The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

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Peter Jones
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The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Peter Jones » Sun Nov 13, 2011 10:10 pm

Thanks to NB for reviving the Communion processionals thread.

This is an expansion of the topic. Musically, how best might we celebrate GIRM 86-90 / CTM 213-225? Note the lack of final hymn in GIRM and discouragement of same in CTM. Note the recommended place for an optional song of praise.

Your thoughts please.
Any opinions expressed are my own, not those of the Archdiocese of Birmingham Liturgy Commission, Church Music Committee.
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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Gedackt flute » Mon Nov 14, 2011 1:14 pm

Peter Jones wrote: Note the lack of final hymn in GIRM and discouragement of same in CTM. Note the recommended place for an optional song of praise.

Your thoughts please.


The post-dismissal 'Recessional', to me, is one of the oddest practises at Mass. The priests / minsters march out during the first verse, and most of the congregation is long gone by the 2nd or 3rd verse. No-one sings except the choir / music group.

Yet I have provoked tears, extreme anger and vitriol among choristers / music group musos, priests and parishioners when I have suggested that we do not need a song at this point.

I do not think it an exaggeration to say that if the Pope made atheism and disbelief in the resurrection articles of faith, most RC's would not bat an eyelid -- but if you try and take away their precious recessional -- there would be a riot.

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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Southern Comfort » Mon Nov 14, 2011 5:47 pm

It can be difficult to persuade people that there actually is no Recessional Hymn in the Roman Rite. The four-hymn sandwich has accustomed people to it.

In the Tridentine Rite it was no better. The rite did not end when it should/could have. At Low Mass, a Last Gospel had been tacked on after the blessing and dismissal. And then we had the Prayers for Russia. At High Mass there was the singing of the "Domine salvam/salvum fac" for the reigning sovereign. It was almost as if we didn't want the rite to end.

My starting point for catechesis is this: if we are going to sing something at the end, after Mass is over (which is the case), then we should not be singing "Thank-you-God-we've-had-a-lovely-time"-type hymns and songs ("Now thank we all our God", etc, etc). Rather, we should be singing hymns and songs about mission ("Take Christ to the world", "Sent by the Lord am I", etc), for we are being sent out to do something. There are far fewer hymns and songs of this latter type than the other, which makes it more difficult to find appropriate things to sing.

It's not such a large step from there to go back to the rite to see what it is actually asking for. At the dismissal, we don't hear "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life — but not until you've sung all seven verses of 'Praise to the holiest'!" As soon as we say "Thanks be to God", that's it. It's over. Ended. Anything we do now is not Mass, not part of Mass. So why do it? That's the kind of rationale I think can be useful, but not in every situation.

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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Gwyn » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:07 pm

Hmm, dilemma - Recessional hymn? Or tea and biccys in the parish hall?

A dilemma indeed.

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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Hare » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:41 pm

When I first came to my parish, the PP insisted on "no recessional hymn", rather an organ voluntary after the Dismissal - except in Lent when there are no voluntaries, in which case a short hymn or something was sung. People seemed perfectly happy.

His successor over-ruled this, aying "I think you'll find [his catchphrase] that people want a recessional hymn" and so it has been ever since, all subsequent PPs being happy with a recessional hymn. It is obvious if our current PP likes a hymn as he will stay in place until the last verse. If he doesn't like it, he's off in v 1 ! :lol:

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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Peter Jones » Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:00 pm

Some interesting replies coming in. What do readers think of this? (The USCCB document Sing to the Lord (footnotes omitted)) I myself am almost tempted to be of the opinion that it's a bit of a fudge - attempting to please everyone of every shade of liturgical opinion and pastoral practice.


The Communion Chant or Song

189. “While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant [or song] is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the ‘communitarian’ nature of the procession to receive Communion.” The singing begins immediately and continues “for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.”The Communion chant or song may be sung by the people with choir or cantor, or by the choir alone. Because the Communion
chant expresses the unity of those processing and receiving the Holy Sacrament, communal singing is commendable. The singing of the people should be preeminent.

