BFW Ash Wednesday Communion psalm
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    I just introduced the communion psalm (and antiphon) for Ash Wednesday from "By Flowing Waters" at choir rehearsal and stumbled upon some problems with the pointing.

    I don't have it in front of me, but I seem to remember that beginning with verse 5, the pointings don't line up with the chant formula, and it happens on several verses after that. There seem to be too many syllables for the number of pitches provided for the termination.

    Does anyone know about this, or am I reading the pointings wrong?
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    I'm looking at it right now and I don't see a problem. Depending on where the natural accent falls on the final word(s), the final pitch may extend to two syllables -- this happens routinely in the Latin.

    Dr. Ford explains this in in the introduction to the book, at p. xxxviii:

    ". . . where the psalm verse ends with a dactyl, an extra note may be inserted . . ."

    "Dactyl" = stressed syllable followed by two unstressed. So in verse 5 of the communion for Ash Wednesday, "answer us" is the dactyl. It would sound unnatural for the pitch to rise on "-wer".

    Likewise at v. 7, "valiantly" is naturally spoken with three syllables although one might be tempted to sing it with four. Even if one sang it with four syllables, putting the accent on anything other than the first syllable would just sound wrong.

    There was another thread here about the difficulties involved in pointing English texts to the Gregorian tones, in which Dr. Ford commented on his method.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193

    Thank you for your observations, but the problem isn't with the final word, it's with the words leading up to the termination. In the phrase "sin is ever before me" there is no provision for the two notes on "be" of "before" because it's not underlined, as all the others. The accent mark on "is" indicates the beginning of the termination, but it doesn't seem to fit. If the accent is shifted back to the word "sin", and the whole word "before" is underlined, with the whole word in italics, and the syllable "fore" in bold, it would fit the pattern set forth in the example pointing. I'm thinking it's a typographical error.

    If Dr. Ford is reading this thread, any clarification would be greatly appreciated.
  • David,

    Thanks for your question about the chant for the distribution of ashes in BFW (you called it the communion chant in your original post, which threw both Robert and me off).

    Final cadences in tone IV E are tricky when sung in English. That's why I felt I had to give four illustrations in the paradigm at the top of page thirty-four.

    The first illustration, "according to your steadfast love" presents the final cadence in its Latin purity. The three preparatory syllables in the cadence are in italic. The grave accent mark over the syllable "ing" indicates the syllable that is first to descend from the tenor (the chanting note "la"). The underlined syllable "your" is sung to the clivis "ti-la."

    (In other verses, like verse four, the clivis is disaggregated so that the "er" of "ever" is sung on "ti" and the "be" of "before" is sung on "la." This possible disaggregation is indicated by the dotted slur in the paradigm.)

    The true accent in the cadence is in bold and is sometimes distributed over two syllables (the syllables under the horizontal bracket in the paradigms), in this case steadfast. The underlined syllable "fast" is sung to the clivis "sol-fa."

    The paradigm of the final cadence of verse eleven illustrates the greatest possible disaggregation in singing tone IV E in English. The paradigm of the final cadence of verse twenty illustrates the most condensed singing tone IV E in English.

    Is this any clearer? (I tried to upload a TIFF file of the paradigms mentioned in this post for the convenience of other reading this post; but our system won't permit it.)

  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    My apologies to you both for the confusion. Indeed I was referring to the chant for the distribution of ashes.

    Thank you Dr. Ford for your explanation. I don't have the book in front of me, but your explanation seems clear.

    I have been introducing the communion antiphons/psalms from BFW to my mixed choir, and they love it. They sing them well, understand the pacing (we observe the more monastic tradition of a slightly longer pause at the half-verses) and their sense of musicality, blend, balance and even prayerfulness have improved as a result.

    The chant for the distribution of ashes is the most complex one they've tackled so far, having mastered the technique of inserting flexes when needed. Now they need to figure out how to adapt the formulas to the many different paradigms presented in this particular chant.