through everything yet.

These are all in Latin, and let me say again what a terrific resource this is. I get updates about once a week listing new posts, too; if I were you, I'd go there at once and subscribe so you get those updates, too.

Here's a great page, for instance: it's the hymn Aurea luce , which is, I'm sure you'll recall, sung on the June 29 feast day of Ss. Peter and Paul, and which was written by "H. Elpis, wife of Christian philosopher poet Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius." That's way back there around the year 500 or so.

Here's the image I posted, with a snippet of the hymn at the bottom of the page:

And yes indeed, that's the melody that Mr. Vianini is singing here:

Terrific! These seem to be the Latin words:

Aurea luce et decore roseo,
lux lucis, omne perfudisti sæculum,
decorans cælos inclito martyrio
hac sacra die, quæ dat reis veniam.

lanitor cæli, doctor orbis pariter,
iudices sæcli, vera mundi lumina,
per crucem alter, alter ense triumphans,
vitæ senatum laureati possident.

O Roma felix, quæ tantorum principum
es purpurata pretioso sanguine,
non laude tua, sed ipsorum meritis
excellis omnem mundi pulchritudinem.

Olivæ binæ pietatis unicæ,
fide devotos, spe robustos maxime,
fonte repletos caritatis geminæ
post mortem carnis impetrate vivere.

Sit Trinitati sempiterna gloria,
honor, potestas atque iubilatio,
in unitate, cui manet imperium
ex tunc et modo per æterna sæcula.

I think the first phrase of the second stanza is referring to "Heaven's Janitor"! (That would probably be Peter, who after all is the owner of all those keys.)

I posted the English words to a similar hymn, revised from this one, at the link above; here they are again, although there seems to be a verse missing in these:
With golden radiance bright, with fair and ruddy glow,
The Light of Light its beams o'er all the earth doth throw:
This holy-day, whereon to sinners hope is given,
The glorious Martyrdoms give joy to highest heaven.

Earth's teacher, and the guard of heaven's eternal gate,
True lights of all the world, earth's judges dread and great,
The sword-stroke, and the cross to them their victory give,
And now, with laurel crowned, in heaven's high court they live.

O happy city Rome, the precious life-drops shed
By these two noble chiefs thy walls have hallowed,
By nought that is thine own, but by their deeds of worth,
Thy fairness far excéls all beauty else on earth.

Now to the Trinity eternal glory sing;
All honour, virtue, might, and hymns of gladness bring;
He rules the universe in wondrous Unity,
And shall, through all the days of vast eternity. Amen.

The missing verse seems to have something to do with olives or olive trees - and perhaps can be filled in in that regard by raiding the other hymn sung for this feast, Felix per omnes festum mundi cardines, which calls Peter and Paul "two olive-trees that stand before the Lord."

I also spy several Lent and Easter-season hymns on these pages, so you'll be hearing from me (and Mr. Vianini) again quite soon, I expect.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Free Midi-and-Score-Creation Software

It's called MuseScore, and it's open-source, and simple and easy to use. Here's the Wikipedia article about it.

I created this file of one of the chants we will be singing this year:

A Song of Our True Nature

Julian of Norwich

Christ revealed our frailty and our falling, *
our trespasses and our humiliations.
Christ also revealed his blessed power, *
his blessed wisdom and love.
He protects us as tenderly and as sweetly when we are in greatest need; *
he raises us in spirit
and turns everything to glory and joy without ending.
God is the ground and the substance, the very essence of nature; *
God is the true father and mother of natures.
We are all bound to God by nature, *
and we are all bound to God by grace.
And this grace is for all the world, *
because it is our precious mother, Christ.
For this fair nature was prepared by Christ
for the honor and nobility of all, *
and for the joy and bliss of salvation.

Here's the PDF; I had to create this in 4/4, because MuseScore asks for a time sig.; I tried 14/4 first (just counting the number of notes in the first phrase), and it had a nervous breakdown.

One of the members of our Schola is blind, and this will help her (I hope) to learn music that's not readily available on the web.

Anyway, it works like a charm (well, as well as midis ever work, that is).

January 18: The Confession of St. Peter (transferred this year to January 19)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Paean Alphabeticus de Christo

As a result of a question Derek asks on his blog, I've finally found the "longer alphabetic hymn" from which the Christmas and Epiphany Office hymns, A solis ortus cardine and Hostis Herodes impie were created. Here again are mp3s of the former and the latter, sung in English. Remember that longer hymns were broken up to create shorter ones for use at various Offices, usually during one particular season, and sometimes for consecutive seasons (I think for a sense of continuity).

Here's the Latin version; lots of juicy notes on that page, too. I'm hoping Derek - while studying this Paean for his own purposes - will translate it into English so I can post that at some point!
1. A solis ortus cardine
Adusque terre limitem
Christum canamus principem
Natum Maria virgine.

