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T his book presents an investigation into the liturgical music of Seán and Peadar Ó Riada through an examination of three Roman rite mass settings composed in the Irish vernacular, from within the cultural context of the West Cork Gaeltacht of Múscraí (Muskerry).1 The main part of the work, running from chapters three to six, consists of a detailed analysis of the contents of the mass settings, a body of material which is considered from the following perspectives: as emanating from a living oral culture of native traditional song; as part of a historical continuum of monophonic liturgical composition for the Roman rite, having at its origins the orally-derived compositional traditions of plainchant; as part of a broader aesthetic context of text/music relationships found in the repertoires of plainchant, medieval song and ‘folk’ or traditional song; and finally, as part of the new liturgical reality existing since the Second Vatican Council which requires viable and sustainable musical approaches to the setting of vernacular texts. Proceeding in the context of an understanding of Christian liturgical music as ‘a combination of music and words’, the study is situated within a framework best summarised under the categories of models, modes and motifs. Although these concepts relate to specific questions arising from each of the three mass settings, they will be seen to apply in various ways to the totality of material being investigated. Introduction 1 THE MASSES OF SEÁN AND PEADAR Ó RIADA 2 The broadest umbrella is that provided by the term model, understood as ‘an existing framework’ which is interpreted from a variety of perspectives, ranging from liturgical to textual to musical. The framework of the Roman rite, with its yearly, weekly and daily unfolding of liturgical celebrations, themselves governed by given ritual models, provides the broader context within which liturgical composers work. A particular aspect of this context, discussed in chapter one, is provided by the documents associated with the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (henceforth described as Vatican II). The rites of the markedly word-based Roman liturgy, in particular that of the mass, are themselves comprised of given song-oriented texts, generally categorised under the headings of ‘proper’ (variable) and ‘ordinary’ (fixed), of which the latter may more easily be recognised as models. Existing, through-composed, monophonic settings of these fixed, ordinary texts, as expressed in the Latin-language tradition of Gregorian chant, provide specific musical models against which to compare the corresponding Irish vernacular versions of the combined Ó Riada corpus (taking into consideration similarities and dissimilarities in textual form, expression and, as we shall see, ‘number’). The composition of the original Latin and subsequent Irish-language versions of these ordinary texts may in themselves be seen at a deeper level to emerge from a model of textual orality which expresses itself through characteristic ‘adding’ forms such as the litany, and through the employment of textual couplets governed by the oral device of ‘parallelism’. The versions of both languages are linked above all, however, in their adherence to the formally asymmetrical and numerically indiscriminate patterns of prose, and this study will proceed on the basis of an essential definition of Roman rite liturgical music: sung prose. Prose and orality combine in a particular way in the body of ancillary Irish devotional prayer texts selected by both Ó Riadas to serve as native propers. The implications of the musical engagement of Peadar Ó Riada with this type of textual material for the until now largely unexplored area of official Roman rite vernacular propers will be considered in the final part of this study. The orally based song tradition of Cúil Aodha (situated in the heart of the Múscraí Gaeltacht) out of which this liturgical corpus emanates provides a specific musico-cultural framework, the nature of which will be examined in chapter one, and the compositional models of which will, as the study 3 INTRODUCTION progresses, be seen to influence in various ways, and to various degrees, the work of the two composers. In Peadar Ó Riada’s case, this will be seen to express itself through the instinctive incorporation of musical fragments and phrases from within that tradition. In the work of his father Seán Ó Riada, on the other hand, we will observe in his dealings with selected symmetrical, poetically-regulated texts, examples of wholesale adoption of pre-existing song models. The compositional challenge of sung liturgical prose, however, provides the main focus of the analysis of the three mass settings. This challenge...


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