Antiphons

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

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Antiphons

Post by Martin Foster » Thu Aug 26, 2004 4:52 pm

A starter:
dot wrote:What might be worth doing is for composers to turn their mind to the use of these texts in the context of Entrance Antiphon and Communion Antiphon, rather than the Responsorial Psalm, perhaps using a particular phrase as an ostinato for the assembly to sing.

sidvicius wrote: think that's one of the best suggestions I've seen come out of this forum; something SSG could examine more closely in future. Sort of moves us slightly away from the concept of 'hymns and songs' - nothing wrong with that per se, but would greater reference to the psalms focus us more on our biblical roots, and what we should be trying to be, as Catholics? - I think so. Discuss?

mcb wrote:But it's hard to tell whether the change in the right direction - singing psalms and antiphons connected with the liturgy - sometimes has much discernible effect beyond leaving members of the assembly bewildered and less inclined to participate, since the 'community singalong' function of hymn-singing seems so deeply ingrained. It's a long term task - to break out of that mentality and have people slowly come to realise that they sing because they're involved rather than because they're not.

All these quotes are from Core Repertoire: Psalms topic.

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Post by Martin Foster » Thu Aug 26, 2004 5:36 pm

One of the thoughts behind the 'core repertoire' project is to consider that hymns are an addition to the liturgy and may be we need to remind ourselves what the actual texts of the liturgy.

Antiphons are some of the main texts for singing in the liturgical books but do they work as they presently exist?
Antiphons are meant to be used with psalms in a similar but different way to responsorial psalms. Similar in that a short refrain is sung by all and verses are, generally, not. Different because psalms in the liturgy of the word are meditation/proclamation; antiphons are meant to accompany liturgical action - they act as both statement and commentary. (See
the Rite of Dedication of a Church - for perhaps the clearest example of this).
For more on how they are used see Liturgy Newsletter 1:3 (pdf file).

Dot mentioned the antiphonal of the Revised Sacramentary project - in this now defunct revision ICEL using the Roman guidelines then in place offered a translation of the antiphons for Mass which were intended for singing. Let us hope that the translation being worked at present will find an acceptable solution to this difficult issue.
I wrote and used settings of the antiphons for Sundays 1-5 of Lent. The antiphons were variations of the first week melody and verses was basically the same tune sung by the choir using a different psalm each week. We used them for I think four years - people sang them and by the end were joining in the psalm verses as well. But in the end I began to wonder what it meant. For example, Sunday 2 when the Gospel is the Transfiguration the antiphon is something like 'Hide not your face' and verses from Psalm 26 (27). Now I can make the connection but to most of the congregation it would be obscure and not necessarily help them 'hear the Gospel'. And week 2 you could see the connection with the readings other weeks it could be difficult to make a connection with the readings in any of the three years. Now this was not a deficiency of the translation but perhaps I was having an expectation that was never intended. But what I took from the experience and fed into what i have used in the last couple of years is: use of biblical texts (preferably direct); form - use of a short refrain for the assembly.

My guess is that there is mileage in something like the 'Simple Gradual' the identification and use of common antiphons for a season. As a preparation for the revised Sacramentary the office did make available a selection of the seasonal antiphon texts. Such a selection of texts could be core repertoire.

I think there is a lot to be explored in using short biblical texts that can either be sung on their own or in dialogue with verses sung by cantor or choir which accompany liturgical action.

Pace MCB :) I think is not so alien to much current music and many congregations. I presume most sing some pieces at the Entrance or Communion that are not strophic hymns

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Identification of antiphons

Post by Dot » Fri Aug 27, 2004 10:21 pm

Thank-you for this.
Common antiphons for a season is an idea which might be getting closer to what we need. Week by week variation of the antiphon and lack of connectivity with the readings are features which detract from their general use.

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Post by Dot » Thu Sep 16, 2004 10:29 pm

Furthering this point, as it was mentioned by Merseysider elsewhere that the Antiphons are not year-specific like the readings (i.e. not on a three year cycle). They tie in with the old Introit and Communion verses.
Sometimes they fit very well (e.g. Third Sunday of Advent Entrance Ant: look at any year), other times they don't. As I said above, all the more reason for pursuing common antiphons for a season.

As a preparation for the revised Sacramentary the office did make available a selection of the seasonal antiphon texts

Can you give us a lead to this please, Martin?

