Music played a central role in the daily life of “modern” California, from its inception in 1769 and the founding of San Diego under the guidance of Junípero Serra, up through the secularization of the missions and beginning of the “American” period in the mid-nineteenth century.1 It permeated most sacred and social gatherings; the singing of mass and songs of praise was an obligatory part of quotidian life, and social functions revolved around festive music making. The guitar, for example, was as necessary at a picnic as was the food, and weddings or baptisms were marked by pageantry, processions, and dancing—all of which were accompanied by the dulcet sounds of musical accompaniment.2 Music was critically important, even in the earliest days of the mission period, yet relatively little has been written about its role during the founding days of these institutions. This article will examine music's role in the first two years of California's mission history (1769 and 1770), paying particular attention to Serra's inclusion of sacred music at the founding of the Carmel Mission during the feast of Pentecost in 1770.
As Father Serra progressed on his trek northward to Alta California, he wended his way through the various missions of Baja California. On 14 May 1769, he jotted down in his diary the events as they transpired at the founding of the San Fernando Mission near Vellicatá, Baja California, detailing the manner in which he celebrated the holy feast of Pentecost in this remote outpost. Perusing his account, one is struck by the martial pageantry of the service—gunfire was as memorable as the singing—and by Serra's makeshift improvisations in patching together the necessary elements for the celebration of mass from the ad hoc employment of available resources. He writes,
Francisco Palóu, Serra's biographer, recounts the same event in language very similar to Serra's, but in passing he also alludes to the fact that they were lacking the organ and other instruments for accompaniment, clearly implying that the “expected” and most desirable performance would have been one in the canto de órgano or canto figurado traditions. His history informs us:
In order to give Holy Communion to the captain and the soldiers, [Father Fermín Francisco de Lasuén] had to come from Santa María to hear their confessions for them to make their Easter duty, and in preparation for the expedition. They say that this Mass was the very first, for although on his trip the Jesuit Father Link had been here, as referred to in his diary, the soldiers who escorted him declared he did not celebrate at this place. In this hut, then, was prepared an altar, the soldiers putting on their full accoutrement, leather jackets and shields, and with all the surroundings of holy poverty, I celebrated the Mass on that great day, consoled with the thought that it was the first of many to be continued permanently in this new Mission of San Fernando, thus founded that very day. While the celebration lasted, repeated discharges of firearms by the soldiers added to the solemnity: and for once the smoke of powder took the place of burning incense, which we could not use because we had none with us. And having no other candle than a stub I happened to have, and a small candle belonging to the Father, there was only one Mass, at which the Father assisted together with the soldier[s] in fulfillment of the obligation. After that we sang the Veni Creator [Spiritus in the eighth mode]. The congregation was made up of ourselves, the soldiers, and the Indian neophytes who came with us, while no gentile dared come near, frightened perhaps by so much shooting.3
The following day, the 14th of May as has been established—and Whitsunday, the first day of Pentecost—the [mission] was inaugurated … . And having sung the first Mass, he delivered a fervent speech on the coming of the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the mission. Having finished the Holy Office that was celebrated without any more lights than those of a small taper and another small stub of a candle, and since the shipments in which the candle wax was coming had not arrived yet, he [Father Serra] sang the Veni Creator Spiritus, making up for the lack of an organ and the other musical instruments through the continual shots of the troops, who fired continuously during the function. And the smoke of the gunpowder took the place of the incense that they did not have.4
Veni Creator Spiritus
Veni Creator Spiritus, the selection mentioned by name in both Serra's and Palóu's recollections of the day's events, was a cornerstone in the mission repertoire, performed at the founding of missions and other important occasions.5 As will soon be seen, it was one of the pieces sung at the founding of the Carmel Mission in Monterey in 1770. In 1780, the mother institution of the Colegio Apostólico de San Fernando in Mexico City even codified this de facto tradition by requiring that the piece be sung the first evening at the founding of a new mission. With the friars singing its memorable strains, the men and women who assembled for the spectacle were to line up behind the Franciscans as they formed a procession.6 The fact that very few mission sources jot down the melody is not terribly surprising, for the tune was quite catchy, repetitive, and known by all who grew up in Mexican and Spanish culture. If everyone already knows a melody—like the tune to “Yankee Doodle” or “Happy Birthday”—why squander valuable paper with scribbling down the obvious? As with all hymns (and unlike the other genres of plainchant), Veni Creator Spiritus is strophic in form, that is, the melody is mapped out in the opening stanza and then comes back over and over again, with this recurring tune accommodating each subsequent stanza of text. Memorization, therefore, is not much of an issue, and the fact that it is exceedingly easy to learn makes it ideal as an opening salvo for the attempted conversion of new souls by the friars; after two or three times through the loop, almost anyone can catch on and jump into the thick of things.
Although Veni Creator Spiritus is rarely notated in the extant mission sources, a sheet in choirbook C-C-68:2 at the Bancroft Library sheds considerable light on how the piece was executed under normal circumstances and, in contrast, how Serra and Palóu had to shift their expectations in the first days of the mission period.7 A careful examination of the melody shows it to be very closely modeled on the “standard” Gregorian melody of the Roman rite (dating from around the ninth century).8 Each of the odd-numbered verses has the well-known tune notated above the appropriate lines of text, but all of the even-numbered lines are written out as text alone. The California source unmistakably implies that an alternatim performance style is required, in which two different textures or styles alternate back and forth. Here, the standard tune is utilized for the odd-numbered stanzas, and some other style (probably a more complex setting in canto figurado or canto de órgano) cradles the text for the even-numbered stanzas.9 If we are to use the California settings of other semistrophic pieces as a model—for instance, the renditions of Veni Sancte Spiritus, Dies irae, Lauda Sion Salvatorem, Victimae Paschali laudes, Vexilla Regis—then we can gather that there was an alternation between contrasting textures corresponding to the odd- and even-numbered verses.10 In the case of Veni Creator Spiritus, the standard melody is realized as canto llano; the opposing phrases would be drawn from a contrasting texture, accompanied by instruments. When Serra and Palóu founded the San Fernando Mission in Baja California, however, they did not have an organ, or any other instruments, readily available—so they probably had to perform Veni Creator Spiritus not as a juxtaposition of different performance styles but as a repeated realization of the stanzas in plainchant with no recourse to instrumental accompaniment.
