Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Introit for Trinity Sunday: Benedicta Sit

Here's Giovanni Vianini's version of this Introit:

Here's the score from JoguesChant, with their translation below (with text derived from Tobit 12:6 and Psalm 8):

Blessed be the Holy Trinity and its undivided Unity; we shall ever give him thanks, for he has dealt with us according to his mercy. O Lord, our Governor, how admirable is your name in all the earth!

Here's the complete list of the current (and historical) chant propers for Trinity Sunday:
Introit: Benedicta Sit
Gradual: Benedictus Es
Alleluia: Benedictus Es
Offertory: Benedictus Sit
Communion: Benedicimus Deum

Hmmm. I think they're trying to tell us something. The Tobit theme ("Blessed be God, for for he has dealt with us according to his mercy") appears in the Introit, the Offertory, and the Communio; the Gradual and Alleluia, taken from Daniel 3, contain another common theme: "Blessed are you, O Lord, who gaze into the depths and who are enthroned upon the Cherubim. Blessed are you, O Lord, in the firmament of heaven, and worthy of praise for ever."

In fact, the long form of the Gradual is much more extensive:
Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers. And worthy to be praised and glorified for ever. And blessed is your glorious, holy name. And worthy to be praised and glorified for ever. Blessed are you in the holy temple of your glory. And worthy to be praised and glorified for ever. Blessed are you upon the sacred throne of your kingdom. And worthy to be praised and glorified for ever. Blessed are you through the mighty sceptre of your divinity. And worthy to be praised and glorified for ever. Blessed are you as you gaze into the depths, enthroned upon the Cherubim. And worthy to be praised and glorified for ever. Blessed are you as you tread upon the wings of the wind, and on the waves of the sea. And worthy to be praised and glorified for ever. Let all your Angels and Saints bless you. And praise you and glorify you for ever. Let the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the things that dwell therein, bless you. And praise you and glorify you for ever. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Who is worthy to be praised and glorified for ever. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. And worthy to be praised and glorified for ever. Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers. And worthy to be praised and glorified for ever.

This comes from the same text that makes up the "Canticle of the Three Young Men," the Benedicite Omnia Opera; the three young men in question are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who in the Daniel passage sing this hymn of praise to God while inside the fiery furnace:
[This is a] Canticle from the Apocryphal book, Song of the Three Young Men, verses 35-65. It is also known as the "Benedicite." It appears as Canticles 1 and 12 in the BCP (pp. 47-49, 88-90) and has been used at the morning office since the fourth century. The Benedicite is a continuation of the canticle Benedictus es, Domine (Canticles 2 and 13). The Benedicite and the Benedictus es, Domine form an extended paraphrase of Ps 148. The Benedicite begins with the invocation, "Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord," and concludes with a doxology. It summons all the cosmic order, the earth and its creatures, and all the living and departed people of God to "bless ye the Lord."

Here's G. Vianini singing about half of this chant, which he calls a "Gregorian hymn for Holy Trinity":

Here's something nice! A Finnish singer, Pia Skibdahl, and her rendition of Hildegard von Bingen's "Benedictus es, Domine"; the text is taken from today's Alleluia:

These are the words, I believe, in Latin, English, and Finnish:
Laulaja/singer Pia Skibdahl

Benedictus es Domine
Deus patrum nostrorum
et laudabilis in saecula.

Blessed is the Lord
the God of our ancestors
and praised for ever.

Siunattu on Herra
isiemme Jumala
ja ylistetty iankaikkisesti!

Here's (the 12-year-old!) Mozart's version of the day's Offertory, Benedictus Sit:

Here's Lorenzo Perosi's version of the same text, this time sung as the Offertory at worship (not sure where) on Advent 3:

See more about Trinity Sunday (and the Trinity) here, including some Te Deum stuff.

The Sarum Trinity Office

I realized recently that I've never completed the seasonal schedule of Daily Office Hymns!  I went from Advent through the octave of Pentecost (skipping a few things that don't match up with modern practice, and more on those later) - but neglected Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, and the "Ordinary Time" hymns.  "Ordinary Time" is a new designation, of course; what I mean is, the hymns used daily in the long non-festal periods (except for saints' days and All Saints/All Souls).

