Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Les Trois Maries"

An item of Eastertide interest, from
The featured work of this recording is the Easter drama of "The Three Marys" as it is transmitted in a manuscript from the Benedictine convent of Origny-Stainte-Benoîte in France. Liturgical dramas based on the Latin play “Visitatio Sepulchri” were popular in the Middle Ages. In its simplest form, this drama portrays the three Marys going to the tomb of Jesus early Easter morning to anoint the body of Jesus. They are met at the tomb by an angel declaring that Jesus is not there, but has risen from the dead. Then after Mary Magdalene encounters the risen Christ personally, the three Marys go the apostles to recount the joyful events. To this basic skeleton, many imaginative details are added in different versions of the play, such as the one presented in this recording, where the three Marys haggle with a merchant to buy the ungents before their journey to the tomb. This version is also notable in that some of the dialogues with the merchant and the angels are in the vernacular, so that the work shifts back and forth between Latin and medieval French. This simple drama is sung throughout in a musical style similar to Gregorian chant. Formally this work is skillfully unified by musical devices such as the refrains that conclude sections of text by the chorus of Marys. Such plays were performed in the context of liturgy, often at the conclusion of a celebration of the Divine Office and before Mass, using various areas and furnishings of the church as the setting. This recording takes this context in account by preceding the drama with a performance of the Exultet (the ancient chant associated with the lighting of the Easter Candle during the celebration of the Easter Vigil), and following it with sections of the Mass for Easter Day. The Easter chants in this recording feature elaborate tropes (additions of texts and melodies to the traditional chants) from manuscripts of Laon and Nivers. Taken as a whole, this creates some of the experience of a medieval Easter celebration, as it might have been performed by a community of women in medieval France.

Here's a clip of "Exultet: Les trois Maries."
Listen to clips of all pieces on this CD. also offers at least one recording of this piece, here, where you can listen to samples.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Office Hymns of Eastertide, the Sarum version

Last year, I put up an Office Hymns for Eastertide post, referring to the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood's site - but I realize now that I didn't actually post the hymns prescribed by Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books.

Well, they are, actually, the same as what's at the LLPB site, and the same as what I posted last year, but here's the official word from Hymn melodies, just to be more clear:
On Low Sunday & all Sundays after Easter, & daily (when the Service is of the Season) until Ascension Day :
1st Evensong: Chorus nove Hierusalem ... ... ... 37
Mattins:  Aurora lucis rutilat ... ... ... 38
Lauds:  Sermone blando Ángelus ... ... ... 38
2nd Evensong:   Ad cenam Agni providi ... ... ... Sundays: 39; Ferias: 40

(Follow along with the Offices for Eastertide outside of Easter Week here, at Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston, 1885).  I'll link-in via iFrame at the bottom of this post, too.)

The Sarum First Evensong hymn, Chorus nove Hierusalem ("Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem") is sung by the LLPB (mp3 here) to the same tune as prescribed above, melody #37.   Here's the chant score:

Nethymnal (which looks just like Cyberhymnal!) has the words - the J.M. Neale translation:
Ye choirs of new Jerusalem,
To sweet new strains attune your theme;
The while we keep, from care released,
With sober joy our Paschal feast:

When Christ, unconquer’d Lion, first
The dragon’s chains by rising burst:
And while with living voice He cries,
The dead of other ages rise.

Engorged in former years, their prey
Must death and hell restore today:
And many a captive soul, set free,
With Jesus leaves captivity.

Right gloriously He triumphs now,
Worthy to Whom should all things bow;
And joining heaven and earth again,
Links in one commonweal the twain.

And we, as these His deeds we sing,
His suppliant soldiers, pray our King,
That in His palace, bright and vast,
We may keep watch and ward at last.

Long as unending ages run,
To God the Father, laud be done:
To God the son, our equal praise,
And God the Holy Ghost, we raise.

The Sarum hymn for Mattins, Aurora Lucis Rutilat ("The Day Draws on with Golden Light") (mp3 here), is sung at LLPB using tune #39, rather than tune #38.  Here's that chant score:

Oremus hymnal has the English words used on the mp3; the English translation is by Thomas Alexander Lacey:
The day draws on with golden light,
glad songs go echoing through the height,
the broad earth lifts an answering cheer,
the deep makes moan with wailing fear.

For lo, he comes, the mighty King,
to take from death his power and sting,
to trample down his gloomy reign
and break the weary prisoner's chain.

Enclosed he lay in rocky cell,
with guard of armèd sentinel;
but thence returning, strong and free,
he comes with pomp of jubilee.

The sad apostles mourn him slain,
nor hope to see their Lord again;
their Lord, whom rebel thralls defy,
arraign, accuse and doom to die.

But now they put their grief away,
the pains of hell are loosed today;
for by the grave, with flashing eyes,
"Your Lord is risen," the Angel cries.

Make of all, to thee we pray,
fulfill in us thy joy today;
when death assaults, grant, Lord, that we
may share thy paschal mystery.

To thee, who, dead, again dost live,
all glory, Lord, thy people give;
all glory, as is ever meet,
to Father and to Paraclete.

TPL says this about Aurora Lucis Rutilat:
This hymn is from the 4th or 5th century and is often ascribed to St. Ambrose (340-397). Whether it really is his or not, it is certainly worthy of his name. The complete hymn is composed of 44 lines and is given below. In the Liturgy it is broken up in multiple hymns. In the past it was broken into three hymns, Aurora lucis rutilat, Tristes erant Apostoli, and Claro Paschali gaudio, which were altered by Pope Urban VIII to Aurora caelum purpurat (Lauds), Tristes erant Apostoli (Vespers and Matins for Apostles and Evangelists in Eastertide), and Paschale mundo gaudium (Lauds for Apostles and Evangelists in Eastertide). Today parts of it are in the hymn for Laudes.

And actually, the original Aurora Lucis Rutilat forms the basis for several of the Eastertide hymns; for more about these, see Common of Saints: On Feasts of Apostles & Evangelists, and look at the hymns prescribed for Eastertide. 

