Managing a Liturgical Procession

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FrGareth
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Parish / Diocese: Archdiocese of Cardiff

Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by FrGareth » Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:31 am

Palm Sunday draws near and once again I am discussing with our parish liturgy planners the vexed question of singing during the Palm Sunday procession (in our case, from the parish hall or a field across the road, into the Church).

I have been involved in many kinds of processions - Corpus Christi, walking with a Cross, Marian... - and I cannot think of a single example where a procession of more than about 20 people managed to keep the singing synchronised between the people at the front and the people at the back.

So, 2 questions:

1. Has anyone on this forum ever witnessed a procession which managed to keep singing as a unit for the duration of the procession?

2. If you have, what is the secret of success?

FrGareth
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Revd Gareth Leyshon - Priest of the Archdiocese of Cardiff (views are my own)
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Ros Wood
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Re: Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by Ros Wood » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:02 am

I assume you are excluding Lourdes where they have the advantage of loud speakers along the processional route.

We gave up on trying to sing in procession some years ago (and we could only process from outside the church to inside anyway).

On Palm Sunday the cantor and choir lead the procession and start singing once inside the church - everyone else joins in once they enter the church doors. We stick to a chant rather than a hymn with verses to avoid confusion.

alan29
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Re: Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by alan29 » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:43 am

It helps to keep in time if people are singing at a walking pace. I remember at university attempting to process to something in irregular rhythm - there was something a bit John Cleese about it.

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Benevenio
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Re: Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by Benevenio » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:44 am

You could try any of these ideas:
  1. Sing the hymns/antiphons in unison. Dot the choir members at strategic points of the procession. They have a little more nouse about keeping in time and listening. They still process, but rather than being "the choir" are more integrated with the assembly and giving direct encouragement to those who might not ordinarily sing just by being there and singing. Make the loudest singer the person the choir members listen for and take their time from, rather than watching an MD waving arms. When you get to the door, the loudest person stops there so that there is some chance of being heard in and out of the church.
  2. Process without accompaniment and stick to that unaccompanied singing once in the church. That way you'll not get a timing issue (or pitch, for that matter) with the organ. Alternatively, process with melody instruments which can a) be heard (eg trumpet) and b) can continue in the church (with or without the organ joining in). Alternatively again, use a guitar with a wireless pick up and a speaker in the church - or an organ, relayed outside the church through WiFi - thus keeping the time together in and out of the building.
  3. Use a drum to set a tempo. "All glory laud and honour" with subtle drum beat might get up the noses of some people but, as a strategy to keep the procession singing together, it could have potential.

There are limitations to all of these and, personally, I'd go for unaccompanied singing over using any instruments.

But, does it matter if people aren't singing in time, together? After all, we don't all process at the same walking pace…
Benevenio.

JW
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Re: Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by JW » Wed Mar 30, 2011 3:47 pm

In the Corpus Christi and Marina processions of days of yore, the singing was always lusty, though with a few hundred participants the back of the procession was always well behind the front timewise - but it didn't matter: people enjoyed themselves and the Church was witnessing, which is surely the purpose of a procession.... If everyone looks and sounds faintly embarrassed by it all, perhaps it's better not to bother!

When processions went out of fashion, and so did Catholic's love of singing 'Catholic hymns'. Benevenio's comments seem very appropriate but, at the end of the day, the people need to know and like what they are singing - for this reason I incline towards 'Give Me Joy In My Heart', rather than 'All Glory Laud and Honour'.
JW

nazard
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Re: Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by nazard » Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:03 pm

Be careful. "Give me joy in my heart" is popular with primary school teachers for morning assembly. We used it just once, about a decade ago, and it so embarrassed our teenagers singing it in public that about three quarters of them were never seen in the church again. Building up teenage numbers again has been very slow.

lesley wright
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Re: Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by lesley wright » Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:35 pm

We always process to 'All glory, laud and honour' and no one seems to have any trouble with it But then, people up here in the frozen north don't have a problem with 'Give me joy in my heart' either, and it is usually on the wish list for two out of three wedding couples (not to process to, of course) most of whom were teenagers a decade ago; are we unusual in this?

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Nick Baty
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Re: Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by Nick Baty » Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:27 pm

We have a homespun "Hosanna in the Highest" – Assembly sings an ostinato refrain and cantors sing the "Children of Jerusalem...." bits. It shouldn't work as it's in 3/4 but it does. The kids make great sugar paper palms in school and bring them along to lead the procession. The greatest difficulty is persuading people not to fold their palm leaves into crosses. You can't exactly wave a cross!!

Haven't used Walker "Palm Procession" for a few years now. But never knew it to fail.

NorthernTenor
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Re: Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by NorthernTenor » Thu Mar 31, 2011 2:05 pm

The clergy and congregation of Old St. Paul’s, Edinburgh, were wont to process round the church at the drop of a biretta to “Hail Thee, Festival Day”, Bell’s translation of “Salva festa dies”, set by RVW for the English Hymnal.
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alan29
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Re: Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by alan29 » Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:01 pm

NorthernTenor wrote:The clergy and congregation of Old St. Paul’s, Edinburgh, were wont to process round the church at the drop of a biretta to “Hail Thee, Festival Day”, Bell’s translation of “Salva festa dies”, set by RVW for the English Hymnal.

*beep* fine hymn, that - it almost encourages people to move together and hold the rhythm.

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musicus
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Re: Managing a Liturgical Procession

Post by musicus » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:56 am

Agreed.
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