Serra and the Founding of San Carlos Borromeo near Monterey
A little over six weeks after the makeshift ceremony at San Fernando in Baja California, Padre Serra and his fellow missionaries—along with the military commander, Gaspar Portolá, and his soldiers—trudged the final miles up from Vellicatá to arrive in San Diego in the new region of Alta California. This ragtag group of about seventy men fully expected to arrive at an already established base camp and fortifications, for according to the plan that had been hammered out before departure, two ships were to sail from Baja California with provisions and troops who were to build the initial structures and prepare for Serra's arrival. But misfortune and mishap afflicted the voyages of both the San Carlos, which set forth from La Paz, Baja California, in January 1769, and the San Antonio, which sailed the following month. Both ships were blown off course and suffered a litany of adversities: by the time the ships arrived in San Diego, the crews were suffering from abysmal health and disease. Ninety men had manned the ships when they left port; only sixteen arrived in good health. One can only imagine the distress of Serra and company when they first caught sight of their comrades: they expected to find the beginnings of a new settlement and encountered instead more graves than reinforcements. Not surprisingly, then, neither Serra nor his biographer Palóu provides a detailed account of the opulent ceremony that they had expected for the founding of the mission at San Diego—the padres were more concerned with the urgent necessities of stabilizing a very perilous and tenuous situation than with putting together an impressive pageant to attract new converts.11
In contrast, conditions had stabilized enough within the year that, by the time of the founding of the next mission, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo near Monterey (also referred to simply as the Carmel Mission), a full-blown spectacle was planned for its inauguration on 3 June 1770 (Figure 1).
In a letter to Father Juan Andrés, Serra renders a vivid account of the day's happenings in all their theatrical pageantry and splendor. Clearly, the intended audience was not confined to the friars and servicemen in attendance; the spectacle simultaneously was meant to attract and impress the Native Americans who would have been watching the peculiar assemblage that had ventured onto their shores. In his letter of 12 June Serra delineates in minute detail each of the events:
Just as we saw outside Vellicatá, Serra folds militaristic pageantry into the singing of mass with the rifle volleys and cannonades from the ships. The effect was meant to cause a ruckus, attract local interest, and perhaps even show off a bit and intimidate the local residents with the display of military might and overwhelming firepower. And we see again the central role of the song Veni Creator Spiritus in the founding of Monterey in 1770, just as at San Fernando near Vellicatá in May 1769. The Carmel Mission, which was to become Serra's home church, possesses a fragment of an extremely old missionary antiphonary with Veni Creator Spiritus. It is tempting to imagine this being a possible source from which Serra and his followers sang at the founding of the Carmel Mission (Figure 2).
The day came. A little chapel and altar were erected in that little valley, and under the same live oak, close to the beach, where, it is said, Mass was celebrated at the beginning of the last century. We came to the same spot at the same time from different directions, those from the sea and those from the land; we were singing the divine praises in the launch, and the men on land, in their hearts.
Our arrival was greeted by the joyful sound of the bells suspended from the branches of the oak tree. Everything being in readiness, and having put on alb and stole, and kneeling down with all the men before the altar, I intoned the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus at the conclusion of which, and after invoking the help of the Holy Spirit on everything we were about to perform, I blessed the salt and the water. Then we all made our way to a gigantic cross which was all in readiness and lying on the ground. With everyone lending a hand we set it in an upright position. I sang the prayers for its blessing. We set it in the ground and then, with all the tenderness of our hearts, we venerated it. I sprinkled with holy water all the fields around. And thus, after raising aloft the standard of the King of Heaven, we unfurled the flags of our Catholic Monarch likewise. As we raised each one of them, we shouted at the top of our voices: “Long live the Faith! Long live the King!” All the time the bells were ringing, and our rifles were being fired, and from the boat came the thunder of the big guns.
Then we buried at the foot of the cross a dead sailor, a caulker, the only one to die during this second expedition.
With that ceremony over, I began the high Mass, with a sermon after the Gospel; and, as long as the Mass lasted, it was accompanied with many salvos of cannon. After taking off my chasuble after Mass, all together we sang the Salve in Spanish in front of the wonderful painting of Our Lady, which was on the altar. The Most Illustrious Inspector General had given us the picture for the celebration, but with the obligation of returning it to him afterward, as I will do when the boat sails.
