Farced Introits: A Prologue for Christmas Day Mass

Hodie cantandus est nobis puer, quem gignebat ineffabiliter ante tempora pater, et eundem sub tempore generavit inclita mater.

Interrogatio:
Quis est iste puer, quem tam magnis præconiis dignum vociferatis? Dicite nobis, ut collaudatores esse possimus.

Responsio:
Hic enim est, quem presagus et electus symnista Dei, ad terras uenturum preuidens, longe ante prenotavit sicque predixit:

Aña:
Puer natus est nobis…

To-day we must sing of that child, Whom His Father ineffably begot afore time, and Whom His glorious Mother bore in time.

Question:
Who is this child, whom you proclaim worthy of such great acclamations? Tell us, that we too might praise Him.

Response:
For He is Whom the soothsayer and chosen companion of God, foreseeing that He should come to earth, foreshewed and foretold:

Antiphon:
A child is born unto us…

hodie
The Hodie cantandus est verses, diastematic notation from Nevers (PA 1235), East-Frankish neumes (Minden Be 11). Click to enlarge. (Source)

Farced introits represent the largest repertory of tropes after Kyrie tropes 1, and one of the most fascinating. Like sequences, they had their origin in that hotbed of liturgical creativity that was the Abbey of St Gall in modern-day Switzerland.

The earliest account of their composition in found in the continuation of the Casus sancti Galli, a chronicle of the abbey written by Ekkehard IV. Towards the end of the ninth century, a precocious young monk (plane iuvenis acutissimus) named Tuotilo wrote introductory verses for the introit of the Mass of Christmas Day—Puer natus est—which begin Hodie cantandus est. These verses proved popular, like the sequences that Tuotilo’s confrère and close friend Notker had invented some years earlier, and Tuotilo went on to write several other tropes throughout his life. Although he was nowhere near as prolific a composer as Notker, Tuotilo’s pieces were much admired; one of those who delighted therein was Emperor Charles the Fat:

The melodies Tuotilo composed are distinctive and easily recognisable, for his music is sweeter, whether on the psaltery or the rotta, at which he excelled, as is manifest in Hodie cantandus and Omnium virtutum gemmis. Indeed, he presented these tropes to Charles to be sung at the offering the king himself would make [i.e. during the offertory of the Mass, when the king would present his offerings]. When Tuotilo had composed the offertory Viri Galilæi 2, the king even bade him to add verses, [which were,] as they say, Quoniam Dominus Jesus Christus cum esset, Omnipotens genitor, fons et origo, with the following: Gaudete et cantate, and others indeed; but we mention these, so that, if you be a musician, you might know how different his music is from that of others.3

The Hodie cantandus est trope itself is an example of the melodic peculiarity that characterises Tuotilo’s compositions: the trope is in the first mode, whereas the subsequent introit is in the seventh mode; a striking modulation in the third phrase of the trope allows it to conclude in G to match the first note of the introit. 

Howsoever idiosyncratic the melody of this trope may be, its text a classic example of exegesis one expects of a trope. Its dialogical structure, reminiscent of Psalm 23, is almost catechetical—Statement, Question, Response. The statement is a dogmatic proclamation of the mystery about to be celebrated in the Mass, and it elicits the question that allows the announcement of Christ’s birth to be tied into the words of the Prophet Isaias (presagus et symnista Dei) that form the introit antiphon. And at the same time the initial proclamation is a scholium on the words Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis: this son is born in time of the blessed Virgin, but is given to us by the Father, who begot him before all ages. 

The Hodie cantandus est trope enjoyed great popularity throughout the Middle Ages, and is found in liturgical books as late as the 15th century, well after the general decline in the popularity of tropes.

