When to sing the Benedictus from Victoria's Missa O Magnum Mysterium
  • Our choir is planning to sing Victoria's Missa O Magnum Mysterium for and EF mass on Christmas Day. My question is for anyone who may be able to answer it. When is the appropriate time to begin the Benedictus? I'm anticipating that the Sanctus will take long enough to bring us nearly to the consecration, and I believe it is generally not appropriate for the choir to be singing at that point. So, do we wait until after the consecration is completed, say, after the elevation of the chalice, to begin singing the Benedictus?
  • stulte
    Posts: 308
    In this case, you start the Benedictus after the priest finishes his genuflection after the elevation of the chalice.
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  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,382
    Yes, whenever the setting is polyphonic, the Benedictus is sung after the priest finishes the elevation and genuflection.

    As an aside, the MC, or the deacon if it is a Solemn Mass, might need to be reminded that the celebrant needs to slow down and even wait... I've been to Masses where the priest went on autopilot and the choir was still singing the Sanctus as the consecration was occurring.
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  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,151
    My understanding was the Benedictus when sung polyphonically MUST be split from the Sanctus in the EF.
  • tomjaw, that's the rule when they're composed as separate movements, but there are a few choral Masses where they're composed as a single movement that is short enough to conclude in time for the Elevation. For those, I think it would imprudent to try and split off the Benedictus. The point of treating them as separate movements is to keep the celebrant from having to wait for the choir to finish, not necessarily to have singing after the Elevation (a motet in honor of the Blessed Sacrament is allowed at this point, but not required; it is also considered praiseworthy to observe of period of silence).
  • I just came across this in the 1961 Liber:
    When the Preface is finished, the choir goes on with Sanctus and Benedictus. If these are sung to Gregorian chant they must be given without a break; if not, Benedictus may follow the Consecration. During the Consecration all singing must cease, and (even if there is a custom to the contrary) the organ or other instrument is silent. It is preferable that there should be silence from the Consecration until Pater noster.
    So, if the Benedictus is not sung to Gregorian chant, it may follow the Consecration. There is no rule that it must, and it is preferable to have silence, although a motet is expressly permitted after the Benedictus by the motu proprio of St. Pius X.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,709
    The instruction that in chant the Benedictus follows the Sanctus immediately appeared in the 1958 document De musica sacra.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,382
    I suppose it is possible that the splitting is impractical. But what is the case in the Victoria? (I have never encountered a setting short enough to be sung before the consecration.)

    My friend composed a choral Mass that os based on Mass VIII. It could be sung by the congregation, and the Sanctus/Benedictus is so short to split them would be silly, especially given that it isn't polyphonic.

    In France the Benedictus was even replaced by the Panis Angelicus and the Pie Iesu... My parish organist generally improvises during the remainder of the Canon, when it is allowed.
  • The Victoria should certainly be sung as a separate movement after the Consecration. I was responding specifically to tomjaw's comment that a non-Gregorian Benedictus must be sung after the Consecration, not making a specific recommendation for the Victoria, which is too long. Sorry if my comment above wasn't clear about that.

    The 1908 Gradual has the following rubric:
    VII. Finita Praefatione Chorus prosequitur Sanctus etc. Dum autem elevatur Sacramentum, silet Chorus et cum aliis adorat.
    That's all it says. The next rubric is about the Agnus Dei. This stands in contrast to the 1871 Gradual, which specifies
    Finita Praefatione chorus prosequitur Sanctus etc. usque ad Benedictus exclusive. Quo finito, et non prius elevatur Sacramentum. Tunc silet chorus et cum aliis adorat. Elevato Sacramento chorus prosequitur cantum Benedictus.

    The 1961 Gradual clarifies:
    Finita Praefatione chorus prosequitur Sanctus, etc.; Sanctus et Benedictus, si modulis gregorianis decantentur, continue canendi sunt, secus vero Benedictus post Consecrationem ponatur.

    A couple years ago, I heard the Sanctus and Benedictus of Stephanie Martin's Missa brevis for Three Voices (published in 2010) sung as one movement before the Consecration at a church in a large American city known for it solemn celebration of the EF Mass and excellent music program. On that occasion, the choir was clearly in violation of the letter of the rubric from the 1961 Gradual, which says that a non-Gregorian Benedictus is sung after the Consecration. Take a look at the score and judge for yourself whether joining the Benedictus to the Sanctus might have been in accordance with the spirit of the rubric, which would seem to be threefold: 1) to avoid keeping the celebrant waiting before the Consecration, 2) to preserve the musical integrity of the composition, and 3) to facilitate the observance of a period of silence after the Elevation.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,382
    I'm not a particularly good judge of scores, but my first impression is that there was good reason to just sing it in one movement as written.

    What did you think of the music, on another note?
  • It was very nice. The women's choir did the SSA version. I would definitely consider it for my choir.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,374
    I'm not much of a latinist, but couldn't the letter of the rubric be taken as proscribing the breaking of Gregorian settings rather than prescribing any approach for all others?
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