So I'll fix that now.  According to Hymn melodies for the whole year, from the Sarum service-books, the hymns are:
On Trinity Sunday & daily until Corpus Christi :
Evensong & Mattins:   Adesto, sancta Trinitas ... ... ... 43 or 75
Lauds:   O Pater sancte ... ... ... ... 44

(Follow along with the Offices for Trinity 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 above list would be this group of melodies - which, interestingly, are rarely or never used for any other day of the year:

Here's an mp3 of the St. David's Compline choir (of Austin, TX) singing Adesto, sancta Trinitas; they are using melody #43 above (but not the Neale translation below).  The Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood also offers an mp3, using the same melody.

Nethymnal has what they call the "Chartres melody" for Adesto, sancta Trinitas; below is the Latin text along with the John Mason Neale English translation:
Adesto Sancta Trinitas
Par splendor una Deitas
Qui extas rerum omnium
Sine fine principum.

Te celorum militia
Laudat adorat predicat
Triplexque mundi machina
Benedicit per saecula.

Assumus et nos cernui
Te adorantes famuli
Vota precesque supplicum
Ymnis junge caelestium.

Unum te lumen credimus
Quod et ter idem colimus
Alpha et O quem dicimus
Te laudet omnis spiritus.

Laus Patri sit ingenito
Laus Ejus Unigenito
Laus sit Sancto Spiritui
Trino Deo et simplici.

Be present, holy Trinity,
like splendor, and one Deity;
of things above, and things below,
beginning, that no end shall know.

Thee all the armies of the sky
adore, and laud, and magnify;
and nature, in her triple frame,
for ever sanctifies thy Name.

And we, too, thanks and homage pay,
thine own adoring flock today;
O join to that celestial song
the praises of our suppliant throng!

Light, sole and one, we thee confess,
with triple praise we rightly bless;
Alpha and Omega we own,
with every spirit round thy throne.

To thee, O unbegotten One,
and thee, O sole-begotten Son,
and thee, O Holy Ghost, we raise
our equal and eternal praise.

This early polyphony piece by Philippe de Vitry (1291 - 1361) includes Adesto, sancta Trinitas as one of several texts - as far as I can tell so far - used in a kind of swirl of melody and verse:

de Vitry was, apparently, an innovative and influential composer of the period, and is thought to have written the Ars nova notandi (A New Technique of Writing [Music]) in around 1322.

I'm not sure about chant melody #75 above; will post audio for it if I find it.

Here's an mp3 of O Pater sancte, using melody #44 above, from LLPB.   They use it for Lauds - and also offer a couple of versicles for the dayone for Lauds and one for Vespers.

Here's Cyberhymnal's version of "Father, Most Holy"; the Latin words (from are below, with the Percy Dearmer translation following:
O Pater sancte mitis atque pie,
O Jesu Christe Fili venerande,
Paracliteque Spiritus O alme,
Deus aeterne,

Trinitas sancta Unitasque firma,
Deitas vera, Bonitas immensa,
Lux angelorum, salus orphanorum,
Spesque cunctorum,

Serviunt tibi cuncta quae creasti,
Te tuae cunctae laudant creaturae,
Nos quoque tibi psallimus devote,
Tu nos exaudi.

Gloria tibi omnipotens Deus,
Trinus et unus, magnus et excelsus,
Te decet hymnus, honor, laus et decus,
Nunc, et in aevum.

Father most holy, merciful and tender;
Jesus our Savior, with the Father reigning;
Spirit all kindly, Advocate, Defender,
Light never waning;

Trinity sacred, Unity unshaken;
Deity perfect, giving and forgiving,
Light of the angels, Life of the forsaken,
Hope of the living;

Maker of all things, all Thy creatures praise Thee;
Lo, all things serve Thee through Thy whole creation:
Hear us, Almighty, hear us as we raise Thee
Heart’s adoration.

