11th January, 2013 Epiphany Feria Missa Cantata (EF)
Introit: Ecce advenit, begin on C (as la)
Gradual: Omnes de Saba, begin on C (as fa)
Alleluia: Vidimus stellam, begin on E♭
Offertory: Reges Tharsis, begin on G (as do)
Communion: Vidimus stellam, begin on E (as mi)
Recessional: Tribus miraculis, begin on E (as re)
Ordinary from Mass IV, Credo I
Comments on the Introit and Communion are in the notes for Epiphany Sunday. Here are some notes on the other chants.
The Gradual has four phrases, two in the corpus and two in the verse:
1. Omnes de Saba venient,
2. (a) aurum at thus deferentes,
(b) et laudem Domino annuntiantes.
3. V. Surge, et illuminare Jerusalem:
4. quia gloria Domini super te orta est.
Rarely is the connection between the Epistle and Gospel and the intervening chants this close. The Epistle closes with the words Omnes de Saba venient. . ., with which the Gradual opens. The words which compose the Gradual-verse, Surge. . ., occurred at the beginning of the Epistle. The Gradual has the same function as the chorus did in ancient drama. Important thoughts ought not to be heedlessly spoken; they should linger in our minds, penetrate deep into our hearts, rouse us, and stir us to action.
Over (annuntian)-tes we find repeated the initial motif of Omnes, which recurs in an extended form over Saba. The inception on the upper fourth over aurum emphasizes the costliness of the gift. Over thus deferentes we hear a resolved major chord, which occurs three times more in this corpus, and enhances the harmony of the song. The verse Surge immediately sets in on the upper fifth. It resounds more energetically, since at that time Jerusalem did not comprehend the call and did not heed the admonition. Its people stayed at home and let the Magi go to Bethlehem alone, where the latter discovered the Light of life, the source of their happiness.
In the antiphon we sang do la fa; we sing more forcibly in the verse re la fa, which recurs at the end of the florid melisma of Surge. Domini closes in a similar manner (fa re do and re do la). The high fa of Illuminare is obviously the summit of the entire chant, for the eye as well as for the ear. The melody grows like the daylight, from the gray streaks of dawn to noonday splendor. In the upper third the quietly ascending motif la fa sol la do is repeated do la do re fa. After this large arsis, Jerusalem comes as a lingering thesis; gloria Domini takes up the arsis again and points out why Jerusalem can become all light, and the ascending fourth over orta est shines in splendor. But with the final neums of est comes a pleasant sensation of warm and beneficent light, which streams into the soul and wraps it. BTW, you already know from earlier notes that the ancient and beloved Epiphany propers were often used as 'source melodies' to adapt to texts of new feasts. So you won't be surprised to know that we hear this same melody on the feast of Christ the King, a very late (20c) addition to the Graduale.
The Alleluia verse is divided into three (or four) phrases:
1. Vidimus stellam ejus
2. in Oriente,
3. et venimus cum muneribus
(4) adorare Dominum.
As the Gradual was a complement of the Epistle, so the Alleluia-verse acts as a prelude to the Gospel from which it is taken. The melody is adapted from the Alleluia verse of the Mass of Christmas Day, which is a typical melody in the archaic (Greek) form. We hear it often in the Christmas season: on Christmas Day, St. Stephen, St. John, and Epiphany. (We hear it again in June on the feasts of St. John the Baptist and SS. Peter and Paul.) Four phrases may be distinguished in the verse. The first and third have practically the same intonation: Vidimus = et venimus; then follows a recitation on the tonic: stellam ejus = cum muneribus; then the same florid cadence: in Oriente = adorare Dominum. The second phrase begins with a sort of intonation contrasting with that of the others, then a recitation on the dominant fa, and a simple cadence.
The fourth phrase is short. It has no intonation of any kind, but a recitation on the dominant like the second phrase (this recitation is longer on the feast of St. John the Evangelist and on Epiphany), and finally a closing cadence. The psalmodic construction of the whole is quite evident. Both the text and melody probably come from Byzantium, where this feast originated. In some ancient manuscripts either a Latin or a Greek text accompanies the melody; in one in the Vatican Library, it has both a Latin and a Greek text.
The Offertory has two parts of two phrases each:
1. Reges Tharsis et insulae munera offerent:
2. reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent:
3. et adorabunt eum omnes reges terrae,
4. omnes gentes servient ei.
The Secreta today prays that these gifts we present 'are offered now no longer gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but He whom those mystic offerings signified is immolated and received: Jesus Christ...' This is a good summary of the import of the grammatical parallels in the phrases of this chant. The first part speaks of the sacrificial action which kings of particular countries perform and of externals, the second of that of all kings and nations and the spirit of adoration.
In the first part both phrases have the same range (fa-mi) and a similar ending. Offerent develops itself over adducent. In the second part, also, the two phrases have the same range (fa-re) and a similar ending: the one time on sol, preceded by ti, the other time on fa, preceded by ti-b. Munera offerent shows a similar relationship. The tense do ti-ti la ti ti la finds a pleasant resolution in the subsequent la sol-sol fa sol sol fa. Many find this passage, setting in on the low fifth, with its ascending fourth and the delicate arrangement which follows, one of the most beautiful and compelling of plain chants. The chant opens with a fanfare: the two tristrophas connected by a virga. There is a sense of astonishment. In the second phrase the melody swells upward: sol la ti, sol la do, fa sol la do re, la do re mi, and then the expanding cadence with its solemn seconds. The second group over Saba is an extension of the first.
The first part has a lively tempo; the second will be considerably subdued in a spirit of reverence and adoration, indicated by the three descending fourths (only occurring here). In the fourth phrase, over omnes and gentes respectively, a torculus and a light bistropha give us an push forward before a relaxation of the tension.