As a conclusion to the liturgical celebration, standing up I intoned the Te Deum Laudamus; we sang it slowly, and solemnly, right to the end, with the verses and prayers to the Most Holy Trinity, to Our Lady, to the Most Holy Saint Joseph, patron of the expedition, to San Carlos, patron of this port, presidio and mission, and finally the prayer of thanksgiving.12
The singing of the Salve and Te Deum was part of the daily regimen of Spanish soldiers and sailors ever since the initial contact with the New World. Kristin Dutcher Mann quotes a fascinating account given by Father Juan María Ratkay, a Jesuit, of the sailors' routine on board ship in 1680—and it included the singing of mass in the morning and observance of the Laurentian Litany and the Salve Regina after sunset. She further delves into Jacob Baegert's account of the Jesuits and other passengers on board ship celebrating mass five times each day, as well as singing the rosary plus the Salve at sunset. On the important Feast Day of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, they further sang the Te Deum during their 1750 voyage. In yet another California celebration involving military personnel, priests, neophytes, and the singing of the Te Deum, we find it incorporated into the festive pageantry at the inauguration of Governor Pablo Vicente de Solá at Monterey in 1815.13 In short, Serra's selection of core material was part of a broad and long-lasting tradition, not a personalized and idiosyncratic one.14
Another piece mentioned by name at the founding of San Carlos Borromeo near Monterey was the Salve, a reference that merits careful scrutiny. Serra recalls that after the singing of mass, “all together we sang the Salve in Spanish in front of the wonderful painting of Our Lady, which was on the altar” (cantamos todos la salve en romance ante la bellísima imagen de Nuestra Señora que ocupava el altar). Each detail is noteworthy. First, we are told that it was not Serra himself who sang the piece, nor Serra and a few others—but everyone. Second, we observe that the Salve was not sung at mass but after it, specifically in conjunction with the veneration of the Virgin Mary. Third, Serra reveals that the whole group sang the Salve in the vernacular—in this case, Spanish—not in liturgical Latin as one would expect of typical sacred functions of the period. And last, Serra identifies the work by the abbreviated name, so short that he pruned it to a single word, Salve. In their translations of Serra's text, both Geiger and Tibesar assume the padre was referring to the famous antiphon Salve Regina, one of four antiphons to the Virgin that was performed during the last service of the day, Compline, through the various seasons to encompass the entire church year (the other three tunes being Alma Redemptoris Mater, Ave Regina caelorum, and Regina caeli laetare).15
However, this assumption is not explicitly confirmed by Serra, and I would argue that if one adopts this translation, one immediately is confronted by a series of irksome problems. The ancient antiphon Salve Regina is exquisite, but it is lengthy, with no literal repetitions of text or melody to hold one's place. It takes unexpected turns that make memorization a problem for a culture no longer steeped in the oral tradition. How is it that a hodgepodge of soldiers, friars, and neophyte converts from Baja California spontaneously launched into the Salve Regina by memory, with all its treacherous twists and turns, in a language that almost none of them spoke? The severity of the problem is borne out by one of the few extant manuscripts from the mission period that contain the Salve Regina, a loose sheet in Juan Bautista Sancho's handwriting16 that presently is found in the archive at the San Fernando Mission; it departs considerably from the standard Gregorian model as found in the plethora of chant books in Europe (see Figure 3 for a facsimile of this sheet).17
Furthermore, it varies substantially even from the Franciscan version of the Salve Regina that had developed in the late thirteenth century and then continued with only microscopic variations in the printed Franciscan books of the sixteenth century and beyond.18 It is as if Sancho were reminiscing and trying to recall the tune that he had once sung long before but had no “official” written model to help prune out the inadvertent discrepancies that had crept into his individualized version. Sancho was arguably the most accomplished musician of the period and a thoroughly trained Franciscan who would have sung Compline (and the four Marian antiphons) with regularity. If even Sancho veered off course in his recollections, how then could a group of soldiers who rarely sang Compline be expected to join in with any accuracy? Of course, it is entirely possible that Sancho is on the mark and is accurately recording the tune from another source, but one that differed in content from what was common. In that case, we are left with the same dilemma. How could this diverse grouping of peoples with radically different backgrounds suddenly have joined together in the singing of a complicated melody if the melodic model for the Franciscan friars was an unorthodox and nonstandardized one?
The other California manuscripts provide scraps of clues that resolve these issues. One of the most commonly found text settings in mission sources is that of “Salve Virgen pura,” which—significantly—is a Spanish text, short in duration, and downright catchy. All those features make it a likely candidate for the Salve that Serra described. Narciso Durán neatly records four settings of “Salve Virgen pura,” and for each the text is identical:19Not only is the text accessible, but in each case the entire musical setting lasts but eight measures in a semipredictable and appealing four-part harmonization. The rhythmic substructure is also carved out of the same basic pattern. For the three settings in quadruple meter, the core two-measure pattern that surfaces for each phrase and line of text follows the pattern short–short–short–short | long–long. The one setting in triple meter has an equally simple pattern that recurs four times as well, running long–short | long–short | long–short| extra long.
Slight variants of this text and musical setting resurface in other locations, such as San Juan Bautista Ms. 1, on page 111 (plate 130 in WPA item 45). Its lyrics begin, “Dios te salve Reyna Maria” (May God save you, Mary-Queen), and the table of contents identifies this piece by the title “Salve Regina a 4 voces.” This same tune and harmonic setting—in an abridged version—appear in an 1803 manuscript from the Convento San Francisco de Tarija in Bolivia, demonstrating that the Franciscans took this setting with them all across the Americas. Its importance in daily life is emphasized by the heading at the top of this musical sheet, which reads: “Salve, que se canta a tres vozes todos los días para dar principio a la Santa Misión” (The Salve that is sung in three-part harmony every day, in order to begin the day at the Holy Mission [of Tarija]).21
That the piece was a staple in mission life for well over a century and that it enjoyed fame in the rest of the Hispano-American world is borne out by several documents, such as the program for graduation ceremonies at the Sisters of Charity School in Los Angeles on 25 June 1858. Six sisters (three of whom were Spaniards) had arrived two years earlier, on 6 January 1856, and established a school for their young wards. They formed a choir from the 170 young ladies enrolled at their institution, and we can gather the breadth of their repertoire by the music they sang at their graduation, including such pieces as “Gaude Virgo,” “Ave Sanctissima,” W. W. Wallace's “It Is Better Far to Speak Softly,” W. E. Hickson's “O Come, Come Away,” and “Dios te salve María”—the same song that is written out (in a variant form) in San Juan Bautista Ms. 1.22
Yet another document reinforcing the wide dissemination of this song is the Yorba manuscript at the Bancroft Library.23 Although written out in 1934, the preface to this volume provides a fascinating account of the booklet's contents and traces the heritage of its material back to recollections of Don Benancio de Ríos, who in 1864 wisely began to scribble down the lyrics to the repertoire of the California missions as they had been taught to him by his aging father, Don Santiago de Ríos, who served as cantor at the San Juan Capistrano Mission from around 1840 to 1870.24 Although none of the tunes are recorded therein, the Yorba manuscript is particularly useful in reconstructing the complete text of the piece as it was passed down through successive generations in the missions.
