Archived Newsletters

Fall 2002- Manuscripts in the Library, Gloria Dei Cantores Schola,  chants celebrating school’s 75th anniversary

The Portsmouth Abbey School library is fortunate to have several authentic manuscript pages in its collection. Manuscript pages can have the Mass or prayers, without notes, thus for reading only, and very often these have beautiful illuminated first letters. Those pages with notes are for the singing of prayers and hymns (either at Mass or at the Order's prayers, the Divine Office). The pages have the notes to be sung. and usually the Latin text of the chant. They also can have illuminated letters. These text pages appear in two formats, the first is the simple but large choir master pages, the text of which is done in two colors, red and black. The second is the more elaborate illuminated page which has the initial letter painted with designs and sometimes scenes from the Bible or lives of the saints. The library has four examples of the choir master pages that have only text and pause symbols as instruction. We also have two examples of the illuminated pages, both from an Italian antiphonal, (circa the 15th century). They were photographed for use in the summer bulletin article on Gregorian chant at Portsmouth Abbey by Dom Julian Stead, '43 and one is shown here. The notes for the chant are seen on these pages as a series of square strokes (not the "flagged" shaped notes of contemporary sheet music). The long and short strokes provide the time and thus the rhythm of the language and music. The monks of the abbey sing this sacred music. This past May a full choir, Gloria Dei Cantores Schola, sang a service of chant in celebration of the school's 75th anniversary. The library owns two of the over 40 CD disks produced by the chorus, "The chants of Christmas", and "The chants of Easter" as part of its collection.       (R.S.)