Following on from Stan’s piece on the joyful music found in the 1st Sunday of Lent, l have been thinking about another refreshingly uplifting antiphon sung throughout Lent, the Ave Regina Caelorum written in the elevating and upbeat of modes, mode 6. Of the four Marian Antiphons, it is probably the least well known, especially if you don’t regularly sing or say Compline where it is the last prayer before bedtime. It is believed to be the most ‘modern’ of the Marian Antiphons, some say 12th century according to the first known manuscript of it!
It is a great hymn of expression as we call to Our Lady through her many Biblical guises, “Queen of Heaven,: ‘Mistress of the Angels;” “Root of Jesus;” “Virgin most renowned.: Unusually, certainly for any antiphon, it is written in a strict poetic structure, with rhyming couplets and an even number of syllables in every line (eight – save you counting.)
Comparing the texts of the Latin with the English translation, the most extraordinary difference is that there can be so many variants in Latin to invoke Mary. ‘Ave, Salve, Gaude, Valde.’ In English, we are merely left with ‘Hail,’ which sounds so coldly Shakespearean.
The message of the Antiphon is clear in the final line. “And pray for us to Christ.” Greet Mary, let her into our lives, follow Mary, pray with Mary, even rejoice with Mary and she will pass on our prayers to Christ.
Lent just gets better and better.
On this recording the detached neumes at the end of each phrase gives it a refreshing lightness. I would be careful on the ‘pro nobis’ not to slow down too much or the whole metrical rhythm of the prayer is lost.
Keep it light and legato throughout and don’t sing it too slowly. The first time I ever sang it, our Priest turned round at the end of Benediction and exclaimed he had never heard it sung slowly in his life. So be careful!