21 November 2013, Presentation of the BVM
EF Missa Cantata, 8am
Introit: Salve sancta Parens, begin on C (as la)
Gradual: Benedicta et venerabilis, begin on F (as fa) Men sing V.; all join at *factus homo.
Alleluia: Post partum virgo, begin on C (as do)
Offertory: Ave Maria, begin on D (as fa)
Communion: Beata viscera, begin on E (as re)
Postlude: Salve Regina (simple tone), begin on C
Mass X, Ambrosian Gloria, Credo II.
The short Introit antiphon has three phrases:
- Salve sancta Parens
- enixa peurpera Regem
- qui caelum terramque regit in saecula saeculorum
Most of the proper chants for this formulary as found in today's Graduale Romanum were in place by the end of the ninth century AD. As new feasts and celebrations were added, composers composed new melodies or, more often, adapted existing melodies from the repertoire to produce suitable chants for the texts of the new formularies. In former days, this was one of the most well known Introits in the repertoire, because it was sung in the Mass of the BVM on Saturday morning—except in Advent, when the Introit Rorate caeli replaced it—in a special votive Mass formulary permitted on Saturdays when there was no greater feast assigned. It was beloved by clergy and faithful, and it complemented the popular tradition of Saturday as a day of special devotion to Our Lady.
The melody of this Introit Salve sancta Parens was adapted from the melody of the Epiphany Introit Ecce advenit early in the eleventh century, to be sung in various Masses in honour of the BVM. So looking at the Epiphany Introit can help you to better understand this one. In comparing the two melodies, you can get a taste of the mixed results from these adaptations. E. g., the melodic forms over the accented syllables Re-(gem) and (saecu)-lo-(rum) in this Introit work better than over the unaccented syllables (Do)-mi-(nus) and (impe)-ri-(um) in that of Epiphany. OTOH, the placing of the podatuswith its fourth on the unaccented syllable of (sae)-cu-(la), is more effective in the Epiphany Introit where it gives prominence to the word potestas and its word-accent.
The Gradual has two phrases in the corpus and two in the verse:
- Benedicta et venerabilis es, Virgo Maria,
- quae sine tactu pudoris, inventa es Mater Salvatoris.
- V. Virgo Dei Genitrix, quem totus non capit orbis
- in tua se clausit viscera factus homo
The melody, like that of St Joseph on 19 March, is very expressive and well adapted to this text. The corpus is dominated by the stirring melody over Maria, while the verse has its fervent Virgo—a wondrous hymn of praise to the Virgin Mother of God. We begin the first phrase in a suppressed tone but lively tempo, and then continue Virgo Maria with bright and sunny warmth. If possible, sine tactu pudoris should be sung without pause for breath; the delicacy of its text calls for fine tonal shading. The same melody—more rounded out, however—recurs over Mater Salvatoris. After the tender and extended melody over virgo, care must be taken that the important words Dei Genitrix be not stunted. The development of the melody over quern totus non capit orbis differs somewhat from the original. Keeping the above remarks in mind, we might now compare -rabilis es and Salvato-, sine tactu and -venta es, pudoris and mater, Genitrix, quern totus and tua se clausit viscera. The melody over orbis suggests word-painting; that over homo, the abasement of the Son of God in His Incarnation.
The Alleluia verse has two phrases:
- Post partum, Virgo, inviolata permansisti
- Dei Genetrix, intercede pro nobis
This text is well know from many uses in the Roman books, most frequently as a versicle and response after the Alma Redemptoris Mater at Compline from 1st Vespers of Christmas through 2nd Vespers of 2 February. The melody descends over partum, the moment of giving birth, then reaches its high point over Dei Genetrix, to emphasise Mary’s unique role in salvation history. The final cadence is notable for ending on an ascending note, a rare occurrence in chant, and typically found only when the text is an interrogative, requiring a response or at least something else to follow.
As we have noted before, this Offertory is always at or at least near the top of the list of 'most beautiful' or 'most beloved' pieces in the Gregorian Mass repertory. It has four phrases:
- Ave Maria,
- gratia plena,
- Dominus tecum:
- benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.
The melody tries valiantly to capture the awe-some nature of the most momentous event in human history, one completely beyond human undertanding or appreciation. So it sinks into the deep with gratia, tecum, fructus; rises slowly with Ave, gratia, ventris; and again soars over Maria. Over Ave the passage f a f g f e is soon followed by the similar f a f g a g. After the upbeat over the first note of Maria, the grouping of the neums here given suggests a division into two-note groups: a cc cc | cagf | gaca | fgg. The two bistrophas, naturally, are to be sung with a very light swing. Plena is made prominent by its pressus, the first in this piece. We do not find the passage Dominus tecum in the early manuscripts; its melody is found in the Offertory-verses Posuisti and Angelus over the words gloria and stetit respectively. With some variations, this tyle of singing the verses was adapted to the text of the Offertory Beata es, which is sung on September 8 and on some other feasts. Here the melody occurs over the word virgo.
The second member is a repetition of the first. The brilliant phrase benedicta is characterized by its high pitch and by repeated and impressive accents: c d e e-c d d c-c d a a g-g c c b; then by the fourths d-a, g-c, a-d. These accents are still active in the last phrase: f g a a g, g a f f e , and g a a gg.
The Communion has two phrases:
- Beata viscera Mariae Virginis,
- quae portaverunt aeterni Patris Filium.
This melody is of somewhat later composition, dating from the eleventh century.The melody over aeterni—extending beyond the entire tone line—begins significantly with a fifth, while the following word begins a fifth lower, as if to say: the Son of Mary surpasses the limits of time and space and is beyond that which is earthly and human. Virginis marks the climax of the first phrase. The notes f, f g, g a over the accented syllables of the preceding words lead gradually to the melodic climax at a 6 b. These accents become more plastic and the melodic line more enlivened as the melody, following the individual accentsr descends. Care should be taken not to accent the 6 b, but to give the preceding a somewhat of an accent; this will produce the effect of two torculus. The phrase closes on the dominant. The second phrase is not so happily constructed. The cadence over portaverunt, for instance, is absolutely final. According to the import of the text, however, only a slight pause is permissible here. The first phrase was characteristically ethereal and light. The second phrase begins more quietly, in an almost depressed manner, and yet Mary bore in her most pure womb the sweetest burden, bore it while sunk in contemplation. The first phrase speaks of our love for the childlike trust in Mary; the second, of our adoration and reverence for the eternal Son of God, who became her Child. The partial cadences over (vi)-scera, (porta)-verunt and (Fi)-lium are similar.
The text shows a reverent awe for the great and singular privilege of Mary to bear the Son of the eternal Father. Although not taken directly from taken from Sacred Scripture, it reminds us of the scriptural reference of the woman in the Gospel who extolled the womb that bore Christ (Luke 11: 27).