Tuotilo’s example, moreover, proved influential in the composition of introit tropes in the succeeding centuries. In particular, there arose an entire genre of chant verses to be sung before the introit which served almost as introductions to the feast commemorated in the Mass of the day, often labelled Tropi ad processionem in northern French manuscripts and Versus ad officium in English ones. Since they were part of the procession before Mass, or even sometimes of a pre-Mass ritual, some scholars have rather pedantically decided to argue they are not true tropes. Howbeit, in some instances they do seem to have acquired a life beyond that of a mere trope, taking advantage of the dramatic possibilities inherent in the dialogical structure of the Hodie cantandus est verses. Such is the case of the Quem quæritis dialogue on Easter, whereon we hope to dedicate a future post. 

cambrai trope
In this version of the Hodie cantandus est trope, from an 11th-century gradual from the Abbey of St-Vaast d’Arras (Cambrai, F-CA 75 [76]), the original verses have become part of a larger pre-introit ritual with the heading “ad processionem”. This sort of chanted dialogue would eventually develop into so-called “liturgical dramas”.

Notes

1. By way of example, in volumes I and III of the Corpus Troporum, which contain tropes for Christmastide and Eastertide respectively, one finds 1,044 introit trope verses, against 250 trope verses for offertories and 113 for communions.

2. This offertory responsory is different from the one preserved in the Tridentine missal, and can be found on pp. 4-5 here (without the added verses).

3. Que autem Tuotilo dictauerat, singularis et agnoscibilis melodie sunt, quia per psalterium seu per rotham, qua potentior ipse erat, neumata inuenta dulciora sunt, ut apparet in Hodie cantandus et Omnium uirtutum gemmis, quos quidem tropos Karolo ad offerendam quam ipse rex fecerat, obtulit canendos. Qui rex etiam Viri Galilei offerendam cum dictasset, Tuotiloni versus addere iniungit, ut aiunt: Quoniam Dominus Ihesus Christus cum esset, Omnipotens genitor, fons et origo; cum sequentibus: Gaudete et cantate, et alios quidem; sed istos proposuimus, ut quam dispar eius melodia sit ceteris, si musicus es, noris. (Ekkehard IV, Casus sancti Galli).

Ad Mariæ Gloriam: A Trope for Our Lady

Gloria in excelsis Deo. Et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis. Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Glorificamus te. Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam. Domine Deus, Rex cœlestis, Deus Pater omnipotens. Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe. Spiritus et alme orphanorum Paraclite. Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris. Primogenitus Mariæ Virginis matris. Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecatiónem nostram, ad Mariæ gloriam. Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis. Quoniam tu solus Sanctus, Mariam sanctificans. Tu solus Dominus, Mariam gubernans. Tu solus Altissimus, Mariam coronans, Jesu Christe. Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen. Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace to men of good will. We praise Thee. We bless Thee. We adore Thee. We glorify Thee. We give Thee thanks for Thy great glory. O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty. O Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son. O Spirit and kind comforter of orphans. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father. First-born of the Virgin Mother Mary. Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Who takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer, to the glory of Mary. Who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For Thou only are holy, sanctifying Mary. Thou only art the Lord, ruling Mary. Thou only art most high, crowning Mary, O Jesus Christ. Together with the Holy Ghost in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
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Click here to download the sheet music for the Gloria with the Sanctus et alme trope.

As we mentioned in our introductory post on tropes, these were never explicitly banned by any decision taken by the Council of Trent or appearing in the liturgical books produced in its wake, with one exception: the 1570 Roman Missal includes a rubric insisting that the Gloria in excelsis must always be said as written in the Missal, even in Masses of Our Lady. This was a reaction to one of the most enduringly popular of all liturgical farcings, viz. the Spiritus et alme trope, which adorns the Gloria with sundry acclamations praising the marvels God has wrought in Our Lady.

Our exploration of the rich world of tropes has been heretofore confined to tropes on the Kyrie and, as we have seen, these are almost always melogene tropes: i.e. additional text has been added to the preëxisting melody. The melismatic character of the Kyrie obviously favours this sort of farcing, but tropes on most other parts of the Mass are generally logogene: new verses—comprising both text and melody—have been interspersed between the phrases of the original chant, a practice that makes the nature of tropes as sung commentaries especially manifest.

This is the case for tropes on the Gloria in excelsis. The earliest recorded Gloria tropes date back to the 9th century, and through the course of the following centuries over a hundred examples thereof have been catalogued; it constitutes one of the largest trope repertoires after the Kyrie and Introit tropes. They were, howbeit, obsolescent by the 13th century, with one notable exception: the Spiritus et alme trope.

