ECENTLY, I posted sample scores from the Chaumonot Communions collection. A former student of mine is involved with that project, and she’s doing amazing work. Their website mentioned the Organum Comitans ad Graduale Sacrosanctae Romanae Ecclesiae by the Desmet brothers and Oscar Depuydt. Essentially, that is the predecessor to the NOH. (“NOH” stands for Nova Organi Harmonia ad Graduale Juxta Editionem Vaticanam.) Feel free to verify what I have just said by reading pages 1-2 of Monsignor Jules Van Nuffel’s PREFACE to the NOH. For the sake of convenience, perhaps we should call the Desmet collection the “Pre-NOH.” For the last twelve years, I have been discussing with readers whether it’s permitted to modify the rhythm of the Vaticana, which is still the official edition of the Church. Because we have discussed it so much in the past, we will not be discussing it here.
Look at the peculiar method used by the “Pre-NOH” when it comes to marking the melismatic morae vocis. Look at the little “v-shaped” markings they use:
It looks pretty funky, eh?
“Mora Vocis” • What Is It?
It would probably be helpful to remind everyone what a melismatic mora vocis is. (Plural = morae) It is a “space of unchanging length equal to the size of a notehead” that is found in a melisma. None of this applies unless we are talking about a melisma. Even prior to the publication of the Editio Vaticana (issued as part of a juridical code by Pope Pius X), Abbot Pothier had published amazing editions. Because Pothier’s edition was adopted as the basis for the official edition—upon the express orders of Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (d. 1930)—sometimes his earlier editions can give us a “clue” as to where the morae vocis belong in the official edition.
Let’s consider a passage from Pothier’s Liber Gradualis (1883), predecessor to the Editio Vaticana (1908). Notice the “white note”—that is to say, a space of “unchanging width equal to the size of a notehead” during a melisma:
Here is the official edition of 1908 (a.k.a. “Editio Vaticana”), produced by the committee appointed by Pope Pius X. Abbot Pothier was the president of this committee. The arrow points to a “white note”—that is to say, a blank space “of unchanging width equal to the size of a notehead” in a melisma, which means “elongate the final note or neume.” The red arrow points to it:
Dom Mocquereau was angry that Cardinal Merry del Val chose Pothier’s edition instead of his 1903 edition to serve as the basis for the official edition. He added his private rhythmic markings to the official edition, even though these contradicted the official rhythm. He was not allowed to do this, but he did it nonetheless. Mocquereau lengthened notes that should be not be lengthened, and ignored the morae vocis quite frequently. Here is the Solesmes edition (Dom Mocquereau) of 1908:
It is important to recognize that Solesmes never changed rhythmic markings of Dom Mocquereau—not once! They remain exactly as he created them. They remain even to this day, in the most recent publications by Solesmes Abbey (such as the 2012 edition of the Gregorian Missal). Here is a 1962 edition of the Editio Vaticana by Solesmes—you will notice that not a single marking by Dom Mocquereau has been changed:
The 1953 Schwann Edition was created by three powerful German scholars: Karl Gustav Fellerer (d. 1984), Abbot Urbanus Bomm (d. 1982), and Monsignor Johannes Overath (d. 2002). The whole idea behind this edition was to honor the Vaticana rhythm, and in this particular instance they do. I say “in this instance” because they often (inexplicably) advise the singer to ignore the mora vocis. However, in this instance, they tell the singer to observe the mora vocis, as you can see by that little horizontal line:
The “Pre-NOH” (Lemmensinstituut), published by the Desmet brothers in 1907, observes the official rhythm. We should not be surprised, therefore, to see them notate the mora vocis correctly:
The NOH (Lemmensinstituut), published by Flor Peeters and his colleagues in the 1940s, follows the example of their predecessors—they observe the official rhythm. However, they seem to have made a mistake here, because—unless my eyes deceive me—they forgot to put a dot at the mora vocis we’ve been discussing:
Usually, the dots are quite easy to see:
Dr. Franz Xaver Mathias (an Alsatian priest) was organist at Strasburg Cathedral, where he founded the “Saint Leo Institute for Church Music” in 1913. His editions are incredibly faithful to the official rhythm. To be honest, his editions are probably the most faithful of all. Notice that Father Mathias properly marks the final neume before the mora vocis (i.e. both notes). Notice, also—shown by the blue arrow—that Father Mathias correctly marks a sneaky (but correct) instance of the mora vocis. Here is his 1925 edition:
That’s because Father Mathias was able to ascertain the “width of a notehead” could fit between. The pink line shows the mora vocis while the yellow line demonstrates the width “equal to a notehead.” Here you go:
If you want to see more examples, I assembled several for you here:
Well over a decade ago, several members of Corpus Christi Watershed made great personal sacrifices to provide digital scans of these extremely rare books, such as the NOH. Many people over the years have imitated the books CCW has brought to light. For example, the organ accompaniments done by ICEL clearly mimic the NOH notation:
ICEL routinely refers to “their” notation as “the ICEL notation,” and they are incredibly controlling when it comes to people reproducing it. I don’t expect this to happen, but it would be nice if they could at least have the integrity to acknowledge the incredible debt they owe to people like Flor Peeters.