Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Responsory for the Feast of St. Thomas Becket: Iacet granum oppressum palea ("The grain of wheat lies smothered by the chaff")

Iacet granum oppressum palea is the Third Responsory at Matins in the Sarum Breviary for the Feast of St. Thomas Becket, December 29.  But it is also used, sometimes in procession, at the end of (what would normally be Second) Vespers of the Feast of the Holy Innocents - that is, Vespers of the day before the Feast of St. Thomas Becket - and in a very interesting way.  More about that below.

First, the chant, beautifully sung here by Egeria Voices, a Spanish a capella group:

Here are the words, in Latin and English:
R. Jacet granum oppressum palea,
     Justus coesus pravorum framea,
     Coelum domo commutans lutea.
V. Cadit custos vitis in vinea,
    Dux in castris, oultor in area,
    Coelum domo commutans lutea. 

R. The grain of wheat lies smothered by the chaff,
     the just man slain by the sword of sinners.
     Changing his house of clay for heaven.
V. The vine-keeper dies in his vineyard,
     the general in his camp, the husbandman on the place of his toil.
    Changing his house of clay for heaven. 

St. Thomas Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered by soldiers of King Henry II of England in Canterbury Cathedral on December 29 in the year 1170.   This was an event that shocked England and all of Europe, and Thomas was canonized only three years later.  You can read a full account of the event and its repercussions at the British Museum website.  Here's a quote from that page:
Becket’s death and subsequent miracles transformed Canterbury Cathedral into one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Europe. In 1220 his body was moved from the crypt to a glittering new shrine in a purpose-built chapel upstairs in the Cathedral. Geoffrey Chaucer famously captured something of the atmosphere of pilgrimage to this shrine in his Canterbury Tales. In death Becket remained a figure of opposition to unbridled power and became seen as the quintessential defender of the rights of the Church. To this end you can find images of his murder in churches across Latin Christendom, from Germany and Spain, to Italy and Norway. Becket was, and remains, a truly European saint. His relics at Canterbury were visited by people from across the continent until 1538, when Henry VIII would label him a traitor, order the destruction of his shrine and try to wipe him from history altogether. That, however, is a story for another time.
Here's a page containing this chant, from the Antiphonarium Massiliense, an Antiphoner from Marseille cathedral. It's from the late 12th century, dated to between 1190 and 1200.

The week following Christmas is packed with Feast Days:  St. Stephen on December 26; St. John the Evangelist on December 27; Holy Innocents on December 28; St. Thomas Becket on December 29.  The liturgies of the week are therefore very complex; each of these feasts has its own antiphons, prayers, responsories, and hymns - and each day includes a sort of First/Second-Vespers-Memorial-mashup of the Feast itself with each following feast day.  (These seem sometimes to be referred to as "Memorials," even though Memorials are - as their name would imply - normally a hearkening-back to a feast day that's already happened.  Normally major feasts have a First and Second Vespers, too - but one day just tumbles into the next during this week, so it's a bit confusing, and hard to know what to call Vespers during this time!)  There are other ordinary memorials throughout the week, too: of Christmas every day, and also memorials for each prior feast.  And then each of these feast days has its octave one week later, most falling within the twelve days.  It's all very complicated - made more so in emotional resonance by the fact that three of four of these major feast are martyrs' days.   In any case it is a very, very rich set of offices.

As I noted above, this chant, Iacet granum oppressum palea, is introduced at the end of Second Vespers of Holy Innocents - then used again at Matins of St. Thomas Becket a few hours later.  And, at that First/Second Vespers/Memorial mashup, this chant is also associated with a "Procession to the Altar of St. Thomas."

The set of screenshots below comes from Volume 2 of Prosper Guéranger's "The Liturgical Year"; this Volume contains commentary on the Christmastide liturgies.  (It's actually just the first volume of what Guéranger classified as Christmas liturgies.  Volume 1 begins at Christmas Eve, and runs through the Vigil of the Epiphany; Volume 2 begins on Epiphany, and runs through and includes Candlemas, and then the following Sundays through Quinquagesima.)

