By Maureen Finn, Special Collections & Archives
Over eighty delegates from an international music conference visited the Russell Library on Friday, 5th August 2016 to view an exhibition of liturgical works from the historical collections of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
The Cantus Planus Conference, organised by the International Musicological Society, was hosted this year by the Keough-Naughton Notre Dame Centre at O’Connell House and UCD School of Music. The group visited the Russell Library as part of a wider programme of events which included a trip to the Royal Irish Academy and the National Stud.
The exhibition at the Russell Library, which was curated by Barbara McCormack, featured twenty-one items including a 15th century Book of Hours and a printed book bound in a medieval plainchant manuscript. The visit was hosted by Audrey Kinch and Maureen Finn.
One of the highlights of the exhibition was a 14th century Benedictionale from among the books of Armand de Narces, Archbishop of Aix-en-Province, who died of the Black Death in 1348. Other important works included a 14th century psalter with handwritten musical annotations and a 15th century book printed in Seville featuring musical notes on red-printed four-line staves.
An item of particular interest to the group was Haberl’s Palestrina (Venice, 1882). This work was purchased by Heinrich Bewerunge for the Maynooth College Library where it is still in use today. Bewerunge who was a cleric and a musician was educated in Würzburg and Regensburg in the late 1800s under Franz Witt and Franz Haberl. Both were leaders of the Cecilian movement which sought to restore plainchant and renaissance polyphony to Catholic liturgy. Sanctioned by Pope Pius IX in 1870, Cecilianism spread throughout Germany, the Netherlands, Eastern Europe and America. The Irish Society of St Cecilia was founded in 1878. Bewerunge was appointed to Maynooth ten years later, on the recommendation of Haberl, and he occupied the Chair of Church Chant and Organ at St Patrick’s College for thirty-five years until his death in 1923. The Palestrina was open at Missa Lauda Sion, five-part ‘Agnus Dei’ and was accompanied by Bewerunge’s transcription for male voices.
Also included in the exhibition was the Missale Romanum: Ex decreto sacrosancti Concilii Tridentini resitutum which was printed in Rome 1794 and is said to be the first Missal in use at Maynooth. An essay or instruction for learning the Church plain chant, printed in London in 1799, and containing evidence of three previous owners, was also on display.
Delegates enjoyed a concert of Cistercian chant and organ in the College Chapel following their visit to the Russell Library.