190. There are several options for the Communion song or chant,including the proper antiphon from the Graduale Romanum, a seasonal antiphon from the Graduale Simplex, anantiphon and psalm from a collection approved for liturgical use, or another appropriate liturgical song.

191. In selecting a Communion song suitable for the Eucharistic banquet in which God’s blessings are bestowed so abundantly, one should look for texts that have themes of joy, wonder, unity, gratitude, and praise. Following ancient Roman liturgical tradition, the Communion song might reflect themes of the Gospel reading of the day. It is also appropriate to select a Communion processional song that reflects the liturgical action, i.e., eating and drinking the
Body and Blood of Christ.

192. As a processional piece, the Communion chant or song presents particular
challenges. The faithful are encouraged to grasp ever more deeply the essentially communitarian nature of the Communion procession. In order to foster participation of the faithful with “unity of voices,” it is recommended that psalms sung in the responsorial style, or songs with easily memorized refrains, be used. The refrains will generally need to be limited in number and repeated often, especially at the outset, so that they become familiar to the faithful.

193. When the Communion procession is lengthy, more than one piece of music might be desirable. In this case, there may be a combination of pieces for congregation and pieces for choir alone. Choirs with the requisite ability may sing the proper Communion chant from the Graduale Romanum, either in Gregorian chant or in a polyphonic setting, or other suitable choral
pieces. Instrumental music may also be used to foster a spirit of unity and joy. If there is a hymn or song after Communion, the Communion music should be ended “in a timely manner.”A period of silent reflection for the entire congregation after the reception of Communion is also appropriate.

194. During the various seasons of the year, the psalm or song during Communion should be chosen with the spirit of that season in mind. On most Sundays and other days, it would be appropriate to sing one of the psalms that have long been associated with participation in the Eucharistic banquet, such as Psalms 23, 34, and 147. There is also a substantial repertory of
liturgical songs that give expression to the joy and wonder of sharing in the Lord’s Supper.

195. Care should be taken to ensure that the musicians (singers and instrumentalists), too,“can receive Communion with ease.”Since the Communion song begins while the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the singers and other musicians may receive Communion at or near the end of the procession.

Song After Communion

196. “When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately. If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation.” The song after Communion should focus the assembly on the mystery of the Holy Communion in which it participates, and it should never draw undue attention to the choir or other musicians. The congregation may stand for the song after Communion if the nature of the music seems to call for it.

197. The priest may sing the Prayer after Communion, or even just the concluding formula. At the conclusion of the prayer, the entire assembly sings the Amen as a sign of assent.

The Concluding Rites

198. Especially on Sundays and other solemn occasions, the blessing may be sung by the priest with the assembly singing the Amen, and the dismissal may be sung by the deacon or priest with the assembly singing Thanks be to God.

199. Although it is not necessary to sing a recessional hymn,when it is a custom, all may join in a hymn or song after the dismissal. When a closing song is used, the procession of ministers should be arranged in such a way that it finishes during the final stanza. At times, e.g., if there has been a song after Communion, it may be appropriate to choose an option other than congregational song for the recessional. Other options include a choral or instrumental piece or, particularly during Lent, silence.
Any opinions expressed are my own, not those of the Archdiocese of Birmingham Liturgy Commission, Church Music Committee.
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contrabordun
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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by contrabordun » Mon Nov 14, 2011 9:27 pm

Interesting that the Book of Common Prayer has the Gloria at the Postcommunion.
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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Peter » Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:33 pm

At my church we have a Taizé chant during Communion and find it meets the requirement of para 189 pretty well. I'm still trying to persuade the organist to start it "while the priest is receiving the sacrament" but it gets going shortly afterwards and once started with the organ it continues a cappella. The congregation are encouraged to join in and usually do, to a greater or lesser extent. Even so, when the last choir member stops singing to receive Communion the congregational singing normally stops at the same time, so as the choir go up last and sing while processing it means that the singing does indeed continue “for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.” it also means the choir members “can receive Communion with ease” as per para 195. The texts of Taizé chants are usually based on Scripture or ancient prayers of the Church and so are arguably "appropriate liturgical songs" (para 190) and the ones we use meet the needs of para 191 as well. We haven't got the resources or the time to sing a responsorial psalm at this point, but then paras 192 to 194 don't say we have to.

