Singing Jeremiah: Music and Meaning in Holy Week

Singing Jeremiah: Music and Meaning in Holy Week

Singing Jeremiah: Music and Meaning in Holy Week

Singing Jeremiah: Music and Meaning in Holy Week

Synopsis

A defining moment in Catholic life in early modern Europe, Holy Week brought together the faithful to commemorate the passion, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this study of ritual and music, Robert L. Kendrick investigates the impact of the music used during the Paschal Triduum on European cultures during the mid-16th century, when devotional trends surrounding liturgical music were established; through the 17th century, which saw the diffusion of the repertory at the height of the Catholic Reformation; and finally into the early 18th century, when a change in aesthetics led to an eventual decline of its importance. By considering such issues as stylistic traditions, trends in scriptural exegesis, performance space, and customs of meditation and expression, Kendrick enables us to imagine the music in the places where it was performed.

Excerpt

In the ritual year of early modern Catholics, the days before Easter represented the longest single commemoration, collective and personal, of the central events of salvation. Despite the survival or re-invention of historical Holy Week traditions today, it is still hard to imagine how much prayer and penitence were packed into the seventy-odd hours between the afternoons of Wednesday and Saturday. the three central days—the Triduum—recalling the Passion included the chanted words, participatory rites, and sonic behavior of liturgical Maundy Thursday (“Feria V in Coena Domini,” here after F5), Good Friday (“Feria vi in Parasceve,” hereafter F6), and Holy Saturday (“Sabbato Sancto,” hereafter SS). Beyond the structures of the Divine Office and Mass, there were community actions: processions, “entombments of Christ,” depositions from the Cross, ceremonies of mourning and weeping, and, less appealingly, group violence. the social re-enactment of Christ’s atonement went hand in hand with individual purging of sin via penance and often Confession. This dialectic between the audible expression of mourning and the internalization of remorse was vital for the Week’s meaning.

Sounds simple and complex projected the listing of human guilt, the recollection of the Passion in narration and allegory, and the meanings of litur gi cal action. in order to focus on allegory and narrative voice, this study considers largely the most renowned music of these days, the polyphony and chant for the Canonical Hours of Matins followed by Lauds, in the two centuries after 1550. These were combined as a single service in Catholic continental Europe and its outposts. the Hours also drew lay participation, beyond the monks, nuns, or cathedral clergy who would have sung the texts.

From some point in the later Middle Ages onward, evidently first at the Papal court and then increasingly elsewhere, these services were in most places anticipated to occur in the late afternoon of the day preceding their liturgical assignment. Thus the texts of liturgical Thursday were read or sung on late . . .

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