Flame of Ireland / Canty
Medieval Irish Plainchant · An Office for St. Brigit



ASV Gaudeamus CD GAU 354
St Mary's Parish Church, Haddington, East Lothian
noviembre de 2002 & enero de 2004

medieval Irish plainchant, from First Vespers
01 - Hymn. Adest dies leticie   [3:06]

02 - Invitatorium. Totus orbis Brigide & Venite   [8:49]
03 - Antiphona I. Rex celestis humilem   [0:29]
04 - Antiphona II. Prolis exordium   [0:25]
05 - Antiphona III. Nocte matris lectulum   [0:33]
06 - Lectio I. Fuit quidam dux magnus   [4:06]
07 - Responsorium I. Felix Hiberniam   [2:31]
08 - Lectio II. Tunc Duptachus ait   [2:55]
09 - Responsorium II. Hanc de Britannia   [2:23]
10 - Lectio III. Perrexit poeta   [3:02]
11 - Responsorium III. In albis clerici   [4:07]
12 - Antiphona IV. Fusa super parvulam   [0:30]
13 - Antiphona V. Ardens velum niveum   [0:32]
14 - Antiphona VI. Candor veli niveam   [0:30]
15 - Lectio IV. Signa iam maxima   [3:19]
16 - Responsorium IV. Lacte quod premitur   [2:25]
17 - Lectio V. Deinde ipse magus   [2:44]
18 - Responsorium V. Proficit in moribus   [2:34]
19 - Lectio VI. Die autem alio   [2:26]
20 - Responsorium VI. Virgo decorator   [2:47]
21 - Antiphona VII. Vertens in cervisiam   [0:35]
22 - Antiphona VIII. Quidquid vidit oculo   [0:28]
23 - Antiphona IX. Christo bis sex apostolis   [0:39]
24 - Lectio VII. Quadam quoque die   [3:01]
25 - Responsorium VII. Larga manus Brigide   [2:22]
26 - Lectio VIII. Post hec intravit   [4:17]
27 - Responsorium VIII. Felix virgo viscera   [2:45]
28 - Lectio IX. Alio tempore magne synodus   [2:07]
29 - Responsorium IX. Regum mundi respuit   [3:40]

from First Vespers
30 - Antiphona. Deo carnis edidit   [1:04]

from Lauds
31 - Antiphona. Verna pollens   [0:57]

from Second Vespers
32 - Antiphona. Lux Brigide Lagenie   [1:17]

from Lauds
33 - Hymn. Christo canamus gloriam   [3:04]

World première recordings except #1, #31

Rebecca Tavener

Libby Crabtree, voice
Ruth Dean, voice
Anne Lewis, voice
Rebecca Tavener, lectrix #6, 8, 10, 15, 17, 19, 24, 26, 28
William Taylor, wire-strung clÓrsach


Our programme mostly consists of material for the Office of Matins for the Feast of St Brigit. Matins was the longest and most 'entertaining' of the Offices including a series of nine lections and responsories focussing on the life and attributes of the saint. The full Office would probably be more than two hours in length, so we present a formal, but truncated, version which includes the original lections, but cuts nine of the ten Psalms which would have been sung. The one remaining Psalm is the Venite which forms a delightful structure with its antiphon (Invitatory), alternately whole or in part, appearing between each verse...

The date of the manuscript might have tempted us to perform this material using late-Medieval techniques such as applied measures and improvised harmonies. We have steadfastly resisted doing this, wishing to present the Office in a much more archaic manner, befitting the great antiquity of the sources of the Brigit legends...

...Manuscript 80, from the library of Trinity College Dublin, is the main source relied upon for this recording. It is a fifteenth-century noted breviary, i.e., one which includes notation for the chant melodies. Although we do not know the details of its provenance, it was compiled probably in the fifteenth century and is believed to have been used in the parish of Kilmoone, Co- Meath, from at least 1470 until 1604...

...The wire-strung clairseach was the essential art Instrument of Medieval Ireland. This ancient harp was characterised by a sound box carved from a single block of timber, a substantial arm reinforced with thick metal bands, a stout forepiltar, and brass wire strings. Played with the fingernails, the strings gave a satisfying sustain, which ancient writers described as sounding like bells. Such harps were played in Ireland at least as early as the 10th century, and they appear to have been used in liturgical settings to provide an intoning pitch for the singing of plainsong, to give instrumental preludes or interludes, and to accompany the performance of devotional poetry. As an accompanist, my role is to support both the tonal centre and the emotion of the music. During the Responsories I provide a gentle line of counter-melody which moves in the same direction as the plainsong, but which also offers a subtle. independent commentary on the text. The Lections give an ideal opportunity to accompany a singer as a Medieval storyteller, to present the miracles of the saint's life in a dramatic way, with moments which range from furious decorative filigree to sections of serene, introspective solemnity...

In the notes about Brigit's legends, they state:

We have one favourite miracle that does not appear in this Office, nor in any of the most ancient sources. It was included in O'Hanlon's 'Lives of the Irish Saints' (1800), however, and we would like to think that it belongs to an earlier tradition. When St Brigit was on a visit to Limerick, she called at a chief's house only to find him away from home. Seeing harps hanging on the walls, she asked the young men of the house to play for her. They explained that there were no harpists present, but attempted to play when Brigit's nuns jokingly suggested that the saint would bless their hands. At that point, they suddenly became able to play like trained musicians. Afterwards they became professional harpists, and their descendants played for the kings of Ireland.

'Almighty and everlasting God, who choosest the weak things of this world that thou mayest overthrow the strong, give us in this feast of St Brigit strength of mind and body, that we may with all our heart run to thee. and serve thee in body always.' (Prayer at the end of the Office for the Feast of St Brigit)

[from the Capella Nova website
(now not available, but it can be seen in brigitssparklingflame.blogspot.com]

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