Youth Vespers

A few weeks ago I posted a hymn I typeset and said I would explain later. While I don’t expect it likely that anyone is waiting with baited breath, I really shouldn’t have waited so long. It relates to a project I’m working on.

I direct a small choir, associated with the local parish, which sings Gregorian Chant on occasion. I have been asked by the youth ministry director to put together a Sunday vespers service for the youth group to use once a month. The only caveat was that it needed to be in English.

So I am in the process of setting vespers, in English, to the traditional Gregorian musical framework. No small task. One which requires an understanding of the differences between the structure of English and Latin and how language interacts with music in chant. There are serious difficulties you can’t just pull the Latin and plug in the English for most of this stuff.

I’m somewhat familiar with the traditional Roman and Monastic Divine Office but since this was going to be in English I decided to look into the modern liturgy of the hours with which I was unfamiliar. Wow what a mess. Instead of essentially the same thing each Sunday, the psalms are on a four week cycle and the hymn on a two week cycle. Additionally there is something called a ‘New Testament Canticle’ which appears to be a complete fabrication. Almost nothing in the new service resembles what has been vespers in the western church for the last 1500 years. Additionally the translation seems poor. Psalm 109(110) begins “Dixit Dominus Domino meo, sede a dextris meis” The Lord said to my Lord sit at my right hand in the modern Liturgy of the hours it is rendered “The Lords revelation to my master, sit on my right”. Sorry to complain but I’d really rather avoid this if it can be helped. I stopped into the local Monastery to see what they do and it’s basically the traditional monastic vespers but in English.

So after consulting with the appropriate persons, the decision has been made to use the approved but obsolete 1964 Roman Breviary in English. Nobody involved with this has an obligation to the divine office and it’s not really something ‘public’, so I don’t see a problem with doing this. Technically speaking this makes it devotional rather that canonically liturgical, but I think it rather legalistic to make a big deal about it.

I will likely post the finished product here. Possibly I will create and post recording for learning purposes, if there’s interest. Is there interest?

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