Chants for Christ the King
  • Dear all: I have to admit, I appreciate singing in the TLM and going to a regular mass at any number of churches. That way, I get to celebrate Christ the King twice. It’s one of my favorite feasts.

    When I was learning Chant, I would, in general, memorize the chants for the upcoming week. I draw a distinction between memorizing so that you can sing something at the drop of a hat and memorizing for performance, which means that once it starts, you know what you’re supposed to do and don’t have to look at the paper very often. I would do the second. Things lodge in my brain, but I don’t exert any effort in making sure that it’s organized in there because I just follow what the Ordo says.

    Which is a long prologue to asking about the chants for Christ the King. They all seem very familiar, as if I have done them this year with other words. Or perhaps they just lodged in my brain solidly from years past. Can anyone enlighten me if these melodies are used elsewhere? Many thanks.


    Although the forum is much more civil than it was 10 years ago, I do feel constrained to ask that if you answer in a style redolent of the word “duh,” please leave it to others. It might help to contemplate James 1:5.
  • Hi Kenneth,

    Your question is a natural one, and you are right to point out the familiarity of the tunes. All of the propers for this feast are taken from other chants, which is typical for many feasts established in recent centuries. If you want to know where they come from, it's helpful to have an annotated source like the Graduale Triplex, which often indicates by cross reference where such modern adaptations come from.

    In this case, the introit comes from Dum sanctificatus, sung on the vigil of Pentecost and, I think, on a Lenten weekday. The gradual is formulaic but basically taken from that of Epiphany. The alleluia is taken from Alleluia Christus resurgens. The offertory is taken from Christmas Day. The communion antiphon is adapted from Ecce Dominus Veniet from the last weekdays of Advent. If I remember, the first one of these that I noticed one year on Christ the King was the offertory.

    It's a great privilege to have gone around the year with the propers long enough to start to hear such connections without knowing about them in advance!
  • Also, Dom Johner's book is invaluable for tracing this kind of thing. I should add that the most striking example of this kind of adaptation is with the communion chants for Pentecost and Corpus Christi, since they occur so close together in the calendar.
  • That is most helpful. I spent three weeks with my nose in The G. Triplex with Fr Columba, OSB (RIP) but admit I never followed up much on the scholarly angle. The book you recommend is on my list.

    You say formulaic, rightly. When I first wrote that, I almost made a joke about whether people refer to the Midnight Mass Gradual, the wedding Gradual, or the funeral Gradual. It made an appearance recently in the TLM Ordo, and is either on All Soul’s or All Saints in both rites. Or parts of it: there are longer and shorter versions, and I think some just use the last line that goes way up. People have asked me, because I often enough (but not systematically) sing the forgotten chants at the back, what they’re like and I say “normal.”

    Thanks again.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,777
    Apologies for smiling, Kenneth, but
    a distinction between memorizing so that you can sing something at the drop of a hat and memorizing for performance, which means that once it starts, you know what you’re supposed to do and don’t have to look at the paper very often.

    reminds me of this other distinction:
    When Handel travelled through Chester, on his way to Ireland, this year, 1741 (to give the first performance of Messiah), I was at the Public School in that city and very well remember seeing him [Handel] smoke a pipe, over a dish of coffee, at the Exchange Coffee House; for being extremely curious to see so extraordinary a man, I watched him narrowly as long as he remained in Chester, which, on account of the wind being unfavourable for his embarking at Parkgate, was several days. During this time, he applied to Mr. Baker, the Organist, my first music master, to know whether there were any choirmen in the cathedral who could sing at sight, as he wished to prove some books that had been hastily transcribed, by trying the choruses which he intended to perform in Ireland. Mr. Baker mentioned some of the most likely singers then in Chester, and, among the rest, a printer the name of Janson, who had a good bass voice and was one of the best musicians in the choir...

    A time was fixed for this private rehearsal at the Golden Falcon, where Handel was quartered; but, alas! on trial of the chorus in the Messiah, 'And with his stripes we are healed,' poor Janson, after repeated attempts, failed so egregiously, that Handel let loose his great bear upon him; and after swearing in four or five languages, cried out in broken English,

    Handel : "You shcauntrel! tit not you dell me dat you could
    sing at soite?"
    Janson : "Yes, sir, and so I can, but not at first sight."

    Charles Burney, An Account of the Musical Commemoration of Handel (1785)
  • And I’ve seen many videos of Martha Argerich playing with sheet music. My via media between memorizing and reading might be called the Via Argentiniana.