Aurora Lucis Rutilat another of those much longer hymns/poems, broken up and used at various Offices during a particular Season.  Here's the whole thing, in Latin with J.M. Neale's English translation, from TPL:

AURORA lucis rutilat,
caelum laudibus intonat,
mundus exultans iubilat,
gemens infernus ululat,
LIGHT'S glittering morn bedecks the sky,
heaven thunders forth its victor cry,
the glad earth shouts its triumph high,
and groaning hell makes wild reply:
Cum rex ille fortissimus,
mortis confractis viribus,
pede conculcans tartara
solvit catena miseros !
While he, the King of glorious might,
treads down death's strength in death's despite,
and trampling hell by victor's right,
brings forth his sleeping Saints to light.
Ille, qui clausus lapide
custoditur sub milite,
triumphans pompa nobile
victor surgit de funere.
Fast barred beneath the stone of late
in watch and ward where soldiers wait,
now shining in triumphant state,
He rises Victor from death's gate.
Solutis iam gemitibus
et inferni doloribus,
resplendens clamat angelus.
Hell's pains are loosed, and tears are fled;
captivity is captive led;
the Angel, crowned with light, hath said,
'The Lord is risen from the dead.'
TRISTES erant apostoli
de nece sui Domini,
quem poena mortis crudeli
servi damnarant impii.
THE APOSTLES' hearts were full of pain
for their dear Lord so lately slain:
that Lord his servants' wicked train
with bitter scorn had dared arraign.
Sermone blando angelus
praedixit mulieribus,
< videndus est quantocius>>
With gentle voice the Angel gave
the women tidings at the grave;
'Forthwith your Master shall ye see:
He goes before to Galilee.'
Illae dum pergunt concite
apostolis hoc dicere,
videntes eum vivere
osculant pedes Domini.
And while with fear and joy they pressed
to tell these tidings to the rest,
their Lord, their living Lord, they meet,
and see his form, and kiss his feet.
Quo agnito discipuli
in Galilaeam propere
pergunt videre faciem
desideratam Domini.
The Eleven, when they hear, with speed
to Galilee forthwith proceed:
that there they may behold once more
the Lord's dear face, as oft before.
sol mundo nitet radio,
cum Christum iam apostoli
visu cernunt corporeo.
IN THIS our bright and Paschal day
the sun shines out with purer ray,
when Christ, to earthly sight made plain,
the glad Apostles see again.
Ostensa sibi vulnera
in Christi carne fulgida,
resurrexisse Dominum
voce fatentur publica.
The wounds, the riven wounds he shows
in that his flesh with light that glows,
in loud accord both far and nigh
ihe Lord's arising testify.
Rex Christe clementissime,
tu corda nostra posside,
ut tibi laudes debitas
reddamus omni tempore!
O Christ, the King who lovest to bless,
do thou our hearts and souls possess;
to thee our praise that we may pay,
to whom our laud is due for aye.

Translation by J. M. Neale (1818-1866).

The Sarum Lauds hymn, Sermone blando Ángelus, (one English version of which is "His Cheering Message From the Grave"), is sung by LLPB (mp3 here) to the same tune as the prescribed Sarum melody, #38 above.   Here's that chant score:

The Sarum version comes from the long version of Aurora Lucis Rutilat, with various verses broken out to form a new hymn.  Here are the words used on the mp3, from (translation again by Thomas A. Lacey):
1. His cheering message from the grave
An angel to the women gave:
Full soon your Master ye shall see;
He goes before to Galilee.

2. But while with flying steps they press
To bear the news, all eagerness,
Their Lord, the living Lord, they meet,
And prostrate fall to kiss His feet.

3. So when His mourning followers heard
The tidings of that faithful word,
Quick went they forth to Galilee,
Their loved and lost once more to see.

4. On that fair day of Paschal joy
The sunshine was without alloy,
When to their very eyes restored
They looked upon the risen Lord.

5. The wounds before their eyes displayed
They see in living light arrayed,
And that they see they testify
In open witness fearlessly.

6. O Christ, the King of gentleness,
Our several hearts do Thou possess,
They we may render all our days
Thy meed of thankfulness and praise.

7. Maker of all, to Thee we pray,
Fulfill in us Thy joy today;
When death assails, grant, Lord, that we
May share Thy Paschal victory.

8. To Thee who, dead, again dost live,
All glory, Lord, Thy people give;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.  

The Sarum hymn for 2nd Evensong is Ad cenam Agni providi ("The Lamb's High Banquet"). The LLPB sings the tune from chant score #40 (mp3 here), listed as the tune for ferias; the other possible tune, for Sundays, is #39 above.  Here is the chant score for melody #40:

 Oremus has the words to this one, too; it's another J.M. Neale translation:
The Lamb's high banquet we await
in snow-white robes of royal state;
and now, the Red Sea's channel passed,
to Christ, our Prince, we sing at last.

Upon the altar of the cross
his Body hath redeemed our loss;
and tasting of his roseate Blood,
our life is hid with him in God.

That paschal eve God's arm was bared;
the devastating angel spared:
by strength of hand our hosts went free
from Pharoah's ruthless tyranny.

Now Christ our Passover is slain,
the Lamb of God that knows no stain;
the true oblation offered here,
our own unleavened Bread sincere.

O thou from whom hell's monarch flies,
O great, O very Sacrifice,
thy captive people are set free,
and endless life restored in thee.

For Christ, arising from the dead,
from conquered hell victorious sped;
he thrusts the tyrant down to chains,
and paradise for man regains.

Maker of all, to thee we pray,
fulfill in us thy joy today;
when death assails, grant, Lord, that we
may share thy paschal victory.

To thee who, dead, again dost live,
all glory, Lord, thy people give;
all glory, as is every meet,
to Father and to Paraclete.

Here again is the TPL description:
One of the earliest of the Ambrosian hymns, 6th century or earlier, this hymn is used for Vespers from Easter Sunday until Ascension. In the Breviary revision of 1632 by Pope Urban VIII the hymn was so greatly altered that only three lines of the original remained and thus is really a different hymn entirely. The revised hymn can be found under the title of Ad regias Agni dapes.