To the all ruling triune God be glory:
Highest and greatest, help Thou our endeavor;
We, too, would praise Thee, giving honor worthy
Now and forever.

What's fascinating about Trinity Sunday is that there is quite a lot of interesting or well-known music associated with it - the Te Deum, for instance, and of course the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy - and yet it's one of the most obscure and least celebrated feasts of the entire Church Year.  I suppose this isn't really that strange, given that it's a theological concept instead of an event or a human being.

Still, the concept seems to have been mighty sticky even so, and here's one version of the Oxyrhynchus Hymn - the earliest Christian hymn yet known with both written text and musical notation (put to papyrus at the end of the 3rd Century), and called "A hymn to the Holy Trinity":

This page offers the original (reconstructed) Greek text:

The original language of this hymn is Greek. The brackets denote reconstructed areas of the text.

Spoken: [Σε Πάτερ κόσμων, Πάτερ αἰώνων, μέλπωμεν] ὁμοῦ, πᾶσαι τε Θεοῦ λόγιμοι δο[ῦλο]ι. Ὅσα κ[όσμος ἔχει πρὸς ἐπουρανίων ἁγίων σελάων.]
Sung: [Πρ]υτανήω σιγάτω, μηδ' ἄστρα φαεσφόρα λ[αμπέ]
Spoken: σθων, [ἀπ]ολει[όντων] ῥ[ιπαὶ πνοιῶν, πηγαὶ]
Sung: ποταμῶν ῥοθίων πᾶσαι. Υμνούντων δ' ἡμῶν [Π]ατέρα χ' Υἱὸν χ' Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα, πᾶσαι δυνάμεις ἐπιφωνούντων· Ἀμήν, Ἀμήν. Κράτος, αἶνος [ἀεὶ καὶ δόξα Θεοὶ δωτῆρι μόνῳ πάντων] ἀγαθῶν· Ἀμήν, Ἀμήν."
A literal translation from Greek to English would read:

.. Let it be silent
Let the Luminous stars not shine,
Let the winds (?) and all the noisy rivers die down;
And as we hymn the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Let all the powers add "Amen Amen"
Empire, praise always, and glory to God,
The sole giver of good things, Amen Amen

This is another translation from the same page:
Let the world be silent Let not the stars shine their lights
Calm the winds, silence the rivers
Let all praise the Father, the Son and the Holy spirit
Let all sing together Amen, Amen.
Let kings bow, and God receive the glory!
The sole giver of good things, Amen Amen.

From the same link, this is a transcription of the hymn:

Wikipedia says this:
The Oxyrhynchus hymn (or P. Oxy. XV 1786) is the earliest known manuscript of a Christian hymn to contain both lyrics and musical notation. It is found on Papyrus 1786 of the Oxyrhynchus papyri, now kept at the Papyrology Rooms of the Sackler Library, Oxford. This papyrus fragment was unearthed in 1918 and the discovery was first published in 1922.[1] The hymn was written down around the end of the 3rd century AD.

The text, in Greek, poetically invokes silence so that the Holy Trinity may be praised.

The music is written in Greek vocal notation.[3] It is entirely diatonic, with an ambitus of exactly an octave from F to F an octave above, and a final nominally on G (assuming a key signature without sharps or flats). The notation is Hypolydian, and employs the rhythmic symbols macron (diseme), leimma + macron, stigme, hyphen, and colon.[4] The text is largely set syllabically, with a few short melismas. The hymn's meter is essentially anapaestic, though there are some irregularities.[5]

It is often considered[who?] the only fragment of Christian music from ancient Greece, although Kenneth Levy[6] has persuasively argued that the Sanctus melody best preserved in the Western medieval Requiem mass dates from the 4th century.[3] It is similar to the hymn in its largely syllabic texture and diatonic melody, with slight differences.[vague]

Modern recordings of the hymn have been included on a number of releases of Ancient Greek music.

And gives this translation:
.. Let it be silent
Let the Luminous stars not shine,
Let the winds (?) and all the noisy rivers die down;
And as we hymn the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Let all the powers add "Amen Amen"
Empire, praise always, and glory to God,
The sole giver of good things, Amen Amen.

