CAN DECLARE myself the King of France, but that doesn’t make it so. I can say I’m an Olympic Gold Medalist, but that doesn’t make it so. Similarly, calling a composition “a canon” doesn’t make it a canon. Canons are the most difficult composition to write because they follow strict rules; indeed, canon means “rule.” I thought this was basic knowledge until I came across a shameful book published by GIA Publications called 59 Liturgical Rounds. In this book, editor William Tortolano has taken a whole bunch of tunes and pretended they are rounds (canons). The trouble is, many aren’t. When something is not a proper canon, labeling it as such is pure folly. Such contemptible rubbish—published by a company that was formerly called “Gregorian Institute of America”—makes me wonder whether our current culture is still capable of appreciating even basic realities about the craft of music. Is there any hope left? Such ignorance is enough to tempt one to despair.
…but then I encounter something like The Brébeuf Virtual Choir.
These youngsters—who met one another at the Sacred Music Symposium—recently recorded a piece by Father Tomás Luis de Victoria which contains a perfect canon between the two Soprano lines. These youngsters are doing amazing things; and I am filled with hope.
To download the score free of charge, visit Lalemant Polyphonic and search for #7412. Rehearsal videos for each individual voice are posted there, too.
August 6th is the feast of the Transfiguration; but the piece also works well for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. You can learn more about this amazing piece here:
If you don’t really understand what a canon is, listen to the following section with Tenor & Bass muted:
The top two voices form the canon: “Canon ad unisonum” and “Resolutio.” Canons are often employed for this text because the previous verse says: “Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John with him, and led them to a high mountain…” Anytime Renaissance composers hear someone “leading” someone else, they try to employ a canon.