This set of verses grafted onto the Angelic Hymn is a relatively late composition, being first attested in Rouen MS. 1386 (U. 158), from Jumièges in Normandy, which dates to around 1100. These verses were associated with the melody of Gloria IX in the Vatican edition from the very beginning; indeed, this melody rarely appears in the earliest sources without the trope, which might indicate that it was originally composed for the Gloria thus farced. Indeed, this would explain why this particular melody has always been associated with Our Lady. Most Gloria trope verses were prone to melodic promiscuity, withal, and there are a few instances of the Spiritus et alme verses attached to other melodies, including Gloria IV, XIV, and XV.

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Part of the Spiritus et alme trope in the Codex Sangallensis 546 (f. 15r).

From its birthplace in northern France, the Spiritus et alme trope spread to Aquitaine, England, and Italy, where it is attested in 12th century sources. In the following century, even as other Gloria tropes were falling into general disfavour, the Spiritus et alme verses continued to propagate relentlessly throughout Christendom, showing up in manuscripts from Spain, Portugal, Germany, Bohemia, Scandinavia, and Yugoslavia, where it even entered into the Old Slavonic use. The trope also appears in the liturgical books of various religious orders, including, fascinatingly enough, in ten Cistercian sources. The Order of Cîteaux’s approach to liturgy, as in other matters, was marked by an austere simplicity—one might even say by a certain Puritanism—wholly noxious to the flights of exuberant fancy that gave rise to tropes. Nevertheless, as Joaquim Bragança notes in his study of one of these sources, mediæval devotion to Our Lady—what Henry Adams called the “highest creative energy ever known to man”—was so powerful it could even vanquish the dour Cistercian hostility towards liturgical ornamentation.

tornacensis-gloria
Missale Tornacense (Tournai), 1498

salzburg-gloria
Missale Salisburgense (Salzburg), 1507.

vienne-gloria
Missale Viennense (Vienne), 1519.

The Gloria farced with the Spiritus et alme verses was the subject of polyphonic settings as well, including one for three voices with the Gloria IX melody as a tenor in the 12th-century Las Huelgas Codex (another Cistercian source, despite attempts by the Order to prohibit polyphony in its monasteries), two by Johannes Ciconia, and one by Guillaume Dufay. The composers of these works delighted in musically highlighting the Marian tropes, to the greater exaltation of Our Lady.

By the 15th century, then, the Spiritus et alme trope had become an established part of the Gloria in Masses on feasts and Saturdays of Our Lady nearly everywhere in Europe, featuring also in the pre-Tridentine printed editions of the Missale Romanum.

roman-gloria
Missale Romanum, 1543

Alas, however, the Spiritus et alme trope fell afoul of the reforming humanist spirit that arose during this age, with its “tendency towards rationalism and desire for sobriety in Catholic worship” [1], and this would lead to its outright prohibition. On 20 July 1562, during the 22nd Session of the Council of Trent, a commission of seven prelates was appointed to examine the question of liturgical abuses. Among the Postulata nonnullorum patrum circa varios abusus in missis subinductos (Petitions by certain Fathers about various abuses introduced into Mass), one finds the following: “Let those additions Mariam gubernans, Mariam coronans be removed from the hymn Gloria in excelsis; they seem an unbefitting insertion” [2]. The members of the commission agreed that farcing the Gloria to extol Our Lady was unbefitting, and the memoir they presented to the papal legate Hercules Cardinal Gonzaga on 8 August 1562, under the heading Abusus, qui circa venerandum Missæ sacrificium evenire solent, partim a Patribus deputatis animadversi; partim ex multorum Prælatorum dictis, et scriptis excerpti (Abuses, which often occur during the venerable sacrifice of the Mass, in part noted by the delegated Fathers, in part taken from the sayings and writings of many Prelates), lists the “added words about the Blessed Virgin” as one of the abuses that had crept into the celebration of the Mass [3]. The commission called for the production of reformed missals purged of such putatively abusive accretions [4].

