Musical Accompaniment to the Divine Office

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Do Not Be Afraid
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Musical Accompaniment to the Divine Office

Post by Do Not Be Afraid » Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:43 pm

Hello all - for some time I have been trying to make some kind of start into (on specific occasions) singing the Divine Office. It has been somewhat of a long term thing, but has recently come back into focus for me since being at Westminster Cathedral some weeks ago (in fact on the feast of St Cecilia!) and joining in with Sung vespers at 5pm there by chance. It was stunning.

Key aspects from my perspective:-

1. I would like it to be in English if possible
2. I would like if possible to be able to offer a "sung" antiphon melody line for each of the three psalms in some kind of handout
3. (The hard one) - I would like to be able to have one of our musicians accompany the individual psalm verses. What I noted at Westminster was the very quickly people picked up the tune and the "pattern" of the repeated psalm verse music, and they only had to work out when the notes changed each verse - since this was different obviously each time, but again, the handout had appropriate notation(?) on it to help people to discern where the line should change. I do wonder if the accompaniment to the verses was somehow improvised since even in (say) an 8 verse psalm, I think I heard at least 6 different chord progressions used, rather than just the one. As said above, it was stunning.

I did try and catch either the cantor or the organist on that evening, but both were very quick off the mark at the end, since I think they were also to be singing at the 6pm Mass which I couldn't stay for. So I left uplifted, and having realized that singing the Office was certainly something that was achievable, but I honestly have no idea where to start.

As said, it is a long-term project, but we do have occasional Holy Hours etc where I think now and again, singing rather than saying vespers would be an appropriate thing to introduce. I am also fortunate to have a PP who sings well and who would be happy to play a part too, and in general, the congregation at our parish are (generally) happy to try new things now and again (as long as not each week!)

Once again, folks, I just wonder if anyone here has any experience or knowledge that could at least allow me to make some kind of start on this mini-project. I am more than happy to do all the legwork, buy books etc if such things exist, but I am just not sure where to even look for something like this.

Thanks in advance for any guidance which any SSG experts are able to offer me and Best wishes with your musical endeavours for 2017.

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Gwyn
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Re: Musical Accompaniment to the Divine Office

Post by Gwyn » Sun Jan 01, 2017 9:50 pm

Hello there, DNBA,

What a wonderful plan. I hope all goes well.

Are you thinking of singing the psalms to simple psalm tones (see attached pdf file)? If so, then I'll be happy to email you accompaniments to a good number of these.

Are you thinking of Evening Prayer (Vespers) or Night Prayer (Compline)? Post a list of the the psalms and Canticle(s) that you intend to use, seasonal antiphons can quickly be gotten herein I'm sure.

:D
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Do Not Be Afraid
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Re: Musical Accompaniment to the Divine Office

Post by Do Not Be Afraid » Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:34 am

Hi Gwyn, many thanks for coming back to me, and for sending me the sample PDF. Much much appreciated.

Yes, it was Vespers basically that I was looking to do. The simpler the better for me, but as I said, I am keen that (especially for the verses) that there is some level of accompaniment. Once I have a firm date (we have a monthly Holy Hour for vocations, and I suspect realistically, the February one will be my first target) I will post the particular psalms up here.

As you have said, and which I failed to realize in the depths of Christmas and New Year, is that in the end these are indeed just psalms, so any suitable book of settings would also give me some pointers. I think I had assumed that there might be prepared "groups" of arrangements as they have I think within the Anglican tradition.

Thanks so much for coming back to me and giving me such a good start. This is definitely going to be something that I can achieve now.
Cheers
DNBA

Southern Comfort
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Re: Musical Accompaniment to the Divine Office

Post by Southern Comfort » Mon Jan 02, 2017 6:22 pm

To answer one of the questions, yes, the accompaniments at Westminster are improvised. One of the things about accompanying psalm tones is that they can get incredibly boring if you don't vary the accompaniment somewhat, even if not for every verse.

Interesting to see Gwyn's two psalm tones. The first one looks like a conflation of two well known monastic tones, while the second one was written many years ago by Tony Barr for a setting of Ps 33 "Taste and see", published by the St Thomas More Centre.

You might want to take a look at Dom Laurence Bévenot's eight psalm tones, which not only cover the eight mores but provide for most of the different moods you are likely to encounter in the psalms for Vespers.

A useful tip for antiphons is to use parts 1 and 4 of a 4-line tone. That also helps the people to get familiar with the tone, and the tonality!

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Gwyn
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Re: Musical Accompaniment to the Divine Office

Post by Gwyn » Mon Jan 02, 2017 6:31 pm

. . . A useful tip for antiphons is to use parts 1 and 4 of a 4-line tone. That also helps the people to get familiar with the tone, and the tonality!

Excellent strategy S.C.

Do Not Be Afraid
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Re: Musical Accompaniment to the Divine Office

Post by Do Not Be Afraid » Mon Jan 02, 2017 9:27 pm

Thanks Gwyn and SC - really helpful starts for me there. I will let you know... :-)

High Peak
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Re: Musical Accompaniment to the Divine Office

Post by High Peak » Tue Jan 03, 2017 3:00 am

Hello, DNBA,

I have emailed you some materials that I have used in my parish (including at the candlelit sung Vespers during Advent that you may be aware of). I also may be able to introduce you to someone who MAY be willing/able to assist.

Let me know.

Do Not Be Afraid
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Re: Musical Accompaniment to the Divine Office

Post by Do Not Be Afraid » Wed Jan 04, 2017 8:19 am

Hi HP - thanks indeed for the offer of help. Much appreciated. It is a mini-project I've been mulling over for a couple of years, but given the experience at Westminster, it has pushed me into trying something more locally. I will be in touch via PM.. Thanks indeed.

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