Anyway, here's Guéranger's take on this Responsory and its function; note, too, that the Responsory-plus-Prose is entirely in rhyme in the Latin:

Here's a full description of the celebration of the feast, from an 1894 publication of The Dublin Review, in an article titled The Ancient Offices of Some of England's Saints.
S. Thomas Of Canterbury.

From the day when Henry II. bestowed the crown of martyrdom on his primate, to the day when a still more ferocious Henry rifled his tomb, and threw his sacred ashes to the four winds, no more popular name was to be found in the Calendar of English Saints than that of Thomas Becket.

His festivals, therefore, as may well be imagined, were celebrated with especial splendour, and a more than wonted beauty is to be met with in his offices. Of these the Sarum Breviary gives three varieties.

The office for his festival proper, observed on December 29th, the solemn commemoration for the feast of the translation of his relics, and a weekly commemoration, or, as we should say, votive office.

The celebration of the great festival, December 29th, commenced on the day preceding the feast itself with what was called a memorial.

This memorial was made in two ways. In certain churches, probably the more important, immediately after vespers, and without changing their vestments, the clergy and choir proceeded, in solemn procession, nevertheless, without candles in their hands, as the rubric expressly states, to the altar of St. Thomas, and, as they went, they hymned their hero's victory. "The wheaten grain lies prone before the flail," runs the quaintly beautiful sequence with which Sarum honoured the greatest of England's saints. "The righteous man, hewn down by impious swords, thereby exchanging squalid earth for Heaven. The vineyard's keeper falls beside the vine. The captain on the battle-field lies low, the husbandman within his threshing-floor. From squalid earth, Christ's martyr mounts to Heaven."*

Having reached the altar, this as well as the image of the saint was incensed by the officiating priest, while the rest of the clergy and the choir, grouped around, continued their triumphant canticle:
Sound ye the gladsome trump of victory,

For this, that God's own vineyard might be free,

*R. Jacet granum oppressum palea,
     Justus coesus pravorum framea,
     Coelum domo commutans lutea.
  V. Cadit custos vitis in vinea,
    Dux in castris, oultor in area,
     Coelum domo commutans lutea.
Which, clad in human flesh, Himself had freed
By dying on the purple blood-stained cross.
The savage beast of prey becomes a lamb,
The shepherd's crnel death converts his foe,
Christ's marble pavement flows all red with blood.
Thus Thomas wins the martyr's laurel crown,
And like the wheaten grain, from husk set free,
Is garnered in the storehouse of the King.*

Then was intoned the V. Ora pro nobis Beate Thoma, &c., with its accompanying R., and afterwards followed the Collect, the same which we still use.

The memorial completed, the clergy returned to the choir; but great was the devotion of the ancient Church of England to the Mother of God. She loved to associate the name of Mary, with all her joys and all her sorrows. In redeundo, runs the rubric, dicitur Responsorium vel Antiphona de Sancta Maria.

In those churches in which it was not customary to have a procession on St. Thomas's Eve, the following antiphon was substituted for the above prose:
The watchful pastor, slain amid his flock,
Their peace procures, by pouring out his blood.
O joyous sorrow! O most mournful joy!
The sheep draw breath, the shepherd lyeth low,
And weeping Mother Church applauds a son
"Who, by his death a victor, mounts to Heaven. +
All the antiphons at this office are rhythmical and rhyming.

Those at Matins form a sort of metrical legend of the Saint's life, the chief characteristic of which is quaintness. Several of them, however, are not without a certain naive beauty. Take, for example, the ninth, which sings of the happiness of the place and of the church, in which the memory of Thomas dwells, of the country which gave him birth, and of the land which afforded him shelter during his exile:
Ant. 9.—Felix locus, felix ecclesia:

In qua Thomse viget memoria:
Felix terra quae dedit proesulem
Felix ilia quae fovit exulem:
Felix pater, sucurre miseris:
Ut felices jungamur superis.