As a result, the Missale Romanum promulgated by Pope St Pius V in 1570 included a rubric forbidding the farcing of the Gloria, even in Masses of Our Lady [5]. The Spiritus et alme trope was therefore abandoned in all dioceses that adopted the Tridentine missal, and, having been smirched as an abuse, it also soon disappeared in those dioceses that kept their local uses as they reformed their books following the Tridentine model. The Parisian Missal ad formam Sacrosancti Concilii Tridentini emendatum, for example, expunged the farced Marian Gloria and added the rubric Sic semper dicitur Gloria in excelsis.

The trope survived for a while in the extremely conservative Lyonese use, until its missal was reformed by Archbishop de Rochebonne in 1737 to bring it closer to the Tridentine model. It also remained in the use of Braga. In 1779, Archbishop Gaspar de Bragança, seeking to bring the Bragan use closer to the Roman, proposed, inter alia, the suppression of the Gloria de Domina, but was rebuffed by the chapter. The canons did deign to discuss the elimination of the Marian Gloria on 7 April 1780, but they finally decided to inform the subcantor and master of ceremonies that the Gloria was to be sung “according to the use of Braga”, thus preserving the trope. But finally, in 1924, a new edition of the Bragan Missal, approved by Pius XI, was promulgated which no longer included the farced Gloria, and thus disappeared its last vestige.

lyons-gloria
Missale Lugdunense (Lyons), 1620

The Spiritus et alme trope represents a fascinating instance where the use of a trope was so popular and universal it nearly became an established part of the Roman rite. It raises intriguing questions about what ought to be considered a legitimate and organic development of the liturgy, and what constitutes an illegitimate accretion and abuse. Whatever the terse declarations of the Tridentine liturgical commission, it is hardly obvious that the Marian Gloria is a case of the latter, and one might be excused for considering its disappearance a matter for regret.

Notes

[1] Chadwick, Anthony J. “The Roman Missal of the Council of Trent” in T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy, ed. Alcuin Reid, 2016, p. 107.

[2] Ab hymno: Gloria in excelsis, tollantur illa additamenta: Mariam gubernans, Mariam coronans: quæ videntur inepte inculcari. 

[3] Item forte essent animadvertenda in hymno Angelorum verba illa addita de Beata Virgine, Mariam gubernans, Mariam coronans ec.; videntur enim illa omnia inepte inculcari. 

[4] Missalia secundum usum et veteram consuetudinem S. R. E. reformentur, omnibus iis, quæ clanculum irrepserunt, repurgatis, ut omni ex parte eadem pura, nitida et integra proponantur.

[5] Sic dicitur Gloria in excelsis etiam in missis beatę Marię. This rubric was dropped in the editio typica of the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.

Trope of the Week: Kyrie de Angelis

What’s a trope? See the introductory post.

Kyrie, Rex æterno posse superno, cunticreator, eleison.
Kyrie, laudat dignum turba benignum tota polorum, eleison.
Kyrie, nunc præsentes respice gentes dona petentes, eleison.
Lord, eternal King of lofty power, creator of all, have mercy.
Lord, the entire multitude of the globe praises thee, worthy and merciful, have mercy.
Lord, behold now the people here desiring gifts, have mercy.
Christe, prævenias morbis nostris nunc Conditor orbis, eleison.
Christe, peste triumphata sumens hæc nostra peccata, eleison.
Christe, sanguine qui digno præservas hoste maligno, eleison.
Christ, mayest thou now keep us from our ills, founder of the world, have mercy.
Christ, having triumphed over pestilence, taking up these our sins, have mercy.
Christ, who by thy worthy blood savest us from the evil enemy, have mercy.
Kyrie, fac tibi clerum psallere verum pectoris hymnum, flamine fultus lumine vultus vivat in ævum, eleison.
Kyrie, nunc populorum Rex miserorum cerne precatus, flos pie florum fonsque bonorum terge reatus, eleison.
Kyrie, suscipe rursum, dirige cursum, corde rogamus, scandere sursum vivere cursum quo valeamus, eleison.
Lord, make the clergy sing a true hymn of the heart to thee, may they live for aye, borne by the spirit, a brilliant countenance, have mercy.
Lord, now, King of the wretched peoples, behold the prayers, O righteous flower of flowers and fount of good things, cleanse our guilt, have mercy.
Lord, take us up anew, lead the way, we beseech thee from the heart, by which we might have the strength to climb up and live the way, have mercy.
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Click on the image to download this trope with musical notation

