Martin Foster, from the Liturgy Office, asks for your opinions on a proposed core repertoire

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Post by sidvicius » Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:09 pm

Useful discussions going on above, but would anyone object if I suggested we took the posts from Dot's (the seventh) post and split them off as a new thread in the general forum? I say this only for the benefit of Martin's Core Repertoire Project - this is a separate forum for special reasons.

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Post by SOP » Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:26 pm

No, I was debating starting a new thread but wanted to stay with the relevant posts - if you see what I mean.

As to the question DOT asked, it has been planned. A nod from the presiding priest and I will start off the singing, or at least that is how it has been done in the past. Another change of personnel and things have changed again.

Needless to say, you cannot please all the people all the time.

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Core repertoire issues

Post by Dot » Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:33 pm

Going back on topic, and responding to Martin's post of this morning:

Though not listed as a specific section - parts of the Mass are 'core' core repertoire. I think a parish repertoire needs to include settings that will work when no musicians are present - they belong to the assembly.

Absolutely right, and I think we have yet to establish any of these in our parish.

Would people like a thread on antiphons? I would suggest that form might be more interesting than content of antiphons.

I would, but I'm not quite clear about what you mean by form v. content.
For content, I refer to the Revised Sacramentary Antiphonal, which I believe is only a draft.

If I wished to steer this back to Psalms - I would want to tease out which psalms are core. As I read comments here and elsewhere I think the core may be Entrance Psalms; Communion Psalms - what else. I then look at the list and wonder why Ps 99 (100) is not there.

Yes: I wonder if you could whittle it down to a manageable list? I would definitely value guidance on this.

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Post by sidvicius » Thu Aug 26, 2004 3:01 pm

I'm confused (again) - the main point is to establish a repertoire of core music is it not? Thus, wherever we are in the country, if someone has to sing Psalm 117, there will be one, liturgically spot-on tune for it, that everyone knows?

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Re: ????!*/@~#!?????

Post by Martin Foster » Thu Aug 26, 2004 4:41 pm

sidvicius wrote:I'm confused (again) - the main point is to establish a repertoire of core music is it not? Thus, wherever we are in the country, if someone has to sing Psalm 117, there will be one, liturgically spot-on tune for it, that everyone knows?

Not at the moment - definitely not one. To recourse to history - even within chant there are a number of Mass settings available. If this were desirable I would think it could only first work at a micro-level - "this is how we sing the Beatitudes at this Mass/ in this parish" but as it says in the original blurb there are times when you want sing the Beatitudes at the top of your voices others when it's a quiet reflection - now there might be one setting that can be used in both ways but… I don't think we should try and restrict the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!

You do need a common repertoire when you come together in larger groups. It seemed to me a good thing that at the Jubilee Mass at the NEC in 2000 we could assume that the majority would know the Gathering Mass - and they seemed to - but personally I would not want to say everyone should know the Gathering Mass. I would qualify that noting that some dioceses have used a 'diocesan Mass setting' - often in preparation for a special diocesan gathering (the original purpose of the Gathering Mass) - but also as way of enabling every parish to have a Mass setting they could sing.

I am with SOP to let this thread wend on - I stick by it actually being about core repertoire - as Moderator of this patch I'm enjoying having 'visitors'! :)

But I will have a go at a 'core' core list of psalms for Dot - but contributions please.

As a starter Communion Psalms: 33 (34), 114 (115) & 145 - are their other or better choices for communion psalm?
(Remember this not saying you can only sing these at Communion but wouldn't it be good to sing psalms at this point and here are 3 to start with.)

And I will start a thread on Antiphons here - you will to read it to find out why here!

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Post by Sonoqui » Thu Aug 26, 2004 8:55 pm

Tsume Tsuyu wrote:In our parish, both our choirs have a summer break, ............. I have a dilemma over this: I need a break, else I'd go mad, so I'm all for stopping for a few weeks in the summer. However, I do miss there being any music at Mass!

As a member of the congregation who sometimes, but not always, joins in the singing, am I allowed to say that it's nice for US to have a break from music too? I love music at Mass and so do most of the rest of the congregation (those that don't go to a Mass where there is never music) but just for a while it's lovely to be able listen to the priest without interruption (and to get out a bit earlier! - see, I'm honest!)

That said, I look forward to the return of our choir and can hardly wait to see (hear?) what they have in store for us this year.

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Post by sidvicius » Fri Aug 27, 2004 11:35 am

That's a very good point, so while we're meandering I'll add that I find Lent is a good time to cut down on music, paring the mass down over those weeks, as a sort of musicians sacrifice.
By contrast, I wonder if summer isn't a better time to extend parish repertoire? Only hardcore parishioners about, and maybe visitors will know what the locals are being introduced to!
I have been told that Advent is a good time to do introduce new music, and 'music-in-the-mass methods' - is that right?

