Metrical Office Hymns
  • Should we foster the use of metrical hymns during the Divine Office?
    I would answer positively when it comes to the vernacular hymns. For instance, I would love to hear a metrical version of "Lucis Creator Optime" in the vernacular at Sunday Vespers.
  • Since all hymns are metrical I wholeheartedly agree with you, Jehan. Perhaps one should contrast hymns of the Gregorian repertory with those of post renaissance harmonised, tonal, hymnody. But, as to literary form they are both metrical, both measured verse, and both can be sung either to Gregorian or modern harmonised melodies which share the appropriate metre. The only non-metrical prose hymns that I can think of just now are Gloria in excelsis (otherwise known as the psalmus idioticus, or 'psalm set apart') as sung at mass and Te Deum - not to mention those, such as Revelation's 'Worthy is the Lamb' and quite a few others that are recorded in the New Testament.

    English versions of your Lucis Creator Optime may be found at number 51 in The English Hymnal of 1906 set to a mode viii Gregorian melody and a modern harmonised melody called Lucis Creator. This hymnal is better even than The Hymnal 1940 and I would recommend everyone to have a copy in his or her library.

  • davido
    Posts: 418
    Can we say metered, rather than metrical?

    I think they are a great idea. As Jackson notes, English tradition hymnals like The English Hymnal offered both plainsong and metered tunes for office hymns, many of the tunes taken from French sources!

    I like to use metrical tunes for English LOTH vespers because Gregorian tunes would be so foreign to congregations I have worked with. I’d love to get to the point of doing some of both, but I am afraid to take too big of a step at first.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • David,

    Don't be afraid of congregations liking Gregorian melodies. Just remember that you're doing what the Second Vatican Council asked you to do, and have a good, solid core group sing strongly the first time you sing any melody.
  • Yes, sorry, I meant "metered" rather than "metrical".
  • I think they are a great idea. As Jackson notes, English tradition hymnals like The English Hymnal offered both plainsong and metered tunes for office hymns, many of the tunes taken from French sources!

    Aha! I knew it, such great tunes could only be French! ^^
  • Metered and metrical are the same thing, referring to metered verse, which is by definition metrical, measured. The scholarship is still out on whether the Gregorian melodies were performed measured according to the metrical longs and shorts of their texts - a la the well known Willcocks arrangement of 'Of the Father's Heart Begotten'. The weight of current opinion seems to favour the idea that they were..

    I agree with you about French tunes, Jehan, though I am partial to Sarum versions. It occurs to me that a good doctoral thesis would be a comparison of Sarum and French melodies of the Gregorian repertory and their provenances. I have a book, The French Diocesan Hymns and Their Melodies, by Cyril E Pocknee, which might interest you greatly. If you could find a copy I'm sure it would be a treasured addition to your library. (Try Amazon or Abe Books - or there is Blackwell's, a venerable bookseller in Oxford who specialises in used and rare scholarly books.)
  • I didn't know they were the same thing. I was thinking about the difference between the Gregorian Hymn melody and the more rhythmic ones.
    For instance, here is a Gregorian version of "Cor arca legem continens", a Hymn for the Sacred Heart:
    And here is another version of the same Hymn, sung on a 17th Century French tune:
  • I have a book, The French Diocesan Hymns and Their Melodies, by Cyril E Pocknee, which might interest you greatly. If you could find a copy I'm sure it would be a treasured addition to your library.

    Many thanks for your suggestion, I will look for this book.
    On the whole, I would be inclined to think there are similarities between Sarum and French Gregorian melodies, since Sarum is an "Anglicized" version of the Liturgy of Rouen. Most features of the Sarum Rite are also found in the local French Uses of the Roman rite (with the exception of Lyons, which really is it's own thing, a survivance of the old Roman rite of Saint Gregory the Great).
  • ...Gregorian melody and the more rhythmic one...
    Still, it is recommended to get over the notion that Gregorian melodies are not rhythmic. They most definitely are, and, as noted above, the dominant current scholarly judgment is that they were sung with long and short notes in concord with the longs and shorts of their poetic texts. As with all the Gregorian chant repertory, there is increasing scholarly opinion that the equalists are far short of the mark - but, even if one is an equalist hold out it should be noted that even equalist chant has rhythm. There exists no music (or language) that doesn't have rhythm of one sort or another. There is likely to be little in difference of rhythmic approach between the Gregorian melody of Veni Creator and Down Ampney, the melody we use with Bianco da Sienna's wondrous 'Come Down, O Love Divine'. Or, to say it differently, it is likely that an early monk would have sung the Gregorian melody on your above link just as metrically as in your link to the second melody of the same hymn. This may be jarring to some who can only think of chant in equalist terms. However, I am far from alone in concluding that equalist chant is degenerate chant. But, there is no reason why we can't have both, for both can be equally beautifully performed - even though the one method almost certainly has a more ancient pedigree than the other. And they are both rhythmic, and both, due to their relationship to their poetic texts, are to one degree or another metrical.
    Could you elaborate on the connexion with the rite of Gregory the Great which you mention?
    Thanked by 2sdtalley3 CHGiffen
  • Still, it is recommended to get over the notion that Gregorian melodies are not rhythmic.

    Yes, sorry. Gregorian chant is definitely rhythmic, at least when it comes to the hymns. I have a version of the "Vexilla Regis" sung by the Chantres du Thoronet which is exactly as you described.

    Could you elaborate on the connection with the rite of Gregory the Great which you mention?