           * Prosa.
  Clangat pastor in tuba cornea.
  Ut libera sit Christi vinea,
  Quam, assumptae sub carnis trabea,
  Liberavit cruce purpurea,
  Adversatrix ovis erronea
  Fit pastoris ccede sanguinea,
  Pavimenta Christi mamorea
  Sacro madent cruore rubea.
  Mart ir vitse donatus laurea,
  Velut granum purgatum palea,
  In divina transfertur horrea
  Curium donio commutans lutea.
+ Pastor caesus in gregis medio
  Pacem emit cruoris precio.
  O loetus dolor in tristi gaudio,
  Grex respirat pastore mortuo.
  Plangens plaudit mater in filio,
  Quia vivit victor sub gladio.

Lots more on all the offices of the day at that article!  It's clear that this was a very important day, in the middle of a very important week; the offices are very ornate and rich in every way.

Here is the entire Responsory-plus-Prose / Procession from the Holy Innocents page at The Sarum Rite English Scholarly Breviary; it immediately follows Memorials for Nativity, St. Stephen, and St. John the Evangelist:

The Responsory chant itself was used in many places, from England to France to Czechia to Hungary.  See the full list  of concordences at the University of Waterloo chant database.

At some point I'll create images for the full Procession score in Latin, too, and will post it here.  Also, I would love to find a recording of the Prose section of the chant used at the Vespers memorial; if I too, I'll post that here, too.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

An Advent Responsory: Ecce Dies Veniunt ("Behold, the days come")

Ecce Dies Veniunt is the ninth responsory at Mattins on the First Sunday of Advent in the Roman Breivary.   But it's sung at First Vespers on the First Sunday of Advent in the Sarum Breviary.  Either way, it was clearly an important chant.

Here it's sung by Gregoriana.

Here are the words, in Latin and English, from Divinum Officium:
R. Ecce dies véniunt, dicit Dóminus, et suscitábo David germen justum: et regnábit rex, et sápiens erit, et fáciet judícium et justítiam in terra:
* Et hoc est nomen quod vocábunt eum: * Dóminus justus noster.
V. In diébus illis salvábitur Juda, et Israël habitábit confidénter.
R. Et hoc est nomen quod vocábunt eum:
V. Glória Patri, et Fílio, * et Spirítui Sancto.
R. Dóminus justus noster.

R. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch; and a King shall reign in wisdom and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth:
* And this is His name whereby He shall be called: * The Lord our Righteous one.
V. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely.
R. And this is His name whereby He shall be called.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. The Lord our Righteous one.

Here is the chant score, from The Sarum Rite, at McMaster University, Toronto.  There are some melodic differences between this score and what's sung on the video above.

This Responsory is also listed in Cantus Database as a Responsory for other Advent Sundays.  So it appears it was used in various ways and at various times in different locations and at  different times.

Here's an image of the chant as used as an Advent 1 Vespers Responsory, from the Antiphonarium Benedictinum (1400)  used at the Abbey of Sankt Lambrecht (Steiermark, Austria).

Here's another one from Austria (Klosterneuburg), and about the same period; it's another Vespers Responsory for Advent 1:

This is from a "Late-thirteenth century Cistercian antiphoner (dated c. 1295) from Lubiąż in modern-day south-western Poland (German: Leubus). 272 folios. Green five-line staff with a red F-line and a yellow C-line."  It was used as a Matins Reponsory on Advent 3.