2. Beatus auctor seculi
Servile corpus induit,
Ut carne carnem liberans
Non perderet, quos condidit.

3. Caste parentis viscera
Celestis intrat gratia,
Venter puelle baiulat
Secreta, que non noverat.

4. Domus pudici pectoris
Templum repente fit Dei,
Intacta nesciens virum
Verbo creavit filium

5. Enixa est puerpera,
Quem Gabriel predixerat ,
Quem matris alvo gestiens
Clausus Johannes senserat.

6. Feno iacere pertulit,
Presepe non abhorruit
Parvoque lacte pastus est,
Per quem nec ales esurit.

7. Gaudet chorus celestium,
Et angeli canunt Deum,
Palamque fit pastoribus
Pastor creator omnium .

8. Hostis Herodes impie,
Christum venire quid times?
Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat celestia.

9. Ibant magi, qua venerant,
Stellam sequentes previam,
Lumen requirunt lumine,
Deum fatentur munere.

10. Katerva matrum personat
Collisa deflens pignora,
Quorum tyrannus milia
Christo sacravit victimam.

11. Lavacra puri gurgitis
Cekstis agnus attigit ,
Peccata qui mundi tulit
Nos abluendo sustulit.

12. Miraculis dedit fidem
Habere se Deum patrem,
Infirma sanans corpora
Et suscitans cadavera.

13. Novum genus potentie!
Aque rubescunt hydrie,
Vinumque iussa fundere
Mutavit unda originem.

14. Orat salutem servulo
Nixus genu centurio ,
Credentis ardor plurirnus
Extinxit ignes febriurn

15. Petrus per undas arubulat
Christi levatus dextera;
Natura quam negaverat,
Fides paravit semitam.

16. Quarta die iam fetides
Titam recepit Lazarus
Mortisque liber vinculis
Factus superstes est sibi.

17. Rivos cruoris torridi
Contacta vestis obstruit:
Fletu rigante supplicis
Arent fluenta sanguinis.

18. Solutus omni corpore
Iussus repente surgere
Suis vicissim gressihus
Eger vehebat lectulum,

19. Tunc ille Judas carnifcx
Ausus magistrum tradere
Pacem ferebat osculo,
Quam non habebat pectore

20. Verax datur fallacibus,
Pium flagellat impius,
Crucique fixus innocens
Coniunctus est latronibus

21. Xeromurram post sabbatum
Quedam vehebant compares,
Quas allocutus angelus
Vivum sepulcro non tegi .

22. Ymnis, venite, dulcibus
Omnes canamus subditum
Christi triumpho tartarum,
Qui nos redemit venditus.

23. Zelum draconis invidi
Et os leonis pessimi
Calcavit unicus Dei
Seseque celis reddidit.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A wonderful YouTube chant resource

Is here: at "vianinigiovanni"'s page. The credit on many of the video reads, "Giovanni Vianini, Cantore e direttore Schola Gregoriana Mediolanensis, Milano, Italia."

Giovanni Vianini is obviously the cantor and director of the Schola Gregoriana Mediolanensis, in Milan; I'm not sure if that's his page (I think it is), or if it's a fan's page dedicated to him. The Canto Ambrosiano website says this about Vianini:
Giovanni Vianini, 62, of Cremona descents, begins his musical activity at 8 years old as cantor, contralto, in the Musical chapel of Milan's Chatedral managed by the Master Pietro Dentella.

Actually, he works in Milan in the liturgical sacred music field, vocal and instrumental. Organist and studious of organistic, he has built 30 organs with mechanical transmission, diversifing with the passing of time the own musical skill.

He devoted himself to the medieval music ( studying with the psaltery and the provenzal harp), to the Renaissance music, with the studying of the wind instruments ( chalmey, dulciana, cromorni and straight flutes).

His musical engagement is principally turned to the studying, divulgation and practice in liturgy of Ambrosian and Gregorian singing. He is Director of the Schola Gregoriana Mediolanensis chor, school instituited on 1981 and composed of 50 choristers. Every year he keeps a starting course to the Ambrosian and Gregorian singing ( with 100 members ).

For 10 years he has been Director of S. Marco Basilica Musical Chapel in Milan with the presence in several liturgical exhibithion and concerts of sacred music: besides he has organizes the " Gregorian Chant" and sacred polyphony review " Musical Spring" in S. Marco Basilica.

49 years of liturgical exhibithion as choir chorister, organist and choir director. Every second sunday of the month , the Schola Gregoriana Mediolanensis sings during the evening Mass at 6.00 p.m. in Chiaravalle Abbey in Milan with a Gregorian chant program.

Every fourth sunday of the month , the Schola Gregoriana Mediolanensis sings during the evening Mass at 6.30 p.m. in S. Marco Basilica in Milan with an Ambrosian chant program.

Anyway, there are dozens of videos there, and most are chant-oriented. Here's one labeled "TENEBRAE FACTAE SUNT, Responsorio ambrosiano" (an Ambrosian responsory, that is, I believe for Good Friday, but will look more at this):

[EDIT: I notice the video itself says this "Responsoria Settimana Santa," which I'm told means "Responsory for Holy Week." There's something there about "Feria VI. in Parasceve," too, and I'm not sure what that means. The chant score itself says that this is sung "After the Second Reading."]

[EDIT II: But then the note on the web page says this:
Responsorio ambrosiano per il Venerdi Santo, si trova a pagina 180 dell'Antifonale Ambrosiano edito da Desclee' e Socii (Roma?) Tournai, Belgium 1935. Schola Gregoriana Mediolanensis, solista e direttore Giovanni Vianini, Milano, Italia,, studio del canto gregoriano ed ambrosiano, Polifonia medievale

And that says "Holy Friday," for sure. This was found in an Ambrosian Antiphonal, apparently.]

Anyway, the whole score is there, which is great.

HT to massinformation (I think that's where I saw it first, anyway).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

January 11: "Baptism of light"

From Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul:
Daily Reading for January 11 • The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

Today the Source of all the graces of baptism comes himself to be baptized in the river Jordan, there to make himself known to the world. Seeing him approach, John stretches out his hand to hold him back, protesting: Lord, by your own baptism you sanctify all others; yours is the true baptism, the source of perfect holiness. How can you wish to submit to mine? But the Lord replies, I wish it to be so. Come and baptize me. Do as I wish, for surely you cannot refuse me. Why do you hesitate, why are you so afraid? Do you not realize that the baptism I ask for is mine by every right? By my baptism the waters will be sanctified, receiving from me fire and the Holy Spirit. . . .

