Thursday, November 02, 2017

An All Saints' Day Matins Responsory: Audivi vocem de caelo ("I heard a voice coming from heaven")

While searching for something recently (I don't remember what!), I came across this beautiful Taverner composition. CPDL describes it as the "8th responsory at Matins on All Saints. Source of text is Jeremiah 40:10 and Matthew 25:6."

It's a beautiful piece of alternatim:  composed melody alternating with plainchant.




Here's the full text; the translation is via CPDL at the link above.
Audivi vocem de caelo venientem: venite omnes virgines sapientissime;
oleum recondite in vasis vestris dum sponsus advenerit.
Media nocte clamor factus est: ecce sponsus venit.
I heard a voice coming from heaven: come all wisest virgins;
fill your vessels with oil, for the bridegroom is coming.
In the middle of the night there was a cry: behold the bridegroom comes.


Whenever I come across a new work sourced from the Breviary, I check Divinum Officium to see where the original chant came from, and learn more about its context - and also sometimes to get a translation.

This time, the responsory wasn't there - at least, not in this form.  The "Trident 1570" version of the Breviary at Divinum Officium has this for the 8th Responsory:
R. Media nocte clamor factus est:
* Ecce sponsus venit, exíte obviam ei.
V. Prudéntes vírgines, aptate vestras lámpades.
R. Ecce sponsus venit, exíte obviam ei.
V. Glória Patri, et Fílio, * et Spirítui Sancto.
R. Ecce sponsus venit, exíte óbviam ei. 
Translated there as:
R. At midnight there was a cry made:
* Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.
V. Trim your lamps, O ye wise virgins.
R. Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.

None of the other versions of the Breviary (Pre-Trident Monastic, Trident 1910, etc.) had the Audivi vocem incipit, either.  

But, several other composers - Tallis, Duarte Lobo, Shepherd - had also set the Audivi vocem version of the responsory, so I knew it existed somewhere at that time.   Checking the Sarum Breviary at McMaster.ca (PDF) solved the problem; there it was, as the 8th Responsory at Matins of All Saints.

Here's the score from that PDF; you can follow along with the chant sections of the Taverner piece and see how it sounded.



Here is Thomas Tallis' setting, sung by the wonderful New York Polyphony:




Not quite sure about Jeremiah as a source, though!  That's this:
As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah, to serve the Chaldeans, which will come unto us: but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken.
Seems a bit tenuous, to me.  But, I will look further at this; I'm interested in its Advent-ish them anyway, and why that shows up here.  Also quite interesting is that so many composers set this rather obscure - although very beautiful - responsory; would like to find out more about that, too.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The All Saints' Alleluia: Venite ad me, omnes ("Come to me, all ye who labor")

Here is this Alleluia, sung by the Koninklijk Sint Ceciliakoor Turnhout - The Royal St. Cecilia Choir of Turnhout. Turnhout is a city in the Flemish province of Antwerp, in Belgium.



The text is the famous one from Matthew 11:28:  
Venite ad me, omnes, qui laboratis et onerati estis, et ego reficiam vos.

Come to me, all ye who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

The use of this text on All Saints Day lends it powerful and beautiful resonances; both "ye who labor and are heavy-laden" and "rest" take on new significance from the meaning of the day.

Here is the score; as you can see, this is a very melismatic chant:





Dom Dominic Johner's discussion of this chant is quite beautiful, and I'll simply quote it in full.  The reference "C.O.," which Johner cites twice, refers, according to his introduction, to "Caecilienvereinsorgan, from 1856 (Regensburg, Pustet); from 1924 (M.-Gladbach, Volksvereinsverlag)."
This Alleluia again is a prelude to the subsequent Gospel and its beatitudes. Its splendor, its solemnity, and its triumphant joy is spread over the melody like the light of a glorious dawn. It is one of the most valued chants in the Graduale, one which grips the singer spontaneously.

Indeed, there is mention of those who are afflicted and heavily burdened. But the Saviour invites them to Himself; and according to the interpretation of the composer of the plainsong melody, He has  placed in this invitation a fullness of consolation and refreshment, of liberty and bliss. Although we must admit that the melisma over laboratis is considerably drawn out, yet there is nothing oppressive about it, nothing that suggests pain or sore distress. It is a thorough Alleluia-song, giving one the impression that all difficulties have been overcome, just as the saints in heaven with joy and fervent thanksgiving to God now cast a glance backward at their earthly existence.

The jubilus has the form a + a1, b, c, c1. We find that the melody of Alleluia likewise begins the verse Venite. The b-member of the jubilus has exerted an influence on the melody over omnes. "If in the beginning with Venite ad me the melody was tender and mild, almost ingratiating, with omnes it rises wide and high, as if Christ were opening His arms to embrace the many thousands" (C. O., 50, 150).

The melisma over laboratis with its fifty-two notes clearly reveals the structure: a b b a; a is repeated immediately after the third pause, contracting the individual notes over qui laboratis into a torculus. Here the motives ascend forcefully upward. Contrasting with this, we find between these motives the descending motives c and c1 of the jubilus. "Scarcely has the word reficiam been uttered, than the entire choir joins in. The melody of alleluia rises to the lips. For they have experienced a hundred and a thousand times the meaning of this reficiam. They can only thank, praise, and rejoice, and in their hearts and on their lips the grateful response to the promise of Christ finds expression in the melody of the jubilus, until it once more brings this gripping, highly dramatic picture to a close" (C. O., 50, 150).

In the subsequent Gospel we are shown how God comforts His people. He will console and give them their fill, will show them mercy, and will lead them to the contemplation of Himself; they will be called and truly be children of God: He will give them His heaven. Would that we might think of this oftener in this our earthly exile!

Today the Saviour has again invited to Himself all who have come to the house of God. In the sacred Mysteries He will be our strength, and through them He will prepare us for that eternal Alleluia with which the streets of the heavenly Jerusalem forever resound.

The collect for today is a beautiful one, too:
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


Here are mp3 files and scores for all the propers on the day, from ChristusRex.org:

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:

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