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Simple Gradual etc/

Post by Martin Foster » Fri Sep 17, 2004 6:42 pm

It seems to me that the Graduale Simplex or Simple Gradual is intended to provide seasonal antiphons - in a similar way to the Common Responsorial Psalms - so there is good liturgical precedent for such an idea - even a book that has already done the job.
The first edition was, I think, published before revisions to the Calendar and Missal, and so soon became out of sync. My impression of the second edition is that it was updated but too much was added - I think I want a simple Simple Gradual! But I think as Dot says there is something interesting here.
If you want to see the Simple Gradual you may have the collection published by Chapmans and edited by John Ainslie of the first edition gathering dust on a shelf. 'By Flowing Waters' edited by Paul Ford (Liturgical Press) uses the 2nd edition, with NRSV psalms and adapted chant. If anyone is interested in the other antiphons mentioned we may have some copies still - email me if interested.
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Core Repertoire - Antiphons

Post by dmu3tem » Sat Feb 11, 2006 11:45 am

Can someone explain to me - in simple terms - what Rome is proposing on this front in the Revised Instruction of the New Missal? From my reading of articles in Music and Liturgy I get the impression that Rome wants to scrap the singing of hymns at the entrance, offertory and communion. New antiphon texts will then be substituted with officially approved music settings provided? Is this really what is going to happen? If so I am dismayed - forty years of getting, with partial success, congregations to sing hymns is going will be jettisoned.

Turning to the present antiphon texts at communion and the entrance my own experience, both as a composer and in trying to get people to sing them is that the texts are (a) too short (b) they tend to have a tendency towards prose rather than regular metrical texts. This makes them hard for congregations to pick up, especially if there is a new text each Sunday. The net effect of directly setting such texts using some sort of chant is therefore likely to silence congregations and mark a return to them just listening to a choir or a cantor. Note too that Rome is increasingly hostile to any form of adjustment or adaptation of any liturgical text.

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Suitable liturgical songs

Post by Gabriel » Thu Mar 02, 2006 2:06 pm

I'll have a go.

In 'rubrical' terms GIRM 3 is no different from GIRM 2 or 1. Singing at Entrance and Communion should use an approved text.

What is different is that, as I understand it, in the received text of GIRM 3 for England and Wales the reference to hymns and songs approved by Bishops was omitted. This is why I use the term 'rubrical' because if the clause was there what would you sing.

Well 'Celebrating the Mass' is a document of the bishops intended to 'serve as a companion and guide to a greater appreciation and implementation of GIRM'. In para. 140 it states for the Entrance that ' the Roman Rite provides an antiphon to be sung at this point, although it may be replaced by a psalm or suitable liturgical song. The text and the music should be suitable to the mystery being celebrated, the part of the Mass, the liturgical season or the day'.

Now it is arguable that our Bishops have in their time approved a lot of hymns - just think of those in the Divine Office but as I understand any process of approval was ended in early '70s. That the Holy See has made a request for a directory of approved text (see elsewhere) suggests that England and Wales is not alone in this.

Is Rome against hymns - well they are not part of the tradition as these two points in the liturgy so like a proud house owner it is not surprising that the older treasures of Graduale are pointed to first. (Part of the complexity of a rubrical response is what do you sing after communion - GIRM 88 just mentions a psalm or other canticle or a hymn - no comment about whether it is approved (well it might assume that) or its content).

I not aware of any plans to scrap hymns or for officially approved antiphon settings.

Why antiphons? I think a new edition of the Missal and GIRM should encourage us to review what we presently do and what can we learn from our tradition? What I think the antiphon form offers (not necessarily the current texts) in contrast to hymns is a purely scriptural text and a structure that is more fitting to the liturgy - both by the adaptability of lengths and by relationships between assembly and ministers.

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Post by Benevenio » Thu Mar 02, 2006 7:21 pm

Gabriel wrote:in the received text of GIRM 3 for England and Wales the reference to hymns and songs approved by Bishops was omitted
True - no hymn or song per se: GIRM3 n48 states that the options are either "(1) the antiphon and psalm from the Graduale Romanum or Graduale Simplex; or (2) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, the test of which has been approved by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales." Note that this is slightly at variance with what is stated in 'Celebrating the Mass', as Gabriel pointed out. GIRM tells us to sing a psalm and antiphon, whatever the (approved) source.

This does give me, for one, a problem! The antiphons (and psalms? I don't have a Graduale to hand) certainly follow a one-year cycle and are then not "matched" to any particular liturgy. More importantly, we can see from the extracts of psalms that we use for the Responsorial Psalm, that certain verses are chosen for certain weeks, sometimes skewing the meaning, the timbre of the complete psalm. It is almost as if the thinking is "this week's Gospel mentions Jesus in a boat, so we'll use ps 107 because it mentions ships…" but that's only 4 or so verses out of 44vv. What do the rest say? If we aren't using the whole thing, does it make it any better than a non-psalm song, approved or otherwise?