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

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Lenten Prayer of Ephrem the Syrian

And good for any time of year:
O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust for power, or idle talk. (prostration)

But grant me, your servant, the spirit of moderation, humility, patience, and love. (prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters. For you are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen (prostration)

From YouTube:

Gregorian chant at Sarum College

Via my Google alerts, in the (UK) Salisbury Journal, Saturday 25th April 2009:
SARUM College is inviting singers and non-singers of all ages to join in with Gregorian chant on May 2.

Salisbury Close will fill with the sound of the haunting music as John Rowlands-Pritchard leads men, women, children and students in chant to celebrate the life and work of the first canon Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral, St Edmund of Abingdon.

The day, starting at 10am and finishing with Night Prayer at 5pm, will be structured around night-time medieval cathedral canonical services.

The event is being promoted by the Opus Anglicanum Trust which supports work involving medieval music.

Mr Rowlands-Pritchard has led similar days for Salisbury and other cathedral choirs as well as for English Heritage and the Royal School of Church Music.

St Edmund of Abingdon, who died in 1240, later became the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The day will cost £20 for adults and £10 for under-25s. Readers can book online at or post cheques to ‘Opus Anglicanum’ 92 St Thomas Street, Wells, BA5 2UZ For more information contact John Rowlands-Pritchard on 01749 675131.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

St. Mark Evangelist

Today is the Feast Day of my favorite Evangelist (or, at least, Mark is my favorite Gospel). Sing the Office Hymns for Apostles and Evangelists, of course; here are the mass chants for the day. One of these, Signa, sung for Communion (mp3), seems to come from Mark 16: 17-18:
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Another, the Alleluia, is called "Loquebantur variis linguis," and although the score and sound file aren't available, I'm assuming it's this text:
Loquebantur variis linguis apostoli, alleluia.
Magnalia Dei, alleluia.
Repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto,
et ceperunt loqui variis linguis.
Magnalia Dei, alleluia.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto. Alleluia.

The apostles spoke in many tongues, alleluia,
Of the great works of God, alleluia.
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit,
and began to speak in many tongues
of the great works of God, alleluia.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Alleluia.

Here's Tallis' version of this:

Here is some Mark art, three from the Wikipedia entry "Mark the Evangelist."

This is an "Illumination of St. Mark in the 11th century Trebizond Gospel (Russian State Museum, Saint Petersburg)":

Here's a Coptic icon of St. Mark:

Here's a "Russian Orthodox icon of St. Mark the Evangelist, 18th century (Iconostasis of Transfiguration church, Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia)":

This gorgeous one is from the GLASGOW UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
, and is from "Southern Italy/Sicily: mid-late 12th Century":

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New online chant resource - with search by melody!

Wow - check this out! You can actually enter some (at least 3, it says) notes of any chant melody, and the database will return all pieces of melodies that contain that sequence! And then link you to square note chant scores of each item returned!

It also notes that "The pitch of the first note is not important - in the search results the melody appears in all transpositions."

Amazing! The website is called "Global Chant Database," and I haven't looked at anything but the Search feature yet, so amazed am I at that.

This is just terrific!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"As one who has slept"

This piece is - as usual, I find, with John Tavener - just stunningly beautiful. The text comes, apparently, from the Liturgy for Great and Holy Saturday:
"As one who has slept the Lord has risen
And rising he has saved us. Alleluia."
Sung here by the Westminster Cathedral Choir.

The Book of Common Prayer for the iPhone

Here, for $4.99.

Not that I have an iPhone or anything....

Monday, April 20, 2009

"The Angel Cried"

A wonderful Orthodox hymn for Pascha (Easter). The lyrics:
Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee; dance now and be glad, O Sion, do thou exult, O pure Theotokos, in the arising of Him Whom thou didst bear.

It says here that this is called the "Paschal Hymn to the Theotokos," and is "sung after the 8th Ode of the Paschal Canon." Here's the full version:
The Angel cried to the Lady Full of Grace:
Rejoice, O Pure Virgin!
Again I say: Rejoice!
Your Son is risen from His three days in the tomb.
With Himself He has raised all the dead.
Rejoice, all ye people!
Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem,
The glory of the Lord has shone on you.
Exult now and be glad, O Zion,
Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos,
In the Resurrection of your Son!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Life, Gardening, and an Orthodox Easter"

On the Eve of the Orthodox Easter (the Great Vigil is already underway locally, I'd guess): from NPR's "Speaking of Faith."
Theologian Vigen Guroian experiences Easter as "a call to our senses." We'll explore his Eastern Orthodox sensibility that is at once more mystical and more earthy than the Christianity dominant in Western culture. And at this time of year and beyond, Guroian does real theology in his garden as richly as in church.

Also, "program particulars (including images and music)," a page of links, plus all the music in a small popup flash player, linked from the front page - here, but this link may not work properly from off-site. (If it doesn't, it's on the main page in a small box on the left that says:
Hear the Music
» SOF Playlist ¦ hear full-length tracks of each song played in the program

And, check this out: a link from the episode site to a page on a website called "Icons Explained." Oh, how beautiful! It's St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas. Hope they won't mind me showing you the image; click the link above to go to the page and see it with its interactive features working. You can click various parts of the iconostasis and see close-ups of the icons featured there.

