Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rorate, and the Genius of the Chant Tradition

The introit antiphon for the 4th week in Advent is Rorate Caeli: Drop down dew, ye heavens..." The version you will hear is sung by the schola, and it isn't easy, meaning that it takes practice and is sung by the schola alone. A more familiar version of the same antiphon text as set for use at Benediction in Advent or other occasion. It is one of those chants that entered into popular Church culture, and the antiphon is easily singable by the people.

It is a case in point that chant is not just for specialists, and here we have a beautiful mix of a popular tune for the people interacting with verses meant for a schola or cantor. The verses are indeed trickier: words and music both. They need to be practiced to be sung well. But after the verse, the antiphon repeats and all the people sing. Note too the shape of the antiphon, which follows the text: "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the Just One."

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