Monday, July 5, 2010

Let the Turtle Doves Sing on Sunday

This weekend, Catholic scholas get to sing the wonderful little communion antiphon, the "Passer Invenit"--one of the more charming in the entire Gregorian repertoire. The monk who composed this was having a very good day, even a day of intense spiritual awareness and love.

See the three successive liquescent notes in the first line? They are sung with a clear sound on the lower note while the higher note is sung in a manner that causes it to evaporate very quickly on the closing consonant (in this case a "t" and two lightly rolled "r"s). See what is happening? It mimics the sound made by a turtle dove. We are ourselves are chanting like little doves at this point.

So the piece begins with announcement about a sparrow. It has found herself a home, the chant says. And then we move immediately to the turtle dove, phrased in this lovely and expressive way: it has found a nest in which to lay her young.

And how comfortable is this spot where the young are laid? You can know from the first line of notes on the second line: "reponat" is sung on a single note held through a dotted punctum and three successive repercussive notes before falling again and ending with this beautifully relaxed and expressive phrase.

But the story doesn't end there because it turns out that this home and nest causes us to reflect on the altars of the Lord. In announcing this metaphor, we again see this long note, earlier sung to signify safety and comfort, this time sung to show that the altars of the Lord provide the same. This phrase ends with an exuberant announcement "Rex meus, et deus meus" or my King and my God!

The chant antiphon ends with song directed toward all of us: we too are invited to dwell in this house and praise God forever and ever. In this one little tune, we have covered so much and done so with charm and grace and amazing beauty.

Here is a sound file.
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