There was little variation between the hymns of the time. In the Yorba manuscript, it is not much of a stretch from song number 15, “dios te salbe Maria” (Hail Mary), to song number 18, “dios te salbe bella augrora” [sic] (Hail Mary, beautiful Dawn). Even closer is song number 27; this third example from the genre appears in the table of contents, catalogued as “dios te salbe birgen pura,” [sic] whose title departs just a smidgen from the Durán choirbook text for “Salve Virgen pura.” The lyrics here, however, are not just a fleeting quatrain as they are in the Durán choirbooks but instead continue for a seemingly endless stream of subsequent stanzas. On the surface, the protracted length of the lyrics would argue against group performance for the reasons already presented; when would a group of gun-toting soldiers have the time to learn and rehearse such a gargantuan text? Fortunately, the engrossing preface to the Yorba manuscript explains exactly how this could be achieved. The head cantor would sing a line of a text, after which the assembled congregation would repeat the text in a subsequent response. Thus, if even one person had committed the whole song to memory and could lead the group through the forest of words, the entire group could wend its way successfully through to the end. The preface to the Yorba manuscript is of inestimable importance, due to its references to the origins of the mission music literature and the richly descriptive detail concerning its performance in daily life. Its opening paragraphs explain as follows:
It seems reasonable, then, that the performance of the Salve that Serra briefly notes in his letter of 1770 could have been handily achieved by using the model described in the Yorba preface and by the musical snippets that were certainly known in the various California missions, at least in the early 1800s and probably earlier. A simple eight-measure loop (such as those in the Durán choirbooks) could have been repeated over and over to accommodate a lengthy Salve text in Castilian, such as those in the Yorba manuscript. At the founding of Monterey and the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission in June 1770, either Serra or some other friar with a good ear and capable memory could have offered each line of text, in the same way that pastors “line-out” spirituals or gospel tunes in African American churches in the South. Just as the call-and-response singing of the American South allowed “regular” folks (not just conservatory-trained experts) to participate in a profoundly rewarding musical experience, so the songs from early California resounded with similar musical strains. In this repertoire described by Serra and clarified by the later Franciscan documents, we discover friars, soldiers, and neophyte converts joining together in a singing tradition where a worthy tune, a good cantor, and the simple practice of following the leader made congregational singing a practicality instead of an impossible obstacle.
Origin and History of these ancient chants of Mission San Juan Capistrano / Origen e historia de estos cantos.
All of the chants in this manuscript are in their original form as taught to the indios neófitos of this mission from 1775 to about 1840 by the Franciscan padres.
Many of them were composed in ancient Spain, and some in Mexico after 1530.
Aside from those which the padres themselves chanted during the Rosary, after Mass, & after requiem Masses for the dead or during the alabanzas for the month of May (such as Bella Augrora [sic], Despedida, & Benir Pecadores) but which were also chanted by laymen, these chants of praise to the Heavenly beings and songs of the velorios (wakes), (such as Abe Maria Beninísima, En la cria de un ojo de Agua, etc.) were usually led by the official cantor or chanter of the mission.
The cantor would sing the opening verse, which all present would then repeat. Thereupon he would sing the second verse and so on, each time being answered in unison by the congregation with the chorus.
This custom is still in full effect among the paisanos of San Juan Capistrano, especially at the velorios or wakes, which begin at 8 p.m. and do not end until the singing of the Alba (l alba) the following dawn.25
Pedro Cabot writes out an even simpler, more utilitarian rendition of the Salve in Santa Barbara Mission Doc. 4B. Cabot's elegant and very precise handwriting records the lengthy text, the three voices sharing a single staff, but there are only two musical phrases that serve as the core material from start to finish. They are actually more intonation formulas than “composed melodies,” since the opening harmony can be reiterated multiple times as needed to accommodate extra syllables in any particular line. The rather static nature of the phrases and the circling back over familiar musical territory in seemingly endless loops would make this setting a prime candidate for the Salve that was passed by word of mouth among sailors, soldiers, neophyte converts, ranchers, and other Californians who learned their music through the oral tradition, not erudite notation that required extensive training to read and understand.
Yet another rendition of the Salve crops up in California sources, and its setting is much more user-friendly than the plainchant version found in the Liber Usualis. Santa Clara Ms. 3 records a folklike melody in canto figurado style; it marches forward in a sturdy duple meter in the key of A minor.26 Its notation is approximate, not rigorous, and quite a bit of rhythmic fudging is necessary, with respect to note values, to ensure that there are not distracting hiccups or truncations in certain measures. Although its stolid character makes it inherently appealing, its length and lack of melodic phrase repetitions make it an unlikely candidate for the Salve performed at the founding of Monterey. In addition, its Latin text disqualifies it from consideration, since Serra clearly states it was in the vernacular.
The Te Deum
A few further comments concerning Serra's description of the founding of Monterey are in order. He concludes his brief portrait of the day's ceremonies with a reference to the Te Deum, some litanies, and a “song of thanksgiving.” The Te Deum, also known as the Song of Ambrose and Augustine or the Hymn of Thanksgiving, was one of the staples of Catholic liturgy and was of great importance as the concluding piece of a Matins service. In Mexico, in fact, the Te Deum would have been one of the most beloved and well-known selections in religious performance, since Matins was as important in New Spain as opera was in baroque Naples or oratorio in baroque England. Matins, in truth, was the primary form of large-scale spectacle and entertainment in baroque Mexico.27 In this context, it is not surprising to see it occupy an equally critical place in the pageantry and ceremonial spectacle of the California missions.