See the hosts of heaven hushed and still, as the all-holy Bridegroom goes down into the Jordan. No sooner is he baptized than he comes up from the waters, his splendor shining forth over the earth. The gates of heaven are opened, and the Father’s voice is heard: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” All who are present stand in awe as they watch the Spirit descend to bear witness to him. O come all you peoples, worship him! Praise to you, Lord, for your glorious epiphany which brings joy to us all! The whole world has become radiant with the light of your manifestation.

From Ephrem the Syrian’s Hymns on Nativity: Epiphany, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament II, Mark, edited by Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall (Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1998).

Friday, January 09, 2009

"The Hymns of Prudentius, translated by R. Martin Pope"

Something nice, from Project Gutenburg; this was apparently originally published in 1905. I was trying to find out more about the "longer alphabetic hymn" from which so many of the Christmas and Epiphany Office hymns have been taken, and came across this in my search.

I also came across the hymn O sola magnarum urbium, which is, according to TPL, the Lauds hymn in the Roman Breviary for Epiphany (but not in the Sarum Use that we've already discussed):
This hymn is composed of four verses from the Hymn for the Epiphany from Prudentius' (384-413) Cathemerinon, which is 52 stanzas long. In 1568, four short hymns were assembled from selected stanzas from Prudentius' hymn and introduced into the Breviary by Pope Pius V. This hymn is one of them and is used in the Roman Breviary at Lauds on Epiphany.

Here are the words, in Latin and English ("Translation by Fr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878)"), from the above:
O SOLA magnarum urbium
maior Bethlehem, cui contigit
ducem salutis caelitus
incorporatum gignere.

Haec stella, quae solis rotam
vincit decore ac lumine,
venisse terris nuntiat
cum carne terrestri Deum.

Videre postquam illum Magi,
eoa promunt munera:
stratique votis offerunt
thus, myrrham, et aurum regium.

Regem Deumque annuntiant
thesaurus, et fragrans odor
thuris Sabaei, ac myrrheus
pulvis sepulchrum praedocet.

Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
qui apparuisti gentibus,
cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
in sempiterna saecula.

BETHLEHEM! of noblest cities
none can once with thee compare;
thou alone the Lord from heaven
didst for us Incarnate bear.

Fairer than the sun at morning
was the star that told His birth;
to the lands their God announcing,
hid beneath a form of earth.

By its lambent beauty guided,
see the eastern kings appear;
see them bend, their gifts to offer-
gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh.

Solem things of mystic meaning!-
Incense doth the God disclose;
Gold a royal Child proclaimeth;
Myrrh a future tomb foreshows.

Holy Jesu, in Thy brightness
to the Gentile world displayed,
with the Father and the Spirit,
endless praise to Thee be paid.

This would be, I do believe, the hymn in the Hymnal 1982 known as "Earth has many a noble city," and sung to the tune Stuttgart.

Wikipedia has this to say about Prudentius:
Aurelius Prudentius Clemens was a Roman Christian poet, born in the Roman province of Tarraconensis (now Northern Spain) in 348. He probably died in Spain, as well, some time after 405, possibly around 413. The place of his birth is uncertain, but it may have been Caesaraugusta Saragossa, Tarraco Tarragona, or Calagurris Calahorra.

Prudentius practised law with some success, and was twice provincial governor, perhaps in his native country, before the emperor Theodosius I summoned him to court. Towards the end of his life (possibly around 392) Prudentius retired from public life to become an ascetic, fasting until evening and abstaining entirely from animal food. Prudentius later collected the Christian poems written during this period and added a preface, which he himself dated 405.

The poetry of Prudentius is influenced by early Christian authors, such as Tertullian and St. Ambrose, as well as the Bible and the acts of the martyrs. His hymn Da, puer, plectrum (including "Corde natus ex parentis": "Of the Father's Love Begotten") and the hymn for Epiphany O sola magnarum urbium ("Earth Has Many a Noble City"), both from the Cathemerinon, are still in use today. The allegorical Psychomachia, however, is his most influential work and became the inspiration and wellspring of medieval allegorical literature.

The works of Prudentius include:
  • Liber Cathemerinon -- ("Book in Accordance with the Hours") comprises 12 lyric poems on various times of the day and on church festivals.
  • Liber Peristephanon -- ("Crowns of Martyrdom") contains 14 lyric poems on Spanish and Roman martyrs.
  • Apotheosis -- ("Deification") attacks disclaimers of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus.
  • Hamartigenia -- ("The Origin of Sin") attacks the Gnostic dualism of Marcion and his followers.
  • Psychomachia -- ("Battle of Souls") describes the struggle of faith, supported by the cardinal virtues, against idolatry and the corresponding vices.
  • Libri contra Symmachum -- ("Books Against Symmachus") oppose the pagan senator Symmachus's requests that the altar of Victory be restored to the Senate house.
  • Dittochæon -- ("The Double Testament") contains 49 quatrains intended as captions for the murals of a basilica in Rome.

I admit to being a bit confused as to what actually comprises the Cathemerinon; some sources seem to indicate that it's a long (I guess "alphabetic"; 2 x 26 = 52?) hymn of 52 stanzas, but this Project Gutenberg book seems to say that the whole collection of hymns of Prudentius is called The Cathemerinon.

So I will continue to look into this and will post again when I nail this down. Meantime, I thought people might be interested in having this "e-book" to look over.