We never add a post-communion song - but, again, para 196 says we don't need to.

Regarding para 199 it has long been our custom to sing a recessional hymn and on the occasions when we have tried not doing so it doesn't seem to work. The previous PP used to leave after the first verse, and some people used to follow him out; the present one joins in the singing at the foot of the altar and then leaves during the last verse - again, as that paragraph requires.

As Fr Peter Jones says, the variety of options allowed does make the USCCB document look a bit of a fudge, but at least it allows us sufficient options to pick what best suits our individual congregations' needs and the resources available. While not wishing to deny polyphonic motets to congregations who like them and have the resources to sing them, there's no point in making them a requirement for churches like mine where we haven't got the resources and the congregation wouldn't want them if we had. As such the document seems to me very pragmatic - or, to put it a more positive way, realistic and compassionate. Congregations that want to sing "Hail Queen of heaven" at Communion might object, but it should be relatively easy to persuade them to sing "O Bread of heaven" instead.
Last edited by Peter on Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:28 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Peter » Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:41 pm

contrabordun wrote:Interesting that the Book of Common Prayer has the Gloria at the Postcommunion.
... which may be why the score of Ethel Smyth's Mass in D includes the Gloria after the Kyrie but with the recommendation that it might be better performed after the Agnus Dei instead.

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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Gwyn » Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:57 am

contrabordun wrote:Interesting that the Book of Common Prayer has the Gloria at the Postcommunion.
Peter noted,
... which may be why the score of Ethel Smyth's Mass in D includes the Gloria after the Kyrie but with the recommendation that it might be better performed after the Agnus Dei instead.


Another possibility might be that, if performed as a concert piece it makes more sense to end with the Gloria. I went to a performance of Bach's B minor Mass a few years back, they shunted the Gloria to the very end, it worked well, but less so liturgically I suspect.

I once heard the Gloria described as the liturgical equivalent of the football terrace supporters' chant, certainly "We praise you! We bless you! We adore you! &c. has that sort of ring.

Just a thought.
Gwyn.

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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by nazard » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:52 am

I was told that the reason that the Book of Common Prayer puts the Gloria at the end is because that is where the Sarum Rite had it. Does anyone know if that is so? Cranmer et al quite possibly had no knowledge of the Roman Rite: it may well have been very rare in England until after the Council of Trent.

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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Peter Jones » Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:21 am

nazard wrote:I was told that the reason that the Book of Common Prayer puts the Gloria at the end is because that is where the Sarum Rite had it. Does anyone know if that is so?


No. Cranmer moved the Gloria. He concluded that the opening parts of the Communion service should have a penitential aspect. In the Use of Sarum, the Gloria precedes the Liturgy of the Word and there are Marian and other additions (farsing) within the text. e.g. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. To the glory of Mary. (Perhaps one of us who is a chant scholar can point out if any settings of the Gloria with these glosses are extant on a new thread?)
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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by Peter Jones » Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:47 am

Compare the USCCB with our own Bishops in Celebrating the Mass. How are we ourselves approaching the musical aspects of the reception of Communion to the Dismissal?