In fact, even in the earliest days of California's mission period, the Te Deum was sung on almost any occasion of great joy and celebration. When the overland De Anza expedition eventually reached its California destinations in 1776, the ecstatic friars welcomed their friends with the exuberant singing of the Te Deum. Concerning their arrival at San Luis Obispo, we are told,
Similarly, the de Anza party's arrival at Monterey was met with festive celebration. Pedro Font's diary entry for 11 March 1776 reads:
Too excited and eager to await its slow pace, Fathers Caballer and Mugártegui went out on the road to meet the caravan. On its arrival Father Figuer, vested with a cope, bearing a censer, and with a broad smile on his face, was awaiting the pilgrims at the church door. Amid peals of mission bells and volleys of musketry the whole colony entered the temple chanting the Te Deum, “and thus our arrival was a matter of great and mutual joy.”28
In Serra's account of the founding of Monterey, he too recalls how he intoned the Te Deum, and he implies that the assembled friars (and maybe soldiers) participated in the singing as well. He recounts, “As a conclusion to the liturgical celebration, standing up I intoned the Te Deum Laudamus; we sang it slowly, and solemnly, right to the end.”30
The Commander and I and some few others set out for the presidio of Monterey at four in the afternoon and, at five, arrived at the Mission San Carlos de Carmelo—marked on the map with the letter G—having traveled one long league southwest by south. Here the fathers—there were seven of them—received us, singing the Te Deum, with the peals of bells, and great rejoicing.29
Where are the music sources that might clarify what notes Serra and his Franciscan brethren sang? If we are to consider the various extant settings for the Te Deum in the California sources, we find considerable variety in style and performance practice, and most of them would have been practical for realization in the context of this propitious day in 1770. The monophonic version that seems most consistent with the common Te Deum that had been used for centuries is the one recorded in Santa Clara Ms. 3.31 It is not so much “melodic” as formulaic, with repeated notes for the bulk of a textual line and then a handful of recurring melodic gestures that are used to close off the various verses. It is not unlike the two formulas for the Te Deum found in the Liber Usualis—the “Solemn Tone” formula and the “Simple Tone.”32 Interestingly, the California manuscript is a combination of the “Solemn Tone” and the “Simple Tone” rather than being a pure and discrete version of one or the other. The repetitive aspect of intoning formulas would have made performance by Serra's entourage a snap. A few performance cues are suggested by the notation as well. The sudden shift to text in all capital letters at the section “TE ERGO QUAE SUMUS … SANGUINE REDEMISTI” corresponds to the portion of the Te Deum where the participants are expected to kneel.33 As the singers removed themselves back to their seats or to a standing position, the text itself resumes normal capitalization procedures where only the first word of a phrase receives a capital letter.
Another more luxuriant but equally plausible candidate for the Te Deum as heard in 1770 is the “Te Deum for Four Voices in the Fifth Tone and the Fourth Tone (Te Deum a 4 Vs 5º y 4º Tº)” recorded in multiple California manuscripts, including versions written out by Father Narciso Durán (see Figure 4).34
As the title states, the Te Deum is harmonized for four voices, but as we have seen in the polyphonic Psalm-tone formulas at the missions, this is similarly a series of chords in a formulaic pattern that allows the vocalists to sing in a fluid, speechlike rhythm and simply pour in the appropriate text. The harmonic mold is infinitely flexible, capable of accommodating the many varied lines of the Te Deum (in exactly the same way that the monophonic formula of Santa Clara Ms. 3 works wonderfully in adapting to the mercurial changes in the text patterns). The Durán version only includes the text for the odd-numbered verses. We can safely assume that this is yet another example of alternatim technique in which the odd-numbered verses are sung in the free-flowing rhythm of fauxbourdon in polyphony, while the even-numbered verses are sung in another texture altogether, probably in intoned plainchant—such as the monophonic formulas and text found in Santa Clara Ms. 3—or in instrument interpolations that take the place of the excerpted verses. At the top of the page, Durán has written, “Vt y de La” (In C and in A) to facilitate finding instrumental passages in the key of C major or A minor that could then serve as appropriate substitutions for the even-numbered phrases without any jolting harmonic surprises. Like the Santa Clara Ms. 3 that had a visual cue of the division point where the performers knelt, so too does the Durán Te Deum have a structural division at the point where the believers would genuflect before God. At the line “Te ergo quae sumus,” the old harmonic formula is discarded and a new one takes its place; it then is used as the mold for the subsequent phrases up through the end of the piece.
Yet another intriguing Te Deum surfaces in the Sancho materials in folder 77 of the WPA collection at the University of California at Berkeley, with the title page stating “Te Deum for Four Voices Alternating with the Voices of the Choir” (Te Deum a 4 voces alternando con las del coro) and immediately below it another subtitle, “Te Deum for Four Parts for the Use of Friar Jayme Pou. This passed into the possession of Father Friar Juan Bautista Sancho” (Te Deum â 4 del uso de Fr. Jayme Pou. / pasó al uso del Pe Fr. juan Bau[tis]ta / Sancho).35 The folder contains four sheets for the four solo voices: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. All phrases are in quadruple meter and strongly in mode 6 (as stated on the bass part), with a modern-sounding feeling in the key of F major. Whereas the other Te Deum versions we have considered set the odd-numbered verses, this particular rendition in WPA fol. 77 has brief phrases, each slightly different from one another, that progressively wind through the even-numbered verses. As we have seen previously, polyphony was often performed one on a part in California mass settings, while the choir as a whole joined together for the monophonic canto llano or homophonic passages in canto figurado. Neither the intoned formula of Santa Clara Ms. 3 nor the four-part fauxbourdon versions of the Te Deum already discussed make very compatible companions for the phrases in WPA fol. 77; although the folder's even-numbered verses could be smoothly folded into the creases of the odd-numbered verses in the other Te Deum settings, their modes, or “keys,” are not really compatible.36
The last piece that Serra includes at the founding of San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was the acción de gracias, or “prayer of thanksgiving.” Although not mentioned by its most common name, it is probably the beloved alabado (song of praise) that was one of the most widespread genres of the period across Latin America. Upon rising at daybreak or retiring at dusk, no piece was more central to daily life in California than the alabado. The first recording of an alabado was made at the turn of the twentieth century by Father Alexander Buckler of Fernando Cárdenas of the Santa Inés Mission, better known by his nickname, “Fernandito,” when the singer was eighty-four. Charles Francis Saunders and J. Smeaton Chase describe the recording as metrically fluid and not at all regular—but it is hard to know whether it is a characteristic of the song itself or merely reflects the liberties taken by an octogenarian singer.37
Father Owen da Silva writes an engaging summary of the alabado and provides critical information regarding the circumstances of the Fernandito recording. Da Silva states,
One enigmatic segment of an alabado appears in the Sancho materials of the WPA collection at the University of California at Berkeley.39 The entire folio is a mishmash of musical ingredients, almost all of them small and fragmentary. This particular tidbit is written in the bass clef in triple meter in the key of F major; the five measures are written at the bottom of the page and upside down from the rest of the sheet's music (except for another brief excursion, “O dulcisimo jesu yo te doy mi corazon,” on line 7). Its tune bears no perceptible relationship to the melody as sung by Fernandito and subsequently notated by da Silva, nor the tune indicated by Robert Stevenson or by Saunders and Chase.40 At one point in time there had been an alabado in a choirbook at the San Juan Bautista Mission, but the book apparently has been lost, making it frustratingly impossible to compare it with the other notated versions of the alabado.41
Foremost among the old hymns is this one, the Alabado. It is mentioned in almost every historic account of California and the Southwest. It was sung by padre and soldier, colonist and neophyte, in church, at home, in the field, and on the trail. The padres often used it in place of the Te Deum.
