Friday, July 30, 2010

Gloria: Old Scottish Chant

We sang this at my (briefly-attended) childhood Methodist church, which was on the "high" side for Methodism, I do believe (although I don't really have any basis for comparison). Aside from only having Communion quarterly - a practice of which founder John Wesley would not have approved, preferring at least weekly Communion himself - the service leaflets from that period seem to be very like Anglican Morning Prayer of the same period, which was celebrated more often than Communion in most Episcopal Churches then.

The video was made on Christmas Eve at St. John's Episcopal Church in Detroit.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Petite et Accipietis

This passage from the reading from Luke is the Communio (Communion hymn) for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (this Sunday, July 25th, the Ninth after Pentecost). Here's the English translation at JoguesChant:
Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you; for all who ask, receive, he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened, alleluia.

Here's the mp3, from Jogues; they've got a PDF of the score over there, too - but here's the image from the Brazilian Benedictines:

A lovely passage.

Here's a terrific (Michael) Haydn version, the gradual (it says) from Missa Sancta Theresiae:

There's another YouTube version, about which it says:
Audio recorded Dec. 13, 2009 at the Saint Paul Seminary Chapel, St. Paul, Minn.

Founded in 1988 by Artistic Director Axel Theimer, Kantorei is a high-quality a cappella choral ensemble of about 40 singers from the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. Devoted to a natural approach to singing, Kantorei is known for performing unaccompanied music with rich, effortless and efficient sound. Kantorei specializes in 19th- and 20th-century European compositions.

Kantorei has collaborated with the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Chorale, Minnesota Sinfonia and Amadeus Chamber Symphony and performs a full schedule each season. The ensemble's Web site is

I'm always happy to include smaller ensembles recorded live! So here it is:

I'm trying to find out why a gradual was included in this Mass! That's certainly not the usual thing, and there must be a reason; if I find out what it was, I'll come back and add to this post. It does seem to be a very popular piece, in fact.

The mass was - judging from Bernini sculpture accompanying the first video above - written to celebrate Theresa of Avila; I'm guessing it was commissioned, but wonder for what occasion? Another mystery for now, hopefully to be cleared up later....

Meantime, here's a photo of that wonderful piece, "The Ecstasy of St. Theresa" (one of my very, very favorite pieces of religious artwork, in fact):

Here's an explanation of the ecstatic experience, from Theresa herself:
It pleased our Lord that I should see the following vision a number of times. I saw an angel near me, on the left side, in bodily form. This I am not wont to see, save very rarely.... In this vision it pleased the Lord that I should see it thus. He was not tall, but short, marvellously beautiful, with a face which shone as though he were one of the highest of the angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call Seraphim.... I saw in his hands a long golden spear, and at the point of the iron there seemed to be a little fire. This I thought that he thrust several times into my heart, and that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew out the spear he seemed to be drawing them with it, leaving me all on fire with a wondrous love for God. The pain was so great that it caused me to utter several moans; and yet so exceeding sweet is this greatest of pains that it is impossible to desire to be rid of it, or for the soul to be content with less than God.

(PBS' "Power of Art" did a great segment on Bernini - and on this piece in particular - not too long ago.)

(EDIT: OK, I believe I've found some answers. It seems that Michael Haydn was in the habit of writing Graduals and Offertories for masses; it's an interesting thing, because many composers wrote music only for the mass ordinary. I'm not sure if he's an exception, or if there are lots of lesser-known polyphonic masses written by other composers that also include the propers of the day. In any case, this Mass was written for Emperor Franz's nameday on August 3, 1801; Michael Haydn (the younger brother, BTW, of Franz Josef Haydn) wrote a mass for the Emperor's nameday every year for several years, it seems.

Now, the interesting thing here is that Emperor Franz was the husband of Empress Maria Theresa, one of the most powerful women in history - and it was she who commissioned these pieces for her husband. And get this, from another section of the same book, and my emphasis:
Haydn also used the gradual and the offertory to enhance the stylistic variety of the mass....The [Gradual's] text, from Christ's sermon on the mount... - "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" - was well-suited to a nameday mass; as addressed by a wife to her husband, moreover, it could have conveyed an erotic subtext.

Heh; a bit of over-active imagination, there, I'd say. But I'm in favor, frankly - and Franz and Maria Theresa did have 16 children together. In any case, it certainly goes with the Bernini sculpture, doesn't it?)

