Thursday, January 18, 2024

A New Video of Sarum Vespers and Compline

Speaking of Sarum Vespers, the YouTube channel of an Oxford-based early music group called Antiquum Documentum recently published a video of Vespers and Compline celebrated in the Use of Sarum for the feast of St Cecilia this past November. The music is very, very good indeed, and includes work by Thomas Tallis, and his contemporaries Nicholas Ludford and John Sutton. The church in which the service was held is the famous St Mary’s, where Oxford University began, and where St John Henry Newman began serving as vicar in 1828, and earned his reputation as one of the great preachers of his time. The text of the service can be read in Latin and English, with some very useful liturgical notes, in this document (I will add some explanatory notes below):
– In the Roman Office nowadays, Vespers on the evening of Nov. 21 would be of the Presentation of the Virgin, rather than First Vespers of St Cecilia, but the former feast was not of general observance at Sarum. (It is in an appendix in Dickinson’s critical edition of the Sarum Missal.

– The five Psalms of Tuesday Vespers (121-125) are said under a single, semidoubled antiphon “Triduanas a Domino poposci”, the last of the five for Lauds and Vespers in the Roman Breviary. (This was a very common arrangement in medieval Uses of the Roman Office, especially for feasts of the middle or lower grades, but in some places, even for those of the highest solemnity.)
– After the Chapter, one of the responsories from Matins is said; this was by far the norm, rather than the exception, for first Vespers of all but the lowest grades of feasts in almost all medieval Uses apart from that of the Papal court, the Use which became the breviary of St Pius V.
– There is no audible response to the versicle or to “Benedicamus Domino”; the antiphon of the Magnificat is also semidoubled.
– At Compline, the chapter is said before the hymn, rather than after it as in the Roman Breviary, which in this regard is very much the outlier.

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