Up with Mass X

Mass X is called Alme Pater. My first exposure to its haunting melodies came from a polyphonic setting written by Wilko Brouwers, presented at the Colloquium some years ago. I fell in love with that piece, but it was another year or two before I encountered the foundational chant on which the polyphonic piece was based. Then it was love at first listening.

For those who wonder why it took so long to hear the original Mass X and find a copy, we have to remember that Gregorian music was not really available then as it is now. There was no Liber online, no Kyriale, no Parish Book of Chant, no thousands of youtubes of chant settings, or anything else. Most of this music was obscure and hard to come by, or expensive and difficult to acquire. Today all that has changed, with resources dancing all over the web, begging for attention.

In any case, this morning at Mass, our schola resurrected the Sanctus of Mass X to great effect. It strikes me that this setting is extremely parish friendly, mostly syllabic but with a profoundly affecting theme.

Here are some scores of the full setting. Be careful of the first MP3 on the Sanctus because the singer actually sings a wrong note in the second phrase. The second MP3 is correct but not a great recording. It seems that there is still work to do in making this material even more accessible.

6 Replies to “Up with Mass X”

  1. It is worth pointing out that Sanctus X is a very late composition, so late in fact that we know with certainty the name of its composer: Dom Joseph Pothier. The last part is apparently adapted somewhat from a medieval trope, but the memorable beginning is entirely Pothier's creation.

  2. That fascinating. I had no idea. I just spent time going through through Kyriale attached to the Ratisbon edition. I could make out some material but it seems a far cry from what we now call the Kyriale. Nothing like Mass X appears there but does much else.

  3. How truly fascinating! I had no idea of this either. Taking a quick look at our Kyriale I see that every chant in Mass X lists an early manuscript date except for the Sanctus (..maybe they didn't want to list XIX!… or XX?) The Kyrie is found in a manuscript as early as the 11th century though.

  4. Right Adam – according to Mary Berry, Pothier added this Sanctus in order to complete Mass X, which is otherwise made up of old chants.

    Paul Ford has a good English adaptation of Sanctus X in By Flowing Waters which I used in a parish a few years back as a way of introducing chant.

  5. There is a great recording of this Mass by the choir of Westminster Cathedral on the Hyperion label (disc entitled 'From the vaults of Westminster Cathedral').
    It is accompanied, so some people will hate it.

Comments are closed.