Spanish Chant

I have just come back from Andalucia, choosing to flee the country and spend the Easter Octave away from Wedding-mania.

One of the places we visited was Ronda and I was struck by something I saw concerning it’s music…

No not this kind of music. This kind of music:

This picture was taken in Santa Maria la Major in Ronda. Here is the Lauda Sion, the sequence for Corpus Christi but it looks rather different. Firstly, it is written on a five-line stave. Secondly, it is not the usual chant melody.

And there were more manuscripts on display, all with five line staves.

Does anyone know where this originates from?  As far as I know Mozarabic Chant if it was written down was always on a four line stave.


12 thoughts on “Spanish Chant

  1. berenike says:

    If you’re a muso and you know all the stuff I’m about to say – huge apologies and please igrone it.

    It’s probably a late ms. If it was early, it probably wouldn’t be hanging around in the church. Hiley says the mozarabic chant and liturgy were widely replaced by Roman rites and their accompanying music from the eleventh century on. It continued to be sung in some churches (he says), but that they had “revivals” a couple of times suggests it wasn’t exactly thriving.

    And all sorts of different things were going on in churches all the time – it was as messy, in terms of not falling into a couple of easily-labelled and remembered categories, as Mass music for the new rite is in practice these days. Improvised, semi-improvised and composed music blended into each other (something like the Allegri miserere is in fact just a posher version of a simple technique for improvising music in parts.) The way things were sung seems to have changed. It makes sense – I wonder if chant openings in settings like Monteverdi’s vespers were sung by the chap in the stalls whose turn it was to start the third psalm (e.g.) of vespers that day, in whatever mumbling voice he may have had, or whether the professional singers drafted in for the occasion took over those as well. If it was a performance for people, as opposed to the canons or clergy of the church knocking off the daily round of hours, I can imagine it was sung ‘can belto’ from a gallery, rather than muttered in the choirstalls.

    If you think of the C16 post-Tridentine chant books, or the more recent pre-Solesmes one, you can see that chant style was clearly changing all the time. As was notation. Music history tends to drop the subject of chant as soon as “real” music (polyphony) turns up! But people continued writing propers and ordinaries in more or less “Gregorian” style (mentioning no names, o Missa de Angelis), as well as the different sorts of “minor” scraps of music.

    That said, I don’t recall if or where I’ve seen neume-ish notation on five lines before. But is that not a mensural setting of the sequence? Try singing it in triple time, the square notes having twice the length of the diamonds (the two diamonds at the end of the first line sung in the time of one?)

  2. Clare says:

    Berenike,, Very interesting stuff. Thank you. I don’t think the manuscripts are particularly old either.

    As for modern Gregorian Chant, i vaguely recall Dom Saulnier telling us that one of the introits we were studying ( l think it was ‘Signum Magnum’ but l can’t be certain) was written by one of the monks at Solesmes in the 1950s and he is still alive today – well he was when l was there two years ago. I won’t repeat what he said about the Missa de Angelis however…

    • berenike says:

      Yes! Signum magnum is I suppose for the Immaculate Conception (I’ve lent my GT to the organist in my parish). And some of the other more recent feasts have new propers – vague memories of something about Christ the King. And of course they are written as much as possible to be stylistically consonant with the “gregorian” repertoire, as we understand it now. Whereas the baroque French or renaissance Italians had a quite different approach.

      You’ve inspired me to get hold of that article on chant performance in C18 Poland I saw somewhere. Thank you!

  3. Ben Whitworth says:

    What stunning pictures!
    ‘Signum magnum’ is the introit for the Assumption of our Lady, in the form that the feast took after the definition of the dogma in 1950; prior to that, the introit was ‘Gaudeamus’. No disrespect to the old boy at Solesmes, but his composition didn’t really measure up to the masterpiece that it replaced. (In the OF, ‘Gaudeamus’ is permitted ad libitum.)
    Talking of ‘measure’, I’m convinced that most of the medieval sequences were written in triple time.

  4. Thomas Windsor says:

    Neumes on a modern 5 line stave with modern clef can be found in the,

    Manuel des Processions et Benedictions du Tres Saint Sacrement, Rene Paris, 1921, Desclee.

    Most chant books of that time used either 4 line notation with neumes usually found in chant books or Modern notation.

    It was good to meet you at the chant course at Spanish Place.

  5. Thomas Windsor says:

    For St. Mary Magdalen;
    1. Pater superni luminis, Bellarmine, Vespers Roman Rite (in Liber Usualis)
    2. Maria castis osculis, St. Gregory the Great?, Matins Roman Rite, this is part of a Hymn formerly used on Palm Sunday. The original text began Nardo Maria pistico.
    3. Summi Parentis Unice, St. Odo of Cluny, Lauds Roman Rite, Original text ran; Aeterni Patris Unice.
    4. Lauda Mater Ecclesia, Dominican Vespers Hymn.
    5. Aeterni Patris Unice, Dominican Lauds Hymn.
    6. Laus tibi Christe, Sequence

    As for Our Lady’s Saturday, well the list is endless. What time of year, as there are certain pieces more suitable for certain seasons.

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