ECHNICALLY, it’s incorrect to say extremely unique—because something’s either unique or it’s not. It’s likewise wrong to describe someone as somewhat pregnant, because a woman is either pregnant or she’s not. I’ve always been bothered by the CHANT PERFORMANCE MANUAL (2011) published by Father Columba Kelly. In that book, Father Kelly constantly refers to Gregorian Chant as “sung speech,” and on page 110 he claims to have learned this definition from Dom Eugène Cardine. The problem is, that designation is redundant. By definition, songs contain lyrics.
Music Is More Than Speech • After all, music isn’t just speech. It’s music! If music were merely a “heightened form” of speech meant to “make the words more discernible,” we could all purchase expensive loudspeakers, carefully recite the sacred texts into a microphone during Mass, and call it a day. But that’s never been the tradition of the Church. On the other hand, the temptation has always been there to reduce music to speech. Monsignor Franz X. Haberl (d. 1910) had a famous maxim which he repeated over and over: “Sing as you speak.” You can learn more about Monsignor Haberl’s approach if you read this 2014 article.
50% of the Time • There are numerous examples of Cantus Gregorianus which “honor” the tonic accent of Latin words in a way Baroque composers would recognize and endorse. On the other hand, there are just as many examples showing the Gregorian composers taking pains to do the exact opposite. For decades, I wondered why that was the case. I finally realized that this was a very sophisticated way of treating the tonic accent; a way which never gets ‘stale’ no matter how many times one sings the piece. A child learning English—needless to say—must learn the proper accentuation by a slow process that begins with “Goo goo Gah gah.” But the Gregorianists are light-years beyond that! Indeed, passages such as the following abound in the Gregorian repertoire:
Sálve Regína in English? • Not long ago, I uploaded 17 organ accompaniments for the simple version of the “Salve Regina.” (When all was said and done, it was actually 19—but who’s counting?) More recently, I posted 32 more versions, going back more than 150 years. Now I would like to share four (4) versions in English. I never knew these existed until earlier today!
* PDF Download • SALVE REGINA (1958)
—“Monastic Vesperal” (1958) • The entire publication is 401 pages long.
—Saint Scholastica’s Convent • Fort Smith, Arkansas.
—IMPRIMATUR by Bishop Albert L. Fletcher, Bishop of Little Rock.
* PDF Download • SALVE REGINA (1952)
—Winfred Douglas was an Anglican clergyman.
* PDF Download • SALVE REGINA (1953)
—Dr. Theodore Marier published this version in 1953.
* PDF Download • SALVE REGINA (1964)
—IMPRIMATUR—30 June 1964—from Bishop Leibold (Auxiliary of Cincinnati).
Addendum • We were glad to receive an additional setting from Mr. Rick Wheeler.
My favorite ‘Englished’ version of the Sálve Regína is by an FSSP priest:
M GREETINGS, O MOTHER, as well the QUEEN of clemency:
M sweet in our living and our hoping, greetings!
M EVE’s banished children, lo unto thee we are calling:
M to thee we are sighing, are mourning and weeping
M in this valley desolating.
M Pray thee therefore, who art our DEFENDING,
M pray thee therefore, those ever-clement eyes of thine
M toward us turning:
M and JESUS, he the blessèd offspring of thy bearing,
M once past is this our banishment, displaying.
M O gentle, O loving, O gracious MARY the Virgin!
“Against the Grain” • Bearing in mind everything I have written (above), I will now say something somewhat contradictory. I feel that for syllabic chants of the Divine Office—especially if one is trying to get amateurs to join in the singing—it is usually better to avoid “going against the grain” of the tonic accent for English adaptations of plainsong. In my humble opinion, Winfred Douglas (d. 1944) should have allowed himself to become more familiar with the Gregorian repertoire before attempting to create adaptations. See if you agree that Winfred’s setting of “Ad Jesum Autem” has several terrible sections:
Charles Weaver • It goes without saying that even a flawed adaptation would still sound beautiful when sung by a golden voice such as Professor Weaver. But here I’m thinking of the so-called “unwashed masses” (no pun intended).