Common tone for Office of Readings/Matins responsories?
  • ARC_Jols
    Posts: 20
    I see that the old Liber Responsorialis (benedictine) and Nocturnale Cisterciense (cistercian monks) have several responsories, but not all of the responsories for their Divine Offices.

    Is there a "common tone" for responsories that they used for those that had no proper melodies? Or if the text had no proper melody, was recto tono used?

  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 143
    I don't know what the Nocturnale Cisterciense contains, but the Benedictine Liber Responsorialis basically only contains responsories for (Doubles of the) 1st Class feasts, as well as all 12 responsories for each of the Commons. Their objective was not to give the full office of Matins for every day of the year. Notated responsories exist for sure, for the whole year, except possibly some local ones and ones from newer feasts.

    Singing Matins in full (i.e. to their full melodies, not recto tono) every day was probably almost non-existent even at the end of the 19th century when the LR was written, aside from in Carthusian monasteries and maybe a handful of places here and there. But that is just a guess.
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  • Most communities who sing the full office, such as my own, would chant ferial responsories on recto tono or... sometimes as a flex... I have also heard of some communities who strangely use the same psalm melody used that day as the responsory- this is prob. for practical reasons- not enough time to practice new things...

    My own community used the flex version almost always on ferial days and memorials and the traditional response from the benedictines on feasts and solemnities. But I know for example the carmelites tend to always sing recto tono... there are prob. exceptions.
  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 143
    Right, I spent some time at Clear Creek, who still uses the traditional monastic breviary and thus still has a long Matins. They would chant it all recto tono on all Ferias, memorials, Sundays, and most feasts. The remaining feasts and all Solemnities (except for the Triduum and Matins of Christmas I believe), were divided into two "classes":

    On the remaining feasts and lower-ranking solemnities, the invitatory was sung in full melody, while everything else would still be recto tono. On the highest-ranking solemnities, the hymn was also sung to its full melody, and the Te Deum also at the end, but everything else still recto tono. With the result that there is literally no time of the year, outside of Christmas Day and the Triduum, that any antiphons or responsories of Matins are not sung recto tono.
  • OraLabora
    Posts: 208
    At the Benedictine abbey I’m associated with as oblate, Matins is sung recto-tono. They use monastic schéma B (150 psalms in a week). Everything is in French except the hymn in Latin with melody. The great Latin responsories are sung at major solemnities and the Triduum. These include Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Saints Peter and Paul. Maybe some others as well. They may have cut back during the pandemic as the community is getting elderly.
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  • Erkenwald
    Posts: 16
    William Renwick's Sarum Chant project provides a practical set of simple antiphon tones and simple responsory tones for exactly this purpose.

    Byzantine communities frequently do something similar when they perform matins/orthros.
  • Yes, we always sing the full invitatory... Its worth it if you can. The nice thing about having recto tono at some times, and sometimes not for antiphons and responsories is to make a visible difference between when there is a feast or a change... but really my experience has been each community differs according to the talents, capabilities, and time of each community. Sometimes one would wish to sing everything to the full but its just not possible.

    When I teach chant to the sisters in my community sometimes they look like they want to kill me when I introduce something new... not because they dont want to but because it takes a lot of time and patience on the part of all... Monastics dont just sit around and do nothing all day :) Saint Gregory - pray for us!
  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 143
    Yes, I understand the point about investing time, etc. especially as it applies to the longer monastic Matins (12 psalms every day, 3-12 responsories on feasts). However, I have to observe that singing recto tono vs. full melodies as a way of observing increased solemnity is a not an authentic understanding of the liturgy, as the liturgy is meant to be sung to its proper melodies. Yes, practical circumstances may mean, in our age of musical illiteracy, that more effort is made on Sundays and feasts days to sing full melodies, but such practice was never meant to be a mark of varying ranks of liturgical days. If chanting full melodies was meant to mean this, then there would have never existed full chants - antiphons, responsories, hymns, etc. - would never have existed for ferias or minor feast days.

    Again, I understand that some places have limited resources and/or time, but some places do have the resources and time to sing more liturgies yet do not, either because they subscribe to this false notion of increased solemnity (the liturgy itself, and usually also the chants themselves, account for different liturgical rankings), or because "well, we are not a monastery or a cathedral church" (that is a direct quote from the pastor at the FSSP church I used to attend often) if only monasteries and cathedrals are capable of singing a ferial Mass or lesser feast day Mass.

    I guess to get more in line with the original topic, I am intrigued by this Sarum project and this "frequent" Byzantine practice. I am not aware, in the Roman or monastic tradition, of "common tones" for responsories. However, it is true that each of the 8 Gregorian modes has a sort of "outline" containing common melodic formulas which are used in the majority (but not sure of the actual percentage) of Roman/monastic responsories. But even these aren't really "fixed" either, because each of these "common tones" for each mode contain multiple opening, mediant, ending themes. As far as I can tell, Roman and monastic responsories would usually (but not always, and almost never in every responsory) deviate from these "common tones" on Sundays and feast days.
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  • Erkenwald
    Posts: 16
    The Use of Sarum is the Roman Rite – a version popular in British (and some Continental) secular churches in the later Middle Ages.

    Renwick’s common tones are based on real chants in the sources, using the repeating themes in the manuscripts to which you point. This is an observable phenomenon, and it means that singing the office in full is not as much of a challenge as one might think. Once you start singing as a group every day, it takes four to six months to really become comfortable with the material and sound professional, but after that point the practice time required drops drastically, and it becomes even easier after a couple of years.

    Those who led singing in medieval churches (vicars choral and the like) were expected to memorize the entire liturgy with its music! There are records of examinations in which one might be told to sing random selections, say the third responsory for matins on the second Sunday after Pentecost, and be expected to do so on the spot without any books.

    The exercises for memorizing ‘neuma’ (decorations added to the end of a set of psalms) are one of the many mnemonics found in the sources, and they are a great place to start in becoming more comfortable with Chant. Renwick provides two versions of these in his edition of the Common tones as well as recordings.
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  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,728
    CharlesSA - our sources in well endowed cathedrals and large rich abbeys may not be typical. If you have less than two dozen monks farming mainly low quality land you will probably not have skilled and experienced cantors. Admittedly you will be a foundation from some richer successful monastery, and can send singers for training, but quality control was probably no better then than is is now, with all our advantages of rapid, easy communication.
    Also note that degrees of solemnization ad libitum are not alien to the liturgy. This is the explicit purpose of the chants in the latter part of the Kyriale.
  • Erkenwald
    Posts: 16
    Yes, it’s the lack of understanding what everyday people would have done before the Reformation that is one of our most serious problems today. If you look at books for Byzantine matins, for example, it looks unachievable. If you talk to anyone who uses it, however, they will give you half a dozen ways to make it a third to half the length depending on local circumstances. People must have done that with the Latin offices as well, but instead we’ve thrown out the baby with the bath water due to the ruptures in continuity.

    Personally I think it’s reasonable to assume that most clergy would have sung Compline in full, for example, as it’s so straightforward. There is plenty of evidence that singing the offices ‘without note’ (which seems to mean recto tono) was seen as penitential, such as when it was mandated during the English indiction in the time of King John.