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Post by mcb » Fri Aug 27, 2004 11:41 am

sidvicius wrote:I wonder if summer isn't a better time to extend parish repertoire? Only hardcore parishioners about

Now your secret's out, Sid, does that mean 'Category A' parishioners? :)

Anyway I doubt whether you're right - it's not the hardness of the core that determines whether people go away in the summer. If anyone chooses to forego a holiday on the grounds they'll miss Mass at their home parish, I'd suggest getting professional help, or just getting away more!


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?...back a bit...

Post by sidvicius » Fri Aug 27, 2004 12:04 pm

Well, the 'lifers' have to take it all on board regardless of the season, but I think you have misunderstood - I'm asking would summer be a better time than Advent, which surely should be more devoted to erm - Advent songs, whereas summer, in the liturgical calendar (I guess), is just 'summer' i.e. ordinary time?

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Post by contrabordun » Thu Sep 02, 2004 4:35 pm

why not split the difference and use sept/oct/nov? most people are back and you get a good long run down to Christ the King to get people accustomed to your new whatever

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sounds good

Post by sidvicius » Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:16 am

That's good thinking - it's a nice long 'ordinary' period over which to introduce new music, and styles, whilst maintaining mass themes to a reasonable extent.
I'll get right onto it. Maybe one of the more cheerful common psalms could be used as an entrance on a fairly regular basis. Ideas anyone?

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Filling in...

Post by Crumhorn » Sun Jan 30, 2005 1:49 pm

Interesting, this one. My wife and I regularly sing unaccompanied with a local choir, and in the course of historical re-enactment, so when we got to my father's local church on 26 December and found no choir present we offered to 'fill the gap'. The PP agreed, and agreed our on the spot selection of suitable music.

We started off the singing, unaccompanied, from our places in the congregation and were pleasantly surprised at the results. During communion we first hummed 'What child is this' (the Greensleeves setting -- not my favourite from a re-enactment point of view because I keep hearing it from kids, but at least everyone knows it). Then we sang, and were delighted to find that the majority of the congregation joined in. Afterwards we were very fulsomely thanked for what we'd done. Quite a change from our own dear parish -- but then a musician is never without honour save in his own parish... :roll:
(Finding new uses for wonderful old ideas!)

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Post by VML » Sun Jan 30, 2005 4:14 pm

'Pastyme with goode companye?..'

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Post by dmu3tem » Thu Mar 02, 2006 11:48 am

Could I suggest that the central issue with psalms as part of the core repertoire is practicality. At present the main difficulty with getting psalms sung regularly at Mass stems from this; and until it is overcome in many churches the Responsorial Psalm will never become a regular reality in these places. What, then, are the best strategies for getting Responsorial Psalms sung at Mass?
Notice that, in this context, you are faced with a new psalm text every week! Now I can see from the above that the possibilities of a common core are being explored. However, in practice, if you try to move in this direction and have the same text from one week to the next, even if this is liturgically OK, you immediately face objections from the parish priest and others downwards who say it is not what they are given in their copy of the Missal/Missalette.
My own experience suggests that the strategy to use depends on the type of church/parish setting you are dealing with. For example, I know of several parishes in Buckinghamshire where there is no problem facing a congregation with a new Responsorial Psalm setting every week. The organist/keyboard/band state the response, the cantor sings it, everyone then follows. The cantor then launches into the verse etc. In this situation you can compose/arrange/ select quite sophisticated and adventurous settings for the verses and even move some way in this direction with the responses.
Up in Lancashire, where I now live, the situation seems very different; though this may be due to pure chance and there really are churches where the situation I found in Buckinghamshire pertains. Nevertheless, I have encountered parishes where such an approach is quite unrealistic. This is because there is a much weaker tradition of congregational singing in such places. The attitude there is: either 'we will not sing it if we do not know it'; or 'we will not sing at all, that is a job for the choir'. I also found that, in at least one case, members of congregations objected to being 'led in' or 'conducted' by a cantor. The cantor sang the psalm and that was it (if lucky, a few might join the response). In addition, there are many instances where there is a choir (in fact choirs seem to be more numerous here than in Buckinghamshire) but no one up to or willing to be a cantor. Moreover, many such choirs can barely manage hymn singing in four parts, particularly if some cannot read music; so the task of teaching them a new Psalm setting is more problematical. In this situation it is vastly more difficult to have regular singing of the Responsorial Psalm, let alone Entrance and Communion Antiphons.
Here is my response:
(1) 3/4 weeks in advance adapt/compose a Psalm response for the 'Alleluia' or 'Praise to you, O Christ' part of the Gospel Acclamation. Teach this to the choir.
(2) Use this basic setting for the Gospel Acclamation over about 2/3 weeks, so that the congregation eventually learn it (a preliminary rehearsal/ explanation before the first Mass is often necessary).
(3) Over those 2-3 weeks train the choir to sing the whole responsorial psalm for week 3/4.
(4) At week 3/4 sing the psalm and Gospel Acclamation setting.