And this earlier one comes from a "Cistercian antiphoner from the Abbey of St. Mary of Morimondo in the diocese of Milan. Second half of the twelfth century (up to 1174)."  It's written in staffless musical notation, as you can see; it was also used as a Matins Reponsory on Advent 3.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

More about Veni Redemptor Gentium ("Come, Savior of the Nations")

This beautiful hymn was appointed for First Vespers of Christmas in the Sarum Breviary (although sung to a different melody), and is today used in the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours at the Office of Readings from December 17 through December 24, which puts it on the same schedule at the Great O Antiphons at Vespers.  (It was not used in the Roman Breviary, however.)

The hymn text is very old:  from the fourth century and attributed to St. Ambrose.  Here's a sung arrangement of the hymn accompanied by soprano saxophone; as you will hear, the chant choir sings two different and distinct melodies for the various verses:

All of this is a good intro to something I've wondered about since first posting on it years ago!  The  first melody is a straightforward Gregorian chant tune; the second is a tune from a 16th-century German Chorale ("Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" - essentially the same phrase in German translation) written, possibly, by Martin Luther (or possibly by Johann Walter, his collaborator).

The question is:  where did the second melody come from, and how is it related to the first, Gregorian chant tune?  I had for a long time thought that the two tunes were simply two versions of the original Gregorian melody - or else that one was an Ambrosian tune and the other was Gregorian.  But the reality is apparently otherwise.

To start: here is the Gregorian chant score; this is the first melody sung by the choir:

And this is the second melody, as written out by Martin Luther or his editors ("Martin Luther und andere") for the Erfurt Enchiridion, the second Lutheran hymnal published in 1524:

Here's the Bach Cantata website on the Chorale melody (as used by Bach in various of his works):
This melody is first documented as a Roman Catholic Latin hymn based upon Gregorian chant in manuscript form in Einsiedeln (Schwyz) around 1120. The same melody source served as a basis for three important chorale melodies: “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland”, ‘Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich” (Luther’s CT based upon the antiphon ‘Da pacem Domine”) and Martin Luther’s CT,“Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort”.

>>The Lutheran Reformation in the early 16th century led to the creation of a new repertory of sacred music based on the chorale. Chorales were initially sung by the congregation in unison and unaccompanied. Most were adapted from chant, from German devotional songs (many of which were themselves reworkings of chant) and from secular songs, or were composed using conventional melodic types and formulae. Techniques of adaptation ranged from simple contrafactum to ingenious reworkings, such as Luther's reshaping of the Gregorian hymn Veni Redemptor gentium as the chorale Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland.<<

J. Peter Burkholder in Grove Music Online, ©Oxford University Press 2006, acc. 5/26/06
Burkholder presents examples of the Gregorian chant and “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” in close proximity so that the similarities and differences can become apparent:

(I have searched online for the Einsiedeln manuscript, but haven't been successful in finding a scored version of the hymn so far; I am still looking for it, though, and will post it if I find one.  However, this snippet from the Bach Cantata website clearly implies that the chant melody is directly related to the chorale melody.)

Then there is this, from the Encyclopedia of Martin Luther and the Reformation, Volume 2. edited by Mark A. Lamport:
Luther translated the seven stanzas of Ambrose's “Veni, Redemptor, gentium” fairly literally, characteristically adding a doxology, but he changed the meter from basically Long Meter (8888, sometimes with lines of 9) to 7777 (with some elisions).
The same source continues in re: the melody:
The Tune

Luther altered the tune that went with the Latin text. He thought that simply to transfer chant tunes associated with Latin texts to German translations would create a faulty imitation that would not sing well. He wanted a hymn's tune to grow out of the language one was using and to reflect its particular accents and inflections. Text and tune were to form an organic whole. A tune that worked for a Latin text might not work for a German one, which meant that some revisions might have to be made.

Luther left the melodic contour of this tune as it was, but changed other things. First, the five melismas in the chant tune were reduced in the German version to two unobtrusive ones that sing easily. The tune became more syllabic. Second, Luther gave the second phrase a more decisive cadence. Third, the upward leap of a third in the first line was turned into a fourth. These alterations propelled the tune forward with a more proclamatory push and made it both easier to learn and more congregational.