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

As everybody knows by now I'm sure, I just can't resist El Greco - and here's his "Holy Trinity" painted around 1578 for for the Santo Domingo el Antiguo church:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Performance Today Highlights Early Music Performances | Classical 101 - WOSU Public Media

Performance Today Highlights Early Music Performances | Classical 101 - WOSU Public Media

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Early Music America (EMA), and to celebrate, American Public Media’s Performance Today will be broadcasting a number of performances from selected EMA member concerts this week (June 13-17).

The performances are drawn from over 100 concerts in 25 states over the past season in an effort by EMA members to raise awareness of “the widespread and vibrant activity in early music in North America.”

Full schedule and "Listen online" at the link. Anonymous 4 today during the 6-7 p.m. slot, singing "Las Huelgas Codex: Benedicamus domino." Tomorrow: Monteverdi's "Vespers of 1610," "Magnificat to the end," it says.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"The all night vigil for Holy Trinity-Pentecost" in Moscow

Via New Liturgical Movement, here's a short video of a Pentecost Vigil celebration in Moscow. As you can see, the liturgical color for Pentecost is green, in the East. Springtime.

Some still photos at the link, too. Here's one:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Introit for the Day of Pentecost: Spiritus Domini ("The Spirit of the Lord")

Here's an mp3 of this introit from JoguesChant, and this is their translation:
The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world, alleluia; and that which contains all things, knows every language spoken by men, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; and let those who hate him flee before his face.

Here's a video of the chant:

Here's the full chant score. The text comes from Wisdom 1:7 and Psalm 68:1-2.

Here's another video of this Introit:

The very familiar readings for the day are here.  And there is more Pentecost chant (and other) stuff here - including audio and video of some of the great and marvelous hymnody for this day.   

Full Homely Divinity's Pentecost entry is most definitely worth a read, too.

Here are links to all the propers on the day, from the Benedictines of Brazil:

Dominica Pentecostes ad Missam in die
Introitus:  Spiritus Domini (cum Gloria Patri)(5m07.0s - 4798 kb)  view score
Alleluia: Emitte Spiritum tuum (1m55.4s - 1806 kb)  view score
Alleluia: Veni, Sancte Spiritus (2m02.9s - 1922 kb)  view score
Sequentia: Veni, Sancte Spiritus (2m29.7s - 2341 kb)  view score
Offertorium: Confirma hoc, Deus (1m35.3s - 1491 kb)  view score
Communio: Factus est repente (1m16.3s - 1195 kb)  view score
Ad dimittendum populum: Ite missa est (28.7s - 451 kb)  view score

And here are Chantblog posts on the Pentecost propers:

The tempera-on-wood Pentecost painting below is by Duccio di Buoninsegna, from about 1310. It's 37.5 x 42.5 cm, and was formerly housed in the Cathedral in Siena, Italy. It's now in the collection of the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo there.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Studio Access: New York Polyphony Gregorian Chant Remix Opportunity - Indaba Music

Studio Access: New York Polyphony Gregorian Chant Remix Opportunity - Indaba Music

It's an interesting idea; check it out, and send them something!

New York Polyphony Gregorian Chant Remix Opportunity

Enter the 3 Opportunities Below to Win $1,500 in Cash and a Release on Sony's Ariama Online Classical Music Store!

Gregorian chant lies at the very heart of Western music. It's a thread that runs unbroken through nearly two thousand years of musical expression and its presence can be felt not only in countless creative works, but also in our modern concepts of harmony, melody and form. The influence of plainchant is so complete, it’s as if we know these melodies—consciously or not—at the genetic level.

For centuries, Gregorian chant has been subjected to every compositional technique, treatment and device imaginable—remixed long before anyone even thought to call it that. But now, with the tools available to musicians in the 21st century, it’s time for the next generation of reinvention. Now it's your turn.