Dominica in albis (or, Quasi Modo) Sunday

Here's CCWatershed's video of Quasi Modo, the Introit for the Second Sunday in Easter:

The text is from 1 Peter 2:2:
2 like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation,
3 for you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Here is an mp3 of the same chant, sung by the Sao Paolo Benedictines; the chant score is below:

Dominica in albis means "White Sunday," one of the names (formerly) given the Sunday after Easter. Says New Advent, at the article "Low Sunday" (another name for this day):
Its liturgical name is Dominica in albis depositis, derived from the fact that on it the neophytes, who had been baptized on Easter Eve, then for the first time laid aside their white baptismal robes. St. Augustine mentions this custom in a sermon for the day [apparently in "260A" - which I couldn't find on the web, but will post if I ever do], and it is also alluded to in the Eastertide Vesper hymn, "Ad regias Agni dapes" (or, in its older form, "Ad cœnam Agni providi" [here]), written by an ancient imitator of St. Ambrose. Low Sunday is also called by some liturgical writers Pascha clausum, signifying the close of the Easter Octave, and "Quasimodo Sunday", from the Introit at Mass — "Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite", — which words are used by the Church with special reference to the newly baptized neophytes, as well as in general allusion to man's renovation through the Resurrection. The latter name is still common in parts of France and Germany.

According to Wikipedia:
Quasimodo, protagonist of the 1831 French novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, was found abandoned on the doorsteps of Notre Dame on the Sunday after Easter and was named after this day.

Here's the wonderful, very melismatic Alleluia:

There are, in fact, two Alleluia chant propers on this day, and on every Sunday in Easter; it seems that the first of them - the one shown here for this Sunday - replaces the Gradual during this season.

Sunday, April 19th, is also Easter Sunday in the Orthodox calendar. A blessed Pascha to all who are celebrating it!

Here's the full list of chant propers for the Second Sunday in Easter, from; the modern propers are identical to the historical (Tridentine) ones:

Hebdomada secunda paschæ
Introitus: Quasi modo (3m38.5s - 3416 kb) score
Alleluia: In die resurrectionis (2m18.2s - 2162 kb) score
Alleluia: Post dies octo (2m11.9s - 2064 kb) score
Sequentia: Victimæ paschali (1m36.6s - 1510 kb) score
Offertorium: Angelus Domini (2m00.0s - 1876 kb) score
Communio: Mitte manum tuam, et cognosce (45.1s - 708 kb) score
Ite missa est (28.7s - 451 kb) score

Here are Chantblog posts on some of these:

The Eastertide Office hymns are here.

This Sunday is also "St. Thomas Sunday," because the readings center on the "doubting Thomas" episode in John. Here's a favorite Carravaggio, "The Incredulity of St. Thomas":

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Worth a thousand words....

There's a new photo in the Home Page rotating montage at St. Mary the Virgin, Times Square:

Now you understand....

Crotalus alert

This is for anybody who's curious about what the crotalus sounds like; it's a wooden rattle-like implement used only during Holy Week.  I've heard it used in only one context:  at the consecration of the elements on Maundy Thursday, in place of Sanctus bells.

 But it is also used on Good Friday, and you can hear it  on this video, during the singing of Vexilla Regis in procession:

At the YouTube page, you find, in French, an explanation: the music is Vexilla Regis (Anthoine de Bertrand, 1530-1581) and the video is from the "Mass of the Presanctified on Holy Friday" at Saint Eugène à Paris. In the comments, there's this:
On entend le son des crécelles. J'ai un souvenir d'enfant de choeur. Nous aimions les offices de la semaine sainte, en particulier pour actionner la crécelle. On l'utilisait dès le jeudi saint après le gloria, où les enfants avaient sonné dans le choeur avec une vigueur particulière. La schola continuait a capella et à l'élévation la cloche était remplacée par la crécelle.
Here's my translation of that:
"You can hear the sound of rattles. I have a memory from when I was  an altar boy. We liked the offices of Holy Week, and particularly to activate the rattle.  It was used on Maundy Thursday after the Gloria, during which the choir children sounded [the bells?] with special vigor. The choir continued a capella and at the elevation the bell was replaced by rattle."

In other words: the sound is the French version of a crotalusHere's the Wikipedia page for crécelle - and the text, with translation:
Une crécelle est un instrument de musique idiophone datant du Moyen Âge, aussi appelée brouan et répandue aujourd'hui encore partout en Europe. De conception et d'utilisation simples, elle est un instrument populaire mais aussi un jouet pour les enfants.

Grâce au bruit puissant qu'elle émet, elle était aussi utilisée au Québec par les femmes des agriculteurs pour appeler leur mari au champ, avant la mécanisation de l'agriculture.- Dans la liturgie catholique, avant Vatican II, maniée dans les rues par les enfants de chœur, elle annonçait les offices durant le triduum pascal en remplacement des cloches.

On l'utilisait aussi afin d'avertir du passage de personnes infectieuse, atteintes de maladies redoutées au Moyen Âge : la lèpre, la peste.

A rattle is a percussive musical instrument from the Middle Ages, also known as the brouan,  and still widely used throughtout Europe.  Of simple design and use, it is a popular instrument but also a toy for children.

Due to the loud noise it emits, it was also used in Quebec by farmwomen to call their husbands to the field, before the mechanization of agriculture.  In the Catholic liturgy before Vatican II, operated in the streets by the choir boys, it announced the offices during the Easter Triduum in lieu of bells.

It was also used as a warning that people with infectious illnesses feared in the Middle Ages, like leprosy and the plague, were passing through.

Here are a couple of photographs from that page:

Labeled Crécelle de Pâques (i.e., "Easter Rattle"); photo by Matěj Baťha

Labeled Karfreitagsratsche (i.e., "Rattle, used on Good Friday instead of churchbells")

You can also listen to the sound of the crotaus, too, at the St. Thomas Fifth Avenue website, whenever there's a Maundy Thursday service available on audio.   (Here's the page for 2016.)
Head for the consecration-of-the-elements portion of the recording.

I posted about this once before, and at that time offered an image of a crotalus:
The crotalus (also called a "clapper") is "a wood rattle-like object which makes a terrifying sound. It replaces the Sanctus Bell during certain Holy Week Masses when the ringing of bells is surpressed." After the ringing of the Sanctus Bells throughout the Gloria at Maundy Thursday Eucharist, the bells go quiet until the Great Vigil. And in truth, the noise of the crotalus can be shiver-inducing. (Crotalus is also the genus name for the rattlesnake.)