(EDIT 2: Well, there's more: the Wikipedia article notes that:
The Duchess of Lorraine's love for her husband was strong and possessive. The letters she sent to him shortly before their marriage expressed her eagerness to see him; his letters, on the other hand, were stereotyped and formal. She was very jealous of her husband and his infidelity was the greatest problem of their marriage, with Maria Wilhelmina, Princess of Auersperg, as his best known mistress.

So now I'm just sad about that; love fails yet again. Look at her, as a young girl:

Well, she did make major reforms during her reign; probably some kind of consolation. But then, she was also a notorious anti-Semite - and the mother of Marie Antoinette....)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 21: St. Simeon the Holy Fool

Ship of Fools says that today is his feast day; celebrate!
THE DESERT SAINTS of the early centuries were a wild and strange breed – and none were bred wilder or stranger than the saints of Syria. Some of them stood and prayed for years on end without sitting down. Others lived on top of pillars in the desert where they preached, wrote epistles and drew crowds of pilgrims. Numbered among these maverick saints is our patron, St Simeon the Holy Fool.

Simeon's saintly career started out quite normally. It was the usual story: 29 years living on lentils in an isolated cave next to the Dead Sea, at first struggling against temptation and then advancing to an alarming degree of holiness. But Simeon's story took a dramatic turn when he left his cave one day and set out for the city of Emesa in Syria. Arriving at the city gate, he found a dead dog on a dungheap, tied its leg to the rope around his waist, and entered the city dragging the comatose canine behind him.

This was only the beginning. For Simeon had decided to play the fool in order to mock the idiocy of the world and also to conceal his own identity as a saint. His behaviour was eccentric and, of course, scandalous.

During the church services, he threw nuts at the clergy and blew out the candles. In the circus, he wrapped his arms around the dancing-girls and went skipping and dancing across the arena. In the streets, he tripped people up, developed a theatrical limp, and dragged himself around on his buttocks. In the bath-house, he ran naked into the crowded women's section. On solemn fasting days he feasted riotously, consuming vast amounts of beans – with predictable and hilarious results. In his lifetime, Simeon was regarded as a madman, as an unholy scandal.

IT WAS ONLY AFTER his death that the secret life of Simeon came to light. People started to talk about his acts of kindness – and about his strange and powerful miracles. There was the poor mule driver whose vinegar Simeon turned into wine so that he could start a successful tavern. There was the rich man who was saved from death when Simeon threw a lucky triple six at dice. And there was the young man Simeon punched on the jaw to save him from an affair with a married woman.

St Simeon the Holy Fool was a secret saint, his story was a holy farce, and his life shows how God chooses "the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Wikipedia entry here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Music of the Sarum Office: Downloads

This is the project of The Gregorian Institute of Canada at McMaster University in Canada that I've posted about (somewhere) before - but the site was almost empty in those days. Not anymore; there are dozens of PDF files there now free for the downloading.

Many of these pages seem to be scans. There's a 1531 date on the Kalendar; a note in the Introduction says that:
MUSIC OF THE SARUM OFFICE takes as its basis the text of the Breviarium ad usum Sarum of 1531. Reference is made to the edition of 1879-1886 for clarification and for explanatory notes. The publication of this work commences with the Psalter, the chants of the office for each day of the week followed by the Common of the Saints. This is followed by the Temporale, the chants for the Kalendar of the year and the Sanctorale, or Proper of the Saints. Folio numbers of the original edition appear in the margin. To this text is added the music found in the Antiphonale Sarisburiense (1901-1924), the sources of which stem from the early 13th century. Musical items not available here are made good from other sources such as the Processionale (1502),the Antiphonale (1519-1520) and the Hymnale (1525). The resulting work presented here is thus a Noted Breviary that represents the Use of Sarum in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Another note:
At present the rubrics appear only in the original latin. Readers may feel the need for English translations of the rubrics. Readers are encouraged to contact the editor regarding errors or omissions, as well as for clarification of matters of style and performance. The web-based publication of this document is intended to facilitate ongoing attention to these issues.

Hmmmm. Being part of the translation into English would be fun, wouldn't it?