The hymn consists of twenty-four stanzas praising the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Sacrament, the Virgin Mary, the Angels and Saints … .
From Father Font we know that the Alabado was sung to the same tune at all the Missions. We believe that the present version [that da Silva prints in his volume] is the one referred to by that exact padre, and therefore, the original one. The late J. Smeaton Chase recorded it at Mission Santa Inés more than twenty-five years ago. The singer was Fernandito. We have also heard an old Edison home recording of Fernandito singing the Alabado at the home of Miss Mamie Goulet in Santa Bárbara. Miss Goulet and her uncle, the Rev. Alexander Buckler, were custodians of Old Mission Santa Inés for many years, and shortly before Fernandito's death in 1919, Miss Goulet was happily inspired to record the voice of the last of the Mission singers.38
In all of the Hispano-American world, the alabado was as much a part of daily life as sunrise or sunset. Leonardo Waisman's research on the Chiquitos missions of Paraguay during the eighteenth century demonstrates that the alabado and rosary were sung an hour before sunset at the evening service.42 Philipp Segesser von Brunegg describes nearly the same tradition as practiced in Sonora and Arizona in the first half of the eighteenth century, clarifying that the end of the day was marked by the singing of the Salve Regina, the rosary, the litany, and the alabado.43 Texas, too, was part of this universal practice in the Hispano-American world. John Koegel informs us that the priest at Nuestra Señora del Rosario de los Cujanes (located near Goliad on the Gulf of Mexico in Texas) would call the converts together on Saturdays and lead them in reciting the rosary and singing the alabado.44 Its popularity in that region has been long lived. Anna Blanche McGill, writing in 1938, affirms that the alabado and alabanza were still sung throughout Texas and the American Southwest.45 Kristin Dutcher Mann provides a panoramic view of the alabado's usage, taking us to Dolores Mission in Sonora in 1687 and later presenting a strong case linking Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús's alabado from the early 1700s with the one brought to California by Pedro Font and the de Anza expedition.46 John Donald Robb, Thomas J. Steele, Vicente T. Mendoza, and Virginia R. R. de Mendoza also explore the alabados that permeated the folkloric cultures of Mexico and New Mexico. Unfortunately, there is no irrefutable proof that would link the texts and tunes collected by Robb and Mendoza to mission-period California. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that some of the versions that Robb and the Mendozas collected were transmitted to Alta California through the oral tradition, even though they left no solid paper trail.47
In the missions of Baja California, the alabado was sung several times at key moments of the day.48 Using the writings of Miguel de Barco as source material, Harry Crosby details the ritual and regimen of daily events as they unfolded each day at the San José de Comandú Mission. From the rising of the sun until dusk, the alabado was the most common recurring element marking the key points of the day, as Crosby relates:
Crosby then explores the various chores and tasks that kept the men and women occupied after breakfast and continues by describing the schooling of the children in sacred instruction, including the singing of the alabado yet again:
As the neophytes entered [the church after rising], they broke up and sat in four separate groups: men, women, boys, and girls. They joined in prayer and proclaimed the Blessed Virgin. The Alabado was sung, first by men, then by women, then by both. Singing was led by two neophyte women, Inés and Chepa, designated as cantoras (singers) and picked for strong voices and musical ability. At other times, the cantoras probably helped in teaching the young to sing.
Worshippers whose work was needed to start the mission day rose from devotions and began their chores … . People who had no immediate duties stayed in church and took part in the daily Mass. That finished, they said prayers, sang the Alabado again, and went to take breakfast.49
The schedule as told by Miguel de Barco is reconfirmed by other writers familiar with activities in the Baja California missions. Father Sebastián Sistiaga captures the events of mission life at San Ignacio, Baja California, in 1744: “Daily, on arising, which is quite early, they direct their thoughts to Jesus Christ and His Most Blessed mother by singing the Alabado that the Spaniards recite.”51 Father Nicolás Tamaral relates the day's conclusion, a ritual that we have seen described by the other writers of the time:
At ten in the morning, the sexton again tolled the bells, and the boys and girls who were being prepared for catechism went to church. Segregated by sex, they chanted the catechism in unison, they sang the Alabado, which they were bade to perform “with proper feeling.”