This Joyful Easter-tide

Not a chant post - but in case you need more ways to enjoy the season:

One of my favorite hymns of all-time; it's #192 in the 1982. The splendid lyric here:
This joyful Eastertide,
away with care and sorrow!
My Love, the Crucified,
hath sprung to life this morrow.

Had Christ, that once was slain,
ne'er burst his three-day prison,
our faith had been in vain;
but now is Christ arisen,
arisen, arisen, arisen.

Death's flood hath lost its chill,
since Jesus crossed the river:
Lover of souls, from ill
my passing soul deliver, Refrain

My flesh in hope shall rest,
and for a season slumber,
till trump from east to west
shall wake the dead in number. Refrain

Monday, April 13, 2009

"The Holy Week Weeping Tone"

Ever since I first heard it a few years ago, I've wondered about the change in tone at the end of the plainsong Sung Passion - after Jesus "gives up his spirit," or "breathes his last." It's very beautiful, and very affecting; I wasn't quite sure of its significance, but I just learned that it is called "The Planctus Tone."

In the video below, the weeping tone begins at around 20:20, with the phrase, "After this, Joseph of Arimathea...."

Here's one in Latin; it's just the Planctus Tone section.

You can see what the notes look like in the first video above - or you can open this PDF of the Passion according to Luke, notated for singing, from Grace Church in Newark. There's a note on page 20, after Jesus commends his spirit to God, and breathes his last, that says, "Then the Chronista sings the conclusion of the Passion Gospel to the Planctus tone:" - and the tone change starts on page 21.

Under "Planctus" at Wikipedia, you find this:
A planctus is a lament, or song or poem which expresses grief or mourning. It became a popular form in the Middle ages, when they were written both in Latin and the vernacular. A number of varieties have been identified by Peter Dronke. From the 9th century, they include dirges for the dead, particularly for royals or heroes, vernacular laments sung by women, Germanic songs of exile and journeying, and fictional planctus on biblical or classical themes. From the 12th century he identifies laments of the Virgin Mary (called a planctus Mariae) and complaintes d'amour (complaints of love).[1]

The earliest planctus for which music survives are from the 10th century, from manuscripts associated with the abbey of Saint Martial at Limoges. The earliest know, the Planctus de obitu Karoli, was composed around 814 on the death of Charlemagne.[2] From the mid-thirteenth century survives an early Catalan Marian lament, Augats, seyós qui credets Déu lo Payre. Or simply a complaint poem with 27 lines and 8 syllables in each line with alliteration in each line.

See what you can learn hanging around on internet forums?

"Orthodox Chanting"

At PBS' "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly," a piece about chant in the Orthodox tradition. There's a good video on that page, including an interview with a young Orthodox woman and her take on chant; wish I could embed it, but I can't. Orthodox Easter hasn't happened yet; it's this coming Sunday.

Here's a transcript of the interview - but go watch the video!
BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: This weekend of Easter Sunday for Western Christians, we have a profile coming up of an inspiring Christian musician. We also have a “Belief and Practice” segment on chanting in Eastern Orthodox churches where this is Palm Sunday. Because of differing church calendars, Eastern Orthodox Easter— Pascha — is next week.

Our guide to Orthodox chanting was Emily Lowe, a member of the choir at the Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland. She told us not only about chanting, but also about her personal experience as a singer of the Eastern Orthodox conviction that worship brings change.

(Choir, Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church, singing): Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

The Orthodox Church is unique in modern times, having a completely-sung liturgy. Everything is sung from the very beginning to the end.

In Orthodoxy, the music is not sacred. The words are sacred. The music is really meant to fit the text. So when we talk about heaven, the voice goes up. And when you talk about hell or Hades or sin, it goes down. For instance, (singing), “The company of the angels was amazed when they beheld the number among the dead.”

During the time of the Ottoman Empire, the Greek chants took on sort of a very Middle Eastern character and that’s when you hear this sort of dissonant, odd sounding things: (singing) Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, glory to thee oh God.” It sounds very foreign to western ears.

For instance, (singing) “rejoice o Bethany.” Rejoice O Bethany — it’s a beautiful hymn and it’s very dear to the heart of our Arabic parishioners — (singing) — “God came to thee; God came to thee.” That little flourish at the end, (singing “la la la la”), very unusual and very otherworldly sounding. And that’s kind of — that’s the impression that people get. They might hear 20 things when they walk into an Orthodox church. But that’s what they’re going to take away. They’re going to go, “Whoa, I remember that. That was really unusual.”

I converted about 12 years ago. I was 16. And my family converted together. It was initially my father’s decision. He said, “I think this is the place for us to be. This is where God’s calling us. And this is really the fullest expression of the Christian faith.”

One thing about Orthodoxy is that it really demands change — and expects change. It expects that you will grow spiritually, that you won’t just be the same person that you were the week before or the month before.

From a personal standpoint, I never had a very good voice before we became Orthodox. I believe that I found my voice in Orthodox music — that I didn’t have it in Protestant music or in secular music.

When people say, “Oh, you did such a wonderful job,” I feel like telling them it wasn’t me because it really wasn’t. It doesn’t feel like me when I chant. I’m thinking about God and expressing the words the best that I can.

Some other interesting links over there, too. I'm going to be learning as much as I can about Orthodox chant in the future, as I do find it beautiful and know very little about it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Haec dies

Which is the Gradual prescribed for Easter Day:

Haec dies quam fecit Dominus;
exultemus et laetemur in ea.

