ELOW is the the accompaniment edition for “The Monastery Hymnal” (1954), which was compiled, arranged, and edited by Achille P. Bragers. This hymnal is extremely rare! The book was sent to us by Father Mark Mazza, Pastor of a Catholic Church near San Francisco. Achille P. Bragers had quite a reputation for the Gregorian accompaniments he produced, as well as his 1934 Treatise on Gregorian Accompaniment (which can be downloaded at the Saint Lalande Library as a PDF file). Bragers studied at the Lemmens Institute in Belgium about 35 years before that Institute produced the final word on Gregorian accompaniment. Bragers later emigrated to the United States. He became a faculty member of the “Pius X School of Liturgical Music”—part of the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart (New York). Sadly, the Pius X school closed in 1969.
Bragers was born on 14 February 1887. On 15 February 1954, Francis Cardinal Spellman granted the IMPRIMATUR to his hymnal. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to release our scanned PDF during the month of February:
* PDF Download • 1954 MONASTERY HYMNAL (131 pages)
File Size = 162MB • Compiled, Arranged, and Edited by Achille P. Bragers.
The Hymnal By Bragers
It’s interesting to see what kind of items were included by Bragers, quite a famous church musician. For example, his hymnal is the only book I’ve ever seen to include the “Divine Praises” for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament set to music—cf. Number 102. (The tune and harmonies were composed by Bragers.) Many of the pieces, such as the Ave Maria and the Salve Regina, include singable English translations as well as the Latin. The vernacular was becoming quite fashionable at that time. The hymnal by Bragers was published around the time the Korean War ended, about four years before “Leave It to Beaver” appeared on television and around the time Jackie Gleason’s popular Honeymooners was launched.
Although it’s of great historical interest, this 1954 hymnal by Bragers cannot compare to the Brébeuf hymnal. For one thing, the harmonies by Bragers are often flawed. Notice, for instance, the “hidden octaves” between outer voices, which is not allowed:
Unlike the Brébeuf hymnal, the attributions by Bragers are often faulty. For example, Bragers erroneously attributes the translation on page 30 (Stabat Mater) to Father Caswall. In fact, many stanzas don’t come from Caswall—they come from Aubrey Thomas de Vere (d. 1902), an Irish poet who converted to the Roman Catholic Church in 1851. (For a few years, Aubrey held a professorship under Saint John Henry Newman in the Catholic University of Dublin.) You can verify my assertion by reading this 2018 article, in which I revealed an astonishing chart containing eight different Roman Catholic translations of the Stabat Mater.
Finally, Bragers often only includes 2-3 verses, whereas the Brébeuf hymnal always includes the complete hymn—for important reasons. An example would be pages 48-49, where Bragers only includes three verses of Salutis Humane Sator and deletes all the rest. The deletion of verses is a continuous problem throughout “The Monastery Hymnal.”
Bragers As Harmonist
Recently, I played the accompaniment to Sanctus IX and Agnus Dei IX by Bragers. I needed to do this because my singers for that day like accompaniments to be very low, and Bragers provided a “low key” for his KYRIALE. I found these accompaniments by Bragers to be really awful: unbearable. Therefore, I begged Andrew Hinkley to transpose Sanctus IX and Agnus Dei IX from the NOH to a lower key, and he kindly provided me with transposed scores. Speaking of Gregorian accompaniments, I did something very naughty the other day. I was accompanying Mass IV, and the “Kyrie Eleyson” from that Mass does not conform to modal theory, since it ends on A-Natural. For reasons I cannot explain, I added a Picardy Third…and you can hear my transgression in this live recording:
Perhaps the worst accompaniments ever written for the Editio Vaticana are by Max Springer. He was organist of the Royal Abbey of Emaus, a branch of the Beuron Archabbey, where Springer first studied. The Emaus monastery was established in 1347AD in Prague. (In 1906, Prague was still part of Austria.) Below are some examples of the accompaniments by Max Springer, which can be downloaded from the Lalande Library as a PDF document.
Max Springer must have been smoking crack cocaine when he composed his accompaniments, which completely distort the Gregorian modality and sound more like a Divertimento by Mozart:
The following harmonies by Springer—for Passion Sunday—are so wild and distracting, they make it extremely difficult to sing the melody!
The harmonies by Bragers are much nicer than those by his colleague, Max Springer, so perhaps I should not have criticized Bragers so harshly. I will conclude by saying that the beautiful Gregorian harmonies started with Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens and continued to develop through his successor, Edgar Tinel (who taught Bragers). More advances were made under Tinel’s successor, Aloys Desmet. Finally, perfection was reached with Desmet’s successor, Monsignor Jules Van Nuffel.