At midday, the bell was sounded anew, and all knelt, prayed to the Virgin, and sang the Alabado one time through. Then a noon meal was dished out … . After the meal, everyone took a siesta until the hour of two, then work resumed. At five, the bell was tolled, and boys and girls again went to church to recite the Angelus and the catechism. At the end, they took turns singing the Alabado.50
Alta California was no different. Upon Serra's arrival in this new frontier, the alabado was one of the first pieces he would teach at each new outpost. He taught this popular gem to the neophytes at the San Gabriel Mission in the 1770s, and Engelhardt tells us that as early as September 1773 the Native Americans at Rincón had learned the tune from Serra and his brethren.53 Other padres taught the alabado to new converts with equal vigor. The Franciscan Chronicler (writing between 1844 and 1850) explains that the alabado, as it was sung at the Santa Inés Mission, had been taught to the neophytes at the Santa Barbara Mission by Father Lasuén.54 Father Tapís also considered the work to be essential repertoire, as is evidenced by the multiple copies that exist in his hand.55
After eating [the evening supper], all go to the church and, with the padre, recite the invocation and responses of the Rosary and Litany. This is done then and not before, because everyone is free of duties and able to pay full attention to his most important devotions. After chanting the Rosary and singing the Alabado in the church, all leave; the men with their temastián and the women with their temastiana, to totally separate places where they practice the catechism and then retire.52
In one of the most graphic accounts of an early encounter between the Spanish newcomers and the native Californians, the chaplain on the San Carlos, Vicente de Santa María, details the various events of 23 August 1775, as the members of the ship and the Huimen and Huchiun peoples of the San Francisco Bay exchanged songs, dances, and ideas.56 As with Serra's approach to first encounters, so the crew of the San Carlos used the attractive and theologically grounded aspects of the alabado to begin the attempt at conversion. He writes:
Immediately following the Spaniards' singing of the alabado, the Native Americans responded to the artistic gift with their own cultural offering. Vicente de Santa María tells us of the chief's dancing on the ship's deck and reveals his own insatiable curiosity in trying to learn as many Huimen and Huchiun words as he could from the afternoon's adventures. He continues:
Two reed boats were seen approaching in which were five Indians. As soon as the Captain was informed of this, he directed that signs be made inviting them aboard, to which they promptly responded by coming, which was what they wanted to do. Leaving their boats, they climbed aboard fearlessly. They were in great delight, marveling at the structure of the ship, their eyes fixed most of all on the rigging … . But what most captivated and pleased them was the sound of the ship's bell, which was purposely ordered to be struck so we could see what effect it had on ears that had never heard it. It pleased the Indians so much that while they were on board they went up to it from time to time to sound it themselves … . Throughout the time the Indians were on board, we tried to attract them to Christian practices, now having them cross themselves or getting them to repeat the Pater Noster and Ave María, now chanting the Alabado, which they followed so distinctly that it was astonishing with what facility they pronounced the Spanish.57
The Franciscan chaplain continues with his thorough recollections of the days that followed; on one occasion he sails to shore in the launch in order to continue his developing relationship with the native residents and to delve further into their language and customs. On shore, the friar and native peoples once again exchange songs and dancing; interestingly, when Vicente de Santa María is asked to sing a song, it is the alabado that comes to mind for the chaplain's performance. He depicts the scene by explaining as follows:
The Indian chieftain, less reserved than the others, showed how … pleased he was at our warmth of feeling; more than once he took to dancing and singing on the deckhouse. I paid close attention to their utterances that correspond with their actions that their language went like this: pire means, in our language “sit down”; intomene, “what is your name?”58
The fact that Vicente de Santa María could fit the alabado into the steady rhythmic beat of the rattles implies a regularity of pulse and probably meter that is not evident in the elastic and irregular aspects of the Fernandito recording.
As the Indians remained seated on the shore I could not bear to lose the rest of the afternoon when I might be communicating with them; so, setting out in the dugout, I landed and remained alone with the eight Indians so that I might communicate with them in greater peace. The dugout went back to the ship, and at the same time they all crowded around me and, sitting by me, began to sing with an accompaniment of two rattles that they had brought with them. As they finished the song, all of them were shedding tears, which I wondered at for not knowing the reason. When they were through singing, they handed me the rattles and, by signs, asked me also to sing. I took the rattles and, to please them, began to sing them the Alabado (although they would not understand it), to which they were most attentive and indicated that it pleased them.59
The rosary is not nearly as prevalent in written sources as the alabado, but that is largely the result of its life as part of an oral tradition rather than a written one. Nevertheless, a particularly beautiful setting of the rosary appears on the final pages of Santa Barbara Document 1 and of the San Juan Bautista Manuscript 2, arranged for four voices, in colored notation on a single staff—as is so typical of the California polyphonic repertoire. A single voice initiates the piece with the opening phrase “Dios te salve Maria,” after which the other voices chime in at “llena eres de gracia.” The gentle pulsation in quadruple meter makes it an easily memorized and fetching gem.60
That the alabado and rosary retained their importance in the daily routine of mission, rancho, and pueblo life in Alta California is well documented, beginning with Serra's and Palóu's descriptions of the founding ceremonies at each new mission and continuing up through the recollections of Antonio Coronel almost a century later. Palóu describes Serra's weekly habits in his History of the Life and Apostolic Works of the Venerable Father Friar Junípero Serra, indicating the alabado and the recitation of the Crown of the Immaculate Conception of Blessed Virgin (i.e., the rosary) were on the agenda every afternoon (at least during Lent, and Palóu may even imply that it was the expectation throughout the liturgical year). Palóu states, “Every Sunday during Lent he did not content himself solely with the doctrinal discussion during High Mass, but instead during the afternoon after the recitation of the Crown of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin and the singing of the Alabado, he preached for them a moral sermon.”61 Palóu alludes to the critical role the alabado occupied in Serra's activities during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Once again, the reciting of the rosary and the singing of the alabado are conjoined in the same celebration:
Palóu's last statement highlights the importance of Marian processions on Saturday; the Hispano-American world had long celebrated mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin on Saturdays, and California was simply another outpost venerating this Marian tradition.63
The introduction to the devotion of Our Lady, Mother Mary—and especially with respect to her Immaculate Conception—was dedicated with the same care, especially making ready for celebrating her with the nine-day devotion, which the entire town attended. In addition, the Mass was sung on the day of this great festival, and he [Serra] preached the sermon, and afterward the Gozos [or sung poems] in honor of the Immaculate Conception were intoned. Every Sunday in the afternoon the Crown of the Mother of Mercy was said, finishing it with the alabado and the poems of praise that were sung. And to better honor these praises, the Reverend Father placed an order from Mexico for a stunning statue of the most tender Lady, placed on her platform, they paraded her through the town every Saturday evening, illuminated by lanterns while singing the Crown of Our Lady.62