Acclaimed classical vocal quartet New York Polyphony and Indaba are giving you the opportunity to put your own unique spin on Gregorian chant. They are providing the stem sets to three different plainchants: "Victimae paschali laudes”, “Gaudeamus in omnes Domino”, and “Beati mundo corde”. Each chant is featured in its own contest, allowing you to remix your favorite.

Submit your music and breathe new life into these ancient melodies.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

This Is The Day - Westminster Abbey Choir and the Choristers of the Chapel Royal

The Introit for the Seventh Sunday of Easter: Exaudi, Domine ("Lord, hear my voice")

Here's an mp3 of this pretty Introit from JoguesChant, and their chant score and translation are below; the text is from Psalm 27, verses 7-9 and then 1.

Hearken, O Lord, unto my voice which has called out to you, alleluia; my heart declared to you: "Your countenance have I sought; I shall ever seek your countenance, O Lord; do not turn your face from me, alleluia, alleluia." The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

Now, you will never go broke betting that the next verse of any Psalm is one that contains an Exaudi Domine.   "Lord, hear my voice" is pretty much everywhere in Psalms.  But I do not find a video of this Introit online, even though it is apparently the traditional one.  That's OK, though; the mp3 above is sung very nicely.

The collect for this last Sunday in Eastertide is this:
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

As you can see, this collect makes reference to both Ascension Day, this past Thursday - the "exaltation" of Christ to heaven - and to the day of Pentecost next Sunday, in the request for the sending of the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel is again from John (John 17:1-11):
Jesus looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

"I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. "

Here's another Exaudi, Domine - one that takes its text, it says, from Psalm 17.   I'm including it because it's a pretty sung style - on the Mozarabic side, although it doesn't say so - and because it shows another kind of chant notation.  Here's the blurb from the page:

Exaudi, Domine, iustitiam meam, intende deprecationem meam: auribus percipe orationem meam.

Psalm 17(16): 1

Hear the right, o Lord, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer.

"Exaudi Domine" is the first verse of the offertory "Perfice gressus" sung by Reinier van der Lof in the Amsterdam Obrechtchurch on June 17th, 2009.

Saint Gall neumes: mid tenth century, CH-E 121, p. 86
Fluxus score: 2009, Geert Maessen, Amsterdam

Here's Palestrina's Exaudi Domine, sung - I think - by "Coro Ferdinando PAER - Colorno PR (2007)." The CPDL page says this text comes from Daniel!

Here's a beautiful modern Exaudi Domine, sung by the Chamber Choir Orfej Ljutomer of Slovenia, at the 2008 International Festival of Choral Music; the composer is, I believe, Ambrož Čopi. lists all the propers for today:
Hebdomada septima paschæ
Introitus: Ps. 26, 7.8.9 et 1 Exaudi, Domine... tibi dixit (not available)
Alleluia: Ps. 46, 9 Regnavit Dominus (not available)
Alleluia: Io. 14, 18 Non vos relinquam (3m32.2s - 3316 kb)
Offertorium: Ps. 46, 6 Ascendit Deus (1m33.8s - 1469 kb MONO)
Communio: Io. 17, 12.13.15 Pater, cum essem (not available)

Amazingly - or, actually, maybe entirely predictably - Salvador Dali painted an Ascension in 1958.  I've always loved the paintings that have Christ's feet sticking down out of the clouds - and this one is merely that idea taken to a Dali-esque extreme:

Friday, June 03, 2011

"Medieval Chant and Polyphony for the Ascension: 1000: A Mass for the End of Time Program Notes"

Following up on the last post about the Ascension Sequence, Rex Omnipotens die hodierna, here are program notes written by Susan Hellauer of Anonymous 4; the notes accompany their CD "1000: A Mass for the End of Time" - and are relevant to Ascension Day:
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven; and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. . . . And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood. And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. . . . And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

–The Apocalypse of John the Divine

It was a time of dread and hope, collapse and renewal, of violent anarchy and the elusive promise of worldwide peace. As the first millennium approached, the alliances of Charlemagne’s ninth-century empire broke apart at the seams, and Europe was plunged into a nightmarish cycle of deadly feuds, invasion and war.

