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Notes on Universal Music for Evening Prayer

by Gary D. Penkala

Pope John Paul II in a general audience in Rome urged all Catholics to join the Church universal in praying the Liturgy of the Hours [See CNP article Art of Prayer]. CanticaNOVA Publications offers a product that can assist parishes and communities who wish to make proper attention to the Liturgy of the Hours a reality. Universal Music for Evening Prayer is an effective way to begin singing Vespers (Evening Prayer) on a daily, weekly, seasonal or one-time basis.

Editor's Notes

The hymn of praise that is sung through all the ages in the heavenly places and was brought by the high priest, Christ Jesus, into this land of exile has been continued by the Church with constant fidelity over many centuries, in a rich variety of forms.

The Office has been drawn up and arranged in such a way that not only clergy but also religious and indeed laity may participate in it, since it is the prayer of the whole people of God.

The Hours are recommended to all Christ's faithful members. May the praise of God re-echo in the Church of our day with greater grandeur and beauty by means of the new Liturgy of the Hours. May it join the praise sung by saints and angels in the court of heaven. May it go from strength to strength in the days of this earthly exile and soon attain that fullness of praise which will be given throughout eternity "to the One who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb." [Pope Paul VI in the Apostolic Constitution promulgating the revised Liturgy of the Hours, November 1, 1970]

The booklet, Universal Music for Evening Prayer, was designed to be usable for any community celebration of Evening Prayer (Vespers). It contains suggestions for Organ Processionals, Hymns, and Organ Recessionals for each of the liturgical seasons. An original hymn, Christian People, Here Assembled, is included for use during Ordinary Time.

Beyond this, though, Universal Music for Evening Prayer provides simple, familiar music for the unchanging parts of the liturgy (Introductory Verse, Lord's Prayer, Blessing & Dismissal) and appealing chant formulas for the Psalmody, the Responsory, and the Magnificat. By using this setting along with the proper texts (pointed correctly), any small group, parish, community or cathedral can easily sing solemn Evening Prayer for any celebration in the liturgical year.

Performance Notes

The Psalmody for Evening Prayer includes the First Psalm, the Second Psalm, and the New Testament Canticle. One follows the same pattern in setting the text for any of these. First, divide the antiphon into two, three or four parts, as the text of the antiphon suggests. An antiphon in two parts is sung using only measures 1 and 4 of the tone (i.e. omit measures 2 and 3). An antiphon in three parts is sung using only measures 1, 2 and 4 of the tone (i.e. omit measure 3). An antiphon in four parts uses all of the measures of the tone. The stanzas of the psalm, normally sung in alternation between cantor and congregation, choir and congregation, or two sides of the congregation, are arranged in a similar manner to the antiphon, depending on the number of phrases in the stanza. In both the antiphon and the stanzas, the last accented syllable of each phrase is sung on the last note of the measure (the whole note). Syllables that occur after the last accented syllable are also sung on this note. The one or two notes that occur before the last note in each measure are sung with the syllables that precede the last accented syllable of a phrase (always one syllable per note). All the syllables in words that precede these notes are sung on the "reciting" tone of each measure (i.e. the whole note surrounded by double lines). This pattern can be seen by examining carefully the way the Magnificat is set in this volume on pages 5 and 6.

Having determined where the accented syllables lie in each phrase (and consequently where the notes preceding it are sung), one must "point" the text and provide it to the singers (cantor, choir, congregation) so they know when to move from the reciting tone. In this volume the syllables sung on the black notes are written in italics. Everything preceding the italicized syllables is sung on the reciting tone; everything after is sung on the last note (whole note). Underlining or uppercase letters can also be used to distinguish this "movement from the reciting tone."

The antiphon for the Magnificat is treated in similar fashion to those of the Psalmody. The Responsory is already divided into two phrases - simply use the two measures given.

May the setting, Universal Music for Evening Prayer, facilitate the singing of Solemn Vespers in your parish or community as you "teach and advise each other in all wisdom by psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, singing thankfully in your hearts to God."

Universal Music for Evening Prayer CNP Catalog #3101

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