Lenten Music: Kyrie XVII (B)


Angels_SingOne of my passions is Gregorian Chant and since we are in the heart of Lent, it is a good time to look at a chant piece proper to the season: The Kyrie in the Sundays of Advent & Lent (Kyrie in Dominicis Adventus et Quadragesimae): Kyrie XVII.

Though there are a few variations of this Kyrie, I restrict myself to option B.

Kyrie XVII B is a beautifully haunting piece in both its tone and tenor as it petitions the Lord to have mercy. Here is an image of the music from the Kyriale:

At the end of each “eleison” an accentuation in the music gives the impression of an expectation. This is a most-fitting theme for an Advent & Lenten chant piece where, respectively, we await the coming of the promised Messiah and prepare for the Passion, Death & Resurrection of Christ by acts of penance and self-mortification.

There is a drastic, if not startling movement upon entering into the second Kyrie eleison. The music changes from its previous steady & calm accentuation and is suddenly sent upwards in an emotional cry for mercy that sounds like it is piercing the very vaults of heaven itself.

After such a cry, the music reflects the spent emotion and quietly ends shortly after a flat in what I call “dignified exhaustion.” “Dignified exhaustion” meaning that the one crying out for mercy has done so with all his strength and has remained temperate in his display of emotion, piety and bodily posture.

If chanted in a higher pitch, the piece is simply stunning.

Sadly, after the post-Conciliar reforms of the Roman Liturgy, this particular chant has fallen into what Prof. Romano Amerio calls the “Erebus of Oblivion.” I rejoice that the group Chanticleer has revived it and made it available to audiences through their CD Mysteria.  Or click here to listen to it on YouTube (2:10-4:12).

The notation can be viewed in the Kyriale published by the monastery of Solesmes in France and I encourage readers to pick up a copy today. Buy one for your pastor as an Easter present. The Kyriale would serve as a great parish resource during this time of adaptation with the third edition of the Roman Missal.

For $15, you can’t go wrong.


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