EDIT: Well, here's more, from the Denver Seminary: "Hymns of Prudentius - The Cathemerinon, or The Daily Round," which looks to be a review of a book of the same name by David Slavitt:
Everything known about the life of Aurelius Prudentius Clemens is contained in a 45 verse introduction to his collection of hymns that he published in 405 C.E. when he was 57 years old. Born into a reasonably prosperous Christian family in Spain in 348, Prudentius enjoyed a typical education based on the literature and rhetoric of the classical era. He had a brief career as an advocate and held increasingly responsible positions in the imperial civil service. Tiring of the emptiness of his life, he visited Rome c.401-403. It was while touring Rome, with its combination of monuments both classical and Christian, that Prudentius vowed to spend the remainder of his life writing hymns in praise of God for an audience that was more familiar with the literature of the classical past than with Scripture-based Christianity. Thus, much of the imagery and vocabulary in Prudentius' hymns have more in common with the writings of Virgil and Ovid than the New Testament. Written in conscious imitation of the pagan hymns of Horace, Prudentius' hymns are full of images drawn from the world of nature. Rather than trying to convert his thinly Christianized audience through Scriptural exegesis or christological explanation, Prudentius lets the beauty and interrelated complexity of the natural world draw the mind towards the Creator. In contrast to various systems of gnosticism and Neoplatonism prevalent in his day, Prudentius repeatedly stressed the fact that acceptance of Christianity did not necessitate a rejection of either the created world or the physical body. On the contrary, Prudentius employs a wide variety of images from nature to proclaim God's involvement in the physical world.

The Cathemerinon is a set of twelve hymns included within a much larger collection of hymns by Prudentius. The first six hymns are each written for use at a particular time during the course of the day, thus giving Christians an opportunity to sanctify all the hours of the day. Hymns 1 and 2 are for morning use, hymns 3 and 4 are sung before and after meals, hymns 5 and 6 are for evening and bedtime. Prudentius wrote these hymns at the beginning of the fifth century when monasticism, with its regimen of prescribed hours for daily prayer, song and spiritual reading, was beginning to make inroads into Latin-speaking urban culture in the western Roman Empire. Although there is no direct evidence that Prudentius himself had any monastic affiliation, his hymns were soon included in the liturgy of the early church. As hymns, Prudentius' religious poetry continues to be used for liturgical purposes down to the present day. Hymn IX, "Corde natus ex Parentis," is included in the Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, 1942 edition, hymn #98. Even a cursory search of any online hymnography database will yield numerous other examples of the use of Prudentius' poetry in worship services over the centuries.

In addition to the first six hymns for use at particular times throughout the day, the remaining six hymns of the Cathemerinon deal with specific events during the life of a Christian. Hymns 7 and 8 are sung before and after fasting. Hymn 9 is a litany of miracles performed by Christ and is one of the few instances in Prudentius' poetry where a knowledge of the Gospels is required in order for the poem to be intelligible. Hymn 10 is to be used at a Christian burial. In opposition to several heterodox groups popular at the time, Prudentius stresses the physical resurrection of the body. Hymn 11 was composed for use at Christmas. Unfortunately, Prudentius has framed his explanation of the physical birth of the Son of God in terms of an anti-Jewish polemic. Although the question of the physical birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was a hotly debated topic during Prudentius' time, his polemical imagery and vocabulary in this particular poem render it unsuitable for use without appropriate explanations of the tragic adversus Judaeos tradition in Christian theology. Hymn 12 is for Epiphany and again uses images from the created world, the star at Bethlehem, to draw the reader/listener toward the Creator.

Slavitt is first and foremost a poet. His translations are rather free adaptations of Prudentius' poems. (The Latin text is not included with Slavitt's tanslation.) However, Slavitt's translations can lift the soul, something that my translations, for all their cognizance of Latin grammar, do not do.

"wearisome bodies that weren't
designed to soar as our minds can do in flights
not unlike angels' arabesques, when we take
the heavenly view of dreams, which is why our nights
can be far brighter than what we know, awake" (Hymn 6).

Reviewed by Victoria Erhart
The Catholic University of America
Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Epiphany Proclamation

Also known as "The Announcement of Easter and the Moveable Feasts." This is generally sung at the end of the celebration of the Eucharist on Epiphany, using the same tune as is used for singing the Exsultet on Easter (although the page at that link says it's to be sung after the reading of the Gospel). It is explained that "This proclamation dates from a time when calendars were not readily available. It is a reminder of the centrality of the resurrection of the Lord in the liturgical year and the importance of the great mysteries of faith which are celebrated each year."

I've posted about this before, but at last somebody has made an mp3 available online; here's the text on the audio file (for 2009):


Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us,
and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return.
Through the rhythms of times and seasons
let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord:
his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated
between the evening of the ninth of April.
and the evening of the twelfth of April.

Each Easter — as on each Sunday—
the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed
by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.
From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the twenty–fifth of February.
[In those places where Ascension is observed on Thursday:
The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the twenty–first of May.]
[In those places where observance of the Ascension is transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter:
The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the twenty–fourth of May.]

Pentecost, the joyful conclusion of the season of Easter,
will be celebrated on the thirty–first of May.
And this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the twenty–ninth of November.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ
in the feasts of the Holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints,
and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come,
Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, for ever and ever.
R/. Amen. [Amen. Amen.]

The current (2013) text at the USCCB site's "The Announcement of Easter and the Moveable Feasts" is different from what's above; I'm not sure what the significance of that is.  Perhaps a rewrite in the interim?

The Epiphany Office

From Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books:
On the Feast of Epiphany & during the Octave :
Evensong: Hostis Herodes impie
On the day, the Sunday, & the Octave day, at both Evensongs... ... ... 28
On the remaining days of the Octave... ... ... 29

Mattins: No Hymn on the day itself, but within the Octave and on the Octave day, Hostis Herodes, as above.

