First Vespers for the feast of the Assumption
According to the Use of Salisbury (printed source 1520)
The office of Vespers has its origins in the early church, when Christians gathered for prayer at the start and end of the day and was fixed more or less in its current form in the sixth century by the Rule of Saint Benedict. In the England of the eleventh century, Salisbury (Sarum) was an important political and religious settlement, and Sarum Use became the predominant regulation of the Roman Liturgy. This lasted into the sixteenth century when the Reformation shifted the liturgy into the vernacular and the monastic offices of Vespers and Compline were combined as Evening Prayer or Evensong.
In part because of its timing at the end of the day, Vespers has always been a popular service and generated a rich tradition of music with many fine polyphonic settings of the Magnificat. One of the most powerful effects of Vespers is the way in which the simple, contemplative atmosphere of the chanted psalms, sung to the dying rays of the sun, bursts into polyphonic glory with the Magnificat, the motet and the closing Marian antiphon.
The ancient feast of the Assumption, celebrated every year on August 15, demonstrates the high regard in which the church holds Mary, the mother of Jesus. The form of Vespers on this recording begins with prayers and chanted psalms, followed by a hymn; and culminates in Mary's canticle, a motet, and the Marian antiphon appropriate to the time of year. For the feast of the Assumption, this is the Salve Regina.
John Duggan's four Marian antiphons were written over the period 2007-13. They chart the cycle of the liturgical year and draw from elements of plainsong, a form of music which has been close to the composer's heart since childhood. John says:
Plainsong is spare and spacious and the single line is both mesmeric and contemplative. It is a music that paints pictures, but the palette is simple and small and all the more powerful for it. It informs my writing and is forever a refuge of solace and a source of inspiration.
John Sheppard lived through the turbulence of the Reformation. His setting of the Marian hymn Ave Maris Stella alternates plainsong and polyphonic verses. His style is characterised by a series of melismatic, imitative tropes over the cantus firmus in the bass part (which itself is a concealed version of the Ave Maris melody). It is quite easy to extrapolate a clear relationship between the style of this music and the architecture of the buildings in which it was sung.
David Bevan's Magnificat is one in a series of settings popular in cathedrals and churches throughout the UK. Like the Sheppard, the music alternates chant and polyphony, but here the style is largely homorhythmic, breaking into cascading imitative lines in the approach to the verse cadences.
The three organ pieces by Dupré are from a set Fifteen Pieces for Organ Founded on Antiphons which the composer wrote in 1919. He recreated them from a set of improvisations of his own devising which, in turn, were based on liturgical chants from the Song of Solomon, the Marian hymn Ave Maris Stella and the Magnificat.
Back of book
Strapline:: Timeless music for contemplation
Vespers is the ancient office of prayer, celebrated every evening throughout Christendom as the sun goes down. Here, in this beautiful and reflective recording, plainsong chants are sung in praise and contemplation and contrast with the magnificent organ works of Dupré and the splendour of choral music by David Bevan, John Sheppard and John Duggan.
1 Organ Introit: Ave Maris Stella 3
Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)
2 Marian antiphon I: Alma Redemptoris Mater
John Duggan (b 1963)
3 Marian antiphon II: Regina Coeli
4 Opening Responses
Psalms (The psalms are chanted with their antiphons)
5 Psalm 113: Laudate pueri Dominum
6 Psalm 117: Laudate Dominum omnes gentes
7 Psalm 146: Lauda anima mea Dominum
8 Psalm 147: 1-11: Laudate Dominum, quoniam bonus est psalmus
9 Psalm 147: 12-20: Lauda Jerusalem Dominum
10 Chapter: In omnibus requiem quesivi
11 Responsory: Super salutem
12 Hymn: O quam glorifica luce
13 Versicle: Exaltata es
14 Magnificat antiphon: Ascendit Christus
15 Magnificat: Sexti toni à 8
David Bevan (b 1951)
16 Magnificat antiphon: repeat
17 Motet: Ave Maris Stella
John Sheppard (c 1515-1558)
18 Collect and Final Responses
19 Organ processional: Ave Maris Stella 2
20 Marian antiphon III: Ave Regina Coelorum
21 Marian antiphon IV: Salve Regina
22 Organ voluntary: Ave Maris Stella 4
Sospiri, directed by John Duggan and Chris Watson
Conductor: Chris Watson
Cantor: John Duggan
Organ: Benjamin Nicholas
Celebrant: The Reverend Dr Simon Jones
Cover image: Salisbury Cathedral Chapter House/Bridgeman Images