Slowly, painfully, a new European order began to emerge from the rubble. Once-pagan warrior kings looked upon Christianity as a politically unifying and civilizing force. The Church, under the brilliant leadership of Pope Sylvester II (formerly the scholar-monk Gerbert of Aurillac) began to turn this spiritual authority into political power. Great cathedrals, the first monumental architecture in the west since the collapse of the Roman Empire five hundred years before, began to appear. There occurred as well a burst of intense creative activity in European Christian liturgy and its music. The traditional Roman plainchant repertory was vigorously renewed and greatly enlarged; new developments in the science of music, including staff line notation and solfeggio, allowed the new creations to be quickly learned, written down and disseminated throughout Europe.

Much as the fear of nuclear annihilation was an ever-present theme in the second half of the twentieth century, so too did fear and anticipation of the Last Judgment and end of the world influence the late-tenth-century Christian world view. Although many simple folk were unaware of the exact year and its significance, laymen and clerics alike (themselves unaware that the “official” calendar was a few years off in dating Jesus’s birth) debated the exact hour and day of “the end.” Would it be on New Year’s Eve 999 or New Year’s Day 1000, or Easter, or Ascension Day, or Christmas; or would the end actually come in 1033 – a thousand years after the death and resurrection of Jesus? In his Apocalypse, John the Divine had seen the devil being chained and sealed for a thousand years, then let loose for “a little season.” Was the terror and uncertainty of the tenth century a sign of Satan’s return? Would an antichrist rise up, to be defeated in anticipation of the Last Judgment? Who would be saved, who damned, and what horrors awaited the earth?

In the Christian liturgy, the Last Judgment is most strongly conjured up in the liturgies of the Advent season, the Requiem mass, and the feast of Jesus’s Ascension, celebrated forty days after Easter. His imminent return, in the glorious manner in which he departed (Acts 1:9–11), had been expected by the earliest Christians; as centuries passed this expectation was transferred to the first millennium. Our program is based on the Ordinary and Proper chants of the Ascension mass, most with added tropes — newly written text and music added to make them more solemn or festive — drawing on related Ascension themes, including the Last Judgment. Most of these works are found in manuscripts of c. 1000 originating in Aquitaine, in southwestern France (many of them associated with the Abbey of St. Martial in Limoges). Two of them, the Gloria: Prudentia prudentium and the Alleluia: Ascendens cristus, are from the Winchester Troper, an important source from Britain, c. 1000, containing some of the very earliest written polyphony for liturgical use. The troped portions of the Aquitanian chants would almost certainly have been adorned with polyphony, created by the singers according to certain rules of improvisation that are preserved for us in theoretical treatises of the time. We have constructed polyphonic lines, based on examples from the Winchester Troper and on contemporary theoretical writings, with an occasional drone or ison to enhance the texture.

The Propers of the mass (Introit, Alleluia, Prose with Sequence, Offertory and Communion) are those items specific to the feast at hand. With the exception of the Alleluias, all here are enlarged with Ascension tropes. Most notable of these is the extensive introductory dialog to the Introit: Viri galilei, Quem creditis super astra ascendisse. It is a rich, self-contained work in itself, modeled on the widely popular Easter Introit trope Quem queritis, which is generally seen as the precursor of liturgical drama. Like the Quem queritis, Quem creditis exists in more than one version; we have chosen the melody associated with the Aquitanian abbey of St. Martial in Limoges. In this work one can easily hear how the Aquitanian plainchant style differs from the earlier, more subtly refined Gregorian style, most recognizably in its vigorous, outgoing melody, with gesture and emphasis enhancing a strong tonal center. The second of the two Alleluias, Ascendens cristus, is set with an organal line in the Winchester Troper. The prose, or prose with sequence, its origins related to the practice of troping, was a relatively new addition to the medieval mass, with Frankish composers of the ninth and tenth centuries adding great numbers of them for specific saints and feasts, large and small, to the liturgical stock. The Ascension Prose and sequence: Rex omnipotens, with its introductory trope Salvator mundi te ascendente, is one of the finest of these. After each double versicle of the prose, an untexted “sequence” of pitches follows, to which would most probably have been added an improvised polyphonic or organal line. We also sing the extensive trope, Elevatus est rex fortis, to the Offertory: Viri galilei, with an added organal line.