The Kyrie de Angelis, Kyrie VIII in the Vatican edition, has proven the most enduringly popular of all the Gregorian settings of this first part of the ordinary. Part of its appeal rests in its agreeableness to the modern ear: unlike the other Kyries in the Vatican edition, whose mediæval tonalities can sound mildly alien to-day, the Kyrie de Angelis is actually a major-scale melody. Renaissance music theorists who first described the major scale, dubbing it the Ionian or eleventh mode, already noted its popularity amongst their contemporaries.

Of this [mode, the eleventh] there are many chants in the ecclesiastical books, such as the Mass called of the Angels, the antiphons Alma redemptoris mater and Regina Cœli lætare Haleluiah. Amongst the moderns this mode is in so much use and is so loved, that, induced by its sweetness and its beauty, they have changed many chants composed in the fifth mode into the eleventh, by inserting the note b-flat instead of b-natural. [1]

The Graduale romanum dates this Kyrie melody to the 15th-16th century, but the musicologist Amédée Gastoué argued it is more ancient, having discovered a version of it in a 14th century gradual from the Cathedral of Rouen, to be sung ad libitum on solemn feasts. It quickly became popular throughout France, and seems to have been often chanted in solemn votive masses; it became particularly associated with the votive mass traditionally celebrated on Monday in honour of the Holy Angels, and thus acquired its present moniker. A 15th century gradual from Rouen labels it de Angelis, and a Celestine gradual from the same century De sanctis Angelis. From France it spread to England and Italy, and acquired the hold on the Catholic musical imagination it retains to this day.

Pope St Pius X helped cement this popularity when, in 1904, he personally chose this Kyrie to be sung during the memorable Mass celebrating the 13th centenary of St Gregory the Great in St Peter’s Basilica. It was the first time in centuries that a Mass was sung entirely in Gregorian chant in St Peter’s.

The Kyrie de Angelis is one of the few Kyries in the modern Vatican edition that is not identified by the incipit of a trope. Indeed, given its late origin it was not often farced, but Dom Joseph Pothier did discover one troped version thereof in a manuscript gradual from the diocese of Toul from 1622, with the heading Super Kyrie de Angelis. Interestingly, as Dom Pothier explains, this gradual was prepared for the use of a simple country parish: a valuable indication not only that into the 17th century sung Masses were celebrated even in small churches, with full Gregorian chant, but that tropes survived the liturgical reforms spurred by the Council of Trent. In fact, the diocese of Toul kept its own liturgical use after the promulgation of Quo primum thanks to the intransigence of the cathedral chapter, which stood athwart their bishop, Cardinal de Vaudémont, who, pressured by the Jesuits, sought to impose the Roman use.

The composer of the Kyrie Rex æterno trope has taken the liberty of modifying the original melody, which is relatively unusual. That this was done deliberately, and is not a case of regional melodic variation, is shown by the fact that the manuscript also contains the untroped Kyrie de Angelis in essentially the same form as in the Vatican edition. The exuberant short melismas in the last three Kyrie verses are also noteworthy.

The striking metrical character of this Kyrie trope betrays its late origin. As Dom Pothier notes,

The first three Kyrie have tropes always composed of three verses, the first of four long syllables, i.e. a double spondee, and the two others of five syllables, forming a dactyl and a spondee, otherwise known as an Adonic verse; giving a total of fourteen syllables.

The three Christe also each have a trope of fourteen syllables, but these are contained in only one verse, viz. a hexametrical verse, of the sort that are called Leonine, where the two hemistichs rhyme together.