This is the day which the Lord hath made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

The text is from Psalm 118 (117 in the Roman reckoning). Here are the Latin chant propers for Easter Day, and here is an mp3 of Haec dies from that page; it's listed as the "Chant after 1st Reading." The Benedictines of Brazil, of course, also offer all the Easter Day chants, here. Here's the score for Haec dies:

Here's William Byrd's polyphonic version:

Easter is one of four Feast days for which a Sequence Hymn is still prescribed: the beautiful Victimae Paschali Laudes. Here's an interesting version posted at YouTube:

Here's the full list of propers for Easter Day at
Dominica Paschæ in Resurrectione Domini

Ad Missam in Die
Introitus: Ps. 138, 18.5.6 et 1-2 Resurrexi (cum Gloria Patri)(5m29.3s - 5148 kb) score
Graduale: Ps. 117, 24 et 1 Hæc dies... V. Confitemini (2m58.6s - 2794 kb) score
Alleluia: 1 Cor. 5, 7 Pascha nostrum (1m59.3s - 1866 kb) score
Sequentia: Victimæ paschali laudes (1m36.6s - 1510 kb) score
Offertorium: Ps. 75, 9.10 Terra tremuit (1m21.9s - 1282 kb) score
Communio: 1 Cor. 5, 7.8 Pascha nostrum (1m25.2s - 1334 kb) score
ad dimitendum populum: Ite, Missa est (28.7s - 451 kb) score

And here are posts for most of these on Chantblog:

The Office during the Octave of Easter is here; the Office for the rest of Eastertide is here.

One of my very favorite pieces of Easter Day art: Peter and John Running to the Tomb, by Eugène Burnand (1850 – 1921). Oil on canvas, 1898, now at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris:

Here's a fresco at Chora Church, Istanbul: Anastasis: Harrowing of Hell and Resurrection, from the 14th century:

This is the day! A blessed Easter to all.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

From Speaking to the Soul:
Daily Reading for April 11 • Holy Saturday

Today a grave holds him
who holds creation in the palm of his hand.
A stone covers him
who covers with glory the heavens.
Life is asleep and hell trembles,
and Adam is freed from his chains.

Glory to your saving work,
by which you have done all things!
You have given us eternal rest,
your holy resurrection from the dead.

From a matins hymn for Holy Saturday, quoted in Orthodox Lent, Holy Week and Easter: Liturgical Texts with Commentary by Hugh Wybrew (London: SPCK, 1995).

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sing, my tongue

Here's a video of Chanticleer's beautiful rendering of Pange Lingua/Crux Fideles sung in Latin; it's labeled a "Good Friday Hymn." Follow along with the Latin (you'll have to skip around) at the TPL link.

This hymn is sung after the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, during the procession to the altar of respose. Here is the full TPL entry about it:
There are two Pange Linguas in use, one by St. Thomas Aquinas and then this one, by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) which extols the triumph of the Cross. He wrote it for a procession that brought a part of the true Cross to Queen Radegunda in 570. This hymn is used on Good Friday during the Adoration of the Cross and in the Liturgy of the Hours during Holy Week and on feasts of the Cross. The concluding stanza was not written by Fortunatus, but was added later.

When used in the Liturgy the hymn is often broken into smaller hymns such as: Lustra sex qui iam peregit, En acetum, fel, arundo, and Crux fidelis inter omnes.

There is a charming ancient legend that is hinted at in the second verse of this hymn. According to this legend, the wood of the Cross upon which Christ was crucified was taken from that tree which was the source of the fruit of the fall in the Garden of Eden. When Adam died, the legend states, Seth obtained from the Cherubim guarding the Garden a branch of the tree from which Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Seth planted this branch at Golgotha (the place of the skull), which is so named because Adam was buried there. As time went on, the Ark of the Covenant, the pole upon which the bronze serpent was lifted, and other items were made from this tree.
Here's a video from CC Watershed of the other Pange Lingua; they do use this one for the Procession on Maundy Thursday, rather than the Fortunatus version.

Here are the words to the Fortunatus composition (and not all of this longer version of the hymn is sung on this occasion, but the themes are the same):
Pange, lingua, gloriosi
proelium certaminis,
et super Crucis trophaeo
dic triumphum nobilem,
qualiter Redemptor orbis
immolatus vicerit.

De parentis protoplasti
fraude Factor condolens,
quando pomi noxialis
morte morsu corruit,
ipse lignum tunc notavit,
damna ligni ut solveret.

Hoc opus nostrae salutis
ordo depoposcerat,
multiformis proditoris
ars ut artem falleret,
et medelam ferret inde,
hostis unde laeserat.

Quando venit ergo sacri
plenitudo temporis,
missus est ab arce Patris
natus, orbis, Conditor,
atque ventre virginali
carne factus prodiit.

Vagit infans inter arcta
conditus praesepia:
membra pannis involuta
Virgo Mater alligat:
et manus pedesque et crura
stricta cingit fascia.

LUSTRA sex qui iam peracta
tempus implens corporis,
se volente, natus ad hoc,
passioni deditus,
Agnus in crucis levatur
immolandus stipite.

En acetum, fel, arundo,
sputa, clavi, lancea:
mite corpus perforatur,
Sanguis, unda profluit
terra, pontus, astra, mundus,
quo lavantur flumine!

CRUX fidelis,
inter omnes
arbor una nobilis;
nulla talem silva profert,
flore, fronde, germine.
Dulce lignum, dulci clavo,
dulce pondus sustinens!

Flecte ramos, arbor alta,
tensa laxa viscera,
et rigor lentescat ille,
quem dedit nativitas,
ut superni membra Regis
miti tendas stipite.

Sola digna tu fuisti
ferre saeculi pretium,
atque portum praeparare
nauta mundo naufrago,
quem sacer cruor perunxit,
fusus Agni corpore.

Aequa Patri Filioque,
inclito Paraclito,
sempiterna sit beatae
Trinitati gloria,
cuius alma nos redemit
atque servat gratia. Amen.
SING, my tongue, the Savior's glory;
tell His triumph far and wide;
tell aloud the famous story
of His body crucified;
how upon the cross a victim,
vanquishing in death, He died.

Eating of the tree forbidden,
man had sunk in Satan's snare,
when our pitying Creator did
this second tree prepare;
destined, many ages later,
that first evil to repair.

Such the order God appointed
when for sin He would atone;
to the serpent thus opposing
schemes yet deeper than his own;
thence the remedy procuring,
whence the fatal wound had come.

So when now at length the fullness
of the sacred time drew nigh,
then the Son, the world's Creator,
left his Father's throne on high;
from a virgin's womb appearing,
clothed in our mortality.

