M The following was sent to us
M by Matthew Frederes (and is
M reproduced with permission).
LOVE the absolutely professional, scholarly, well reasoned, and dare I say entertaining format of your Gregorian Rhythm Wars series! How about adding one in parallel for melody wars? Jeff Ostrowski is the manuscript expert I respect the most, and his latest article (as well as countless others) contains concrete evidence and logic that is irrefutable… Of all the articles, his is the most level-headed, logical, and humble. I believe he presents the most conservative approach, and it’s the one easiest to defend. [Editor’s Note: Mr. Frederes, please stay tuned. There’s much more on the way! Indeed, we’re just getting warmed up.]
Chant Legislation • I am not aware of anyone who has presented concrete evidence that Dom Mocquereau’s markings represent the ‘true’ rhythm, except for his own justifications, which seem to be merely circular references. On the other hand, I am aware of several in Mocquereau’s time who strongly asserted quite the opposite: that there was nothing traditional at all about Mocquereau’s changes. Of course, Dom Pothier saw it that way especially. As Mr. Ostrowski points out, the illegitimacy of adding rhythmic markings to the Editio Vaticana seems crystal clear from a legislative standpoint as well. It does bother me however that when Ecclesia Dei responded to the Dubia presented by Fr. Pietras, they affirmed that aberrations of the Chant are now tolerated, even in the EF, when he asked if the “chants performed […] using a different method […] are acceptable?” PCED responded, “affirmative”. Um, care to elaborate? This makes our attempt to assert any level of legislative certainty four years later a lot harder, when our most recent albeit weak (with respect to rhythmica) prohibition of alteration is from 1958. Why declare that rhythmic signs are permitted if alteration of any kind is unacceptable? It doesn’t make any sense to authorize and then de-authorize the same thing, so they must be different. It’s crazy.
Mr. Ostrowski Has Changed? • All that said, I have also agreed with many of Mr. Ostrowski’s earlier statements, especially those below. I am wondering, has he changed his mind recently regarding what we should do going forward, given our predicament? Does he now believe we should try to unseat Mocquereau? Is he already doing so with his choir?
November 28, 2018: “However, the CSM (Classical Solesmes Method) has been the universally preferred way to perform plainsong for 120 years, and denying this reality would be futile.”
January 23, 2020 “Only a fool would attempt to implement the official rhythm when the classical Solesmes method has reigned supreme for 115 years.” […] “For the last 115 years, the Solesmes editions have become the traditional chant of the Church; this cannot be changed. It would be lunacy to attempt to restore the ‘pure’ Editio Vaticana at this point.”
September 24, 2022 “The hardest thing about memorizing music is not melodies that are identical. Rather, it’s melodies which are almost identical.”
Hesitations • Everyone wants to know, how did they originally sing the chant? Truth is, we don’t know. There are no recordings from the time period. What we do have is a book that the Church has given us, with every intention that we use it, but honestly, I don’t look forward to the unlearning process to switch to the pure Editio Vaticana. Still, I’ll do it, if it’s the right thing to do. Like Mr. Ostrowski, I have spent 20 years with Dom Mocquereau, and have great portions of the Liber Usualis memorized. Even the FSSP seminary teaches Dom Mocquereau and use the Liber Usualis. After digging in, it seems we have all been disobedient… I would commit to (quasi)relearning the Chants from the Editio Vaticana—and would strongly promote the movement—if it would be once and for all the last time I would ever have to unlearn / relearn every Chant in the entire liturgical year. If I would never again have to suffer hearing (or singing) any other version of the Chant in any parish where we might find ourselves, I see no reason to hang on to Dom Mocquereau, so long as ample didactic resources are available to explain the method of singing the Editio Vaticana. Dom Mocquereau’s method is one that that actually allows Catholics to learn, sing, and pray the chant. It can be taught to anyone—at its simplest level—in a matter of minutes. Of course it can be sung poorly … but the well trained schola can achieve beauty with some work. It has numerous textbooks and copious didactic resources, which is why (I suppose) the Liber Usualis became quickly popular, and ultimately made the Editio Vaticana essentially moot. Can we achieve that with the Vaticana?
FSSP Leading? • If the FSSP district superior would promulgate that henceforth, the Editio Vaticana was mandated to become the standard in all Fraternity parishes—and for all scholas—I would easily commit to abandoning the Liber Usualis in a heartbeat, for the sake of unity. Then we who are committed to Tradition in the sacred rites could once again worship with Una Voce. As I mentioned earlier, they would have to contradict Ecclesia Dei to do so, which is why they may never weigh in…
New Idea • Not only must we win the “Chant Rhythm Wars”, we also need to win the “Chant Melody/Pitch Wars” now ablaze… Maybe there should be a whole series on Views from the Choir Loft which parallels the rhythm wars, with the intention of vanquishing the Cardine neumaticists. Some well-landed shots in that direction were taken today by Mr. Patrick Williams! I abhor and despise the pulsation, abrupt bursts of hyper-warp-speed-neumes & rubato in the name of phrasing, altered melodies and the sharps (!) now being used to corrupt the Chant. In my view, those folks are a much worse offense to the Chant than Dom Mocquereau ever was. We really do need a standard everyone can agree on, and some leadership from the priests.
Literature • I’m curious if your organization has have ever come across this article from The Caecilia in 1935 titled: “Use of the Solesmes Editions”? I recently purchased two additional resources for my library and research into the history of the Chant, which I am excited to finish reading:
Papal Legislation on Sacred Music, 95 A.D. to 1977 A.D. by Robert F. Hayburn. This book has some really interesting information within, including some hard to find papal documents about the Chant, including one of St Pius X which I had never seen before. Still much to read in this book.
The Politics of Plainchant in fin-de-siècle France by Katherine Ellis. Some very interesting details about the conflicts surrounding the research, production and publication of the Chant. Still much left to read here as well.