Communion Song
213 The Communion of priest and people is helpfully
accompanied by prayerful congregational song. This singing is
meant to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of
the unity of their voices, to give evidence of joy of heart, and
to highlight more the “communitarian” nature of the
Communion procession The Roman Rite provides an antiphon
to be sung at this point. The antiphon may be replaced by a
psalm or suitable liturgical song. The text and the music should
be suited to the mystery being celebrated, the part of the Mass,
the liturgical season or the day.312 The singing continues for as
long as the faithful are receiving the Sacrament. If, however,
there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant
should be ended at the right time.313
• The communion song begins immediately after the common
recital of L o rd, I am not worthy and normally should
continue until all the assembly have received Communion.
• So as not to encumber the assembly with books or
scripts during the procession, the song may be led by
cantor or choir and include a repeated response or
refrain from the assembly.
• Care must be taken to ensure that cantors and musicians are
also able to receive Communion conveniently
• When it is clear that the communion procession is going
to take a long time, thought should be given to extending
the duration of the communion song by way of musical
improvisation, rather than adding additional songs or
allowing part of the communion procession to take
place in silence. However, when necessary a second
communion song or a motet may be sung or instrumental
music played.
• Many traditional Eucharistic hymns were composed for
Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. They concentrate
on adoration rather than on the action of communion and
may not be appropriate as communion songs.
• When there is no music to accompany the procession the
antiphon might be recited by the priest. This should be
done after he has received Communion and before he
distributes Communion to the faithful.

Period of Silence or Song of Praise
215 When Communion is completed, the whole assembly may
observe a period of total silence. In the absence of all words,
actions, music, or movement, a moment of deep corporate
stillness and contemplation may be experienced. Such silence is
important to the rhythm of the whole celebration and is
welcome in a busy and restless world.
• Silence and true stillness can be achieved if all, the assembly
and its ministers, take part in it.
• As an alternative or addition to silent contemplation, a psalm
or song of praise may be sung. Since there should normally
have been singing during Communion, silence may be
more desirable.
• This period of deep and tranquil communion is not to be
interrupted even by parish announcements, which if
needed come correctly on the Concluding Rite, or the
taking of a collection. Nor should this silence be broken
or
overlaid by the public reading of devotional material.

Dismissal
225 The Dismissal sends the members of the congregation
forth to praise and bless the Lord in the midst of their daily
responsibilities.322
• It is the deacon’s role to say or sing the Dismissal, which
should be done in a way that invites the people’s response.323
• The response Thanks be to God is a statement of grateful
praise for encountering the risen Christ in the
assembly’s worship.

• Beginning at the Easter Vigil and up to and including
the Second Sunday of Easter, the double a l l e l u i a is
added to the dismissal and the response. It is also
added on Pentecost.
• The practice of a final song or hymn is foreign to the
Roman Rite, which is notably brief in its concluding rites.
The use of a final hymn at Mass which keeps ministers
and assembly in their place after the dismissal detracts
somewhat from the dimension of missionary imperative
present in the dismissal texts. The use of instrumental
music, particularly an organ voluntary, is more
appropriate to this moment.
Any opinions expressed are my own, not those of the Archdiocese of Birmingham Liturgy Commission, Church Music Committee.
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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by alan29 » Tue Nov 15, 2011 10:45 am

I don't see the recessional being dropped any time before the Parousia at ours.
Mind you we have tea and "fellowship" at the back of church since the demise of our hall. So when the priest enjoins everyone to "Go in peace," they precisely don't. Maybe he should hang around until everyone is actually leaving and dismiss them then.

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Re: The Trouble with Communion Processionals and beyond…

Post by organgrinder » Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:04 pm

We dropped the recessional hymn some years ago with very few complaints. We do have one at special times (eg. Christmas and Easter). Like others, we have trouble getting people to sing during communion, although when the choir is present we have a refrain-based processional song which people do respond to - otherwise gentle organ music. When the priest sits down after communion we observe silence for a minute or so and then have a thanksgiving hymn/song (sitting down). There is then no particular urge to sing another hymn after the dismissal. Instead I start an organ piece immediately after 'Thanks be to God', although striking up at this moment requires some confidence.

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