All within a lowly manger,
lo, a tender babe He lies!
see his gentle Virgin Mother
lull to sleep his infant cries!
while the limbs of God incarnate
round with swathing bands she ties.

THUS did Christ to perfect manhood
in our mortal flesh attain:
then of His free choice He goeth
to a death of bitter pain;
and as a lamb, upon the altar of the cross,
for us is slain.

Lo, with gall His thirst He quenches!
see the thorns upon His brow!
nails His tender flesh are rending!
see His side is opened now!
whence, to cleanse the whole creation,
streams of blood and water flow.

above all other,
one and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peers may be;
sweetest wood and sweetest iron!
Sweetest Weight is hung on thee!

Lofty tree, bend down thy branches,
to embrace thy sacred load;
oh, relax the native tension
of that all too rigid wood;
gently, gently bear the members
of thy dying King and God.

Tree, which solely wast found worthy
the world's Victim to sustain.
harbor from the raging tempest!
ark, that saved the world again!
Tree, with sacred blood anointed
of the Lamb for sinners slain.

Blessing, honor, everlasting,
to the immortal Deity;
to the Father, Son, and Spirit,
equal praises ever be;
glory through the earth and heaven
to Trinity in Unity. Amen.

Here is an mp3 of the Lauds hymn beginning on Judica (Lent 5), which is sung each morning until Holy Thursday. The audio file is from the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood's "Seasonal Propers Sung." Judica is the first word of the Latin Introit for Lent 5: "Judge me, O God."  This hymn, in English "Thirty Years Among Us Dwelling"  is derived from the Pange Lingua; it's a very famous tune.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"Wretch that I am...."

From Speaking to the Soul:
Daily Reading for April 8 • Wednesday in Holy Week

Wretch that I am,
I have fallen into the hands of robbers—
my own thoughts.
My mind has been stripped,
and I have been severely beaten.
My whole being is wounded,
and stripped of virtues
I lie naked on life’s road.
The priest saw me in sharp pain,
but thought my wounds incurable.
He took no notice of me,
refusing to look at me.
The Levite could not bear my agony,
destructive of my very being,
and when he saw me
passed by on the other side.
But you, Christ my God,
were pleased to come incarnate,
not from Samaria but from Mary.
In your great love for us,
give me healing
and pour your abundant mercy on me.

From an Orthodox vesper hymn for Wednesday in Holy Week, quoted in Orthodox Lent, Holy Week and Easter: Liturgical Texts with Commentary by Hugh Wybrew (London: SPCK, 1995).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

“O Lord and Lover of Men!”

From Speaking to the Soul today:
Daily Reading for April 7 • Tuesday in Holy Week

There is a phrase which the Greek Liturgy constantly applies to God in Christ: “O Lord and Lover of Men!” The whole meaning and drama of the Passion is gathered up in that. The Evangelists’ accounts—all the curt notes crowded together—reveal, when we take them separately and dwell upon them, the deep entrance into human suffering in all its phases, the utter self-giving to the vocation of sacrifice, of One Who is, in completeness, both the Lord and Lover of mankind.

Consider some of these episodes. The anointing by the woman of Bethany, of one who never seemed more divine than at this moment, accepting so peacefully the menacing web of events that are closing in; and then even that gesture of love spoilt by the sordid displeasure of His own disciple.

Then the incredible beauty of that two-fold act of selfless generosity, the Last Supper and the Washing of the Feet; the humble cleansing and feeding of the imperfect human creature, with its deep reverence for that human creature’s limitations and concern for that human creature’s needs.

And then Gethsemane, the real crisis and victory. The first prayer of natural agony: “If it is possible, don’t let this happen! I can’t face it!” And the second prayer: “If I must go through with this, Thy Will be done.” Because of that scene, at the very heart of human suffering, even its rebellions and fears, we are never alone. We often feel that we make a mess of our suffering and lose the essence of sacrifice, waste our opportunity, fail God, because we cannot stand up to it. Gethsemane is the answer of the Divine Compassion to that fear.

From The School of Charity: Meditations on the Christian Creed by Evelyn Underhill (London: Longmans, Green and Co Ltd., 1934).

Monday, April 06, 2009

Stabat Mater

A piercingly beautiful piece by Arvo Pärt, divided into three videos.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

According to this site:
Stabat Mater is the title of a thirteenth-century Latin hymn and it means "the Mother was standing." In Latin, the hymn consists of twenty couplets which describe the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin at the Cross. There are more than sixty English translations that have been made of the Stabat Mater....Tradition has identified the hymn with St. Bonaventure, Jacopone da Todi, and Pope Innocent II. A notable number of scholars point to da Todi as author, since two fourteenth-century codices and the 1495 edition of the sequence attribute the hymn's authorship to him. While it cannot be denied that the composition's general tone and sensitivity parallel that of da Todi's poems, strictly stylistic comparisons yield uncertain and even disputable results. Recent scholars like L. Russo and M. Cassella are not impressed by the arguments in favor of Jacopone's authorship. The Stabat Mater has two qualities that most scholars date from the twelfth century: an intricate rhyme scheme and a regular meter (usually trochaic)....The Stabat Mater was introduced into the Liturgy gradually until 1727 when it was prescribed as a Sequence for Mass of the Seven Sorrows of Mary on September 15 and on Friday before Holy Week, as well as their corresponding offices. The Stabat Mater has been retained as an optional Sequence for September 15 in the reformed Roman Missal and as the hymn for the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer in the new Liturgy of Hours. The Stabat Mater's popularity is reflected by its use in the popular devotion of the Stations of the Cross.

TPL says this:
Stabat Mater Dolorosa is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns of all time. It is based upon the prophecy of Simeon that a sword was to pierce the heart of His mother, Mary (Lk 2:35). The hymn originated in the 13th century during the peak of Franciscan devotion to the crucified Jesus and has been attributed to Pope Innocent III (d. 1216), St. Bonaventure, or more commonly, Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306), who is considered by most to be the real author.

