This is a guest article by Br. Dominic Verner O.P.
FTER MANY YEARS of comparing manuscripts, compiling chants, and refining translations, the treasures of the Dominican chant tradition have at last been compiled into an impressive new hymnal for the Divine Office, the Dominican Hymnarium. For those interested in the recovery of Gregorian Chant and the realization of the Second Vatican Council Fathers’ desire that chant “be given pride of place in liturgical services” this is indeed an exciting milestone. The hymnal to be published by the Liturgical Commission of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph is now it its final stages of preparation and is only in need of a modest sum of funding to bring the project to completion. Benefactors who contribute $25 or more can receive a complimentary copy of the Dominican Hymnarium once it is published.
The Dominican chant tradition, a distinctive thread of the Gregorian chant tradition, remains unknown to many. The tradition finds its origins in St. Dominic himself, but it received a stable and decisive direction by Humbert of Romans, the fifth Master of the Order of Preachers. The Hymnarium’s introduction explains this rich history:
St. Dominic, who is well known for having sung hymns such as the Ave maris stella and the Veni creator as he walked throughout Europe, passed on to the Order of Preachers his love of singing the liturgy. One element of the early Dominican liturgy that was cultivated with great care was the repertoire of Latin hymnody sung at the various hours of the Divine Office. Through the diligent revisions of the Dominican liturgy that took place in the mid-thirteenth century under the direction of Humbert of Romans, the Order developed a selection of hymns that was used continuously from the time of Humbert through the twentieth century, unchanged but for the addition of hymns for new feasts.
The Dominican hymn repertoire is particularly remarkable for its sophisticated arrangement of melodies based on the rank of a feast, as well as for preserving the traditional texts of the hymns even after the promulgation of neo-classical versions in the seventeenth century. The melodies range in character from mere recitation tones elaborated with only a few notes to sustained cries of jubilation. The texts of the Proper of Time are concise and poetic presentations of the mysteries of the faith. and the texts of the Proper of Saints recall the great miracles and deeds of the saints in a memorable way. Through the concord of text and melody the singer encounters a veritable musical catechism that recalls salvation history and leads one more deeply into the rhythms and mysteries of the Church’s year. . . .
Sample recordings of each hymn melody can be found on the project’s website. Be sure to check out melody 45, which is reserved for feasts of Holy Father Dominic, and the haunting melody 56, from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary. All the recordings were made by friars of the Province of St. Joseph at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC.
Please consider lending a hand to help bring this project to completion. Online donations can be offered here: https://rally.org/hymnarium.