IN my previous post, I argued against two frequent assertions of Jeff Ostrowski. He has responded thus:
It may seem insignificant, but I would like to underscore that I don’t consider these claims as mine. For instance, the letter from the Prefect for the Congregation of Sacred Rites dated 18 February 1910 speaks (explicitly) on behalf of “the mind of the Holy Father and of the Sacred Congregation of Rites.” That letter specifically says “the rhythmical form of the melodies […] is inseparable from the edition itself.”
I will try to clarify exactly what two claims I am disputing. You can read what I wrote in context, but here the two claims are, in the form of questions:
- Does the rhythmic interpretation described in the Vatican Edition preface remain the “official rhythm of the Catholic Church?”
- Are the Solesmes rhythmic signs “illicit?”
In the first question, the key word is remain. Ostrowski frequently uses phrases such as “the rhythm of the official edition is still technically mandated by the church.” If this is so, is there a current document that states this mandate, which remains in place? Is there a current member of the Roman curia who would agree with this stance? Does Ostrowski’s position reflect the mind of the current Holy Father? The latest piece of evidence he has given so far is from 1958, and even that is open to different interpretations by reasonable people. A lot has changed in the realm of sacred music since then.
As to the second question, I will also need to see some further evidence. The fact of history remains that as long as there has been a typical edition of the Roman Gradual, there has also been a typical edition of the Roman Gradual with added rhythmic signs. These have been permitted, tolerated, or allowed with varying degrees of coolness or warmth by the Roman authorities since the beginning, but the key point is that they have been allowed. There was indeed a lot of polemic directed against the signs in 1906 and for perhaps a decade after. But nowhere (after the change in design of the Solesmes signs) does a member of the hierarchy definitively say “The Solesmes signs are illicit.”
I insist on this point because it seems impossible to me to have a discussion of paleography or performance practice if we cannot agree on what the Catholic Church allows with regard to singing Gregorian chant. At least one reader has been convinced that “it seems we have all been disobedient.” I say, to the contrary, that anyone who sings Gregorian Chant liturgically with the intention of serving the most beautiful and artful liturgical practice has absolutely not been disobedient but is working for the good of the Church. Both Bruno de Labriolle and the nuns of Jouques are doing great things for the cause of sacred music. If either of these are violating a mandate of the Church by the way they sing, I will have to see better evidence of it than what has been offered so far.