Monday, April 25, 2016

Newly Republished: Cantus Mariales — Rare 1903 Book of Marian Chants

Choirs and scholas often like to have a selection of devotional chants for ad libitum use. Books like The Parish Book of Chant have done an admirable job in this regard, but I often find there is a real dearth of Marian chants. I was therefore delighted when, some years ago, friends of mine delivered to me three copies of an exceptionally rare book published in 1903, Cantus Mariales, that contains 50 beautiful Marian chants for the entire Church year, as well as an Appendix of several litanies and antiphons. I am happy to announce today the publication of a facsimile edition, bringing this volume once again to choirs and scholas everywhere.

The story of how I came by these books is quite interesting. My friends were visiting Jerusalem, and happened to enter a monastery called St. Pierre de Sion, otherwise known as the Ratisbonne Monastery. They somehow got up into the choir loft (which is exactly what I would have tried to do myself!) and found a stash of old chant books, covered with dust and in various stages of disrepair, and evidently unused. When they asked a person who lived there if they could buy any of the books, he shrugged his shoulders and said: "Go ahead and take them, no one's using them." When my friends got back to Austria, they gave them to me and said: "You should be the one to get these, you'll know what to do with them."
One of the original books
Once I began to sing the chants inside Cantus Mariales — which bears the subtitle quos e fontibus antiquis eruit aut opere novo veterum instar concinnavit — I knew that I had stumbled on a goldmine that deserved to be republished. The editor, Dom Joseph Pothier, O.S.B., is well known to chant afficionados as one of the great maestros and paleographers of the Solesmes monastic movement. Dom Pothier ranged through manuscripts finding Marian sequences, proses, and rhythms from all centuries. Some of these were already fitted with melodies, others he adapted to existing melodies, and still others he set to neo-Gregorian compositions. At the end of most pieces, the sources of text and melody are indicated. (The preface and annotations are in Latin.) Here is the Table of Contents:

The short chant antiphons given for announcing each of the traditional 15 mysteries of the Rosary (pp. 125-31) are fascinating and could elevate the communal recitation of the Rosary in places where that is a custom, e.g., during a public Holy Hour.

The three original copies appear to be hand-produced: the pages show obvious signs of having been printed, cut, and assembled in small batches; each cover is marbled in a distinctive manner, and each book has discrepancies of spacing and placement, not to mention pencil and pen markings. The one I dismantled for scanning was in good shape and had few extraneous markings. I am happy to announce the availability of a full-color facsimile edition identical in content to the original, with a new cover.

An original copy (1903) and the new facsimile (2016)
The facsimile edition
Cantus Mariales is now available for purchase at CreateSpace or, as well as other Amazon sites (United Kingdom, Germany, France, etc.).  Please note that there are two cover designs available. The inside content is identical; only the covers are different. Also, if anyone is interested in purchasing more than 5 copies, contact me to discuss bulk pricing.

Members of the Wyoming Catholic College Schola recorded three of the pieces in Cantus Mariales. In "O Sophia," we added a harp accompaniment.

In addition, the Schola of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Benôit-Du-Lac, under the direction of Dom André Saint-Cyr, recorded an entire CD of chants taken from the Cantus Mariales.

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