The items of the Ordinary of the mass are those that (usually) remain the same regardless of the occasion. But in the age of troping, they could be made “proper” to the day with added texts. The Gloria is expanded with the Ascension trope Prudentia prudentium, and the Kyrie: Celestis terrestrisque, although its text is not specific to the Ascension, is designated for that feast in its manuscript source, written in the little town of Apt, where a fine, anonymous musician in an artistic backwater created new liturgical works of his (or her) own inspiration. The brief but artful Sanctus: Ante seculum and Agnus: Omnipotens eterne are intended for general use on high feast days, and we have added organal lines to their tropes.

The processional hymn Judicii signum enjoyed a long life in medieval liturgy, and is based on the prophecies of one of the early medieval Christian Sibyls. After the mass chants, we sing a Lection from the Apocalypse of Saint John, which, along with the sibyllic oracles, was the Middle Ages’ primary source for information about the coming Armageddon. Regnantem sempiterna is a perfect, gem-like prosa of the ninth-century West-Frankish school, and the hymn Cives celestis patrie, with which we end the program, describes the foundation jewels (and their mystical meanings) of the new Jerusalem — the perfect city that will replace the earth at the end of time.

And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem. . . . And the foundations of the wall of that city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. . . . And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl; and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. . . . And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

- Apocalypse, chapter 21

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Rex Omnipotens die hodierna ("The King Eternal as upon this Holy Day"): The Ascension Sequence

The Sequence Hymn for Ascension Day - today - is, according to Hymn Melodies for the Whole Year from the Sarum Service-books, "Rex Omnipotens die hodierna" ("The King Eternal as upon this Holy Day"). Here's the chant score itself:

Unfortunately - and as is pretty usual, for the lesser-known Sequence hymns - it's difficult to find recordings of this music online. Anonymous 4 did an 8-minute version called "Sequence with Prose: Salvator mundi/Rex omnipotens die hodierna," of which you can find short clips here and there. There's one on their website, from the CD "1000: A Mass for the End of Time," that gives a bit of the flavor of the piece (and includes some of the other mass chants for Ascension). Amazon offers this similar 30-second cut.

The Latin words are, I think, these - taken from a book called (yes!) Archaeologia, Or, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity, Volume 46, Part 2 (which seems to have words to many of the Sequences):
Prosa adseguentia Cithara, de Ascensione Domini. Alleluia.

Rex omnipotens, die hodierna,
Mundo triumphali redempto potentia,
Victor ascendit caelos unde descenderat
Nam quadraginta postquam surrexerat
Diebus sacris confirmans pectore
Apostoloru[m] pacis clara reliquens oscula
Quibus et dedit potestatem laxandi crimina,
Et misit eos in mundum baptizare cunctas animas,
In patris et filii et sancti spiritus dementia
Et conuescens precepit eis ab ierosolomis
Ne abirent sed expectarent promissa munera. [f. 1456.]
Non post multos enim dies mittam uobis spiritum paraclitum in terra
Et eritis mihi testes in ierusalem iudea siue samaria.
Et, cum hoc dixisset, uidentibus illis elevatus est, et nubes clam
Suscepit eum ab eorum oculis intuentibus illis aera.
Ecce stetere amicti duo uiri in ueste clara
Juxta, dicentes quid admiramini caelorum alta?
Jesus enim, hie qui assumptus est a uobis ad patris dextera[m]
Vt ascendit ita ueniet querens talenti commissi lucra,
0 deus maris poli arcei. hominem quern creasti fraude subdola
Hostis expulit paradiso et captiuatum secum traxit ad tartara.
Sanguine proprio quem redemisti deo [f. 146]
Illuc et rediens unde prius corruit paradisi gaudia,
Iudex, cum ueneris iudicare secula,
Da nobis petimus sempiterna gaudia in sanctorum patria
In qua tibi cantemus omnes alleluia.
[Bodl. MS. 775, f. 145. Cott. Cal. A, xiv. f. 61. MS. Beg. 2, B. iv. f. 97 vo. Sarnm Gradual, f. 143 vo.]