Engelhardt's description of activities at the San Antonio Mission corroborates this pattern of a typical day with the reverberating strains of the alabado and Salve—following the same regimen described by Serra and Palóu. After dawn, all would gather in the church, recite the doctrine, and sing mass. Then each neophyte and friar would go to his respective chores. At day's end, the bell was rung to announce the reconvening of all at the church, where they would sing the Salve and the alabado.64 Chroniclers of later life in California, such as Alfred Robinson and José del Carmen Lugo, reveal that whether californianos were on the rancho or in the mission, the day's activities customarily drew to a close through the veneration of Mary.65 The practice that Serra and his fellow friars had introduced in 1769 with the singing of the alabado and the Salve, accompanied with the reciting of the rosary, continued without interruption even through the turmoil and uncertainties of secularization and the Mexican period of the 1830s and 1840s. In his Tales of California, Antonio Coronel tells the reader of the family routine of singing the alabado “in chorus” each morning, and other sacred hymns throughout the day:
Religious education was observed in all homes. Before dawn each morning, a hymn of praise [i.e., the alabado] was sung in chorus; at noon, prayers; at about 6:00 p.m. and before going to bed, a Rosary and another hymn [likely the Salve]. I saw this on several occasions at balls or dances when the clock struck eight: the father of the family stopped the music and said the Rosary with the guests, after which the party continued. I saw the same thing sometimes at roundups, when the old men stopped work to pray at the accustomed hours, joined by all present.66
Alba (and Alabanza)
Yet another work closely related to the alabado, serving more or less as a kind of substitute during the morning routine, is the alba or dawn song. Ever since Owen da Silva's publication of the Alba in 1941, its beguiling melody and lyrics have made it one of the most often recorded and performed compositions from the mission period.67 Although da Silva lops off the text after four stanzas, the invaluable Yorba manuscript preserves a total of twelve. When Don Benancio de Ríos wrote down the lyrics as recited to him by his old father, Santiago de Ríos, in 1864, in many instances he captured the sound of the words and syllables but misspelled or misunderstood the actual text.68 De Ríos describes the singing of velorios or wakes that consume the entire night with music making until the rising of the sun and the singing of the alba.69
So, what did the music sound like? Serendipitously, Ramón Yorba sang “El Alba” for Mrs. W. G. Hubbard, and that tune was subsequently published by Charles Francis Saunders and Father St. John O'Sullivan in their rather sentimental but informative Capistrano Nights: Tales of a California Mission Town. Between the lyrics (found in the Yorba manuscript at the Bancroft Library) and the tune (Ramón Yorba's tune found in Capistrano Nights), we have the critical elements for a convincing reconstruction of the alabado as sung in the California missions.70
Saunders and O'Sullivan also tell of the Alba's strains that filled the air on any given morning in California's missions and towns. They provide several accounts of elderly Californians who remembered singing the Alba when they were tiny children earlier in the nineteenth century:
Yet another moving account of this tradition is told by Don Antonio Colonel to Mrs. Helen Hunt Jackson, who published his recollections in 1883. Don Antonio ruminates:
Doña Balbineda, who was born here in the mission building, says that her mother remembered how the rough voices of the soldiers in the cuartel, or guardhouse, could be heard joining in it just as day broke; and Doña María has told me that when she was just a little girl on her father's ranch, it was the practice of the family to sing it every weekday morning muy temprano, as she expressed it, very early. At the first sign of light her father's voice resounded through the house, calling, “Levántense, muchachos, y asiéntense á rezar—rise, children, and sit up to pray!” Thereupon all the family would sit up in bed and repeat the angelus—el angel del Señor anunció a María—and as soon as this was concluded the Alba was started. There was no getting out of it; if any did not awake, they were made to awake; and the little María, who was the baby of the family, would thrust her head back into the pillow, immediately prayer and song were ended, for another nap.71
It was the custom of the town [Los Angeles] in all of the families of the early settlers, for the oldest member of the family—oftenest it was grandfather or grandmother—to rise every morning at the rising of the morning star and at once to strike up a hymn. At the first note every person in the house would rise, or sit up in bed and join in the song. From house to house, street to street, the singing spread; and the volume of musical sound swelled, until it was as if the whole town sang.72
Ms. Jackson further explains that the Cántico del Alba (Morning Hymn to Mary) and alabado “were heard everywhere in California, in mission enclosures, from the courtyards of the ranchos, and in the streets of village and pueblo.” She equates the Cántico del Alba with the “Morning Hymn to Mary.” Saunders and O'Sullivan have a slightly different tack, equating the alabanza (not the alba) with the “Praises of Mary.” In short, many of these terms (alabado, alabanza, Alba, Salve) appear to have areas of overlap. In all of these, short melodies repeat to wind their way through a dozen or more stanzas. Alternatim performance would have provided an opportunity for varied sonorities. One of the priests told Saunders and O'Sullivan of an occasion at Serra's church (i.e., Carmel Mission), in which the children and adult cantors gave an ethereal performance of the “Alabanzas de Maria,” alternating phrases antiphonally, the boy-sopranos calling out and the men-baritones answering. The vocal contrast must have been further enhanced by the physical separation of the two groups in the sanctuary. Saunders and O'Sullivan relate the story as follows:
The Father explained that there was to be a special service in the Serra church that evening, in which the children were to sing … . The church was dimly lit except where the candles lit up the beautiful altar. The service was short, made up in part of the singing of Alabanzas de María, or Praises of Mary, which consisted, as I remember, entirely of unaccompanied chants by the children, who sang alternately with chanters located in the body of the church, one group singing after another, the lovely music all the more appealing in the children's endearing treble. It was the devotion of el Mes de Mayo—the Month of May.
We see a microcosm of mission music making at the feast of Pentecost on 3 June 1770, when Serra laid the groundwork for what was to become the Carmel Mission, his home church. This occasion was full of pageantry, procession, song, gunfire, plainchant, strummed homophony, and perhaps even some rudimentary polyphony. The musical performances of Veni Creator Spiritus, the Salve, the Te Deum, the alabado, and the alba provided an experience that was rewarding for the participants and probably fascinating for the indigenous Californians in the region, whom the friars were trying to attract. One could hardly pick pieces more beautiful or appealing than these. Their compositional attributes—straightforward yet varied, simple yet inviting—are apt metaphors for life in California as it evolved during the early nineteenth century. And if we look back at these attributes that were so heartily embraced by our ancestors, we might find that they still serve as worthy models for us, even now.