A fourth alteration may seem subtle and not even recognized at first, but it is telling: the first line was repeated as the last. This move reflected the meaning of the text and its structure. The hymn made a turn forward and back at stanzas 4 and 5. After marveling at the wonder of it all and preparing the way for Christ's coming in the first stanzas, stanzas 4 and 5 led from God to humanity and then back to God as a result of the victory Christ wins. Luther's alterations not only moved the tune from meditatively prayerful to more vigorously proclamatory and made the tune's musical exegesis into a bold chorale that joyfully celebrates the grace of God; they also mirrored the meaning of the text by matching its structure.

And finally there's this analysis from The Tradition of Western Music, by Gerald Abraham:
The melody whose adventures I want to follow in some detail belongs to a much later period. The words of the Advent hymn ‘Veni, redemptor gentium' go back to the fourth century but the melody seems to be no older than the early twelfth. All the same, it has come down to us in several minor variant forms: for instance, the word 'ostende' is sung in one version to three repeated notes, in another to three notes ascending scalewise. But it was a much loved melody, particularly in Germany; it is significant that the two oldest manuscripts in which it is found are both German, and four centuries later the German Protestants lost no time in providing it with German words. The Protestant extremist Thomas Müntzer published in 1524 a translation which begins:
O Herr, Erlöser alles Volks,
komm, zeig uns die Geburt deins Sohns,
es wundern sich all Creaturen
dass Christ also ist Mensch worden.
In 1531 it appeared in one of the German song-books of the Bohemian Brethren, Michael Weisse's Ein Nem Gesengbuchlen, with a completely new text. Both these German texts were fitted to the plainsong with only minimal changes in the actual notes, though even the fitting of different vowels and consonants to plainsong produces a certain change of character. Here are (a) the plainsong in probably its earliest surviving form,* (b) the version with Müntzer's words:

Luther went farther than this. In the same year as Müntzer, 1524, he printed in his so-called Achtliederbuch not only the translation which is sung to this day, 'Nun komm der Heiden Heiland', but a metrical modification of the melody which removes it from the sphere of plainsong to that of German song. This version was not meant to be sung by a monastic choir, as the plainsong was, nor by a little sectarian body such as a congregation of Bohemian Brethren. We know fairly well how the early Lutheran hymns were sung: not harmonized or by a trained choir or supported by an organ, but by the whole congregration in unison led by a choir of schoolboys who had had the hymns drilled into them by rote. The boys were sometimes scattered among the adult congregation; sometimes the cantor himself stood in the middle of the church. In these conditions the flexibility of plainsong was impossible; something firm, steady, and square-cut like German secular song of the time was needed. (Why German secular song tended to be square-cut is a matter that will have to be dealt with later.) The first note of a hymn-tune is often written as a long one, presumably to give the congregation a moment to pick up the pitch sounded by the cantor and his boys; the phrase are separated by pauses. But Luther's substitution of firmly stressed, rhyming heptasyllables for the smooth octosyllabic Latin verse necessitated changes in the melody itself.

This last article goes into quite a lot of detail, and IMO is very worth reading in its entirety.

From all this, a couple of things seem very clear:
  • This hymn melody is not as old as I had thought.  One source says it's from twelfth-century  Einsiedeln; another says fourteenth century.  (These two researchers could have been looking at two versions of the same chant manuscript, separated by two centuries; this might account for the difference.)
  • There were never two different chant melodies, but only one!  Luther (or Walter) reworked a chant, changing the meter so that it would work well with a German translation of the text.  And that is quite interesting, because on first (or tenth!) hearing, the two tunes do not seem very alike, or in fact in any way related.

Interestingly, a contemporary composer, Andrew Smith, has set this hymn in a similar way.  He has used the two different melodies as sung in the video above - and added his own composition as well, using Luther's tune for the verses sung in English.  It's sung here beautifully by the wonderful New York Polyphony.