    With pleasure.
    When Charlemagne imposed the Roman Liturgy upon his dominion, Lyons was one of the main cities of the Gauls. Charlemagne appointed as archbishop of Lyons a man he knew and trusted, called Leidrade, who introduced the Roman rite in Lyons. Back then, the Roman rite was essentially that of Saint Gregory, whose description can be found in the "Ordo Romanus Primus" (for Holy Mass).
    The Canons of Lyons kept this rite with great care, always making sure it would go unchanged (for which Saint Bernard of Clervaux praised Lyons). And unchanged it was, until the 18th Century.

    Meanwhile, the Roman Liturgy 'suffered' two changes of some importance during the Middle Ages. One was the importation of early Gallican elements into the rite (which also krept into the Lyonese rite to a smaller degree), and the other was the exile at Avignon, where the much smaller churches called for a much reduced ceremonial. Hence, the Roman Curia adopted the Missal and Breviary of the Franciscan Friars, which was considerably reduced when compared to the rite of the Roman Basilicas (but which was still undoubtedly Roman in character). These books are the direct ancestors of the "Tridentine rite", which differs only in small details from them.
    Because of this, the rite of Lyons is very interesting to look at. Of course, one should not see it as identical in every single detail to the rite codified by Saint Gregory (for instance, the rite of Lyons has many medieval sequences, which are of course absent from the "Gregorian rite"); nevertheless, it is a rite of considerable antiquity. Among the early Roman elements kept at Lyons were the following:

    - Pontifical High Mass requires the presence of seven acolytes (in alb, amice and cinture), seven subdeacons, seven deacons and six concelebrating priests.
    - The Gospel book is kissed by all attending clergy.
    - The Offertory verses are printed in full into the Missal.
    - The "Libera nos" is sung, and not said silently.
    - Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year all have proper Epistles and Gospels.
    - No Office hymns, except the "Te lucis" at Compline.
    - No Trisagion on Good Friday.
    - At Easter, Vespers follow the ancient stational rite which Amalarius called "Gloriosum Officium", with a procession to the fonts and to the cross.
    Among other things.
  • sdtalley3sdtalley3
    Posts: 180
    When it comes to more metrical hymns and chants, wasn't this what Gallican Chant tried to accomplish, but it fell out of use?
  • I don't know about this. But it is very likely for many late melodies.
  • sdtalley3sdtalley3
    Posts: 180
    Its hard to tell nowadays, since there is little to no existent repertoire to be found, but some of the accounts from musicians who heard it say that it had a "slightly awkward" sound to it because of this quality. I'll have to find a source for this, its been a while since I tried to find anything about it.

    I'm sure in todays age, there's enough know how and talent to make such works of art.
  • Felicia
    Posts: 51
    Could the "slightly awkward" sound be due to accented and non-accented syllables of the texts not matching up with the strong and weak beats of the melodies?
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • sdtalley3sdtalley3
    Posts: 180
    @ Felicia

    Maybe it was the fact that it was a forced accentuation of a generally "free rhythm" style of music, I think Elam Rotem in Early Music Sources (YouTube) describes some of the concepts briefly.
    Thanked by 1Felicia
  • Wasn't it Widor who wrote all sorts of letters complaining about the suppression of Gallican chant once Solesmes started publishing? I can't remember now, but I think it was either him or Dupré.
  • Dom Guéranger wrote again and again against Gallican chant which, it must be said, never became quite as popular as the old plainsong in France (with the exception of hymnody: all parisians knew and loved such gems as "O Luce qui mortalibus").
  • sdtalley3sdtalley3
    Posts: 180
    Anyway, to get back to the subject, I'd would be very interested to see some examples of some metered hymns, unless Jehan might be referring to compositions directly based on certain melodies from which they were composed. One example that sticks out to me is Jesu Redemptor Omnium for 3 voices by Oreste Ravanello. CC Watershed has a good example of this alternating with the plainsong.
    Thanked by 1Jehan_Boutte
  • davido
    Posts: 418
    There’s a metered version of vexilla Regis in Worship III
    Thanked by 1sdtalley3
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,289
    I'm really not sure what is meant by metrical hymns, and also whether Latin is being discussed, or English translations.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,289
    Huh? I thought all office hymns were metrical, even in the original Latin.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Kathy -
    Nearly all hymns are verse, poetry, and as such are metrical - they have metre. This applies to hymns of the Gregorian repertory and equally to other more modern hymnody. They are all poetry and therefore they are all metrical, measured.

    All these hymns can be sung to Gregorian melodies or modern tonal melodies which have the corresponding metre.

    The confusion over Gregorian vs tonal melodies lies in the precarious assumption that all chant is sung to equalist principles, an assumption that grows less tenable by the day. The more or less rhythmic complexity of the tonal repertory is not, actually, utterly foreign to a correct understanding of rhythm applied to Gregorian melodies. In fact, it is quite likely that the former evolved from the latter.

    So, all hymns are poetry and therefore metrical.
    All melodies, whether Gregorian or not, are also metrical, the difference lying only in their relative metrical complexity and their modal vs tonal foundations.

    The distinction that we should make is modal chant vs modern tonal melodies, but their texts (and it is the text which is the hymn) are all equally metrical and can be sung equally to modal chant and tonal melodies.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,289
    Jackson, I agree, and that's why I wanted to get a clearer idea of what was being asked for by others. Certainly they have something in mind and I'm wondering what it is/ how to help.
  • Nearly all hymns are verse, poetry, and as such are metrical - they have metre.

    Another distinction between true hymnody and modern "worship songs"?
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen sdtalley3
  • Another example of the difference M. Jackson Osborn was talking about: hear those two versions of Inventor Rutili (a hymn sung at the beginning of the Easter Vigil, either before the fire was lit or during the procession, as in the Sarum rite):

    Here is the Schola Hungarica's interpretation:

    And here, Jerycho's interpretation (led by Marcel Pérès himself):