22 November 2018, St. Cecilia, Virgin & Martyr, Patroness of Sacred Music - Thanksgiving Day, 10 am Missa Cantata
Good précis of the hagiography and cult of St Cecilia at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Cecilia. Pray especially today for our good friends at Santa Cecilia in Trastevere and at St Cecilia’s on the Isle of Wight.
Gradual: Audi filia
Alleluia: Quinque prudentes
Offertory: Afferentur regi virgines
Communion: Confundantur superbi
Recessional: Salve Regina
Mass XII; no Credo.
The Introit has two phrases:
- Loquebar de testimoniis tuis is conspectu regum et non confundebar
- et meditabar in mandatis tuis quae dilexi nimis.
This strong Mode 5 melody has all the strength of character and brilliant joy that this Mode can bestow. The prominent position of the dominant c clearly presents to us the enormous strength of character that St Cecilia and the other virgin martyrs displayed in the face of fierce persecution and the pain of unspeakable physical and psychological torture. The high point is over in conspectu regum, because that marks the climax in the drama of their appearance before the Roman judge who would sentence them for their fidelity to their only Bridegroom. They stood bravely and confidently as they embraced their martyrdom, ready to give their lives rather than betray that fidelity. They knew absolutely that walking in the way of the commandments of God's law would be the source of their ultimate victory. Loving them was loving their Lord.
The Gradual has three phrases in the corpus and two in the verse:
- Audi, filia et vide
- Et inclina aurem tuam
- quia concupivit rex speciem tuam.
- Specie tua et pulchritudine tua
- intende, propere procede, et regna.
Unique combination here of texts assigned to the various Virgin Martyrs. The well known theme of virginal beauty that befits a king and the beauty of holiness that merits life in the eternal kingdom is seen in the melody that soars in the verse to high G, portraying the ascent of the victorious virgin martyr to the heights of the heavenly throne.
The Alleluia verse has three phrases in a very straightforward Mode II melody:
- Quinque prudentes virgines acceperunt oleum in vasis suis cum lampadibus
- Media autem nocte clamor factus est
- Ecce sponsus venit: exite obviam Christo Domino.
As we so often see, many pieces also show a predilection for tone-painting. Sometimes, however, it is to the detriment of the leading thought. In this Alleluia verse there is some confusion of voices. The announcement of the coming of the bridegroom is realistically indicated, but the principal idea: ‘Go forth to meet Christ the Lord,’ suffers in comparison. In the Communion below, on the contrary, the simple melody brings the key notion into prominence in a most captivating manner.
The Offertory has three phrases:
- Afferentur regi virgines
- Proximae ejus afferentur tibi in laetitia et exultatione
- Adducentur in templum regi Domino
The melody marks a progression that echoes the movement of the procession into the court of the Temple, into the presence of the true King, the Lord Himself. It reaches a high point over (exsul)-ta-(tione) and then descends again as the procession comes directly into the presence and bows low before the Lord, ending on a note of awe. This melody has been the inspiration for further development by a number of composers from the Renaissance to our own times, with Anton Bruckner’s being perhaps the most famous.
The Communion antiphon has three phrases:
- Confudantur superbi quia injuste iniquitatem fecerunt in me
- ego autem is mandatis tuis exercebor
- is tuis justificationibus ut non confundar
This melody has been assigned to the feast of St. Cecilia since the very early manuscripts, but you may recognise it from its adaptation for the Communion Florete flores that we sing for our patronal feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on 7 October. The first phrase treats of the godless ones, the superbi, who should be confounded, and closes with the melody over fecerunt in me. Injuste expresses just anger over the wrong that has been perpetrated on the saint by her persecutors. Out of this dark and somber background rises the beautiful figure of a Virgin Martyr with the words ego autem. The saint rises above all that is earthly, takes as it were her flight to heaven, and pledges immutable fidelity to the Lord's commandments, whence the high point over in mandatis. The group of neumes in the conclusion gives an especially affirmative and strong sense of the final victory that St Cecilia has over her captors and persecutors. The shame belong to those who acted injuste; she, however, is rewarded with the ultimate crown.