For the record:  the Sarum Breviary used a different melody altogether.  From this blog's Sarum Christmas Office page.
LLPB offers this mp3 for Veni, Redemptor Gentium, which it calls "The first hymn for the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord." The translation from Oremus is by J.M. Neale:
Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin birth:
let every age adoring fall;
such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will,
but of the Spirit, thou art still
the Word of God in flesh arrayed,
the promised fruit to man displayed.

The virgin womb that burden gained
with virgin honor all unstained;
the banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below.

Forth from his chamber goeth he,
that royal home of purity,
a giant in twofold substance one,
rejoicing now his course to run.

From God the Father he proceeds,
to God the Father back he speeds;
his course he runs to death and hell,
returning on God's throne to dwell.

O equal to thy Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
the weakness of our mortal state
with deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
and darkness breathe a newer light,
where endless faith shall shine serene,
and twilight never intervene.

All laud to God the Father be,
all praise, eternal Son, to thee;
all glory, as is ever meet,
to God the Holy Paraclete.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Benedicite, omnia opera Domini: A Lauds Canticle (for Pentecost)

Benedicite, omnia opera Domini is the Lauds Canticle for Sundays and Feast Days.  This version uses the Pentecost antiphon, Fontes, et omnia.  It's sung by the Schola Liturgiczna, Wyższego Seminarium Duchownego Zakonu Paulinów (The Liturgical Schola Of the Major Seminary of the Pauline Order), based in Krakow, Poland.  Their website is linked below the video, as is their Facebook page.

From the YouTube page, some information and the words to the canticle:
"Ant. 2 Fontes, et omnia. Benedicite, omnia opera Domini. Canticum Dn 3, 57 – 88. 56" w wykonaniu kleryckiej paulińskiej scholi liturgicznej. Gregorian chant - Ant. 2 Fontes, et omnia. Benedicite, omnia opera Domini. Canticum Dn 3, 57 – 88. 56.,Schola-liturgiczna

Chorał gregoriański o Duchu Świętym. Gregorian Chant for the Solemnity of Pentecost. Jutrznia i Msza św. z Uroczystości Zesłania Ducha Świętego w wykonaniu Scholi Gregoriańskiej kleryków Wyższego Seminarium Duchownego Zakonu Paulinów w Krakowie.

Ant. 2 − Canticum Dn 3, 57 – 88. 56 Fontes, et omnia quae moventur in aquis, hymnum dicite Deo, alleluia.

1. Benedicite, omnia opera Domini, Domino; laudate et superexaltate eum in saecula.
2. Benedicite, angeli Domini, Domino; benedicite, caeli, Domino.
3. Benedicite, aquae omnes quae super caelos sunt, Domino; benedicite, omnes virtutes Domini, Domino.
4. Benedicite, sol et luna, Domino; benedicite, stellae caeli, Domino.
5. Benedicite, omnis imber et ros, Domino; benedicite, omnes spiritus Dei, Domino.
6. Benedicite, ignis et aestus, Domino; benedicite, frigus et aestus, Domino.
7. Benedicite, rores et pruina, Domino; benedicite, gelu et frigus, Domino.
8. Benedicite, glacies et nives, Domino; benedicite, noctes et dies, Domino.
9. Benedicite, lux et tenebrae, Domino; benedicite, fulgura et nubes, Domino.
10. Benedicite, terra Dominum; laudet et superexaltet eum in saecula.
11. Benedicite, montes et colles, Domino; benedicite, universa germinantia in terra, Domino.
12. Benedicite, fontes, Domino; benedicite, maria et flumina, Domino.
13. Benedicite, cete et omnia quae moventur in aquis, Domino; benedicite, omnes volucres caeli, Domino.
14. Benedicite, omnes bestiae et pecora, Domino; benedicite, filii hominum, Domino.
15. Benedicat Israel Domino; laudet et superexaltet eum in saecula.
16. Benedicite, sacerdotes Domini, Domino; benedicite, servi Domini, Domino.
17. Benedicite, spiritus et animae iustorum, Domino; benedicite, sancti et humiles corde, Domino.
18. Benedicite, Anania, Azaria, Misael, Domino; laudate et superexaltate eum in saecula.
19. Benedicamus Patrem et Filium cum Sancto Spiritu; laudemus et superexultemus eum in saecula.
20. Benedictus es, Domine, in firmamento caeli; et laudabilis et gloriosus et superexaltatus in saecula.