Better to ask yourself the questions "why use the psalms at all, ever? Aren't they just outdated songs from a historical period and culture alien to us?" (Go on - spin another discussion thread from that!)

GIRM n47 is where we should start - the purpose of the Entrance chant: "to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers." That's a pretty tall order for any text, psalm or otherwise, approved or not.

Perhaps n41 has it licked: "[other music is allowed] … provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action…" which, to my mind, allows the assembly a degree of latitude in exactly how to open the celebration in song.
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Post by presbyter » Sat Mar 04, 2006 8:40 am

Benevenio wrote:This does give me, for one, a problem! The antiphons (and psalms? I don't have a Graduale to hand) certainly follow a one-year cycle and are then not "matched" to any particular liturgy.


Now please don't tell me you are suffering from "themes" here. What do you mean by "matched" to any particular liturgy? Who on earth says that every song we sing at Mass has somehow got to be connected to the "theme" of the readings (or even just the "theme" of the Gospel)? Anyone who wants to tie down the Word of God to one particular theme for each Sunday might be advised to engage in a little lectio divina and write down how many "themes" they come across from the meditative reading of, say, a Gospel passage. Just let the Word speak - it is "alive and active" in itself.

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Post by presbyter » Sat Mar 04, 2006 10:06 am

Benevenio wrote:Better to ask yourself the questions "why use the psalms at all, ever? Aren't they just outdated songs from a historical period and culture alien to us?"


Well if you want to go down that road - you could say the same about the whole Bible. Dear me :(

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Psalms

Post by johnquinn39 » Sat Mar 04, 2006 10:40 am

If you have never sinned, if you have never been ill, if you are not going to die, if you do not need love and compassion in your life (see last Sunday's resp. psalm) then yes, the psalms are irrelevent.

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Post by presbyter » Sat Mar 04, 2006 4:52 pm

Dot wrote: ....lack of connectivity with the readings [is a] feature which detract[s] from their general use.


Another tendency to "themes". Where has this desire to make all texts fit snugly into a "relevant theme" come from? Where does the Church ask us to make sure all the songs we sing at Mass reflect the message of the Gospel, for example? (As if each Gospel pericope (or entire Liturgy of the Word) can be condensed into a single theme anyway) If you can find an ecclesial mandate for this please do tell - for the Liturgy is not, as it were, a divine lesson plan and we are not in a classroom expecting God to ram home one particular point into our brains.

So let's take the Communion Song. Read GIRM 87 and CTM 213.

Musical form follows liturgical function. This is a processional song for which the Antiphonal form is most appropriate. People are being asked to pray together (in unity) on the move, without books. Then after Communion, the assembly can sink into silent prayer.

Martin wrote:I think I want a simple Simple Gradual!

..... I think there is a lot to be explored in using short biblical texts that can either be sung on their own or in dialogue with verses sung by cantor or choir which accompany liturgical action


Yes there is. And if we took the Simple Gradual, at least as a guide, we composers should be able to see what kind of text is appropriate for the Communion song. Consider:

1 - This is not meant to be a hymn of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (CTM 213 penultimate bullet point) or a meditation on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

2 - The Psalms in themselves are the inspired Word of God - and they are Jesus' own prayers. (Does that make the relevant enough for you? Even the odd one or two which the Hebrews pinched from the Egyptian worship of pagan gods which were adapted to the cult of YHWH?)

3 - With whom are we being placed "in communion"? Through the crowning act of full and conscious participation in the liturgy - eating and drinking Christ's Body and Blood - we are in communion not with Him but
through Him - in the unity of the Spirit - with God the Father.

Here are the recommended Psalms (prayers to the Father) for the Communion Songs throughout the year - (Graduale Simplex in usum minorum ecclesiarum).

Advent Psalm 84

Christmas Psalm 97

Epiphany Psalm 95


Lent

I Psalm 5
II Psalm 44
III Psalm 26
IV Psalm 42
V & Palm Psalm 115
H Thurs Psalm 115
Easter Psalms 65 and 104


Easter Season

I Psalm 15
II Psalm 95

Ascension Psalm 109

Pentecost Psalm 77

Trinity Song of David

Corpus Christi Psalm 22

Ordinary Time

Psalm 148
Psalm 12
Psalm 36
Psalm 95
Psalm 146
Psalm 118
Psalm 112

Xt the King Song of David

Read them. Pray them. Start composing imaginative and prayerful processional songs using them - with antiphonal refrains for the assembly - now! Make them paraphrased "Psalm Songs" by all means, if you want to.