Lauds: A Patre Unigenitus
On the day, the Sunday, & the Octave day... ... ... 28
On the remaining days of the Octave... ... ... 29

Follow along with the Offices for this feast at Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston) (published in 1885). You'll have all the Psalms, the collect, Chapter, antiphons, etc., for each of the offices of the day at that link, although no music is provided; also check the iFrame look-in at the bottom of this post.

So, there are really only two hymns for this feast, and only two tunes used throughout the Octave; simple! Here are the tunes:

Let's start with Hostis Herodes impie.    The Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood offers an mp3 labeled "Hymn for the Epiphany of our Lord";  the cantor is using melody #28 above.  It's a very pretty, melismatic tune, and the words for this version come from the Lutheran Hymnal:
The star proclaims the King is here;
But, Herod, why this senseless fear?
He takes no realms of earth away
Who gives the realms of heavenly day.

The wiser Magi see from far
And follow on His guiding star;
And led by light, to light they press
And by their gifts their God confess.

Within the Jordan's crystal flood
In meekness stands the Lamb of God
And, sinless, sanctifies the wave,
Mankind from sin to cleanse and save.

At Cana first His power is shown;
His might the blushing waters own
And, changing as He speaks the word,
Flow wine, obedient to their Lord.

All glory, Jesus, be to Thee
For this Thy glad epiphany;
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Ghost forevermore.

 A note there has all kinds of information on sources:
Hymn #131
Text: Matt. 2:9
Author: Coelius Sedulius, c.450
Translated by: John M. Neale, 1852, alt.
Titled: "Hostis Herodes impie"
Tune: "Wo Gott zum Haus"
1st Published in: _Geistliche Lieder_
Town: Wittenberg, 1535

Here's a blurb about Hostis Herodes impie from TPL:
Written by Caelius Sedulius (5th cent). This hymn is a continuation of the hymn A solis ortus cardine and is used for Vespers on Epiphany.
 Under that listing, you find this note:
Written by Coelius Sedulius (d c 450) in iambic dimeter. This hymn, which is used for Lauds during the Christmas season, is the first seven verses of a much longer alphabetic hymn. Four other verses form a second hymn, Hostis Herodes impie which is used for Epiphany.

Lost in recent times is the fact that Epiphany has, over the centuries, celebrated several "manifestations" of Christ: the Visitation of the Wise Men; Christ's baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist; and Christ's first miracle at the wedding at Cana.   And these three events are indeed mentioned in Hostis Herodes impie.

Here's the Latin version of Hostis Herodes impie sung by the Capella Gregoriana Easo to melody #28, with words below the video, from CPDL:

Hostis Herodes impie,
Christum venire quid times?
Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat caelestia.

Ibant magi, quam viderant,
Stellam sequentes praeviam:
Lumen requirunt lumine,
Deum fatentur munere.

Lavacra puri gurgitis
Caelestis Agnus attigit;
Peccata, quae non detulit,
Nos abluendo sustulit.

Novum genus potentiae,
Aquae rubescunt hydriae,
Vinumque iussa fundere
Mutavit unda originem.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui apparuisti hodie,
Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu
In sempiterna saecula. Amen.

I have not found a recording of melody #29 so far - nor have I found a recording of the Lauds hymn for Epiphany, as given above, A Patre Unigenitus.

However,  I did find this video of a hymn labeled A Patre Unigenite - which is here, to my amazement and delight, sung to the tune of the beautiful Transfiguration hymn Quicumque Christum queritis!

There's no reason at all, to my mind, that you couldn't substitute this  beautiful melody for melody #29, and use it for both these hymns on Epiphany.

This is certainly the same hymn; the Latin words sung in the video match these, found at Breviarium ad usum insignis Ecclesie Eboracensis, Volume 1; Volume 71:
A patre unigenitus
ad nos venit per virginem
baptisma cruce consecrans
cunctos fideles generans.

De celo celsus prodiit
excepit formam hominis:
facturam rnorte redimens:
gaudia vite largiens.

Hoc te redemptor quesumus
illabere propicius:
clarumque nostris sensibus
lumen prebe fidelibus.

Mane nobiscum domine :
noctem obscuram remove:
omne delictum ablue :
piam medelam tribue.

Quem jam venisse novimus
redire item credimus:
tu sceptrum tuum inclytum:
tuo defende clyppeo.

Gloria tibi domine
qui apparuisti hodie.

The English version of this hymn is found in Cyberhymal. Here's the description there:
Un­known au­thor, writ­ten be­tween the 10th and 13th Cen­tu­ries (A Pa­tre Un­i­gen­i­tus); trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by John M. Neale, St. Mar­ga­ret’s Hymn­al, 1875, alt.
These are the words given there, another J.M. Neale translation:
From God the Father, virgin-born
To us the only Son came down;
By death the font to consecrate,
The faithful to regenerate.

Beginning from His home on high
In human flesh He came to die;
Creation by His death restored,
And shed new joys of life abroad.

Glide on, O glorious Sun, and bring
The gift of healing on Your wing;
To every dull and clouded sense
The clearness of Your light dispense.

Abide with us, O Lord, we pray;
The gloom of darkness chase away;
Your work of healing, Lord, begin,
And take away the stain of sin.

Lord, once You came to earth’s domain
And, we believe, shall come again;
Be with us on the battlefield,
From every harm Your people shield.

To You, O Lord, all glory be
For this Your blest epiphany;
To God Whom all His hosts adore,
And Holy Spirit evermore.

Here is another set of words from Cyberhymnal, which calls this hymn "The Father’s sole begotten Son," "trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Thom­as B. Poll­ock in Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern (HAM), 1889, and re­cast by the com­pil­ers of HAM in 1904."
The Father’s sole begotten Son
Was born, the virgin’s Child, on earth;
His cross for us adoption won,
The life and grace of second birth.

