Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is one more in a long line of recordings of late medieval liturgical offices, this one found in Dublin, Trinity College 80, a 15th-century noted breviary (i.e., one furnished with notation). Listed as BR41 in Andrew Hughes’s catalog, it celebrates St. Brigida (Brigit here), a fifth-century nun and abbess whose life was written at the end of the seventh century. The program is devoted almost entirely to Matins, as usually heard in rhymed offices. While the psalms are completely omitted (they are usually truncated severely, leaving just enough to indicate how they alternate with the antiphons), the antiphons, lessons, and responsories are sung, apparently complete, preceded by the invitatory and Psalm 94. This is followed by three
antiphons, presumably the canticle antiphons for Vespers, Lauds, and Second Vespers. The whole is framed by two hymns for the feast, the first one being the only piece previously recorded.
The tonal quality of the four women’s voices is somewhat similar to Anonymous 4. The lessons are given a theatrical rendition, explained in the notes (not convincing to me) as a deliberate story-telling style, quite removed from our experience of liturgical lessons, where the text is allowed simply to speak for itself. The harp accompaniment is also explained in the notes as based on “a growing body of evidence” of its use in Celtic religious houses, evidence that remains unexplained here. The notes conclude with a word for “those who may still be unaware” of female religious chanting, presumably including everyone who has never heard the nuns of Nonnberg on a Christschall disc in 1930, other nuns on one of the very first chant LPs (Period SPL 569), followed by the nuns of Argentan, St. Michel de Kergonan, Maumont, Stanbrook, St. Cecilia at Ryde, Varensell, Mariendonk, and Regina Laudis in Connecticut. Genuine female religious chanting has scarcely ever been absent from the record catalogs.
Canty is closely connected with Alan Tavener, for its members furnish the upper voices of his Cappella Nova, which has recorded similar offices of St. Columba and St. Kentigern for this label. The results here are finer, all things considered, than the previous discs. The disc offers a generous program for pleasant listening.
J. F. Weber, FANFARE
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