Well, there it is - the beginning, anyway.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ecce Deus

This is the Introit for today, the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (the 8th after Pentecost to you and me, fellow 'Piskies). The text is from Psalm 54:4-5, 1; here's the English translation:
Behold, God is my helper, and the Lord is the upholder of my soul; turn back all the evil against my enemies, destroy them in your fidelity, O Lord, the Protector of my life. Save me, O God, by your name, and render justice unto me in your strength.

A lovely multi-singer version this morning (mp3) from Jogues Chant. (EDIT: Actually, I think this is one person singing on one track laid over several times! Very tricky.) The score is below.

There's another nice version of this at YouTube, but embedding has been disabled. I don't read Dutch, but here's the Google translation of it:
In this video you can see some pictures that relate to the way we celebrate liturgy. Liturgy is celebrated mainly in the abbey church, but sometimes we pull it out in procession, as during the light procession on February 2 the feast of Candlemas, or in the procession on Palm Sunday. The songs you hear are the Latin hymns of the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, from the Roman Gradual. When you first hear Introit (entrance song) "Ecce Deus adiuvat me. Following is the Gradual Si ambulem.

Everyday we sing hymns for the Eucharist in the St. Mass from the Graduale Romanum, the other prayers we sing the Psalms, including in the translation by Ida Gerhardt, Marie van der then said. There are five prayer services and a daily Eucharist. For more information see our website

Here's the site the link point to. The site says that these are Benedictine Sisters at the Abbey of Our Lady in Oosterhout, Netherlands. They're good singers! (Here's Google Translate so you can see what they've written about themselves.)

Today the instruction to the Choirmaster is what interests me! Here it is, according to the ESV (from the link above):
To the choirmaster: with(A) stringed instruments. A Maskil[a] of David,(B) when the Ziphites went and told Saul, "Is not David hiding among us?"

As you'll see in the notes on the Psalm page, not much is known about these instructions generally, and what they refer to when they introduce a Psalm. Something I'd sure like to find out about! Maybe I can get a grant or something....

But I will make a separate post about this at some point, because I realize I haven't talked about it ever, and I'd like to. Psalms are my favorite form of prayer; they talk about everything there is to say about the soul's relationship with God and the world, as far as I can tell. And they are so mysterious! (Well, I guess that actually follows, in a way, doesn't it?)

Here's Michaelangelo's David, not hidden at all:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Anglican Chant, embedded!

Here's something pretty cool, found thanks to Chant Café:  embeddable Anglican Chant GoogleBooks! Didn't know you could do that - it's via iFrames - but here's one from 1880, edited (I think) by one Charles Vincent:

Here's another, this time from 1860 and somebody named Ludden via Trinity, New Haven:

Nice, eh?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Passer Invenit

This is the Communion Hymn for this Sunday, the 15th in Ordinary Time - which for Episcopalians is the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 10). The passage is from the beautiful Psalm 84, Quam dilecta!, and the text for this chant consists of verses 2-3:
How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! *
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *
by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.

Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
they will always be praising you.

Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.

Here's the mp3
, another lovely rendition from JoguesChant. Below is the score, from the same site:

This one caught my eye in particular because I recognized an ornithological reference! From Wikipedia:
A passerine is a bird of the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Sometimes known as perching birds or, less accurately, as songbirds, the passerines form one of the most diverse terrestrial vertebrate orders: with over 5,000 identified species,[1] it is roughly twice as diverse as the largest of the mammal orders, the Rodentia.

The names "passerines" and "Passeriformes" are derived from Passer domesticus, the scientific name of the type species – the House Sparrow – and ultimately from the Latin term passer for Passer sparrows and similar small birds.

Here is the Schola Antiqua of Madrid (directed by Juan Carlos Asensio Palacios) singing this song:

I've actually written before about this chant, having found this entry at the St. Cecilia Schola Cantorum site:
Here is the communion chant for this weekend, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. This chant, which mimics the sound of a turtle dove, is surely one of the most spectacular in the Gregorian repertoire.

And it's always so great to find a reference like that. Here's the sole polyphonic piece I could find that's based on this text; it's actually the entire Psalm "Quam dilecta!", and a very lovely thing it is, too, written by one Michel-Richard Delalande (1657-1726).

I simply adore the lush richness of this Petits Motets style! If you look at the selections on the right side of the page at that YouTube link, you'll notice that this guy did quite a number of Psalms.

The image below is a "Grasshopper Sparrow on a nest. Source: Chester A. Reed, ''The Bird Book'', 1915."


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