Forth from the height of Heav’n He came,
In form of man with man abode;
Redeemed His world from death and shame,
The joys of endless life bestowed.

Redeemer, come with power benign,
Dwell in the souls that look for Thee;
O let Thy light within us shine
That we may Thy salvation see.

Abide with us, O Lord, we pray,
Dispel the gloom of doubt and woe;
Wash every stain of guilt away,
Thy tender healing grace bestow.

Lord, Thou hast come, and well we know
That Thou wilt likewise come again;
Thy kingdom shield from every foe,
Thy honor and Thy rule maintain.

Eternal glory, Lord, to Thee,
Whom, now revealed, our hearts adore;
To God the Father glory be,
And Holy Spirit evermore.

Here are some pages I have for the complete Lauds and Vespers Epiphany Offices, including both of these hymns:

Tribus miraculis, the antiphon upon Magnificat for second vespers of the Epiphany, is another clear enunciation of the more ancient, three-fold way of understanding this feast.  Here it is sung by Giovanni Viannini:

Tribus miraculis ornatum, diem sanctum colimus:
Hodie stella Magos duxit ad praesepium:
Hodie vinum ex aqua factum est ad nuptias:
Hodie in Jordane a Joanne Christus baptizari voluit,
ut salvaret nos, Alleluia.
Three are the miracles we celebrate this day:
On this day by a star the wise men were led to the manger;
On this day wine out of water was brought forth for the wedding feast;
On this day in Jordan's waters by Saint John's hand Jesus chose to be baptized,
That he might save us. Alleluia.

Here's the chant score:

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

Monday, January 05, 2009

And all the words to the troped lesson, too

So as not to further confuse the previous post (which was already quite Byzantine enough), I here print all the words to the "troped lesson" from that post (here again is the mp3), in Latin and then English:
Troped Lesson

Laudes Deo dicam per saecula, qui me plasmavit in manu dextera atque redemit cruce purpurea sanguine nati.

Lectio Isaie prophetae,

In qua Christi lucida vatinicatur nativitas.

Haec dicit Dominus:

Pater, Filius Sanctus Spritus in quo sunt omnia condita, superna atque yma.

Populus gentiu qui ambulant in tenebris

Quem creasti; quem fraude sub dola hostis expulit Paradiso et captivatum secum traxit ad tatara

Vidit lucem magnam:

Fulserunt et immania nocte media pastoribus lumina.

Habitantibus in regione umbrae mortis, lux

Sempiterna et redemptis vera nostra

Orta est eis

O Stupenda nativitas;

Parvulus enim natus est nobis,

Magnus hic erit Iesus, Filius Dei

Et Filius

Patris summi

Datus est nobis

Ab arce summa praeictum sic erat.

Et factus est principatus super humerum eius,

Ut caelos regat atque arva

Et vocabitur nomen eius

Messias, Sother, Emmanuel, Sabaoth, AdonaÎ .


Radix David


Dei Patris


Qui creavit omnia,


Batatri claustra perimens deterrima

Pater futuri saeculi

Rex omnipotens et cuncta regens,

Princeps pacis

Hic et in aevum.

Multiplicabitur eius imperium

In Ierusalem, Iudaea sive Samaria

Et pacis non erit finis

Per saecula sempiterna

Super solium David et super regnum eius sedebit

Et regni meta sui non erit aliqua;

Et confirmet illud,

In fidei pignore

Et corroboret in iudicio et iustitia

Iudex cum venerit iudicare saecula

A modo

Illi debetur gloria, laus, et iubilatio

Et usque in sempiterna.

Ab ortu solis usque ad occiua, ad fines mundi orbis per climata luas creatori resonet congrua.

Amen dicant omnia.

I will sing praises to God, who formed me in his right hand, and has redeemed me by the cross and crimson blood of his Son.

A reading from the prophet Isiah

In which is clearly foretold the glorious nativity of Christ.

Thus saith the Lord:

Father, Son and Holy Ghost, in whom were all things established, above and below.

The people that walked in darkness

Whom you created; whom the enemy drove out of paradise by a cunning

trick, and drew captive with him down to hell.

Hath seen a great light:

And on the shepherds in deepest night has shone a bright light.

On them who live in the land of the shadow of death, light

Everlasting, and our true redemption

Has risen.

O wondrous birth;

For unto us a child is born.

He will be the great Jesus, Son of God

And a Son

Of the Father on high

Is given for us

From on high was it foretold.

And the power as been laid upon his shoulder,

That he might rule the heavens and the earth

And his name shall be called

Messiah, Saviour, Emmanuael, Lord of Hosts, AdonaÎ .


Scion of David


of God the Father.


Who created all things,

The mighty,

Who burst the gates of deeepest hell,

The everlasting Father

Almighty King and ruler of all

The Prince of peace.

Now and for ever

His Kingdom shall increase

In Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria,

And there will be no end to peace

For eternal ages.

He will sit upon the Throne of David, and rule his Kingdom.

And his reign shall have no end;

And he shall establish his reign

Upon a covenant of faith

And will strengthen it with wisdom and justice

When He comes to judge the world.

From this time

To Him be given glory, praise and thanksgiving

And to eternity.

From east to west, to the ends of the earth, and through every part of the world let the Creator's worthy praise resound.

Let all the people say Amen.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Christmas Music from Medieval England

See this page, The Burgundian Cadence: “Christmas Music from Medieval England”, which has clips of songs - both chant and otherwise - that appear to be in the original language.

