Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Medieval Dominican Chants for Christmas

The version of the Roman Rite used specifically at the Papal court in the High Middle Ages, which became the liturgy of the Tridentine reform, was in many respects very conservative, and did not take on many of the elaborations of the liturgy which were done nearly everywhere else. One of the best examples of this from the Christmas season is the singing of the Gospel of Our Lord’s Genealogy according to St Matthew, 1, 1-16, which was done between the ninth responsory of Christmas Matins and the Te Deum in basically every other Use of the Roman Rite. Because the text itself is very repetitive (“Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, etc.”), it was generally set to an ornate tone to keep it interesting. The same was done at Matins of the Epiphany with the Genealogy according to St Luke, (3, 21 – 4, 1); the first three verses of this passage are Luke’s account of Christ’s Baptism, one of the three major events celebrated on Epiphany.
A friend who is a priest of the Fraternity of St Vincent Ferrer wrote to let me know that they have just lately posted a recording of this Gospel as it was sung at Christmas Matins in their church last year. Hopefully they will post the Epiphany one before long.

The Dominicans also preserved the use of the very popular Christmas Sequence Laetabundus, another thing which was never adopted into the Roman liturgical books. Here it is sung by the friars of the OP Chant YouTube channel; the text and translation are given in the notes under their original post.

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