Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dominican Chant Resources on the Web

Having an opportunity this year to live in Rome with the Dominican Community at the Angelicum University, where the Dominican chant is used for Community Mass ("Ordinary Use") and the Liturgy of the Hours (1974 ed.), has been a good experience for me. One of the characteristics of the Dominican musical tradition is that has continued as an "oral" tradition without a break from the thirteenth century to today: as can be experienced here at the Convento di Ss. Domenico e Sisto. This means that our chant never had to be "rediscovered" and interpreted ex novo, as was the case for the Roman/Benedictine music. A project for which we owe a great debt to the Benedictines of Solesmes. I suppose that other orders with their own musical tradition, such as the Cistercians or Carmelites, also preserved the medieval interpretations of the chant this way, but I do not know for certain.

Posters on this board have called attention in recent months to a number of resources for Dominican Chant on the web, but it seemed useful to repeat them, and some others that I don't think have been mentioned, here in one place, with some comments. As a whole, this is an impressive collection of material. Nearly all is for the Office. I would be wonderful if the Gradual were eventually made available.

Before I list the resources, some comments are necessary for those who want to consult them. The most obvious difference between the music in our books is the complete absence of the "Solesmes marks." This includes absence even of the "dot" used to indicate a hold. We hold syllables before full and half bars, using some simple rules. The distinctive Dominican quarter-bar (larger than the one in the Roman books and not always on the top line of the staff) functions like the dot in the Solesmes system. Like other thirteenth-century musical books, ours did not have the "quilisma" (the fuzzy neume) nor, of course, did they have any of the "expressive neumes" created by Dom Mocquereau and his followers. And we do not repercuss, unlike the Cardine school. Another difference in notation is the absense of the asterisk to indicate the end of the intonation. We use a double bar for that: here it does not indicate a hold or a change of semichoir. It simply means that the choir comes in at that point.

In the Office, a major difference is that in our music the eight tones have only 14 terminations, not counting the Peregrine Tone. Some modes (e.g., II, V, VI) have only one termination. So the system is much simpler than the Benedictine. There are other minor differences in notation, and those who know the Solesmes system will notice them. But they are less important. Now to the resources

1. The Poissy Antiphonal.
This is probably the single most important monument on the web. It is a digital image reproduction of an entire fourteenth-century Domincan antiphonary (Victoria, Australia: State Library MS *096.1 R66A), giving the complete music for the Office. It is found at the web sight of La Trobe University in Australia. Only once in modern times was there a complete edition of this music, the "Jandel Antiphonal" of 1867-70, which unfortunately has a great number of odd divergences from the melodies found in medieval manuscripts such as this one. The layout of this Office is, of course, the medieval one, used by us until the new psalter arrangment was instituted in the wake of Pius X's reform of the Office. This document may also be searched by melodic and textual incipits and in other ways. It is very useful as for many of the prolix responsories at Matins this is the only reliable and easily available "edition." You may browse the manscript at: I strongly recommend that those who intend to look at this manscript first read the scholarly essay of it by John Stinson of La Trobe University, which is available at:

2. Nocturnale seu Antiphonarium Sacri Ordinis Prædicatorum: Cantus Vetiores olim in Officio Nocturno:
This is a digital edition of the music of the medieval Dominican Office of Matins, and Matins only. The editor, Gerolitus Ammosaulicus, has made this available on the web. It does not include the prolix responses, and it is for the ferial office only, but it is a good supplement to Matutinum Sacri Ordinis Prædicatorum (Romæ: In Hospitio Magistri Generalis, 1936), the only modern edition of the night office, which is very incomplete and has music only for a few major solemnities. The quality of the transcription seems very good to me: my only complaint would be that the quarter-bars are of the Roman type and so easy to miss. I suspect this was a result of the music font used. The author has also done an edition of the post-Pius-X Nocturnal, which may be found at: along with other editions of Dominican music by the same editor. Many of the antiphons in this nocturnal are not from the medieval Dominican tradition, but seem to have been borrowed from Roman use in order to fill in gaps created when the Psalter was reformed. The reformed division of psalms required a great number of "new" antiphons and these had to be found someplace or created afresh. This is, as far as I know, the only time the "reformed" Dominican ferial Night Office has been compiled and edited. Similar borrowings from the Roman tradition were made by the Order itself to create the next item:

