WO SUNDAYS AGO I had a liturgical experience I’ll never forget, singing the “Vidi Aquam.” When the Celebrant reached the Altar, we hadn’t yet arrived at the Antiphon, so I signaled the choir & organist to psalm tone it. At this point, you’re probably curious why this was a great moment for me. Well, during the 1990s, we had an “authentic” traditional Pastor (ordained in 1956). He said his seminary choir usually sang recto tono on the repeat. His exact words were, “The Vidi Aquam—it’s a pretty little thing but excessively extends past the time required to sprinkle the congregation.” Until a few weeks ago, I never tried his method.
Why was it a great moment? I think it had to do with perfectly matching the liturgical action. Indeed, Pope St. Pius X wrote in 1903: “it must be considered a very grave abuse when the sacred liturgy is made to appear subservient to the music.” By the way, Rev. Andrew Green, OSB, wrote a famous “simplification” of the Vidi Aquam in the 1940s.
Here’s an organ accompaniment I recently created:
* * PDF Download • Organ Accompaniment by Jeff Ostrowski
Here’s a rehearsal video: 1
You will want to download the PDF for Singers.
Great liturgical moments come at unexpected times. If anyone wants to share a favorite liturgical moment on the CCW Facebook page, I encourage this. 2 For example, I remember a Mass in the Extraordinary Form offered at Corpus Christi Cathedral. The organist played this piece as Bishop René H. Gracida processed in wearing a gorgeous vestment I didn’t even realize bishops were allowed to wear. The seriousness of the Mass—as well as the holy calling of a bishop—was made clear in a mysterious way which assisted my devotion.
Click HERE to download the “Vidi Aquam” as seen in 1400AD. 3
TO A LARGE EXTENT, the art of Gregorian accompaniment seems to have been lost. This was one of the reasons our organization went to great lengths making 3,000+ pages of Gregorian accompaniments available back in 2008. We also made sure to place online several versions of the “Method of Gregorian Accompaniment” (1943) by Flor Peeters, which has never been surpassed. After carefully explaining the rationale behind the NOH, Peeters makes it clear that Gregorian chant can be harmonized in countless ways:
* * PDF Download • Flor Peeters “Different Approaches” (excerpt)
Some who attempt to create Gregorian accompaniments completely ignore voice leading—as if voice leading is something which (somehow) doesn’t apply to Gregorian accompaniment. Others attempt to create a very subtle accompaniment, but end up with the opposite. They fail to realize the best way to achieve a subtle accompaniment is to use soft organ stops. To “camp out” on the same chord excessively introduces dissonances an amateur ear might not perceive. In fact, a careful treatment of dissonance is the sine qua non of proper Gregorian accompaniment. This “opposite effect” reminds me of another opposite effect described by Sir David Frost:
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 You can also watch it on YouTube or download the Mp3 Recording.
2 I don’t have a Facebook, but I can view comments made on the CCW facebook page.
3 Moreover, if you look at page 2, you’ll see that Catholics in the 14th century did not repeat the entire Antiphon. Rather, they started at the words “et omnes ad quos pervenit”—which is interesting.