HE YEAR 2020 has brought more than its fair share of unpleasantries, liturgical and otherwise. One marquee exception is the publication of an important new chant edition by the Abbey of Solesmes: Antiphonale Romanum I.
To understand the importance of this volume, a little background is necessary. When the first typical edition of the Liturgy of the Hours (LOH) was published in 1971, it included only texts and no music. Since the texts of the LOH are quite different from the texts of the earlier Divine Office, many portions of the new LOH simply had no melodies provided in the chant books. (For the chants as they existed prior to the publication of the LOH, see the Antiphonale Romanum 1960 here.) In the decades since, various communities have attempted to fill the gap, creating their own local melodies for singing the LOH. What has been lacking for a very long time is an official Antiphonale Romanum, designed specifically for the singing of the LOH.
In 1983, Solesmes published Liber Hymnarius (available here), a collection of all the Latin hymns included in the LOH. This was an important start, but it still did not provide melodies for all the antiphons, responsories, and other texts of the LOH.
In 2009, Solesmes published Antiphonale Romanum II (available here). This volume provides pointed texts and chant melodies for the hymns, antiphons, psalms/canticles, lessons, responsories, intercessions, and collects for the celebration of Vespers on every Sunday and feast of the liturgical year. A detailed review of Antiphonale Romanum II is found on pages 72-75 of the Spring 2010 issue of Sacred Music, available here.
Now, in 2020, Solesmes has published Antiphonale Romanum I (available here). This volume provides all the same pointed texts and chant melodies as Antiphonale Romanum II, except that they are for the celebration of Lauds (and the Invitatory), not Vespers, for Sundays and feasts through the year.
Why was Antiphonale Romanum II published before Antiphonale Romanum I? Presumably because more parishes around the world celebrate sung Vespers than sung Lauds. The Second Vatican Council particularly encouraged parishes either to continue or to reclaim the tradition of sung Vespers, especially on Sundays and feasts:
Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 100).
The original plan, as Fr. Ruff explains, was actually for Liber Hymnarius to serve as the second volume of the Antiphonale, with the first volume presenting all the texts for Lauds and Vespers together. This plan evidently changed somewhere along the way, such that volume I pertains to Lauds, volume II pertains to Vespers, and Liber Hymnarius is simply a separate collection of hymns.
My copy of Antiphonale Romanum I took some extra time to arrive from Solesmes, thanks to postal delays caused by COVID-19. It is a well-produced volume, with a solid binding, clear engravings, and two ribbons. In these respects, it is exactly like Antiphonale Romanum II.
This new volume includes a decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments bearing the signature of Cardinal Sarah. It also includes 17 pages of Praenotanda, featuring excellent sections on “The Significance of Singing in the Liturgy” (De cantus momento in liturgia) and “The Excellence of Gregorian Chant” (De cantus gregoriani excellentia).
Following are several pictures of the newly published Antiphonale Romanum I.