ITTING IN THE COMFORT of my own home, I can instantly “harmonize at sight” any piece in the ANTIPHONALE or GRADUALE. But playing Vespers in real life—as my parish does each Sunday with the congregation—is a different story. The psalms, hymns, versicles, and canticles follow each other instantaneously; there’s no time to think! Because of this reality, I carefully notate Vespers, even though doing so is tedious and incredibly time-consuming. In a moment, I will continue speaking to you about how wearisome and strenuous it is to edit plainsong.
Free Booklet • Here’s my organ accompaniment for GAUDETE SUNDAY (3rd Sunday of Advent):
* PDF Download • ACCOMPANIMENT BOOK (23 pages)
—Organ Accompaniment • Vespers for “Gaudete” Sunday.
Attention To Detail • Although Dom Combe’s famous book 1 gathers together into one place an incredible amount of valuable documents, he comes across as a shameless MOCQUEREAU SYCOPHANT. In Combe’s mind, Pothier was the “enemy” of Mocquereau. Therefore, Combe seems to believe that Pothier must be disparaged. One of Combe’s most dishonest statements is on page 65: “Dom Pothier, too, was consistent with his own style, which was based on taking great liberties, the enemy of excessive attention to detail.” Abbat Pothier almost single-handedly created the Processionale, Liber Responsorialis, Liber Antiphonarius, Liber Gradualis, Toni Communes, and Ordinarium Missae. Any sane person who examines these marvelous productions would never declare their editor to be “the enemy of excessive attention to detail.” Another dishonest statement is where Dom Combe claims Pothier’s 1883 LIBER GRADUALIS owes to Montpellier H.159 “all of its merit.” As a matter of fact, according to Dom Pothier, the Montpellier manuscript is “not always in conformity with the pure Gregorian tradition.”
Homeless for 15 years? • It’s absolutely remarkable to recall that Abbat Pothier was able to complete so many of his wonderful publications while the Solesmes monastery was banished and exiled for fifteen years due to the French government’s anti-clerical persecution. Although the monks were “exiled” they (seemingly) were allowed to live in the town of Solesmes “scattered in various houses throughout the village.” It seems they were eventually allowed to assemble in the convent of Sainte-Cécile to sing their daily offices. [The Abbey of Sainte-Cécile is a monastery of Benedictine nuns in Solesmes village, a few hundred yards from the Abbey of Saint-Pierre.] Here’s how Combe describes it:
“The year 1880—when Dom Pothier’s Les mélodies grégoriennes, d’après la tradition was published—was marked by the forced physical expulsion of the monks from their Abbey, on 8 November 1880. This expulsion was to last fifteen years, with the exception of a few months when the monks believed that they could return to their home. They were evicted once again in March 1882, and could not return this time until 1895. At first, the expelled monks were divided into various groups, forming a number of small monasteries in the town of Solesmes and vicinity. Dom Mocquereau was among those who took refuge in Chesnaies, in the Mayenne region. There, they lived at the home of the Due de Chaulnes, where the students were gathered. [Although a priest, Dom Mocquereau had not completed his theology studies in keeping with the usual course followed in the Congregation.] The Abbey’s presses had been brought to Chesnaies, whence the Imprimerie Saint-Pierre (the monastery press), which was to render such great service in spreading traditional Gregorian chant, would soon be transferred to Solesmes itself. In June 1881, the students returned to Solesmes. They resided at La Rose, the monastery’s hostelry, since only the conventual buildings, strictly speaking, were off limits to their rightful owners. Little by little, nearly the entire community had gathered in Solesmes, albeit scattered in various houses in the village. The entire community congregated in various places at various times: all the monks gathered at the parish church or at Sainte-Cécile for the Offices, for meals at the common refectory (although not right away) in an outbuilding of the monastery, and for Chapter in the attic of the Presbytery.”
Who’s Who (When) At Solesmes • For the record, Dom Mocquereau entered the novitiate on 22 July 1875. By that time, Dom Pothier’s LIBER GRADUALIS had already been finished for 6 years, since it was completed (cf. Combe p68) in 1868—four years after the end of the American Civil War!—although it was not published until 1883. In April 1893, Dom Pothier took leave of the (banished) Solesmes community to become Prior of the Abbey of Liguge. On 9 April 1885, Dom Mocquereau had called Dom Pothier “one of the glories of Solesmes.”
1 This article includes excerpts from: Histoire de la restauration du chant grégorien d’apres des documents inedites: Solesmes et l’Edition Vaticane published in 1969 by Dom Pierre Combe of Solesmes Abbey. CUA published an English version in 2003, translated by Dr. Theodore Marier and—after he died—a former student of his. The 2003 version is: “The Restoration of Gregorian Chant: Solesmes and the Vatican Edition.” Broadly speaking, the 1969 book by Dom Combe is a collection of journal articles. Many of the Italian sections in the 2003 version were translated by Monsignor Robert Skeris.