Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Musical Heaven: Solemn Vespers at the CMAA Colloquium

As promised in my post of the Requiem Mass, I have photos and audio files from the Solemn Pontifical Vespers from the "Seven Days of Musical Heaven" at the CMAA Colloquium in Chicago last month. I won't post recordings of everything sung, as the whole service was almost an hour long. I'll provide some highlights, though.

We sang "Votive Vespers of the Holy Cross", meaning that the texts and antiphons all centered around giving honor and glory to Christ in His sacrifice on the cross. I was privileged to sing in the choir that provided the polyphonic psalmody for the celebration. We were led by Dr. William Mahrt, the president of the CMAA, and a renowned scholar and intepreter of chant and early music. Here is Dr. Mahrt with us in one of our rehearsals:

We had quite a bit of material to master in only 3 or 4 rehearsals. Some of the polyphony was fairly simple, but some was quite challenging. Everybody dug in and worked very hard, and I think it came together pretty well.

Rehearsing in the Chapel Before Vespers
(photo courtesy of Roseanne Sullivan)

We were honored to have Bishop Salvatore Cordileone (auxiliary of San Diego) as celebrant for Vespers, assisted by Fr. Haynes of the Society of St. John Cantius and several other priests in choro. The organist played an improvisation on the opening versicle for Vespers, Deus, in adjutorium meum intende for the procession, then, having reverenced the altar and proceeding to the chair, Bishop Cordileone intoned the versicle.

The Procession

The Bishop at the chair, Intoning the Versicle

This first recording includes the conclusion of the organ processional, the versicle, and the first antiphon and psalm.

Versicle & Psalm 109
(Recording by Aristotle Esguerra, edited and optimized by me)

Bishop: Deus, in adjutorium meum intende.

Choir:  Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.
            Gloria Patri et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
            Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
            et in saecula saeculorum, Amen.

Bishop: O God, incline to my assistance.

Choir: Lord, hasten to help me.
            Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
            as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
            world without end, Amen.

Antiphon: O magnum pietatis opus! Mors mortua tunc est, in ligno quando mortua vita fuit.

"O great work of compassion: death was destroyed on the tree, when life died on it, Alleluia."

The first psalm is psalm 109 (110), set in a falsobordone by Lorente de Anchuelo:

Psalm 109 (110):

The Lord said to my Lord: sit at my right hand,
until I make thy enemies thy footstool...

The Psalms were sung alternately in chant or polyphonically. The second psalm was psalm 110. The third psalm was 111 (112) in a setting by Ceballos. The antiphon for the third psalm was:

Ecce Crucem Domini, fugite partes adversae:
vicit leo de tribu Juda, radix David, alleluia.

"Behold the Cross of the Lord, flee, O ye His enemies:
he has vanquished, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, Alleluia."

Psalm 111 (112)

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord:
he shall delight exceedingly in His commandments...

Antiphon & Psalm 111
(Recording by Aristotle Esguerra, edited and optimized by me)

The Sanctuary and Choir During Vespers

The fourth and fifth psalms were 112 (113) and 116 (117). Psalm 112 was chanted, and Psalm 116 was another falsobordone setting, this time by Cabezon. The antiphon for Psalm 112 is:

Nos autem gloriari oportet in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi.

"We ought, moreover, to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Psalm 112 (113)

Praise the Lord, O ye children: praise the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, from henceforth now and forever...

The antiphon for Psalm 116 is:

Per signum Crucis de inimicis nostris libera nos Deus noster.

"By the sign of the Cross, save us from our enemies, O our God."

Psalm 116 (117)

O praise the Lord, all ye nations:
praise Him, all ye people...

Psalms 112 & 116
(Recording by Aristotle Esguerra, edited and optimized by me)

Another photo of Dr. Mahrt and the choir (I'm the one in black in the center)

Following the psalmody was the capitulum, the "little chapter" or short scripture reading. This was from Phillipians 2:5-7:
Have among yourselves the same attitude
that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance.

Bishop Cordileone and the ministers

The Responsory after the readings was sung by the advanced men's chant schola, also directed by Dr. Mahrt:

O Crux gloriosa! O Crux adoranda!
O lignum pretiosum et admirabile signum!

O glorious Cross! O adorable Cross!
O most precious wood and admirable sign!
*Through which the devil is conquered and the world redeemed
by the blood of Christ, alleluia.
V.Let us adore the Sign of the Cross, through which we
have received the sacrament of salvation.
*Through which the devil is conquered and the world redeemed...
V.Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
*Through which the devil is conquered and the world redeemed...

Chapter and Responsory: O Crux Gloriosa
(Recording by Aristotle Esguerra, edited and optimized by me)

Dr. Mahrt and the advanced men's schola

The service continued with the singing of the ancient hymn Vexilla Regis:

"The banners of the King come forth;
brightly gleams the mystery of the Cross,
on which Life suffered death, and by his death,
obtained for us life..."

Finally, Vespers concluded with the singing of the Magnificat the final prayer and blessing, and the singing of the Salve Regina in the solemn tone.

Bishop Cordileone incensing the altar during the Magnificat

The Colloquium was a fantastic experience, and being able to sing such wonderful music in the context of real liturgy, rather than in merely a concert setting, brought home to me how this music was written and intended first and foremost as prayer.

Indeed, a spirit of prayerfulness permeated the whole of the Colloquium. While the atmosphere wasn't retreat-like or POD, nonetheless everyone there knew what we were there for, and what the Colloquium (and sacred music) is all about: the praise and glorification of God in music.

One of the things that impressed me the most was the instructors for the Colloquium. Quite apart from the fact that they were all superlative musicians and teachers, they all took very seriously the sacredness of what we were doing. It was quite clearly more than a job or profession or even something they loved very much. I observed in them a genuine and deep devotion and love for our faith. I was genuinely touched on a couple of occasions by things that either Dr. Mahrt or Wilko Brouwers said regarding music, faith, and prayer. It was this gently pervading sense of pietas, in the truest sense of the word, that raised the whole experience to something more than just enjoying good music.

I hope that pietas comes through in the recordings of the music presented to you here.