Monday, March 01, 2021

The Ultimate Communion Antiphon Book for the Usus Antiquior

Most singers of chant will be familiar with the old workhorse Communio by Richard Rice (CMAA, 2008), my own copy of which is so well-thumbed and beaten up it’s a wonder it still holds together. Others may be familiar with the Solesmes publication Versus Psalmorum et Canticorum (repr. CMAA, 2008), which contains pointed psalm texts for the Introits and Communions of the entire liturgical year. Although I used both of these books for many years as a choir director, I have discovered a new volume that definitively surpasses them for Sundays and Holy Days.

In November of 2019, I visited Houston to give four lectures, and while there, I decided to “crash” the Schola practice on Sunday at the FSSP parish, Regina Caeli. The singers were gracious and let me join them for the High Mass. At one point, the director, Kyle Lartigue, handed me a book: Ad Communionem: Antiphons and Psalms (Justitias Books, 2016), which, I discovered, was Mr. Lartigue’s own production.

Unlike the other communion books available, which either lack the antiphons and full musical notation (Versus Psalmorum) or utilize the awkward and untraditional Nova Vulgata for the psalm texts, Ad Communionem includes the antiphons for all Sundays and first-class Holy Days, followed by the pertinent psalm from the preconciliar Vulgate, notated in square notes. (The old Vulgate verses are a breeze to sing for those who are familiar with the Missale Romanum and the Breviarium Romanum or the Breviarium Monasticum.) Ad Communionem also includes Psalm 33 and the Gloria Patri in all modes, and an appendix with the Adoro Te and Ubi Caritas. The antiphons are organized not alphabetically (as in Rice’s book, where one must rely on the index) but by Sunday and feastday in chronological order, which makes it much easier to use. While the Solesmes book is more comprehensive, it merely “points” the texts rather than musically notating them, and both the poor quality of the reproduction (many times removed from its original) and the typographical conventions contribute to confusion and stumbling performances.

It’s exactly what I’d want my own schola to have, and in fact when I returned from Houston I asked the pastor in my town if he would buy a bunch of copies for our choir loft. This book deserves to be standard issue for every TLM schola in the English-speaking world. (I should mention that the antiphons and verses are accompanied by an inline English translation from the Douay-Rheims, which closely matches the Latin sense.)
Having a Communion antiphon book with psalm verses (regardless of which of the above three options is used) allows the cantors and/or schola to sing however many verses may be needed to prolong or shorten the music for a particular occasion. Sometimes more than one priest is distributing communion and it goes quickly; at others times perhaps there is an overflow crowd and only one priest distributing, which can take quite some time. The chanting of psalm verses has many benefits: the texts are liturgically appropriate and the music is very much in the background, as it should be; the overall effect is calming and prayerful, but the recurrence of the antiphon adds a welcome contrast to the simplicity of the psalm tones, and impresses the repeated text and melody in the minds of all who listen to it. The format also allows for maximum flexibility in musical forces. One can arrange it this way: antiphon (sung by all); verse (begun by cantor and completed by schola); antiphon; etc. Or: antiphon (sung by all); odd verse (sung by cantor); even verse (sung by all); antiphon; etc. Or instead of cantor and tutti, the schola may be divided into two halves. The simple format allows for a ready use of isons and organum.

Now that the TLM is coming back all over the place, Ad Communionem: Antiphons and Psalms is, I would maintain, a required tool for everyone who sings the proper chants. It is one of two books I always carry with me to the choir loft (the other being my Liber Usualis). The book is available in paperback and hardcover. A large sample of the pages may be found here. An index may be found here.

Mr. Lartigue has also produced a number of other books: a newly-typeset Latin edition of the traditional Martyrologium Romanum (updated through 1961, with an appendix of saints canonized after that year); a two-volume edition of traditional Sunday Vespers; Holy Week chants and a complete Kyriale. All of these books are newly typeset and more affordable than their competitors.

Pay a visit to his website:

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