The hymn is often associated with the Stations of the Cross. In 1727 it was prescribed as a Sequence for the Mass of the Seven Sorrows of Mary (September 15) where it is still used today. In addition to this Mass, the hymn is also used for the Office of the Readings, Lauds, and Vespers for this memorial. There is a mirror image to this hymn, Stabat Mater speciosa, which echoes the joy of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the birth of Jesus.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find an audio file of the Gregorian chant, and in fact I don't know what it sounds like myself. Will post again if I come across one.

The English words can be found at both sites above (at the UDayton site, there is also a link to a .ram file of Semyon Bychkov's Stabat Mater dolorosa), and also (here). This is the Latin:
Stabat Mater dolorósa
iuxta crucem lacrimósa,
dum pendébat Fílius.

Cuius ánimam geméntem,
contristátam et doléntem
pertransívit gládius.

O quam tristis et afflícta
fuit illa benedícta
Mater Unigéniti !

Quae moerébat et dolébat,
pia mater, cum vidébat
nati poenas íncliti.

Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Christi Matrem si vidéret
in tanto supplício?

Quis non posset contristári,
piam Matrem contemplári
doléntem cum Filio ?

Pro peccátis suae gentis
vidit Jesum in torméntis
et flagéllis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem natum
moriéntem desolátum,
dum emísit spíritum.

Eia, mater, fons amóris,
me sentíre vim dolóris
fac, ut tecum lúgeam.

Fac, ut árdeat cor meum
in amándo Christum Deum,
ut sibi compláceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
crucifíxi fige plagas
cordi meo válide.

Tui Nati vulneráti,
tam dignáti pro me pati,
poenas mecum dívide.

Fac me vere tecum flere,
Crucifíxo condolére
donec ego víxero.

Iuxta crucem tecum stare,
te libenter sociáre
in planctu desídero.

Virgo vírginum praeclára,
mihi iam non sis amára,
fac me tecum plángere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
passiónis fac me sortem
et plagas recólere.

Fac me plagis vulnerári,
cruce hac inebriári
et cruóre Fílii.

Flammis ne urar ne succénsus,
per te, Virgo, sim defénsus
in die iudícii.

Fac me cruce custodíri
morte Christi praemuníri,
confovéri grátia.

Quando corpus moriétur,
fac, ut ánimae donétur
paradísi glória. Amen.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Palm Sunday Gradual: Christus factus est

The Gradual for Passion (or Palm) Sunday is sung just before the Passion itself. Here, the monastic choir at Solesmes chants it:

This is a really interesting and beautiful rendition of this chant, sung solo by countertenor Eric de Fontenay:

The text is Philippians 2:8-9:
Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis. Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.

Christ became obedient for our sakes unto death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name.

Here's the full chant score:

In truth, this text is beautiful, and so is the chant melody. Many composers have written anthems and motets to this text as well; you can understand why, given its powerful poignancy. Here's the gorgeous Bruckner version, for instance, "performed by Britten Sinfonia conductor: Stephen Layton":

This one's by Felice Anerio (1560-1614), and sung by The Westminster Cathedral Choir:

All the chant propers on the day are here
, at the Brazilian Benedictines' site. The Palm Sunday entrance song is really lovely, and how wonderful to sing it (in English, BTW) with hundreds of others as the mass begins at St. Mary's: Hosanna, Filio David. Here's Giovanni Vianini's video of this:

The lyrics to the entrance song are these:
Hosanna Filio David
Benedictus qui venit
In nomine Domini
Rex Israel
Hosanna in excelsis

Hosanna to the Son of David
Blessed is He that cometh
In the name of the Lord
King of Israel
Hosanna in the highest

(I looked for these words at CPDL, but the Victoria version doesn't use the "Rex Israel" section. I ended up getting them from a page of Sinead O'Connor song lyrics, believe it or not!)

Two of the others on the day are very powerful as well: the Offertory, for one, is Improperium exspectavit cor meum (mp3), the text of which is from Isaiah:
Improperium exspectavit cor meum, et miseriam: et sustinui, qui simul mecum contristaretur, et non fuit: consolantem me quaesivi, et non inveni: et dederunt in escam meam fel, et in siti mea potaverunt me aceto, potaverunt me aceto.

Insult has broken My heart, and I am weak: I looked for sympathy and there was none, for comforters, and I found none; rather they put gall in My food and in My thirst, they gave Me vinegar to drink.

The Communion hymn, Pater, si non potest (mp3) is short and sad:
Pater, si non potest hic calix transire, nisi bibam illum: fiat voluntas tua.

Father, if this cup cannot pass away, unless I drink it: your will be done. has all the chant propers for today, sung by the Sao Paolo Benedictines:

Hebdomada SanctaDominica in Palmis de Passione Domini

Antiphona: Hosanna filio David (34.9s - 548 kb) score

Ad processionem
Procedamus (8.3s - 133 kb) score
Antiphona: Pueri... portantes (2m24.9s - 2266 kb) score
Antiphona: Pueri... vestimenta (1m18.4s - 1228 kb) score
Hymnus ad Christum Regem: Gloria, laus (2m43.7s - 2558 kb) score
Responsorium: Ingrediente Domino (3m34.2s - 3350 kb) score

Ad Missam

Tractus: Ps. 21, 2- Deus, Deus meus (1m54.7s - 1794 kb) score
Graduale: Phil. 2, 8. V. 9 Christus factus est (2m19.3s - 2178 kb) score
Offertorium: Ps. 68, 21.22 Improperium... et dederunt (2m40.2s - 2504 kb) score
Communio: Mt. 26, 42 Pater, si non potest (3m28.0s - 3252 kb) score

And here are Chantblog posts on some of these:

Below is a piece of a fresco by Pietro Lorenzetti: "Entry of Christ into Jerusalem. Detail. c. 1320-30. Fresco. Trancept of the Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi, Italy."

This painting is by Francisco de Zurbarán, from 1627:

And this is by Cimabue, from around the year 1270; I think it's one of the most affecting of all crucifixes:


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