ECAUSE OF VARIOUS obligations which take up my time and energy, I have not always been able to respond to questions from Patrick Williams in the Gregorian Rhythm Wars series. However, I believe readers who examine my articles will notice I made a “good faith effort” to handle as many questions as possible (although it sometimes takes me a while to find the requisite time). Since I have a few moments, let me try to respond to an issue Patrick raised in his 16 September 2023 installment. Specifically, Patrick gave examples where I added arrows—and similar markings—to the official edition, asking:
In all seriousness, how are all of Jeff’s markings and alterations fine if Mocquereau’s (and mine) are supposedly absolutely forbidden? It is difficult to fathom how adding a dotted line straight through all four lines of the staff is permissible but writing a dot after a note is out of the question.
Patrick, I would direct your attention to DE MUSICA SACRA (“Instruction on Sacred Music”) issued under Pope Pius XII in 1958. In particular, notice the following section:
The “force and meaning” incontestably refers to the rhythm—not the pitch—when we consider the rest of the paragraph.
This Coming Sunday • In the Extraordinary Form, this coming Sunday is the 17th Sunday after Pentecost. I have recorded a rehearsal video for the INTROIT (“Justus es Dómine”), sung according to the official rhythm:
Rational Beings • Almighty God created us as rational beings. We can be certain that an arrow pointing to an “MMV” (melismatic mora vocis) does not modify or contradict the official rhythm. Over the last 10 years, I have provided hundreds of examples—and I could easily cite thousands more—where Dom Mocquereau’s editions contradict the official rhythm by adding elongations where they don’t belong or by omitting elongations which are supposed to be there. By doing such things, Dom Mocquereau does not preserve “the force and meaning of the notes found in the Vatican books of liturgical chant.” Dom Lucien David, protégé of the monk appointed by Pope Saint Pius X as president of the Vatican Commission on Gregorian Chant, published a fabulous edition in 1932 virtually identical to the edition I’m in the process of creating. I never knew about those books by Dom Lucien David until Dr. Charles Weaver told me. (Had I known about them back in 1997, my life would have been quite different—but Dr. Weaver made the decision to wait 26 years to inform me.)
A Single Breath Mark! • Perhaps you noticed that in my score (above) I indicated a place where a quick breath might be taken—in spite of the fact that the official edition says nothing about that. As I have tried to explain over the last several decades, ABBAT POTHIER left freedom to each individual choirmaster when it comes to minor matters. To explain things another way, it would be irrational for someone to say: “Jeff added a possible breath mark were none was indicated in the official edition. By doing so, he has endorsed the 40,000 modifications by Dom Mocquereau.” As rational beings, we are capable of making distinctions when it comes to minor issues Vs. major issues. Moreover, this is not something I invented. Pothier’s “freedom” is illustrated by those who produced editions of the EDITIO VATICANA, such as Professor Amédée Gastoué, Dr. Peter Wagner, Father Franz Mathias, Maxwell Springer, Marcel Dupré, Dom Lucien David, Joseph Gogniat, Monsignor Franz Nekes, the LEMMENSINSTITUUT, and so forth.
Patrick’s Keen Eye • I must admit that Patrick has a keen eye. He spotted an instance where I eliminated some liquescent notes. I did that because some of my singers struggle with liquescent notes—and I made the judgment call that this was not a change of deep significance, especially considering the current crisis of the church. So there’s that “rational” business again! I decided it was not an issue of great significance—and others are free to criticize me for this.1
Excessive Force • The musical reforms of Pope Saint Pius X are not above criticism. For instance, following his decrees, some believed only plainchant was allowed. That meant many of the beautiful traditions of parish Vespers were eliminated—and I would suggest this was a travesty. One thing in particular happened in those days: something I believe was reprehensible. The Germans had simple little melodies they used for the plainchant between the Epistle and Gospel. They had used those melodies for many years, and loved them. Pressure was brought to bear on Monsignor Haberl, who pleaded in for their continued use—but his pleadings fell upon deaf ears. Essentially, Haberl was told that the only permissible “simplified melodies” were those constructed according to the psalmody patterns in the EDITIO VATICANA. As far as I’m concerned, that ruling was absurd. Singing simplified versions of those chants—even though they didn’t match the EDITIO VATICANA simplified versions—should have been allowed to continue. This is doubly true when we consider all the different forms of music fully allowed for those same chants. Even modern polyphony was allowed!
Bookmark: Gregorian Rhythm Wars contains all previous installments of our series.
1 For the record, Joseph Gogniat criticized Abbat Pothier over his inconsistency vis-à-vis liquescent notes. As a matter of fact, Abbat Pothier simply followed the ancient manuscripts, which are themselves inconsistent in that regard.