N FEBRUARY of 1958, John Sandar of Saint Patrick’s Church (Auckland, New Zealand) wrote as follows to the editorial team of CAECILIA MAGAZINE: “Gentlemen: Nobody is going to follow the archaic and quack ideas on Chant you are trying to propagate.” Mr. Sandar was referring to the fact that during the late 1950s, Monsignor Francis P. Schmitt (editor of CAECILIA MAGAZINE) was promoting the official edition and disparaging the rhythmic modifications Dom Mocquereau made to the official edition. According to Monsignor Schmitt, the majority of the CAECILIA editorial team preferred the pure Editio Vaticana, and rejected what Schmitt sarcastically dubbed the Neo-Solesmes school “which had nothing but episemas to fall back on.” In particular, Monsignor Schmitt was quite excited about the new edition of the Editio Vaticana prepared by Schwann, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius X’s MOTU PROPRIO “Inter pastoralis officii” (a.k.a. Tra Le Sollecitudini) dealing with church music, which appeared on 22 November 1903. This 1953 edition bore a letter of approbation by the Most Reverend JOSEPH CARDINAL FRINGS, Archbishop of Cologne.1
Argument From Authority • For twenty years, I have been aware that Dom Mocquereau’s modifications were technically in violation of the Vatican decrees. The 1958 document issued under Pope Pius XII (“De musica sacra et sacra liturgia”) was explicit and unambiguous when it spoke of modifications to the official rhythm. Indeed, as Terence Gahagan of Westminster noted: “Dom Mocquerau’s home-made rhythmic system […] conflicts with the Vatican’s own instructions for performance of the Chant.” I can’t think of any other word except dishonest when it comes to the INTRODUCTION to the Liber Usualis (Solesmes, 1961), which said: “The place of honour in this Solesmes Edition of the Vatican Official text is given to the VATICAN PREFACE. Its wise counsels and general Principles of interpretation are embodied, elucidated and enlarged upon in the Rules given further on.” Then, if you turn the page, that same book explicitly contradicts (!) the VATICAN PREFACE.
Why Did Jeff Change? • For decades, I spent hours listening to gramophone recordings by Dom Gajard and his successors. I knew the Mocquereau editions backwards and forwards. They were—quite literally—all I’d ever known. Indeed, the books edited by Mocquereau were so pervasive, I often said: “Only a lunatic would adopt the pure Vaticana at this point.” So what finally made me switch? First of all, I grew embarrassed trying to justify Mocquereau’s contradictions—such as the fake salicus—to my volunteer choir members. Secondly, some of the Mocquereau tenets seemed increasingly difficult to justify, such as Mocquereau’s obsession with placing accents on the final syllable, as the French language does. Thirdly, I came to feel that Mocquereau’s excessive elongations distorted the melodic line, creating (as Cardine’s boss used to say) a “Neo-Mensuralism.” Therefore, I decided to sing the official edition as it was intended to be sung by those who created it.
Apples-To-Apples Comparison • At this year’s upcoming Sacred Music Symposium, the participants will make a recording of the ALLELUIA VERSE for June 22nd (“Tu Es Sacérdos In Ætérnum”). The ladies will sing according to the “untouched” Editio Vaticana and the men will sing according to the rhythmic method of Dom Mocquereau. Then, when the conference is over, the participants can go home and compare the two approaches. I have attempted to compose an organ accompaniment for the “pure” Editio Vaticana version. This morning, I also recorded a rehearsal video:
* PDF Download • ORGAN ACCOMPANIMENT (23 May 2023)
—ALLELUIA VERSE • “Tu es sacérdos in ætérnum” • Accompaniment by Jeff Ostrowski.
Here’s the direct URL link.
The version by Dom Mocquereau is quite different, because he adds elongations which are not in the official edition and ignores elongations which are supposed to be there. The two versions are exhaustively discussed and meticulous compared in the 330-page booklet which will be given to each symposium participant. (The entire booklet—all 330 pages—can be downloaded at the website for the Sacred Music Symposium.)
1 I have written voluminously about these issues, but I still have more to say. I will do so over the coming months. For the time being, it must be said that, in spite of the 1953 note by the editors regarding the “melismatic mora vocis,” their edition only made matters worse. By the way, notice how they mention “the possibility of a nocturnal Easter ceremony.” They are talking about the 1951 option of celebrating the Holy Saturday’s Easter Vigil in the evening rather than the morning. This became mandatory starting in 1956.