Potiron on accompanying the office
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,947
    In his introduction to his accompaniment for Vespers, Potiron has much to say on the range. In the gradual, he opted for the middle range, and in the vesperal, he goes for a dominant of A for the antiphons and psalms; I think that he's right that this poses the least difficulties for more modes, even if B-flat or B would be more comfortable for some choirs.

    He has quite a bit to say on his choices for psalmody, which to make it short, are the easiest, in his view, with the least compromise needed in adapting to different patterns of syllables and the different formulae found in the psalm tones. But what really interests me, as someone who sings Vespers regularly and sometimes finds that either the different editions of the Liber Usualiis have different rhythmic indications, or that there's a mistake on Gregobase, is the notation.

    Potiron has something to say on the lengthening of notes, e.g. at the member or the phrase, the last note has a dot indicating the mora vocis, but not usually the penultimate note. Compare various versions of the antiphon Beatam me dicent (monastic, 1961 Liber, pre-1950s editions including the Solesmes antiphonal…) where the member ending at "generatiónes" ends with a dotted punctum on "nes", of course, but only later editions include a dot on the preceding accented syllable.

    The last difficulty directly interests the execution of chant, and indirectly accompaniment. It is a question of certain cadences or half-cadences, where the tonic accent on the penultimate syllable was, in the Graduale, generally doubled when this fell on the same pitch as the final syllable. In the Solesmes edition of the Antiphonale Romanum, especially at demi-cadences, they have generally avoided doubling this note. Since, Dom Mocquereau had gone back to his first idea, and the Antiphonale Monasticum has sanctioned this interpretation. Many choirmasters follow this example.

    What ought we do? We have simply kept the text such as it is in our Paroissiens [Libers], in translating the non-doubled punctum by the modern eighth note, but we have written the harmony which is suitable for the cadence which is properly spondaic. This cadence is not very annoying for the choirs which would not double the accent of these types of cadences; in the other case, the accompanist, informed by habits already imposed, will completely naturally double the first value…


    I have noticed that choirs who get some instruction and singers who lack formal training (i.e. lay faithful who learn by ear, both at services and via listening at home) like doubling notes (and pausing) that may or may not officially have the mora vocis according to one's books. This does not quite comport with Pothier and (early?) Mocquereau's view of the "golden rule." There are passages where I really dislike this; I tend to avoid extra doubling and pauses in Creator alme siderum for example, but in these mode 8 antiphons, it comes very naturally.
  • Thank you for these observations, Matthew. Back in '22, I translated the relevant section of Mocquereau's second volume (much of it written decades before but compiled in the mid-20s near the end of his life) and posted it on Watershed around a time when Jeff O. was writing a lot about this very question. I know a lot of you read French but I'm including it here in case anyone finds it useful!

    The cadence in Beatam me dicent is what he calls a redundant cadence, and of the type approached from above. In this case, late Mocquereau associates whether to lengthen the penultimate syllable with how big of a section of music the cadence is ending. It's obligatory before a full barline but less so before a half barline.

    I believe Dom Guilmard rejects the idea of a "redundant cadence" precisely because it is symptomatic of a tendency to over-systematize things.

    Since you bring up this whole interesting topic, there is something I have heard a lot in the oral tradition in Solesmes's penumbra, which is that one gives more weight to the rhythmic signs more in the Mass than in the Office, because of the hierarchical structure of liturgical time. I find this to be very close to an idea I have seen first of all in sixteenth-century writers like Guidetti which says that one chants slower and more solemnly on higher liturgical occasions. I would be interested if other people have encountered that idea a lot among chant practitioners.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,947
    Yes. Potiron uses that term as well. (I should have included that, but because I haven't read enough Mocquereau, I didn't quite grasp why Potiron included the parenthetical.)

    That Dom Guilmard rejects it is fascinating; saying that we can make things too systematic is a valid point. Half of the schola lengthening and half not makes for an interesting rehearsal which is to say "too much talking, not enough singing". More seriously, Mocquereau's concerns are more and more intelligible, which in turns spiritualizes them the more and more I sing the Sunday cycle and the more and more I dive into the antiphonal.

    I just mentioned this week why (early) Mocquereau's theories would preclude the doubling, but he clearly wrestled with this topic and gave into what seems to be a natural tendency, perhaps one of the more universal tendencies from those singing chant in a more-or-less Solesmes/Mocquereau style.