Motumania Fusses on Vespers

… and not just any Vespers. Even the shine of a post praising the sublime 1610 Vespers of the Blessed Virgin of Claudio Monteverdi (recently played in KC) isn’t totally free of the grumbling long associated with the reform2 crew.

Maybe now that the motu proprio is out, we’ll be able to make liturgical use of this masterful setting of the Divine Office at some point.

Clearly, it’s not enough that you can drive the bridge into Jersey and get a live earful. Gavin surfaces a question that would’ve gotten me banned:

See, this is what grinds my gears about motumania. Why couldn’t we do this before? What would stop anyone from performing one of Monteverdi’s psalms at Mass? Certainly the ordinary form is a MUCH better venue for it, since the GIRM allows psalms to be used in place of the introit and such. And if you wish to use these for a service of Vespers, why not? Only priests are required to pray the new Liturgy of the Hours, there’s nothing that says a group of lay Catholics can’t celebrate it (and use Monteverdi).

Indeed. While I’d prefer vespers psalmody that was sung by musicians and pewfolk alike, the only thing stopping Michael Lawrence or anybody else from performing part or all of this piece is resources. Those NLM people have probably banned all the lute players and would have a hopeless task recruiting ensemble musicians to pull it off. Better stick to chant, guys.

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Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to Motumania Fusses on Vespers

  1. Gavin says:

    I must concede defeat in one matter, Todd. I heard a beautiful rendition of the famous Bach Air from the suite in D. The orchestra had a harpsichord provide the basso continuo the first time through each section, then the second time it was taken up by a lute – heavenly! I will admit, if that lute player wants to play the suite in D at my parish, I’ll take down the “no guitars” sign.

    Seriously though, how amazing would it be to begin Mass with Monteverdi’s Laetatus Sum (the seasonal psalm for the last Masses of Ordinary Time) for the Entrance? In fact, such an option isn’t even allowed in the extraordinary form, since the propers are the required texts. Maybe I’m just too used to my situation of liberty for music, but the MP didn’t directly affect how I do my job at all, besides making the congregation MORE paranoid that we might do the old Mass.

  2. Hey Todd,

    I was only musing about possibilities. This was not a “gee, the LoH is so awful and thank God we don’t have to do that anymore.” The fact is that before the mp, the Monteverdi Vespers could only have been done as either a concert or as a devotion of those who are not bound to say the Divine Office, since those who are bound are, by and large, bound to say the new office. The mp changes that. That’s all I’m saying.

    And the drive across the bridge was quite uplifting indeed.

    “Those NLM people have probably banned all the lute players and would have a hopeless task recruiting ensemble musicians to pull it off. Better stick to chant, guys.”

    Todd, my degree was in trumpet.

  3. Todd says:

    Thanks for visiting, Michael. It might be that the general tenor of the NLM web page and the bulk of your commentariat there make for a rather bitter tone.

    As a musical treasure, I would hope that any effort to perform and pray the Monteverdi Vespers would stand above ordinary efforts, be those efforts a regular LH in the community or the private recitation of the Office. Is the piece only worth doing if it “counts” toward some official requirement? Doesn’t it have value as a stand-alone spiritual experience? Does everything like this need some sort of liturgical imprimatur to be moving and effective in peoples’ lives?

    If NLM folks and other like-minded believers are waiting for one-stop spiritual shopping to avoid a private praying of Vespers in one’s easy chair with the tones of Ave Maris Stella still ringing in their heads, I’m afraid they’ve missed grasping the whole point of the encounter with God. It would seem to indicate something of a poverty in the spirits of some reform2 folks.

  4. John Heavrin says:

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

    Matthew 5:3

  5. Eric says:

    Hmmm. As a deacon, I would think nothing of having any form of evening prayer “count” toward my obligation. For example, if I go to a conference that begins with morning prayer (often adapted to a theme), it doesn’t matter to me if they use the same psalms as in the breviary for that day. For me, it’s morning prayer. I don’t feel the need to sneak off somewhere and do it “correctly” by myself.

    It seems to me the opportunity for a communal celebration is more important than an individual celebration done exactly right.

    But maybe that’s just me?

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