3. Antiphonarium Sacri Ordinis Prædicatorum Pro Diurnis Horis. Martini Stanislai Gillet permissu editum. Romæ: In Hospitio Magistri Generalis, 1933:
This item is available through the kindness of the Church Music Association of America. This was the last edition of the Antiphonal for the day office and was in use until the adoption of the Roman Office in 1969. This book provides all the music for the day offices as they were in 1933 and remained, mostly unchanged, until 1964. We use it today here in Rome, cutting and pasting from it to provide music for the post-Vatican-II Liturgy of the Hours (as is permitted by General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, #274). One important part of the Office, the tones for the psalms, are not in this book. They are in the next item:

4. Processionarium Iuxta Ritum Sacri Ordinis Praedicatorum. [Bl.] Hyacinthi Cormier issu recognitum et editum. Romae: Curia Magistri Generalis, 1913:
Again, this book has been posted on the web by the Church Music Association of America. The Processionarium was one of the books that made up the complete Dominican liturgical library codified by the Master Humbert of Romans in 1254. It contained, as does this edition, the chants for processions; the ceremonies for giving the habit, elections, etc.; the Dominican forms for Extreme Unction, Confession, and burials; and the Regulae Cantus. This last item gives the tones for readings, collects, and psalms. Since this version predates the reform of our psalm tones in 1965 (which made them more like the Roman/Benedictine), it will interest chant historians. The big change after Vatican II was the adoption of the Benedictine ways of fitting the tones to the accented syllables in the psalms. One example will have to suffice. In the mediatio of the 8th Tone in the Benedictine / Roman system singers raise the pitch from the reciting "do" to "re" on the last accented syllable in the verse and then return to "do" until the end of the phrase, usually a syllable or two later. In our medieval system, raising the pitch to "re" was done on the last syllable itself when the last word was a monosyllable or a Hebrew word (e.g., Sion), with no resolution to the reciting pitch. So Romans went up to "Re" on "Si-" of Sion and than back to "Do" on "-on." We sang "Si-" on "Do" and then went up to "Re" on "-on." To those who know how to sing psalms the Benedictine way this sounds very odd. And it is not the only difference. Those interested in more can consult this digital book and compare it to the Benedictine practice they know. By the way, here in Rome we use the "reformed" (Benedictine) system.

5. I am often asked whether there are available CDs of Dominican Chant. I have finally located one: Dominican Chant / Dominican Liturgy, by the Choir of the Dominican Friars of the Province of France under the direction of Pere André Gouzes, O.P.:
I have listened to the samples and the execution is not only well done, but seemingly untouched by any Solesmes theory, old or new. If anyone else knows of other recordings available, they can post links in the comment box. Those who know the Roman "Solemn" Salve Regina will find track 20 of special interest. This item would make a very nice Christmas gift. Through the kindness of one of our posters, I can now add a link to the order page for Dominican chant CDs produced by the Dominican Province of Poland: They have six CDs of Dominican chant focused on the Mass and chants of various feasts: In Assumptione; In Nativitate Domini; In Epiphania Domini; the Requiem; Veni Lumen Cordium (Easter chants); Alma Redemptoris (Marian).

6. No list of Dominican chant resources on the web would be complete without a mention of the site Liturgy of the Hours and Mass, created by Fr. Joseph Kenny, O.P. At that site he has cut and pasted music from Dominican books and manuscipts to supply for the new Liturgy of the Hours and the new order of chants in the Roman Missal. You may find it at: This site is similar to a smaller project of my own. I have been at work, with another friar of my province, creating a vesperal for the (Latin) Liturgia Horarum, using music from the Dominican tradition for the hymns, antiphons, and responsories. The "Ordinary Time" section, including Sundays, solemnities, and feasts of the Lord, is just about finished except for a few antiphons. If any readers could use an electronic copy for liturgical purposes, they can email me directly (find address at But be warned, to read and print this document you need to have WordPerfect 8 or later (not MS Word) as well as the "Meinrad" chant fonts loaded on your computer.

The image at the beginning of this post is the cover of the Dominican Chant CD mentioned above. If you know of other Dominican chant resources on the web, let me know.