Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Compline on CD

As the recently revived Compline group is taking a week off (meeting again on Tuesday 11 December), one member asked me whether I had any CDs with Compline on, that could be used for learning at home.

The answer is "yes and no". Historically, Compline was one of the most stable rites in Christian worship, with the same psalms, canticle, antiphons, &c. being sung almost every night in almost every part of Western Christendom. But there were always small variations in text and music; even after the Roman office of Compline became homogenised in the age of printing, the religious orders adhered to their own unique variants. Following the Second Vatican Council, the revised office of Compline allowed for a great deal of variety - and some religious houses continued to cherish their own peculiarities even within the reformed rite.

As a result of all this, CD recordings of Compline - whether they are historical reconstructions or simply recordings of a monastery at its Work - are like snowflakes: no two the same. And this makes them of limited use as learning aids.

I have four CDs with Compline, but only a few items are precisely the same as what we are learning in the group:

1. Chant: Music for Paradise, the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz (Universal). CD1, track 21 (the Gospel canticle) includes the antiphon "Salva nos" in exactly the form we are using; but N.B. the tone for the canticle itself is a different one.

2. More Sublime Gregorian Chant, the Cathedral Singers/directed by Richard Proulx (Kevin Mayhew). Track 25 is an exemplary performance of the hymn Te lucis ante terminum, using the same melody that we are learning. The only difference is that they sing it in English, and - oddly - the final "amen" is omitted.

3. Lauds of the Transfiguration and Sunday Compline, Benedictine Monks of Pluscarden Abbey (Pluscarden Abbey). Our friends in the South sing Compline according to the Benedictine tradition, and the only exact overlap with our version of the office is the Lord's Prayer (part of track 16).

4. A Treasury of Gregorian Chants, vol. 1, Benedictine Monks of En Calcat (gets churned out periodically by various record companies) includes (as track 11) four minutes of Compline highlights. The first part, from "Jube, domne" to "Deo gratias" is the same as what we are using.

The CD I mentioned last night is Nox Lucis: The Night of Light by the wonderful Finnish duo Vox Silentii. The album includes the antiphon we started learning last night, O florens rosa, which we're singing from the transcription which Vox Silentii kindly sent me.

Monday, 19 November 2012