Friday, February 29, 2008

Clarity of Vision

I doubt many people are familiar with this weekend's communion chant. In the EF calendar it is listed as pertaining to a weekday Mass, but it comes up in the OF calendar for this Sunday for Year A. I'm so pleased to have met this pretty and imaginative, but very short, chant: Lutum fecit.

It is set in the major mode of VI, which gives it a certain brightness fitting to the day of Laetare. The text is from the 9 chapter of John. "The Lord spat on the ground and anointed my eyes: I went, and I washed, and I see and believe in God."

(As one person at practice said last night, it is so much nicer to sing ex sputo than "spat")

The text is broken into two clear sections, the first reporting on what our Lord did to prepare his miracle. The second reports the miracle of sight for the blind: "et ábii, et lavi, et vidi, et credidi Deo." I went, I washed, I see, I believe in God.

The music beautifully reflects the text. It is also split into two parts, as indicated by the full bar. The Lord prepares. This phrase ends with just a hint of doubt. Then we move to the bright moment, with Fa, which serves as the final or tonic note of the piece. The two phrases lavi and vidi are particularly charming, forming a gorgeously crafted phrase that masks a settled exuberance. It ends with the sound of clarity and full knowledge, a quiet rejoicing suitable to the day.

We haven't sung this before because it only appears when the readings are suitable. When I first saw what was coming, I was disappointed to not sing Oportet Te, but this is always a temporary feeling in the chant repertoire, for there always seems to be something more wonderful than the last.

You can download the chant here, or get the entire volume.

Whenever I post something like this, commentators ask if I have a recording. I don't. But if you stay on the white keys of the piano and start on F, you should have no trouble playing the melody just so that you can hear it for yourself. Much better: use do, re, mi to sing it to yourself (begin on Fa).

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