Here are the words in English, from the Book of Common Prayer (1662):
O all ye Works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord :
      praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Angels of the Lord, bless ye the Lord : praise him &c.
O ye Heavens, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Waters that be above the Firmament, bless ye the Lord :
O all ye Powers of the Lord, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Sun and Moon, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Stars of Heaven, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Showers and Dew, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Winds of God, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Fire and Heat, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Winter and Summer, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Dews and Frosts, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Frost and Cold, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Ice and Snow, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Nights and Days, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Light and Darkness, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Lightnings and Clouds, bless ye the Lord :
O let the Earth bless the Lord:
     yea, let it praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Mountains and Hills, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify…
O all ye Green Things upon the Earth, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Wells, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Seas and Floods, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Whales, and all that move in the Waters, bless ye the Lord :
O all ye Fowls of the Air, bless ye the Lord :
O all ye Beasts and Cattle, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Children of Men, bless ye the Lord :
O let Israel bless the Lord :
O ye Priests of the Lord, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Servants of the Lord, bless ye the Lord :
O ye Spirits and Souls of the Righteous, bless ye the Lord :
O ye holy and humble Men of heart, bless ye the Lord :
O Ananias, Azarias and Misael, bless ye the Lord :
The Pentecost antiphon, sung before and after the Canticle, is this one:
Fontes, et ómnia quæ movéntur in aquis, hymnum dícite Deo, allelúja.
In English, it's:
See ye fountains, * and all that move in the waters, ascribe ye praise to God, alleluia.

More about the Benedicite, from the St. Bede Blog (in re: the Episcopal Church's 1979 Book of Common Prayer):
The Benedicite comes from one of the additions to the book of Daniel that is found in the Greek Old Testament, but not in the Hebrew version. It’s best understood as an expansion of the content and theme of Psalm 148 where all creation is called upon to worship and give glory to God. In the narrative, this is a song put into the mouth of Daniel’s three companions which they sang in the midst of the fiery furnace. As a result, sometimes this will be referred to as “the song of the three young men.” In the former prayer books, this canticle was used as the first canticle during penitential seasons when the Te Deum was suppressed. That’s not because there’s anything penitential about it—it’s one of the most joyful canticles around! Rather it’s because this was the second canticle found in the pre-Reformation prymers and Books of Hours; if the Te Deum—which was the first canticle in them—was dropped, this one was next in line. Hence, the tradition grew that the Benedicite should replace the Te Deum, and it subsequently entered and formed the prayer book tradition.

It's Daniel  3:57-88, which you can find here, in the NRSVCE.

Here's a beauty of a polyphonic composition! Herbert Sumsion's setting of the Benedicte, in B flat - written for Choral Mattins, no doubt. I like Sumsion, and I like this piece.

An interesting piece of information about the Sumsion, from the YouTube page:
From an edition of John Betjeman’s BBC radio series “Britain’s Cathedrals and their Music”, broadcast on 11 February 1966. This is the only recording in the Archive of Herbert Sumsion conducting one of his own works.

Here's Henry Purcell's gorgeous setting, also in B flat:

Ralph Vaughan Williams set this Canticle, too as have quite a number of other composers. I don't believe I've ever heard it used, but that is because Choral Mattins is becoming a rare service.

