Plainchant Hymn Tunes

Settings for Organ
(35 pages)

Méditation canonique  on  Adoro Te  Devote     (2 pages)
Intermède  en  canon   on  Adoro Te  Devote     (4 pages)
Fantaisie  on  Conditor Alme Siderum     (5 pages)
Prélude  et  Choral fugué  on  Conditor Alme Siderum     (6 pages)
Préambule  on   Divinum Mysterium     (2 pages)
Prélude canonique  on   Divinum Mysterium     (3 pages)
Acclamation  on  Pange Lingua Gloriosi     (2 pages)
Improvisation  on  Pange  Lingua     (3 pages)
  for  Flute Stops  on  Ubi Caritas     (4 pages)
Oraison  on  Veni, Emmanuel     (4 pages)


Méditation canonique on Adoro Te Devote sets a modern plainchant melody that was first published in the Paris Processionale of 1697. It is one of a later genre of chants from France characterized by a measured sense of rhythm, even though unmetered; it also makes use of the Ionian mode, equivalent of a modern major scale, instead of one of the traditional church modes.  The Méditation exaggerates the metric qualities of the tune with its canonic imitation of chant phrases over a steady syncopated pedal line. After  a brief and contrasting episodic interpolation, the hymn tune returns to its original key for a complete solo statement alternated between soprano and tenor voices.

        Intermède en canon
on Adoro Te Devote similarly exploits the measured qualities of the plainchant tune with a canonic presentation of the entire melody between two voices, the upper voice in actual note values and the lower one in augmentation (i.e., in note values that are moving at half the speed of those in the upper voice). Following a rhapsodically developmental and modulatory episode, the plainchant reappears in the tenor, accompanied in treble registers by rocking triads and pedal-points. After a brief retransition to the original key, a variant of the opening canonic treatment returns, this time between the left hand and pedal, with the addition of a sonorous chordal accompaniment in the right hand.  For the last phrase, the texture thins out, leading to a tranquil ending.

on Conditor Alme Siderum offers a rhapsodic treatment of the traditional Mode IV plainsong associated with the text from which the tune takes its title. Each of the four phrases of chant are introduced by brief unison statements, then followed by running eighth note passagework in the left hand, harmonized in the right hand and sounding above a slow moving pedal cantus firmus presentation of the plainchant in augmented note values.  For the second phrase, the left hand divides into two freely imitative voices. Following a brief episode, the third phrase introduces a sighing motif  in the two voices played by the left  hand,  followed by another episodic extension. The fourth phrase returns to the thinner textures of the opening statement:  the left hand is reduced to a single line, only to divide once more into two voices at the arrival of a series of dramatic harmonic progressions over a concluding pedalpoint. In contrast with the conservatively Ionian tonality of the plainsong's mode, The fantaisie displays venturesome modulatory explorations of near and distant keys, starting out in a tonic of D major, then presenting a complete pedal statement of the chant in A major.  A final cadence on a C-sharp major chord adds a closing éclat to an already rich tonal palette.

 Prélude et Choral Fugué
sur le chant grégorien, Conditor Alme Siderum is an extended composition that offers multiple treatments of the plainchant melody.  The prelude  is  a  loosely imitative motet  setting  in  which  the four  phrases of  the  chant are sounded in augmentation in the soprano over points of imitation in lower voices. The choral opens each successive section of the four chant phrases with a declamatory statement of the tune that appears in its original time values in the left hand,  accompanied in the right hand by bold chords moving in parallel motion stating the melody in augmentation, all over a sustained tonic pedalpoint. Each of the four declamations is cadenced by points of imitation between voices, followed in turn by a contrastingly light and dancing three-voice fugato treatment of consecutive phrases of chant. A brief and dramatic coda returns to the declamatory opening textures of the Choral, ringing out with boldly imitative ‘Amens.’

on Divinum  Mysterium  presents the  planchant  tune  of  a  Sanctus Trope dating from the 11th century that appeared in Piae Cantione Ecclesiasticae et Scholasticae, published in 1582 by Theodoricis Petri of Finland. In the middle of the 19th century,  the tune was adapted by Thomas Helmore as a setting of the now familiar text, “Of the Father’s love begotten.” The Préambule presents one complete statement of the melody, phrase by phrase. Starting in the soprano, the tune is harmonized in the left hand over an extended tonic pedalpoint; at midpoint, the melody migrates to the tenor voice for two phrases, returning to the soprano for an appearance of the final hymn phrase and its  brief cadential extension.

        Prélude canonique
on Divinum Mysterium provides a quasi-canonic treatment of  the  plainchant melody between soprano and  alto voices in the right hand,  accompanied  by two-voice points of imitation in the left hand. The free canon appears at unfixed tonal and temporal intervals.  The flowing textures and rich harmonies continue to the end, with only occasional use of the organ pedal for sustained  pitches.

on Pange Lingua Gloriosi, a chant which first appeared in the 14th–Century Zisterzienser Hymnar, sets an unaltered form of the original Mode III plainsong tune in a dramatic manner. Alternating between declamatory statements and bold chordal interpolations of successive phrases, an imitative midsection presents two additional phrases of the chant.  A return of the opening treatment is concluded by a final ‘Amen.’

on Pange Lingua sets a more contemporary version of the Mode III plainchant, one that has been adapted for use with later poetic translations of the original Latin text. In paired phrases, each punctuated by brief cadential pauses, the  melody is heard in successive points of imitation.  A stirring plainchant  ‘Amen’  draws this  gently rambling setting to a  hushed conclusion.        

for Flute Stops on Ubi Caritas is an improvisatory composition in which the first phrases of the original plainchant are repeated continuously, contrasted by varied rhythmic accompanimental figures and by migrations through a myriad of keys and tonalities.  After a brief hiatus, the final phrases of the chant are sounded in an extended crescendo, drawing the dance to an affirmative conclusion.

on Veni, Emmanuel presents a familiar Advent hymn tune that was mistakenly ascribed to Thomas Helmore.  In  more  recent  years  it  has  been  determined that the chant originated as a melody applied to verses sung in association with the text, ‘Libera me’: it was not until 1966 that the original manuscript of a 15th Century Processional belonging to a community of French Franciscan nuns was recovered. It was Thomas Helmore who recast the tune into a metered format for inclusion in contemporary hymn collections. This setting is meditative in nature and begins with a hypnotic manual accompaniment to the chant, which is sounded phrase by phrase in the pedals. The hymn setting finally blossoms out into repeated fragmentary statements in depiction of the word “Rejoice”.  In due course the Oraison wends its way through the final phrase of the hymn to a codetta that echoes the introduction, and is concluded by a serene ‘amen.’

Copyright © 2010  Ennis Fruhauf
All rights reserved

Navigate to

  Home Page   Organ