Wednesday, January 07, 2009

"We have seen his star in the east"

Day 3, afternoon:

Someone in the class asked why were are singing the propers for the Solemnity for the Epiphany at the Mass this coming Friday. Scott explained that those are precisely the ones prescribed for a ferial Mass - a weekday Mass where no feast is observed.

Right now the class is rehearsing the Communio, Vidimus. It is only two lines long, but its melody, in spooky mode IV, is filled with undulations which remind one of the journey of the Magi. The oriental sound of this chant is unmistakable and a perfect example of how the chants were composed not only to accompany the action of the Mass (the communion procession, in this case), but as compositions with a refined sensitivity to their place in the liturgical year.

With the newly acquired rhythmical understanding coming from the Solesmes method, instructor and students have transformed the room into an eastern desert in the night.

Scott is taking advantage of this opportunity to introduce the the study of Psalm singing by having the class sing the the Psalm verses attached to this particular communion antiphon. Like the antiphon, the tone used is mode IV. In other words, the mode of the antiphon matches that of the Psalm tone. Its reciting tone is la, and that's where most of the text is sung, and the final cadence dips down and ends on the exotic fourth below - mi, the final of mode IV.

Swept into the orient as we learned, no one was too alarmed when some wiseacre in the back of the room had the good sense and quick whit to break out some hand cymbals. Everything stopped. We were there. We were following that star.

Turned out it was just someone's cell phone.

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