There was once a page with the lyrics, but it seems to be gone now. You might be able to find lyrics to some of the hymns on this site, though, as that link demonstrates.

This kind of thing is what I'm most interested in, though: a "troped lesson (mp3)." I'm pretty sure it's Laudes Deo, about which this site says:
The troped lesson Laudes Deo for two voices, sung at Midnight Mass of Christmas, is essentially a display piece for two solo voices: with its elaborate melodic writing and even more complex rhythmic effects, recalling the music of the Eton Choirbook composers and of Johnson's fellow-Scot, Robert Carver, it probably dates from about the same period. Only selected passages of this text were set in polyphony, the intervening ones being sung in plainsong. These latter have been supplied from Sarum missals and are marked with square brackets in the text below.

Will be checking this out on the web to see what I can find - and I'll come back to post the words if I find them. It's gorgeous.

[EDIT: Apparently Laudes Deo starts out this way:
Laudes Deo dicam per secula
Qui me plasmavit in manu dextera
Et reformavit cruce purpurea.

And apparently, it was "the most widely known farsed Epistle" and "was sung all over Europe on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Circumcision."

("Farsed"? From the same source:
A different way of elaborating chants on special feasts was employed from the twelfth century onward for lessons and some other chants, especially in the highly individual liturgies of such feasts as Circumcision known from Beauvais, Sens, Laon, and other centres (see above, I.9). Phrases of pre-existent chants were inserted into the lesson. Such an insertion is often referred to as farsa, both in the Middle Ages and modern writings, although "farse" can refer to other types of troping as well. The epistle of [the] mass was the chant most often farsed: over forty examples are known (nearly all listed, with sources, and with the epistle tone the accompany, in Stablein, "Epistel", MGG; see also Huglo, "Epistle", NG). The Gospel, by contrast, was left unadorned (Stablein, "Evangelium", MGG cites three examples only, all found in German and Swiss sources). The Paternoster, Nicene creed, and (from Compline), the Apostles' Creed were also farsed.

"Tropes" will be the topic of the next lesson, as we back up from here.)

And apparently Laudes Deo continues this way:

See what you can find out at Google Books these days? I wonder if at some point I'll be able to get all the words? I bet so!]

[EDIT II: Derek helps out again! He gives me this English translation:
May I speak forever the praises of God,
Who formed me in his right hand
And reformed me upon the crimson cross.
A birth by blood which all redeems
From the rising of the sun's orb through the climes
Until the world's westernmost parts
In praise of whom let shouts ring out.

Thanks, D.!]

And here is a (too-short!) clip labeled only "Sequence". It sounds a lot like parts of Lauda Sion Salvatorum, the Sequence for Corpus Christi! In any case, it doesn't seem to be the Sequence Hymn for Christmas Day, Letabundus, which is also prescribed by Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books for Second Vespers of the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin on August 15:

But maybe I'm wrong. I certainly need to know more!

[EDIT: Our good friend Derek stopped by to offer this, in re: the Sequence:
The Burgundian Cadence page says that this is "the 'Cockcrow Mass'".

There are three masses traditionally said on Christmas that correspond to three stational churches in Rome where the pope had to go and celebrate festal masses. Once these left Rome they got to be known by the time of day when they were said rather than the station church names (the old way of referring to them). The mass they're referring to is the "Missa in gallicantu."

And then he notes that "....the sequence for the Sarum Missa in gallicantu is Nato canunt omnia...." - educational, as always, and correct! This is indeed that Sequence. This Google Books entry has some of the words, to wit:
1. Nato canunt omnia
Domino pie agmina

2. Sillibatim neumata
Perstringendo organica

3. Haec dies sacrata
In qua noua sunt gaudia
Mundo pleni dedita....

You can see what might be all the words on page 10 of this PDF file; it's a musical program, and one of the pieces performed is a version of Nato canunt omnia written in the 15th C. by Antoine Brumel. The English translation is there along with the Latin; I'll try to find this elsewhere also (it's difficult to copy from PDF content, or I'd put it here right now).

Thanks again, Derek!]

[EDIT II: Ah! Found the lyrics to the Burgundian Cadence clips! They are all here, and the words, plus translation, to Nato canunt omnia are these:
Nato canunt omnia Domino pie agmina,

Syllabatim neupmata

Perstingendo organica

Haec dies sacrata in qua nova sunt gaudia mundo plene edita;

Hac nocte precelsa intonuit et gloria in voce angelica

Fulserunt et immania nocte media pastoribus lumina

Dum foventsua pecora subito diva percipiunt monita:

Natus alma virgine qui extat ante saecula.

Est immensa in caelo gloria pax et in terra.

Hinc ergo caeli caterva altissima iubilat

Et canto canore tremat

Alta poli machina;

Sonet et per omnia hac in die gloria voce clara reddita.

Humana concrepunt cuncta Deum natum in terra.

Confracta sunt imperia hostis crudelissima.

Pax in terra reddita nunc laetentu omnia

Nati per exordia,

Solus qui tuetur omnia

Solus qui condidit omnia;

Ipse sua pietate salvat omnia peccata nostra.

Let rank upon rank now dutifully sing to their new-born Lord,

with music of instruments fitted to their words.

This is that holy day on which new joy is

Proclaimed to the whole world;

And on this night angel voices have sounded "Glory in the highest."

And in the dark night a great light has shone upon the shepherds.

While they tended their flocks, suddenly they heard the heavenly message;

He is born of a gentle virgin, he who was before time

Great is the glory in heaven, and great the peace on earth.

Now the high host of heaven exult therefore

And at so great a sound the lofty vault of the sky trembles;

And the glory proclaimed on this day resounds everywhere.

