This one is very interesting, even if it won’t affect about 99.99% of all Catholic communities. The Vesperale of the Roman Rite in Latin chant, reformed in accord with the wishes of the Second Vatican Council, is to appear this week. This is for the office. In 1912 the Antiphonale Romanum appeared as part of the chant reform of Pope St. Pius X. It was for the sung form of all the offices except the night office. Roman rite, Roman edition, so no Solesmes rhythmic signs (such as ictus and episema). Melodies reconstructed according to the sources, but not too accurately.

Vatican II called for a revision of all the chant books including the Antiphonale, but it’s been a long wait. The Liber Hymnarius appeared in 1983, which is the hymnal for both forms of the office, monastic and Roman. The Benedictines at Solesmes have recently (since 2005) issued four volumes of the monastic office, with the expected final volume to include the night office. These new monastic office volumes are for the weekly psalter, the seasons, and the proper of saints. Apparently a different plan of division into volumes is planned for the Roman office. The forthcoming book is a Vesperale, meaning it is for the office of Vespers presumably for the entire year including seasons and saints’ days.

Some things to watch for and to think about:
–One can expect the revised notation of the 1983 Liber Hymnarius to be employed, just as it was in the revised monastic office books. No episemas, no ictus. (BTW, didja know that the plural of ictus is ictus? 4th declension, not 2nd. Impress your friends with that one.) New neume forms with a wide variety of intended rhythmic values. Building on all the research at Solesmes for the last 50 years, this pretty much buries the old Solesmes equalist interpretation, which will be a problem for equalists of the strict observance.
–One can expect revised melodies. The 1934 monastic Antiphonale restored many B-naturals (especially in mode I, or see the beautiful highest passage of the Advent O antiphons in Mode II). Alas, this new book will probably un-restore some of them, if the recent monastic Antiphonale is any indication. But there will be plenty of other restored melodic passages bound to shake up those accustomed to the old books.
–The post-Vatican II Graduale Simplex (for Mass, cleverly robbing easier antiphons from the office) used 1912 melodies. Will we now need a revised Graduale Simplex? I would think so. (Paul Ford will be interested in this for various reasons!)
–The revised “Liturgy of the Hours” (now the best term for the office) appeared soon after Vatican II. Its revision of the office is much more thorough-going than the revision of the Order of Mass was. It was done without consideration for the sung Latin form of the office, which is fair enough I suppose because almost no one sings the Roman office in Latin. Those who have wanted to do so have faced the dilemna that so many antiphons of the new cursus aren’t to be found anywhere in the chant repertoire. It will be most interesting to see how the new Vesperale handles this. Newly composed antiphons? There are many in the new monastic office books. Putting new texts under existing antiphon melodies? This has been done a lot by Solesmes since 1903, but many have mixed feelings about it. Using ancient antiphons with texts at least similar to the new Liturgy of the Hours cursus? Probably much of this. (Which raises the question, why couldn’t they have coordinated things so that the new cursus used antiphon texts which are found in the chant repertoire?? I suppose for the same reason they couldn’t put antiphon texts in the revised missal which always correspond to the antiphons found in the reformed Graduale for Mass. Sigh.)

As I say, this one won’t affect most Catholic communities. But it will be a field day for chant folks. I can’t wait!


Send to Kindle