Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Offertory for the Feast of All Saints: Justorum animae ("The souls of the righteous")

Justorum animae is the Offertory for the Feast of All Saints - one of my favorite feast days of the year.  And as with so much else on this day, the chant is beautiful:

(Not sure who the singers are there; there's nothing at the YouTube page about them.)

The words, too, are very beautiful; they come from Wisdom 3:1-2a, 3b:
Justorum animae in manu Dei sunt,
et non tanget illos tormentum mortis.
Visi sunt oculis insipientium mori,
illi autem sunt in pace.

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and the torment of death shall not touch them.
In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die;
but they are in peace.

Translation by St Ann choir

Here's the chant score:

In his Chants of the Vatican Gradual (1934), Dom Dominic Johner points out that this melody was, in the Tridentine mass, also used for the Offertory for the Feast of St. Michael, Stetit Angelus ("An angel stood near the altar of the temple").  In his explication of Stetit Angelus, Johner discusses the melody in detail, and finally notes that:
This melody is also sung on the feast of All Saints to the text Justorum Animae, and, with the same text, in the third Mass for several Martyrs; likewise in the Mass for Deliverance in Time of Pestilence to the text Stetit pontifex, and its first half on the feast of St. Peter's Chair at Rome (January 18) to the text Tu es Petrus. In some places it is sung on the feast of St. Vincent de Paul (July 19) to the text Inclinet.
In his discussion of this proper, Justorum Animae, John says:
The melody was explained on the feast of St. Michael. The happy  adaptation of this text was accomplished in the twelfth century. We are  tempted to ask why the small word autem was favored with such florid  neums. In the original we find them over ascendit, which easily lends  itself to tone-painting. But we must take into consideration not so much  the word as the entire thought. This part, with its jubilant melody,  forms a magnificent contrast to mori ("to die") with its low pitch in the  preceding phrase. Individually, the phrases, according to their text, are  shorter than those of the original. This might explain the omission of  the descent to the fourth below the tonic which we find there at the end  of the second, third, and fourth phrases.  
"The priest offers up pure sacrificial gifts in the sight of God. With  these gifts also the earthly sufferings and heavenly joys of the saints  ascend to the throne of God. A most mysterious and most intimate connection is thus forged between their lives and the life and death of  Christ. Their lives are woven into His sacrifice, and together with the  Eucharistic Sacrifice they are immolated to God. The singer recognizes  this; he would also have his song ascend to heaven bright and clear as  the clouds of incense which he sees rising from the altar" (C. 0., 50, 151).

Orlando di Lasso wrote a beautiful setting for this proper:


Surprisingly, to me at least, Camille Saint-Saens set it, too; that piece doesn't seem to be online, though.  Gabriel Jackson's beautiful setting is, though; lucky for us!

The YouTube page says, about the video above, that it's:
A recording of a live television broadcast on the 3rd of November 2013. Sung by the Cappella Nicolai, conducted by Michael Hedley.

That's a Dutch choir, evidently.

Gabriel Jackson seems to enjoy writing settings for some of the old chant propers (for instance, see his setting of the Advent Sequence, Salus Aeterna), so I'm always interested when I discover another. 

Here are mp3 files for all the propers on the day, from

Die 1 novembris
Omnium Sanctorum
Introitus: Ps. 32 Gaudeamus... Sanctorum omnium (3m09.8s - 2969 kb) score
Graduale: Ps. 33, 10. V. 11b Timete Dominum (2m33.1s - 2395 kb) score
Alleluia: Mt. 11, 28 Venite ad me (3m34.5s - 3355 kb) score
Offertorium: Sap. 3, 1.2.3 Iustorum animæ (2m25.8s - 2281 kb) score
Communio: Mt. 5, 8.9.10 Beati mundo corde (1m29.8s - 1408 kb) score

And here are posts about these on Chantblog:

This is a photograph (by user Silar) of Central Cemetery in Sanok, Poland, on All Saints' Day:


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