The snags with this approach are obvious:
(1) It is labour intensive, clumsy and laborious.
(2) The adaptation of a psalm response into a gospel acclamation can produce awkward results, even if you are reasonably skilled as a composer/arranger.
(3) You only sing about one psalm a month (if you are lucky).
(4) You are driven in the direction of the rather bland Gelineau/Bevenot style chanted verses in both the Gospel Acclamation and the Psalm. The greater variety opened up by the 'through composed' setting is therefore largely closed off to you, unless you have skilled/experienced singers in your choir who can pick this sort of thing up quickly. This is the penalty you pay from not having a cantor available. Having said this, the obstacle is not insuperable, as I am myself about to introduce a through composed setting for Easter. However, in this case, I happen to have an appropriate setting of my own. In other words, your ability to overcome this particular difficulty is directly related to your skill as a composer/arranger.

All this is a great pity. I must say that, from my perspective as a composer, I find the current texts we have to work with are, on the whole, very good. Moreover, the options opened up by the genre are enormous; yet, forty years after the introduction of the form, they remain seriously under-used. For instance, there are all sorts of things you can do just by exploiting polarity between the response and verses. Some of the basic parameters are (1) differences in instrumental/vocal texture - including heterophonic techniques (2) key cycles - including progressive tonality (3) using different tessitura for each bit of the text (4) 'through composed' vs. chanted settings (many different variations here too beyond the conventional Gelineau/Bevonot ones so often used). Yet, very little of this is really possible if the practicalities of performance are not faced up to and/or the current musical culture in many places transformed.

So if anyone has any better strategies to offer I would very much like to hear of them.

Thomas Muir

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Strategies for Responsorial Psalms

Post by Martin Foster » Thu Mar 02, 2006 1:09 pm


thank you for your thoughtful posting.

Strictly (with my Moderator hat) Core Repertoire Psalms are about everything except the Responsorial Psalms - i.e. what psalms would be suitable at Communion - but you raise some valuable points which I hope other forum members will respond to.

It is good to be reminded that regional differences do exist - though you do say that some parishes do sing the psalm as a matter of course.

One thing you highlight is the number of factors that effect people joining in - such as the use of missalettes. Another will be where the psalm is sung from: if it is sung from where the musicians it can be perceived as 'musicians only' or a 'musical interlude'; from the ambo it should connect with the other readings but can be unnerving for cantor to be separate from the musicians.

I will note the Common Psalms in passing but acknowledge your point.

Any strategy needs to be long term - this is where we want to be what are the stages for getting there. Some foundations might include:
    reflect on why the psalm should be sung - it is obviously not enough to say the Church asks us.
    talk to the PP - explain what you want to do and why - this may depend on your role as musician and how you both understand it - it will also be about your relationship with musicians and congregation
    find out whether the diocese offers training for cantors or see about offering something in the local deanery - this can both give support and show that you are not asking anything out of the ordinary
    see whether you can use the format of response-all (or choir) and verse - cantor anywhere else. For example using a setting like 'Taste and see' by Stephen Dean at Communion (you could use as a psalm when it is used 3 weeks in the early Summer this year)
    sing them as part of prayer at a choir rehearsal
I would consider introducing singing the psalm as part of a liturgical season - Lent and Easter (maybe too late for this year). It might be good to actually introduce them before Mass or in a newsletter. Things you might like to say could include (with some subtext comments):
    we going to be singing the psalm for Lent & Easter - suggests a finite period
    invite them to sing the response at Mass - it's not a demand rather an invitation
    why we are going to sing them - this might include 'to be more prayerful'
    Emily and Jocelyn have worked hard - get sympathy
    I look forward to your comments but ask that, as it something new, you wait a couple of weeks before commenting

If there is a follow up I would do it in terms of the 'why' - was it prayerful?

In terms of musical strategy I would look at 'Cantate: Cantor-friendly Responsorial Psalms for Sundays' 3 Vols - Margaret Daly, Veritas. Though some may call it bland she does a very good job making the most of what the Lectionary offers. I do not have a copy to hand but it offers for the use of similar melodies over a series of Sundays with a psalm tone together with the possibility of a common response.

I have a feeling that the Responsorial Psalm is meant to be 'bland' that the text is primary. I would admit that my heart (and practice) does not necessarily follow my head.

A final question - which is slightly off on a tangent - how often is the text of the psalm referred to in the homily in people's experience? And presuming a low scoring answer why?

Martin Foster

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