All men sing out together of God born on the earth

Shattered is the cruel empire of the enemy

Let all rejoice to see peace restored to earth by the birth of this child

who alone watches over all things,

who alone created all things:

For he by his obedience takes away our sins.]

Friday, January 02, 2009

On the 9th Day of Christmas

I commend to you the "Keeping the Twelve Days of Christmas" article at Full Homely Divinity.

There is also new material on the Epiphany page, including poetry by T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden.

And it's always good to read still once more the Proclamation of Christmas (and the FHD version is a bit different than the usual one) - and again listen to it sung (in Latin, and just an excerpt) by the sisters of the Abbey of Regina Laudis. Here's more about the proclamation; here's FHD's version, with the Latin sung by the sisters below that:
The Proclamation of Christmas

Some billions of years having passed since the creation of the world, when, in the beginning God created heaven and earth, Some thousands of years from the salvation of mankind when the family of Noah survived the flood, Nineteen centuries after the promise was given to Abraham, the father of our faith, Seventy generations after Moses brought the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, A thousand years from the anointing of David as King over the chosen people, in fulfillment of the times and years and months and days discerned by the vision of the Prophets—

In the course of secular history, in the one hundred and ninety-third Olympiad, Seven and one half centuries from the founding of the City of Rome, In the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus, while the whole world enjoyed a span of peace, In this sixth and final age of human achievement—

Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, wishing to consecrate the whole world and all time by His blessed presence, conceived as man by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, after nine months of growth in the womb of His mother, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Juda, and for our salvation became Man .

Now in our own time this marks the Nativity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, after the manner of all flesh.

Octavo Kalendas Januarii

Anno a creatione mundi, quando in principio Deus creavit coelum et terram, quinquies millesimo centesimo nonagesimo nono:

A diluvio vero, anno bis millesimo nongentesimo quinquagesimo septimo:

A nativitate Abrahae, anno bis millesimo quintodecimo:

A Moyse et egressu populi Israel de Aegypto, anno millesimo quingentesimo decimo:

Ab unctione David in regem, anno millesimo trigesimo secundo:

Hebdomoda sexagesima quinta juxta Danielis prophetiam:

Olympiade centesima nongentesima quarta:

Ab urbe Roma condita, anno septingentesimo quinquagesimo secundo:

Anno imperii Octaviani Augusti quadragesimo secundo:

toto urbe in pace composito,

sexta mundi aetate, Jesus Christus aeternus Deus, aeternique Patris Filius, mundum volens adventu suo piisimo consecrare, de Spiritu Sancto conceptus, novemque post conceptionem decursus mensibus, in Bethlehem Judae nascitur ex Maria Virgine factus homo:


FHD is also celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Olivier Messaien on their home page:
"I sing words of God to those who have no faith." December 10, 2008, was the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Olivier Messiaen. Messiaen was a remarkable musician. In 1931, at the age of 22, he was appointed organist of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Paris, and he held that position until his death in 1992. That fact alone is remarkable enough. How many people stay in one job for their entire career? How many people are able not only to remain active but to remain creative and productive for a career of more than 60 years? Nevertheless, we believe that these things are not what is most remarkable about Olivier Messiaen.

We might also consider his brilliance as a composer. He wrote a good deal of organ music, and he also wrote for other instruments and even wrote an amazing opera on the life of St. Francis. His music has been described as "mystical", "ecstatic", "ethereal", and also as "elusive", and it certainly is not for everyone. If you are unfamiliar with it, you can find examples here, here, and at the bottom of this page. "Avant-garde" is another way of describing his music. If J.S. Bach is one end of the spectrum of the sound and structure of classical music, Messiaen is pretty close to the other end of that spectrum. At the world premier of his "Meditations on the Holy Trinity" in Washington, D.C., one person in attendance reported that the audience was speechless with disappointment--and this was an audience that went to the concert with high expectations, knowing that they were not going to hear traditional sounding organ music. Even they thought that what they heard that day was weird. For ourselves, we confess without reserve that we are enthralled by his music (including the aforesaid "Meditations"), which we find remarkable indeed. Having said that, neither the style of his music nor his brilliance as a composer are what we find most remarkable about Olivier Messiaen.

The key to our appreciation of Messiaen, quite apart from our love of his music, is in his understanding of his vocation. He once said: "The first idea that I have wanted to the existence of the truths of the Catholic faith.... That is the first aspect of my work, the most noble, doubtless the most useful, the most valuable, the only one, perhaps, that I will not regret at the hour of my death." Olivier Messiaen was, first and foremost, a believer. We do not mean to suggest for a moment that other musicians are not believers, or that one's personal taste in music should be dictated by the faith stance of the composer. Some are believers, some are not, and it is for others to determine what the impact of that is on their art. However, we find it quite remarkable that for more than 60 years, Olivier Messiaen occupied the organ bench of a church in the center of Paris, the capital of a country that is quite intentional and determined in its secularism, and that he pursued his art, not for the sake of his own renown or advancement, not even for the sake of the art itself, but for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which was at the core of who he was and what he did. As he himself put it, "My faith is the grand drama of my life. I'm a believer, so I sing words of God to those who have no faith."

FHD offers this YouTube video of "La Vierge et l'Enfant, from La Nativité du Seigneur, played by Marie-Claire Alain":

Our organist commemorated the Messaien anniversary this year, too, playing his Apparition de l'église éternelle ("Apparition of the eternal church") on one of the Sundays just before Advent began (when the readings have begun to address the "end of time" theme). Very spooky, and it changes your whole outlook while you listen; I'm not a big Messaien fan (I'm one of those who believes that organ music not written by J.S. Bach is merely poor imitation), and it's not what you'd call "easy listening" - but it does have its points.


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