Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei

Ref: CDG1163

Agnus Dei
Plainchant for Meditation


The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament of Corpus Christi

1 Introit/Psalm/Gloria Cibavit eos
2 Kyrie De angelis
3 Gloria De angelis
4 Gradual Oculi omnium
5 Alleluia Alleluia
6 Sequence Lauda Sion
7 Offertory Sacerdotes Domini
8 Sanctus De angelis
9 Agnus Dei De angelis
10 Communion Quotiescumque
11 Dismissal Ite missa est
12 Antiphon/Psalm/Antiphon Sacerdos in aeternum/Dixit Dominus
13 Antiphon/Psalm/Antiphon Miserator Dominus/Confitebor
14 Antiphon/Psalm/Antiphon Calicem salutaris/Credidi
15 Antiphon/Psalm/Antiphon Sicut novellae/Beati omnes
16 Antiphon/Psalm/Antiphon Qui pacem/Lauda Jerusalem
17 Antiphon & Magnificat O quam suavis/Magnificat
18 Antiphon Alma redemptoris mater -simple tone
19 Antiphon Ave regina - simple tone
20 Antiphon Regina caeli - simple tone
21 Antiphon Salve regina - simple tone
22 Hymn Pange lingua gloriosi

Magdala directed by David Skinner


CCL CDG1163
Cover image: Book of Hours for Louis Jules Gallois, Comte de Naives Auguste Ledoux, Charles Leblanc and others (Paris 19th century) V&A Images/Victoria & Albert Museum
P & C 2006 Classical Communications Ltd
Made in Great Britain

One of the greatest glories of the Medieval Christian church, plainchant is the musical equivalent of the sequences of Gothic arches of the cathedrals of Northern France, or the beautiful ornamentation of an otherwise plain façade of an Italian church or Spanish monastery.

The early church quickly developed a detailed and highly organised pattern of worship, with different prayers and bible readings for each time of the day. These were known as the Offices. The Offices formed the basis of the liturgy and were in turn centred around the most important service of the day, the Mass, in which the body and blood, and the death and resurrection of Christ, were symbolically recalled. Plainchant developed as a musical way of expressing this liturgy. Tradition has it that all its disparate strands, melodies and types were categorised and ordered by Pope Gregory, whence comes its alternative name of Gregorian chant.

Our music on this recording is taken from the Liber Usualis, a more modern equivalent of Gregory's work, although even this comprehensive volume of music has its roots in the nineteenth century. The Liber Usualis sets out the musical requirements of the liturgy as it follows the church's calendar, a cycle of worship based on the life of Christ, from Advent, when the birth of Christ is announced, through Christmas and Easter to the great Feast of the Trinity, in which God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is fully acknowledged. Then, as with the seasons and the passing of year upon year, the cycle starts again with Advent.

The music, always a single, unaccompanied melody, reflects the liturgical pattern of Offices and Mass, and changes its character appropriately. So the psalms are intoned in a simple way, as befits their status: clarity of text was essential to their understanding. But the more commonly repeated liturgical texts, or texts specific to a major Feast, perhaps because they were more familiar through greater repetition, acquired more complex and florid music. The words were so well known that expressing them clearly and simply was less important than allowing their message to be expressed in more flowing and ecstatic music.

Both these types, the simple and the florid, can be heard here. Psalm tones and the Magnificat, (the words spoken by Mary upon learning that she was to become the Mother of God) are simple, almost sung on a single note. But the Magnificat is surrounded by an Antiphon, a text more associated with a particular Feast or moment in the church's calendar. And the music is appropriately rich and varied. For example, O quam suavis, the Magnificat Antiphon from the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament of Corpus Christi, is elaborate and varied. The Magnificat chant is simple. Tradition demanded that the Antiphon be repeated after the Magnificat. Its beauty and length allows time for reflection on Mary's words. This musical and liturgical pattern is repeated at various moments during prayer.

Agnus Dei, the title of this album, is a movement from the Mass:

O Lamb of God, Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, Thou that takest away the sins of the world, grant us Thy peace.

The repetition is striking (and typically three-fold, an allusion to the Trinity) and it gives some insight into the importance of reflection and time for thought. Our album includes many moments of silence between musical works; another important liturgical requirement which allows for reflection. And in our case, it allows us time to absorb the musical architecture of this great music.

Magdala
directed by David Skinner

Chris Watson
John Duggan
Jonathan Stokl
Joseph Wang

Paul Thomas
Jonathan Stainsby
Jamie Collin

Michael Geary
David Smith
Benedict Rundell
Paul de Cates