Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Offertory for the Feast of the Annunciation: Ave Maria, gracia plena

The Feast of the Annunciation is this Friday.  If you're in New York, you'll really, really enjoy celebrating it here.

The Offertory on the day is Ave Maria, gracia plena - one of the most famous of Latin phrases: "Hail Mary, full of grace." Here's Giovanni Vianini's Schola Gregoriana Mediolanensis' version of this offertory:

Here's the score:

The text comes from Luke's Gospel, and the story of the Annunciation:
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,
27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’*
29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.
31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.
32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.
33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’*
35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born* will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.
37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’
38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Here's a quite nice thing I came across while searching on the topic, via New Liturgical Movement and something called "Anglican Use": it's a PDF of the mass chant propers for the Feast of the Annunciation. In English.  Here's the same list of propers, with scores and mp3s, from the Brazilian Benedictines.  In Latin.

And here's a page of all the chants for this day, from Ad Vesperas to Ad Missam, and everything in between, from the LaTrobe Medieval Music Database.

Ave Maria is also a prayer.  It's said in many circumstances, both public and private; public instances of the prayer include services of Evensong & Benediction, and at the ringing of the Angelus bell.
Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum,
benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus.
Sancta Maria mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee,
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners, now, and in
the hour of our death.

G. Vianini also offers this "Spartito canto gregoriano, Antifona simplex" ("Mariana popolare") version of the Ave Maria prayer:

Many composers have used this text to set their music. Here's Rachmaninoff's glorious Orthodox Russian version, "Bogoroditse Dyevo Raduisya," from the All-Night Vespers:

Wow - that music is just amazing, isn't it?  The blurb at the YouTube page says the words are slightly different:
"Virgin Birthgiver of God, rejoice! Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Saviour of our souls!"

Another lovely Ave Maria comes from Josquin des Prez and the 15th Century:

Here are the words Josquin uses here; the text comes in part from an Annunciation Sequence hymn, but there are additional words also.  I'm not yet sure where those come from:
Ave Maria, Gratia plena,
Dominus tecum, Virgo serena.
Ave, cuius Conceptio,
Solemni plena gaudio,
Caelestia, Terrestria,
Nova replet laetitia.
Ave, cuius Nativitas
Nostra fuit solemnitas,
Ut lucifer lux oriens
Verum solem praeveniens.
Ave pia humilitas,
Sine viro fecunditas,
Cuius Annuntiatio
Nostra fuit salvatio.
Ave vera virginitas,
Immaculata castitas,
Cuius Purificatio
Nostra fuit purgatio.
Ave, praeclara omnibus
Angelicis virtutibus,
Cuius Assumptio
Nostra fuit glorificatio.
O Mater Dei,
Memento mei. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee, serene Virgin.
Hail, thou whose Conception,
Full of great joy,
Fills heaven and earth
With new gladness.
Hail, thou whose Nativity
Became our great celebration,
As the light-bearing Morning Star
anticipates the true Sun.
Hail, faithful humility,
Fruitful without man,
Whose Annunciation
Was our salvation.
Hail, true virginity,
Immaculate chastity,
Whose Purification
Was our cleansing.
Hail, glorious one
In all angelic virtures,
Whose Assumption
Was our glorification.
O Mother of God,
Remember me. Amen.

As you can see above, Annunciation, Conception, Nativity, Purification (Candlemas), and Assumption are all alluded to in the text above.

Here's the full plainchant Annunciation sequence, sung by the Schola Cantorum de Regina Pacis (Klaipeda, Lithuania); the words in Latin and English are beneath the video.

Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum—virgo serena.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus—
que peperpisti pacem hominibus
et angelis gloriam.
Et benedictus fructus ventris tui—
qui coheredes ut essemus sui
nos, fecit per gratiam.
Per hoc autem Ave
Mundo tam suave,
Contra carnis iura
Genuisti prolem
Novum stella solem
Nova genitura.
Tu parvi et magni,
Leonis et agni,
Salvatoris Xpisti
Templum extitisti,
Sed virgo intacta.
Tu floris et roris,
Panis et pastoris,
Virginum regina
Rosa sine spina,
Genitrix es facta.
Tu civitas regis iusticie,
Tu mater es misericordie,
De lacu faecis et miseriae
Theophilum reformans gratie.
Te collaudat celestis curia,
Tibi nostra favent obsequia,
Que es Dei mater et filia,
Per te reis donatur venia.
Ergo maris stella,
Verbi Dei cella
Et solis aurora,
Paradysi porta,
Per quam lux est orta,
Natum tuum ora,
Ut nos solvat a peccatis,
Et in regna claritatis
Quo lux lucet sedula,
Collocet per secula.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with you—O serene virgin.
Blessed are you among women,
you who bore peace for humankind
and glory for the angels.
And blessed is the fruit of your womb—
he who makes us his heirs through grace,
so that we might be his.
But though this “Ave” —
So pure and sweet,
Contrary to the law of the flesh—
You, O star, through a new birth
Brought forth your offspring,
The new sun.
You stand out as the temple
Of the humble and the great,
Of the lion and the lamb,
Of Christ the savior—
Yet you remain a virgin.
You have been made mother
Of the bud and the dew,
Of the bread and the shepherd
You are queen of virgins,
Rose without thorns.
You are the city of the king of justice,
You are mother of mercy,
From the pool of impurity and misery
You recast one who through grace
becomes a lover of God.
You the celestial curia together praises in song,
To You our services are devoted,
You who are mother and daughter of God,
Through You the pardon for guilt is offered.
Therefore star of the sea,
Sanctuary of the word of God
And dawn of the sun,
Door of paradise
Through which the Light is born:
Pray to Him your Son,
That He might free us from sins,
And place us in the kingdom of clarity,
Where the sedulous light shines
Through all ages.

This appears to be a section of the Sequence, perhaps reworked, from Guillaume Du Fay's Missa Ecce Ancille Domini. This small clip calls it "Ave maria...Virgo serena (Sequence for the Annunciation)." 

And in notes I have from a chant class, I see "+iii in Assumptione."

And ah!  I hadn't noticed before, but there, at the end of this sequence, are the words to one of my very favorite chants of all:  Ergo Maris Stella!  In fact, I should have known, because it's in my notes at that post - and in fact so is this entire sequence! - but I didn't put the two things together.

In truth, though, this text is very sequence-ish!   Quick, rhythmic, poetic, evocative phrases taken from non-Scriptural sources.   Again I realize need to do some serious research on this topic; this is composed music, and I do think there are patterns to be found in it - despite the fact that there had to have been numerous composers.

Actually, sequences remind me of nothing so much as Orthodox hymnody; not musically at all, but in the texts.  I do like the Scriptural sources, of course - but these are really interesting and more idiosyncratic poetry, just like some of the Eastern stuff.

This page (quoted also in my post linked above) says that:
The sequence Ave Maria...virgo serena demonstrates the new style of both poetry and music that emerged in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries. The poetry of the sequence is rhymed without being strictly metrical, and the music is shaped by the rhythmic flow and rhymed lines of the text. While this sequence originated in the south German sphere around 1100, by the fifteenth century it was sung throughout Europe.

Well, that's next; I'm sure I'll be back with more about this.  Meantime:  Hail Mary, full of Grace!  And here's an annunciation from Andrea del Sarto that I quite like.


chant music said...

Thanks for a very informative article. I also love the videos. They are very helpful.

bls said...

Many thanks!


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