[…]

As for the last three Kyrie, these are also in verse, but now exclusively in Adonic verse. The tropes here, moreover, are doubled, not only at the last Kyrie, which is the usual rule, but for all three. The only difference in the case of the last Kyrie is that the vocalise, which is in any case very short, is repeated as a sort of echo.

Gastoué criticized the Kyrie de Angelis for its jocund melody, which is better suited, he says, to an Alleluia than a “cry of supplication” like the Kyrie. Nevertheless, he admits that

in this chant, we find a melody of ‘joyful’ supplication; the reason for this is, perhaps, if we consider the paintings and the sculptures of the Middle Ages, that the contemporaries of that time conceived the pure heavenly spirits praying God for humanity, with this calm joyfulness.

The text of the trope entirely supports this supposition. Throughout, the tone, despite a frank acceptance of the sinfulness of men, is one of confidence in God’s mercy, for he is the flos pie florum fonsque bonorum: an entirely suitable idea to ponder as the holy sacrifice of the Mass begins. The last verse is, moreover, a felicitous prayer for the start of the Mass: suscipe rursum, dirige cursum, corde rogamus, scandere sursum vivere cursum quo valeamus.

In the recording below, the Kyrie Rex aeterno trope is sung by the Capella Antiqua München.

[1] Di questo si trovano molte cantilene ne i libri Ecclesiastici, si come la Messa, la quale chiamano de gli Angioli, le Antifone Alma redemptoris mater e Regina Cœli lætare Haleluiah. Questo Modo da i Moderni è tanto in uso, e tanto amato; che molte cantilene composte nel Quinto modo, per l’agiuntione della chorda♭ in luogo della♮, hanno mutato nell’Undecimo; indutti dalla sua soavità, e dalla sua bellezza. (Gioseffo Zarlino, Le istitutioni harmoniche, 1558)

Sources

Gastoué, Amédée. “The ‘Missa de Angelis'”. The Caecilia, Vol. 60, no. 12, pp. 375-8.

Martin, Eugène. Histoire des diocèses de Toul, de Nancy & de Saint-Dié. A. Crépin-Leblond, 1901. Vol. 2.

Pothier, Dom Joseph. “Kyrie des Anges avec tropes”. Revue du chant grégorien, xiii (1904-05), pp. 81-88.

Trope of the Week: Clemens Rector

Clemens Rector, aeterne Pater, immense, eleison.
Nostras necne voces exaudi, benedicte Domine.
Aether stellifer noster, nostri benigne eleison.
Merciful ruler, eternal Father, immense one, have mercy.
And hearken to our voices, blessed Lord.
Our star-bearing heaven, in Thy compassion have mercy on us.
Plebem tuam, Sabaoth Hagie, semper rege, eleison.
Trine et une, sedulas nostras preces, Rex, suscipe.
Fidem auge his, qui credunt in te, tu succurre, eleison.
Rule Thy people alway, holy Lord of hosts, have mercy.
Treble and one, heed our diligent prayers, O King.
Increase the faith of those who believe in Thee, succour them, have mercy.
Respice nobis, o Inclyte, fer opem de excelsis et nostras, Redemptor orbis terrae, voces iugi Angelorum carmini adiunge, eleison.
Cunctipotens, sophiae tuae lumen nobis infunde.
Tripertite et une Kyrie, qui manes in aeternum cum Patre, te ore, te corde atque mente, psallimus nunc tibi, o beate Iesu bone, te precamur omnes assidue, eleison.
Behold us, O Glorious one, bring aid from on high and join our voices, O Redeemer of the world, with the ceaseless song of the angels, have mercy.
All-powerful one, pour into us the light of thy wisdom.
Tripartite and one, O Lord, who remaineth with the Father for aye, we now sing to Thee with our lips, heart, and mind, O blessed good Jesus, we all continually beseech Thee, have mercy.

