Monday, May 26, 2008

Celebrating the Graduale

As managing editor of Sacred Music, I'm very happy about what we've put together for the summer issue (Volume 135, Number 2). It's 92 pages, so possibly the longest ever, but it is never boring.

The theme is the 100th anniversary of the Vatican Graduale. William Mahrt begins the issue with an editorial that could almost substitute for the whole issue, with wide-ranging commentary on the place of the Graduale in liturgy, the controversies before and after its release, and its present place in Catholic liturgy, with particular focus on the Papal Masses in the United States this year. Some of his judgments on what was good and what was not surprised me!

John Berchmans Göschl, retired professor of Gregorian Chant at the Music Conservatory, Munich, reconstructs the history of the Graduale with some learned comments on its restoration and the tensions between the need to produce results and the integrity of the paleographic research that went into the effort. He makes a case against the early Solesmes rhythmic theories and markings and calls for new directions.

I'm particularly pleased by an exciting piece by Fr. Anthony Ruff, who reminds us that the Graduale did not just descend from the clouds but was the result of some remarkable debates and controversies that overthrew the Medici chant editions then in use. He introduces a polemical monograph from the period (reprinted in this issue) that made the case. His commentary illustrates the passion that he has for this topic and helps readers gain a glimpse of how the Church music is not only the product of the faith but also hard work and debate extending far into the past.

Under repertory, Javier Martin presents a "new" composition that is really a 500-year old piece of Mexican polyphony that has been rediscovered. His article explains the origin and meaning of the piece, and the full score is released into the public domain with this issue.

Also, Joseph Sargent examines the interesting history behind Tallis's "If Ye Love Me," and the dictates of the English government that led to its unique style. It seems that Edward VI issued an order for Lincoln Cathedral: the choir shall sing "a plain and distinct note for every syllable one: they shall sing them and none other."

I had to laugh about that line and the different world in which such an order could be given, much less enforced!

David Saunders provides the first parsing to two contrasting English translations of Musicam Sacram: the Vatican Polyglot Press and the Vatican website. The differences are striking and strongly favor the Polyglot edition.

I have a too-long article on the relationship between chant and the democratic character of Catholic worship today, while Quetin Faulkner provides more discussion on the problem of musical illiteracy among Catholics. There are several pages of news, and Kurt Poterack adds a final note on the "strange rejection of the Graduale" in Catholic music. He deals with the objections and the current climate, and suggests new approaches.

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