Cantantibus organis (Peter Tranchell)
- Editor: Crispin Flower (submitted 2023-01-08). Score information: A4, 18 pages, 1.42 MB Copyright: Personal
- Edition notes: © Cambridge University Library MS.Tranchell.2.339. Published with the permission of the Syndics of the Cambridge University Library. Please refer to the guidance on the use of scores published by The Peter Tranchell Foundation.
First published: 1987
Description: The anthem Cantantibus Organis for St Cecilia’s Day was written by Peter Tranchell in 1987 for use by the choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he was Precentor (Director of Music), and it was sung at Evensong (presumably on St Cecilia’s Day, 22 November) that year. The final page of the manuscript, reproduced here after the computer-set music, gives the relationship between the music in the anthem and the plainsong settings of some of the proper antiphons for the Feast given in the Liber Usualis. For the refrain, Tranchell has used a shortened and slightly adapted version of the first antiphon at Second Vespers, Cantantibus organis, Cæcilia Domino decantebat in corde suo, and the melody is shown as deriving loosely from the plainsong setting of part of the Antiphon for the Magnificat at First Vespers (Est secretum, Valeriane…), specifically angelum Dei… amatorem, followed by the beginning of the second Antiphon at Second Vespers, Valerianus – in retrograde. The melodies of the solo verses are shown as similarly related to parts of the plainsong melodies of these two Antiphons together with the second Antiphon at Second Vespers. This is the sort of intellectual exercise that Peter Tranchell revelled in, though it has rarely been so completely documented by him. The origin of the English words, which tell the story fleshed out from the antiphons and according to various Lives of St Cecilia dating back to Chaucer’s Second Nun’s Tale, Ælfric’s Lives of Saints and before, is uncertain. They are probably by Tranchell himself, given that they are required to fit the melodies derived from the various plainsong fragments.
Original text and translations
Original text and translations may be found at Cantantibus organis.
Cantantibus organis, Cæcilia Domino decantebat in corde suo.
There was in Rome, as tales record,
A daughter of a noble Lord.
From childhood, she had pledged she would
In Jesus' Name keep maidenhood.
Her father gave the maid to wed
A young patrician lord instead.
Valerian was that young man's name,
And to Valerian's house she came.
The merry wedding music play'd,
while in her heart Cecilia pray'd.
That night her husband she did tell:
'A holy Angel guards me well.
If you respect my chastity,
He will love you as he loves me.
But should you disrespect your bride,
Alas, alas, woe will betide.'
Valerian said: 'I would agree,
If I this Angel could but see.'
She told him then the Christian way,
And taught him what the Gospels say.
She said: 'Seek out the priest this night,
and be baptiz'd to gain true sight.'
He went at once that thing to do
And took his brother with him too.
decantibat in corde,
When he came home, he sought his bride,
And saw the angel at her side.
The Angel laid upon her hair
a crown of rose and lily fair.
Valerian and his brother then
serv'd Christ by burying martyr'd men.
Their pious work anon was cut short.
The Prefect haled them to his court.
Interrogated long they were.
The scourge they joyfully did bear.
The Prefect's sentence then was pass'd.
The Headsman did his work at last.
Cecilia staying in her home,
Receiv'd all Christian folk in Rome.
She built a chapel all could use.
Of which the Prefect soon had news.
in corde suo.
The Prefect's sentence was the doom
of stifling in her own bathroom.
They stoked the furnace to a blaze.
But she surviv'd it two whole days.
The Headsman, to chop off her head,
struck thrice perforce, and thought her dead.
But three more days she linger'd on,
until to Heav'n her soul was gone.
Thus was to Music giv'n the seal
of witness to her first ordeal.
In death it was her last reward
To make Heaven's music with the Lord.
Gloria Patri, et Filio et Spiritui Sancto,
sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper,
et in saecula saeculorum.