Here's an English translation, from The Latin hymns in the Wesleyan hymn book : studies in hymnology, by Frederic W. MacDonald (1899) (here's a PDF of this book):
This day the King omnipotent,
Having redeemed the world by His triumphant might,
Ascends a Conqueror to heaven, whence He had come.
Through forty holy days after He rose He tarried.
Confirming the souls of the Apostles ;
To whom, bequeathing the sweet kiss of peace,
He gave the power to bind and loose,
And sent them to baptize all men
In the mercy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And, eating with them, bade them not depart
From Jerusalem, but wait for the promised gifts.
Not many days hence will I send to you the Spirit, the
And ye shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and
And when He had this said, while they beheld He rose,
and a bright cloud
Received Him from their sight, they gazing upward.
Behold, two men, in white robes clad, stood by, and said :
Why look ye to high heaven ?
For this Jesus, who is taken from you to the right hand of
the Father,
As He ascended so shall come, seeking His gain of the
entrusted talent.
O God of ocean, air, and field, man whom Thou didst
create, and whom by guile
The foe drove out of paradise, and led a captive with him
to the abyss,
Whom by Thine own blood Thou hast redeemed, O God,
Bring back again thither whence first he fell.
To joys of paradise.
When Thou the judge, to judge the world shalt come,
Grant us, we pray Thee, everlasting joy
In the homeland of saints.
Where we all shall sing to Thee, Alleluia."

I do wish these Sequences were more readily available! Maybe I'll get some singers together and record them all myself, in fact; to me, they are some of the most beautiful music in all the chant repertoire. It really is worth clicking to the Anonymous 4 site to listen to their clips, though. Always worth listening to them sing, no matter how short or long the clips; they always produce such beautiful stuff.

In the Google book, A Dictionary of Hymnology, there is this note about this Sequence:
Rex omnipotens die hodierna. Hermannus Contractus (?). [Ascension.] This is found in a MS. in the Bodleian (Bodl. 775 f. 145), written c. 1000, as a Sequence "on the Ascension of the Lord," and in another Ms., in the same Library, of circa 1070 (Douce, 222, f. 101); in a Winchester book of the 11th cent, now in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (No. 473); in a Ms. of the 11th cent. (Harl. 2961 f. 254), and another of the 11th or 12th cent. (Reg. 8 C. xiii. f. 22). both in the British Museum, &c. Among Missals it is found in an early 14th cent. Paris and a 14th cent. Sens in the British Museum; in a Sarum, c. 1370, a Hereford, c. 1370, and a York, c. 1390, all now in the Bodleian: in the St. Andrew's, and various French Missals, its use being uniformly for the Ascension. The printed text is also in Neale's Sequentiae, 1852, p. 58; Daniel, v. p. 66, and Kehrein, No. 116 (see also p. 967, ii.). Tr. as:—

1. Lord of all power and might, Mankind redeemed, Ac. By C. S. Calverley, In the 1871 ed. of the Hymnary, No. 305, and in his Literary Remains, 1886.

2. To the throne He left, victorious. By E. H. Plomptre, made for and pub. in the Hymnary, 1872, No. 305. in the place of the above No. 1.

3. The almighty King, victorious, on this day. By C. B. Pearson, In the Sarum Missal in English, 1868, and his Sequences from the Sarum Missal, 1871.

So you can see why Anonymous 4 included on their CD "1000: A Mass for the End of Time" - it was written, it seems, about the year 1000.

Here's a post on the Ascension Office (and actually, here's another!), and here's one on the mass chants for the day.

Here's one video that's appropriate for the day, even though it's not of the Sequence: Finzi's "God Is Gone Up With a Shout," sung by the Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa Choir of Men and Boys. The text is from Psalm 47, from what I can recall:

This is an icon of the "The Anastasis and the Ascension" at St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt, from, apparently, the 13th Century:


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