And as regards so-called relevance - imagine we had only one of those psalms (taking one everyone knows) - Psalm 22(LXX) [23 Heb] Wouldn't that text be relevant at any Mass? Of course it would.

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Post by presbyter » Tue Mar 07, 2006 11:46 pm

How might you - or the faithful in general - feel if instead of the genre of "Communion Hymn" many are accustomed to, we were singing something such as these as we approach to receive sacrament?

O sing to the Lord, O sing to the Lord, give thanks and praise. Alleluia.

Cantors

The Lord builds up Jerusalem
and brings back Israel's exiles,
he heals the broken-hearted
he binds up all their wounds.

O sing to the Lord, O sing to the Lord, give thanks and praise. Alleluia.

He fixes the number of the stars
he calls each one by its name
Our Lord is great and almighty;
his wisdom can never be measured.

O sing to the Lord, O sing to the Lord, give thanks and praise. Alleluia.

The Lord delights in those who revere him,
on those who hope in his love.
To the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit
give praise for ever. Amen.

O sing to the Lord, O sing to the Lord, give thanks and praise. Alleluia.

Thats a bit of Psalm 146 - recommended for Ordinary Time - with my own antiphon based roughly on what is in the Simple Gradual

Or how about this?


O sing to the Lord, O sing to the Lord and bless his name, Alleluia.

O sing a new song to the Lord
sing to the Lord all the earth
O sing to the Lord, bless his name,
Proclaim his help day by day.

O sing to the Lord, O sing to the Lord and bless his name, Alleluia.

Tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples.
The Lord is great and worthy of praise,
to be feared above all gods.

O sing to the Lord, O sing to the Lord and bless his name, Alleluia.

With justice he will rule the world,
he will judge the peoples with his truth.
To the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit
give praise for ever, Amen

O sing to the Lord, O sing to the Lord and bless his name, Alleluia.


That's a little of Psalm 95, recommended for the Easter season.

So how would you feel? Is there a chasm that cannot be bridged between popular piety, which is probably focussing on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist as the faithful approach to receive Him - so that's what we must sing about - and the Church's recommendation to sing a Psalm of Praise? Discuss.

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Antiphons

Post by John Ainslie » Wed Mar 22, 2006 11:00 am

In the interests of trying yet again to get the congregation to join in vocally at Communion, I have tried a Taizé-like approach this Lent: choose a very simple short refrain and repeat it, mantra-like, many times. Then, for a break, have a single psalm verse before repeating the refrain a few more times, etc.

For Lent I: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us (adapted from 'Jesu Christe, miserere' from the old Taizé brown volume)

For Lent II (re- Transfiguration): Here is my servant, here is my Son, here is my chosen Beloved One (from Psallité)

For Lent III: Make your home in me, Lord, as I make mine in you (see John 14:23: own setting)

Next Sunday (Lent IV) we are going to have 'Lord Jesus Christ...' again.

It's not had much of a vocal response - yet - despite both my and my PP's plea to the people to join in. But I do not discount the possibility that the words may have sunk into the ears of the good folk coming forward for Communion and hopefully helped them participate non-vocally...

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Re:

Post by johnquinn39 » Thu Sep 04, 2008 12:38 pm

So how would you feel? Is there a chasm that cannot be bridged between popular piety, which is probably focussing on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist as the faithful approach to receive Him - so that's what we must sing about - and the Church's recommendation to sing a Psalm of Praise? Discuss.
[/quote]

I think that the main difficulty is that many RC's have a 'benediction' style understanding of communion, which is of course rather different from the 'communitarian' style mandated in the GIRM (with its recommendation for psalm texts from the graduales etc.)

The chasm, in my view, could be bridged in two ways.

Firstly: Education. When people become aware of the presence of Christ in the word (it took me around twelve years to get my head round this!), it will become natural to sing psalm texts at communion. This is beginning to 'take off' in the parish where I help out with the music.

Secondly, there is a need for popular devotions. In my view, this could take place at the Sunday evening prayer service. (Has anyone tried this, or is it just going to languish in the blue book put out by the bishops of E&W a couple of years ago?)

We have tried a number of 'pilot' Sunday evening prayer services in my parish, and have found that it can be successful having the occasional favourite benediction hymn along side the psalms and official prayers.

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