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This new English Edition of the Liber Usualis gives a brief summary of
the Rules for the proper execution and interpretation of the Vatican Edition of the
Roman Chant, according to the Solesmes Method.
The Vatican Edition contains the Official Musical Text. To ensure uniformity in the rendering of the Chant of the Church, ecclesiastical legislation
provides that this musical text may be used " with the addition of the Solesmes
Rhythmic signs", as an aid.
The use of these signs is officially authorised by the Congregation of Rites.
Musicians, generally, have long since experienced the wisdom and even the
necessity of this official sanction to the Solesmes Method as the sure means to
secure a desired and uniform system of interpretation.
As in all Art-forms, so in Plainsong, rules are the outcome of a wide practical
experience, insight and research. The Rules presented here have been worked
out and co-ordinated by the Benedictine monks of the Solesmes Congregation.
Based as they are on the ancient Manuscript Records, which have been thoroughly
examined in their application to the Vatican text, those Rules have for some fifty
years proved their efficacy as a convincing guide to the proper unified execution
of the Gregorian melodies in the daily carrying out of the Liturgy by the monks
of Solesmes themselves.
Our Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, in an autograph letter to His Eminence
Cardinal Dubois, on the occasion of the Founding of the Gregorian Institute, at
Paris, in 1924, writes : " We commend you no less warmly for having secured
the services of these same Solesmes monks to teach in the Paris Institute;
since, on account of their perfect mastery of the subject, they interpret
Gregorian music with a finished perfection which leaves nothing to be
desired ".
With this quotation of an august commendation, the present Edition is now
offered by the Solesmes monks, that the Roman Chant may be a profitable
instrument "capable of raising the mind to God, and better fitted than any
other to foster the piety of the Nations ".
This Edition with complete musical notation includes the following:
1. The Kyriale with Cantus ad libitum.
2. The Mass of the Sundays and Feasts including those of double rank
throughout the year, with Vespers and Compline for the same.
3. Prime, Terce, Sext, None, for Sundays and Feasts of the First and Second
4. Matins of Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi; Lauds for Feasts
of the First Class.
5. The Litanies: the Mass of Rogation Days, Ember Days, Easter and
Whitsun weeks; the Vigils of Christmas, Epiphany and Whitsun.
6. The services of Ash Wednesday, the Triduum of Holy Week and
Easter Day.
7. The principal Votive Masses and the Offices for the Dead.
In the beginning of the book will be found the Common Tones of the Mass and
Office. Chants for special occasions, e. g. the Blessing of the Holy Oils,
Ordinations, etc, are included in the Appendix.
A practical feature of this work should be noticed and will, it is hoped, be much
appreciated: all the Vesper Psalms are set out with the various Tones to which
they are sung (see pp. 128-218). The Intonation, Flex and Cadences are clearly
marked for each Psalm. This has not been done for Lauds and the Hours, since
these are generally sung by more experienced Choirs.
A small number of Chants for Benediction has been added; the scope of this
manual does not allow of a larger number than those in current use. Where
greater variety is needed, recourse may be had to special publications and
Benediction Manuals already in existence.
The sources of this Compendium are the Missal, the Ritual, the Gradual and
the Antiphonary. Recent decisions of the Congregation of Rites have been taken
into account. Pieces which have not yet appeared in the Vatican Edition are
taken from the approved publications of the Benedictines of Solesmes.
Voce vita non discordet;
Cum vox vita non remordet,
Dulce est symphonia. (Adam of St Victor)
Feast of St Gregory 1934.
The place of honour in this Solesmes Edition of the Vatican Official text
is given to the Vatican Preface. Its wise counsels and general Principles of
interpretation are embodied, elucidated and enlarged upon in the Rules given
further on.
Holy Mother the Church has received from God the charge of training the
souls of the faithful in all holiness, and for this noble end has ever made a happy
use of the help of the sacred Liturgy. Wherein — in order that men's minds
may not be sundered by differences, but that, on the contrary, the unity which
gives vigour and beauty to the mystical body of Christ might flourish unimpaired — she has been zealous to keep the traditions of our forefathers, ever trying
diligently to discover and boldly to restore any which might have been forgotten
in the course of the ages.
Now among those things which most nearly touch the sacred Liturgy, being
as it were interwoven therein and giving it splendour and impressiveness, the first
place must be assigned to the Sacred Chant. We have, indeed, all learnt from
experience that it gives a certain breadth to divine worship and uplifts the mind
in wondrous wise to heavenly things. Wherefore the Church has never ceased
to recommend the use of the Chant, and has striven with the greatest assiduity
and diligence to prevent its decline from its pristine dignity.
To this end liturgical music must possess those characteristics which make it
preeminently sacred and adapted to the good of souls. It must surely emphasise
above all else the dignity of divine worship, and at the same time be able to
express pleasantly and truly the sentiments of the Christian soul. It must also
be catholic, answering to the needs of every people, country and age, and combine
simplicity with artistic perfection.
All these characteristics, however, are nowhere to be found in a higher degree
than in Gregorian Chant — the special Chant of the Roman Church, who
has received it alone by inheritance from the Fathers, has kept it carefully
thoughout the ages in her records, and commends it to the faithful as her
own, ordering its exclusive use in certain parts of the Liturgy. (Motu
Proprio. Nov. 22. 1903. n. 3.)
Certainly in the course of time the Gregorian Chant incurred no small loss of
purity. This was chiefly because the special rules of the Chant, as traditionally
received from the Fathers, were either negligently overlooked or allowed to be