Lots of frills this time, for the tired brethren.
However, I did something different time. I sang the whole thing from beginning to end using the Liber Usualis.
NOTE: Most of the year people will sing the Salve Regina rather than the Alma Redemptoris Mater (Christmas season). I include, therefore, the Salve.
[UPDATE: A couple people have freaked out that I didn’t do the Alma Redemptoris Mater with the response for after 1st Vespers of Christmas to the Feast of the Purification. They may not have read this post. Therefore, I am including, in the media player below, the whoooole thing but with the Alma Redemptoris Mater. So there!]
A group of men is getting Sunday Vespers in the older, traditional form of the office, going in NYC. I thought something like this might be helpful for them as they get familiar with the chants. Since this is one of those green Sundays which has psalms that are repeated often during the year, I figured this would be a good time to record something for them to review as they start learning psalm tones, etc. Repetita iuvant.
Let’s also have a look at the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (my emphases and comments):
99. Since the divine office is the voice of the Church, that is of the whole mystical body publicly praising God, those clerics who are not obliged to office in choir, especially priests who live together or who assemble for any purpose, are urged to pray at least some part of the divine office in common.
All who pray the divine office, whether in choir or in common, should fulfill the task entrusted to them as perfectly as possible: this refers not only to the internal devotion of their minds but also to their external manner of celebration.
It is, moreover, fitting that the office, both in choir and in common, be sung when possible.
100. Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually. [Get that? Vespers on Sundays? At least in cathedrals of dioceses and ‘major’ churches where there are greater resources. There it is in Sacrosanctum Concilium. What part of this is hard to understand? Nothing is more in the Spirit of the Council than to have sung Vespers on a Sunday.]
101. 1. In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office. But in individual cases the ordinary has the power of granting the use of a vernacular translation to those clerics for whom the use of Latin constitutes a grave obstacle to their praying the office properly. The vernacular version, however, must be one that is drawn up according to the provision of Art. 36. [In other words, the cleric has to go to the bishop and say “I can’t understand Latin. Please give me permission to use a translation”. The bishop then would say “But Father! But Father!”, with a furrowed brow, “You studied Latin in seminary, right? Doesn’t the Code of Canon Law require that seminarians be “very well trained” in Latin? Father, I now quote can. 249 – Institutionis sacerdotalis Ratione provideatur ut alumni non tantum accurate linguam patriam edoceantur, sed etiam linguam latinam bene calleant necnon congruam habeant cognitionem alienarum linguarum, quarum scientia ad eorum formationem aut ad ministerium pastorale exercendum necessaria vel utilis videatur. But since you, Father, say you don’t know Latin, here it is in English… ‘The program for priestly formation is to make provision that the students are not only carefully taught their native language but also that they are well skilled in the Latin language; they are also to have a suitable familiarity with those foreign languages which seem necessary of useful for their own formation or for the exercise of their pastoral ministry.’ If you, Father, are a priest of the Latin Church, why don’t you know the language of your Church? Am I… I the diocesan bishop to blame?!? …. …. Don’t answer that. Yes, Father, you have permission to use the vernacular for your office.” ]
2. The competent superior has the power to grant the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the divine office, even in choir, to nuns and to members of institutes dedicated to acquiring perfection, both men who are not clerics and women. The version, however, must be one that is approved.
WDTPRS applauds those who wish to sing the office in Latin.
Finally, I have a few suggestions for singing chant, psalms, etc.
In no particular order.
- Try to soften your volume a bit at the ends of phrases so you leave the impression that you are not really trying to holler.
- Soften the high notes a bit, so you don’t hammer them.
- You can start a phrase a bit softer and then increase your force during the middle part of the phrases, but rein yourself in at the ends.
- Don’t race and don’t plod. It is hard to describe the right rate. Each genre of chant has its own purpose. Remember that all chants are actual texts. They are language. Too slow and you lose the sense of the language. Too fast and you don’t respect the content. Keep it moving. Psalms are quicker than other chants, but don’t race. There is no prize for the first to finish.
- Don’t sing in different octaves. Get everyone on the same pitch… no really. You can do it.
- I don’t like mixed chant, that is male and female voices singing together. I just don’t. I think there should be a schola for men and a schola for women. I love chant sung by women! When it is good, it has an ethereal quality that men can’t accomplish. Segregation, I say. Separate but equal.
- Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. At the same time, if someone can’t hit the pitch… really can’t… is really tone deaf… be diplomatic, but find them some candle to carry even as you remove the book from their hands. If you know you aren’t singing well… can’t get those notes, perhaps there is another way in which you can help. There are lots of cool things to do during Vespers and Mass. Necessary things.
- When you are singing in a group, for the love of God, LISTEN TO EACH OTHER! Look UP once in a while to be sure you know what is going on!
- Be careful when singing psalms not to drift flat. This is pretty common when people AREN’T LISTENING or paying attention to each other or to the cantor(s), who will usually have a good sense of pitch. LISTEN. Going flat is excruciating to people who have to listen.
- You are not Caruso. You are not Renee Fleming. You are not Jussi Bjorling. Sing with everyone else, for PITY’S SAKE! You (WE) don’t want to hear YOU. We want to hear you merged with, singing with, every one else, singing exactly the same thing, at the same time, on the same pitch, with the same force. If you are not designated to sing a solo bit, then get a grip! This isn’t about you, anyway.
Thus endeth the rant.