Here's Vaughan Williams' setting; it's clearly not liturgical. It's prefaced with another text, and written for orchestra and choir; it's also quite long.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

"A Short Responsory" for Lent: Illumina oculos ("Lighten my eyes")

Here's something interesting, for Lent: a "short responsory" that comes from Medieval Hungary.  It's beautifully sung here by the Schola Hungarica:

The text is taken from Psalm 12/(13):4-5/(3-4), and Psalm 87/(88):2:
12:4b Illumina oculos meos, ne unquam obdormiam in morte,
12:5a Ne quando dicat inimicus meus. Praevalui adversus eum.

2. Domine, Deus salutis meae, in die clamavi et nocte coram te.

13:3b Lighten mine eyes, that I sleep not in death.
13:4a Lest my enemy say "I have prevailed against him."

2. O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee.

Perfect for Lent!   But, this text is nowhere to be found in the Trent Breviary.  The CD lists it as included in "The Istanbul Antiphonary,"  which I have not found online (although I have found numerous references to it).  I need to look more at this.

Fortunately, Cantus Database lists it as a Compline Responsory, found 18 times in various manuscripts, most from Eastern Europe:  Czechia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, etc.  It's used, variously, on the first four Sundays of Lent.  (In one exception below, St. Gall, it's listed as "uncertain usage" for feasts of the BVM.  So not much help there.) 

I've copied the concordance table from Cantus here for easier reading:


A-Gu 29128rIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 4 Quadragesimae6ImageCD
A-Gu Ms. 211064vIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 3 Quadragesimae

A-VOR 287066vIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 3 Quadragesimae5
A-Wda D-4001vIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 3 Quadragesimae5
A-Wda D-4039vIllumina oculos meos*CR
Dom. 3 Quadragesimae*
CH-SGs 388476Illumina oculos meos neXR2De BMV?ImageCD
CZ-Pst DE I 7107vIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 1 Quadragesimae5
PL-KIk 1059rIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 3 Quadragesimae5
PL-WRu R 503056rIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 3 Quadragesimae5
SI-Lna 18 (olim 17)083rIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 2 Quadragesimae5
TR-Itks 42059rIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 1 Quadragesimae5
SK-BRsa SNA 2089rIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 1 Quadragesimae
SK-BRsa SNA 4095rIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 1 Quadragesimae
SK-BRsa SNA 17018vIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 3 Quadragesimae
SK-Bra EC Lad. 6054vIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 1 Quadragesimae
PL-KIk PL-KiK 1059rIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 3 Quadragesimae5
PL-PłS PL-PłS 35047vIllumina oculos meos neCR
Dom. 1 Quadragesimae5ImageCPL
PL-PłS PL-PłS 35053vIllumina*CR
Dom. 2 Quadragesimae*ImageCPL

The usual "Short Responsory" at Compline in the Trent Breviary (and others)  is this:   
Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
You have redeemed us, Lord God of truth.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
I wonder if Illumina oculos replaced it during Lent, in some of these Eastern European breviaries?    Would be very interesting to know, so here's another thing I'll have to investigate.

Here's an image of the chant from the Antiphonary of Bratislava (15th C. ); here is one from the Antiphonarium from Płock Cathedral, a 15th C. Polish source.  (I cannot post these images on this page because of copyright restrictions.)   They differ slightly, in places, from what's on the video above - but they are clearly the same tune.  The pretty rise and fall of the melody on "oculos" is the same in every case.

Here's one from the Antiphonarium Benedictinum (1400) (Austria), which doesn't have the same restriction.  The text does not seem to be complete here, though:

Here's the St. Gall/BVM version; it's written in the old-style chant notation, without staff, so hard to tell - but it seems to me to be a similar melody, with the same rise and fall on "oculos."  The St. Gall MS is from the 13th Century.

St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 388, p. 476 – Antiphonary

There is another "Illumina oculos" in the repertoire, though; a different text that begins the same way is the Offertory at Lent IV in Year C.   (This chant was formerly the Offertory on the Fourth Sunday of Pentecost.)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...