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 17.48.43Clemens rector, listed as Kyrie ad lib. 1 in the Vatican Edition, was one of the oldest and most popular Kyrie melodies in the Middle Ages. It first appears in West Frankish manuscripts from the 10th century, and by the 13th century it had spread throughout Europe. Although there are sundry farced versions of most Kyrie melodies, Clemens rector is remarkable in being the only trope that was ever attached to this one, and indeed, it proved as enduringly popular as the melody. The oldest manuscripts prescribe that the Clemens rector trope be sung on the feast of St Stephen, but it soon began to be reserved for the greatest feasts of the liturgical year, being sung variously on Christmas, Childermas, Eastertide, Ascension, Pentecost, All Saints, St Peter, St Benedict, and feasts of Our Lady. In the mid-12th century, Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, ordained that the Clemens rector trope was to be sung on the five principal feasts in his monastery, adding that this was already an established tradition in other monasteries of the Cluniac congregation, such as Moissac:

Statutum est, ut illud Kyrie eleyson, cuius cantus habet prosaicos versus, quorum principium est Clemens rector aeterne, pater immense eleyson, qui in multis monasteriis ad Cluniacum pertinentibus usu antiquo cantabatur, etiam Cluniaci in quinque praecipuis festis cantetur.

Even after tropes fell into disfavour in the aftermath of the Tridentine reforms, the Clemens rector continued to be chaunted in certain places, and is found in liturgical books published as late as the 18th century.

The popularity of this trope owes much to fact that its textual shape is singularly well adapted to the Kyrie’s musical shape, as David Bjork demonstrates in The Aquitanian Kyrie Repertory of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries. He additionally draws attention to the text’s use of polyptoton—repeating words with the same root—, matching the melody’s use of recurrent motifs:

Melodic phrases correspond most consistently at their ends, and so, too, do the petitions: all but three petitions (2, 5, and 8) close with eleison. Other words appear twice in the text: Nostras…voces (petition 2) recurs exactly (petition 7), and both times it occurs in a construction that separates these two words by placing others between them. Several word stems recur in different forms, thus establishing a kind of resonance without the bald effect of exact repetition: rector (petition 1) returns both as rege (petition 4) and as rex (petition 5); nostris (petition 2) returns as noster and nostri (petition 3), and nostras (petitions 5 and 7); trine et une (petition 5) returns as tripertite et une (petition 9); preces (petition 5) returns as precamur (petition 9); and aeterne (petition 1) returns as aeternum (petition 9).

Clemens rector also gives good expression to the exegesis of the Kyrie performed by Amalarius of Metz, one of the foremost liturgists of the Carolingian era. In his Eclogae de officio missae, Amalarius rather laconically puts forth the idea that the Kyrie represents the voices of those prophets who lived near the time of the incarnation, such as Zacharias and John the Baptist, and in the Liber officialis he explains in greater detail that mercy is the main theme of the Kyrie, urging cantors singing the Kyrie to keep in mind the words of St Matthew, Qui coronat te in miseratione et misericordia. He also indicates—and later writers made this point more explicitly—that the tripartite nature of the Kyrie alludes to the Trinity.

Indeed the petitionary nature of Clemens rector makes it sound like the voice of a prophet begging Christ to begin his work of redemption: nostras … voces exaudi (petition 2), sedulas nostras preces suscipe (petition 5), tu succurre (petition 6), sophiae tuae lumen infunde (petition 8), te precamur omnes assidue (petition 9), together with the recurrent use of eleison. Like a prophet forsaking earthly cares, the trope marks an opposition between sublunar and heavenly things in petition 7: et nostras, redemptor orbis terrae, voces iugi angelorum carmini adiunge. Although this trope does not explicitly address each member of the Trinity in its three respective parts like some other tropes do, it does insist on the trinitarian nature of God in petitions 5 and 9.

Clemens rector is therefore itself a commentary on the mystical significance of the Kyrie eleison. This exegetical nature is ultimately shared by all tropes, which merely transfer the Western genius for exegesis from written commentaries to song. The Clemens rector gloss on the Kyrie, however, is a particularly felicitous one, and this also helps to account for widespread popularity.

(If you missed the inaugural post on tropes, give it a look!)

 

*Marginalia Aelredi*

(scribbled hastily in the vulgar tongue, in the top right corner)
Les tropes? Encore une fois? Mais on y a trop des tropes déjà!!

 

drollery 2.jpg
Notkerus Balbulus