One hears in Rome that the Congregation for Divine Worship has finalized a new version of the Ordo Cantus Officii (“Order of Chant of the Office”). This directory would be the basis for the production of the long-awaited Antiphonale Romanum, the book for the celebration of the reformed Liturgy of the Hours in Latin chant. The last Antiphonale Romanum came out in 1912. Of course, between then and now a certain ecumenical council made a few changes necessitating a revised office book – it’s only been 50 years since then, so many of us are happy that the revision is finally moving forward.
It seems that the monks of Solesmes are to produce the Antiphonale from OCI. This would make sense, since the Solesmes monks gave us the revised Antiphonale Monasticum for the monastic office in 2005-2007 (three volumes), and much of the repertoire overlaps between the Roman and Monastic Liturgy of the Hours. But apparently Solesmes does not have the Gregorian manpower just now to carry out the work, so they are seeking experts from the outside. Rumors are naming chant scholar Alberto Turco, the elderly music director at Verona cathedral. But this particular alliance brings with it the danger of one-sidedness, so one hopes that a broader basis of chant scholarship will also be brought in. There is no shortage of chant scholars in Europe, including in Rome.
Some will recall that the Ordo Cantus Missæ (“Order of Chants of the Mass”) was issued in 1973, idea being that one would use this directory to find which chant piece to use in the reformed Mass liturgy from the 1908 Graduale Romanum. Some chants from the authentic medieval repertoire were also happily restored to use. Since Rome would not be issuing a reformed Graduale, the monks of Solesmes went ahead to issue the only postconciliar Graduale, a private edition. This meant that just when the old Solesmes rhythmic signs in the Graduale were being called into question, the only edition of the Graduale is an edition with the old signs.
For the office, the Liber Hymnarius (“Hymn Book”) came out in 1983, containing the office hymns for monastic and Roman use. This book was billed the Antiphonale Romanum Tomus alter (“second volume”), idea being that volume one, the antiphonale itself with psalms and antiphons, would be coming out in short order. Then in 2009 there was another plan and the Antiphonale Romanum II was issued by Solesmes, this one including just Vespers for Sundays and feast days. This Roman book follows the practice of the Antiphonale Monasticum in including no rhythmic signs. This is unfortunate, in my view – it would be best to follow the notational reforms put forth in the preface to the Liber Hymnarius, with the episemas in the right place (over both notes of the clivis, for example, not just the first) to help everyone stay together. Last time I was at Solesmes I observed that they in fact sing from their new antiphonale according to the rhythmic signs from the old books that they all know by heart. Works for them, but hardly a plan for the rest of us.
I also wish it were possible to do what I did when I prepared the leaflets for the offices sung in Latin chant at the congress of abbots in Rome in 2012: give the full psalm tone and ‘point’ the text (with underlining of syllables) to help singers match it to the tone, like this. (As you see, I had cantors sing the antiphon before all repeated it, and the psalm verses have italics to indicate alternation between schola and all – this was a practical decision and would not be part of an official edition.) In the 1934 Antiphonale Monasticum, similar to the 1912 Antiphonale Romanum, the layout looked like this. Which works fine, as long as we all know the Gregorian psalm tones by heart, and know the rules for matching the texts at the cadence to the particularities of each termination. The clarity of my layout reforms worked well with the abbots and they much appreciated that the Latin offices could be sung better. And isn’t that the whole point?
I suppose my layout reforms seem too American or iconoclastic or something to the officials. But look – here’s what an antiphonale look like in the year 1000 AD. Notation has evolved before, and it could again.
Meanwhile, say a prayer that the Antiphonale Romanum moves steadily toward a happy conclusion.