Antiphons

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

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Re: Antiphons

Post by dmu3tem » Thu Oct 16, 2008 2:31 pm

I have occasionally written Communion Antiphons and recently I have begun doing so again. The reasons for my doing so might be instructive, even if they go against current thinking. The key decider for me was the fact that the task of getting my choir to learn a new psalm every week was a real grind, leaving too little rehearsal time over to do other things, such as developing their very limited ability to read separate parts. This means that I have to write unison settings of the verses with the result that no progress is made in part reading. I have therefore decided not sing the responsorial psalm for a period and use the freed up time to train the choir in part singing a few communion antiphons at a rate of 1 every 3 weeks. These are composed for SAB with Organ and in such a way that, if we cannot master all the parts, we can at least get through with unison voices and organ. The unison voice part can also be sung by the congregation, if they wish, although, as with psalms, because the music will almost always be new to them, I cannot see much response in this department. Indeed, precisely because most people in a congregation see communion as an opportunity for personal (as opposed to communal) communication with God, I think they are even less likely to participate. This means that the choir will end up getting some experience singing what are effectively miniature 'anthems'. In the process this, I hope, will foster an esprit de corps based on the fact they are doing something that the rest of the congregation does not do. I can also resume writing settings that use other instruments as well as the organ. As the choir gradually face more demanding music then I hope this will encourage them to take rehearsals more seriously and we may even pick up some people attracted by the possibility of doing some part singing. Notice that part singing alongside a unison congregational setting is not quite the same thing as part singing a choral anthem. The latter gives a much stronger sense of achievement to choir members.

There are two other related factors that might be worth noting. First, from a compositional point of view, the communion antiphon texts are usually short (perhaps too much so). Moreover, they are often prose texts. The reaction I have often seen is either to compose Taize type repetitive mantras for use in a communion procession or to bolt on chanted settings of psalm verses, in effect creating a responsorial psalm at communion. By contrast the use of communion antiphons in the manner described above turns the brevity of material into a positive advantage. A short SAB with Organ piece consisting of a repeated musical passage - the first time in unison, the second time with Bass and Descant lines added (congregation sings the original unison line) - is a manageable length for rehearsal in the 15 minutes I can allocate to this each week.

Second, there is the question of when do different groups of people, including musicians, go to communion. Again the sheer brevity of a communion antiphon setting then becomes an advantage. The piece is sufficiently short for the choir to sing it while everyone else is going to communion. They can then go to communion themselves while the organ leads the congregation in a communion hymn or the organ and/or other instruments do a voluntary. Another approach is to reverse the process. The choir goes to communion while the organ and/or other instruments play a voluntary; then it (with perhaps some congregational participation) sings the communion antiphon followed by a hymn. Either way congregations get an opportunity during communion both to communicate privately with God and to participate in something as a group.

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Re: Antiphons

Post by Gwyn » Thu Oct 16, 2008 3:59 pm

Some food for there, dmu3tem.

dmu3tem wrote:in effect creating a responsorial psalm at communion.


I may be / often am wrong, but I've been led to believe that the responsorial psalm after the first reading at the Liturgy of the Word is so called, not because it has a response, but because it responds to the first scripture reading. Can someone clarify this?

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Re: Antiphons

Post by docmattc » Thu Oct 16, 2008 8:38 pm

Gwyn wrote:I've been led to believe that the responsorial psalm after the first reading at the Liturgy of the Word is so called, not because it has a response, but because it responds to the first scripture reading. Can someone clarify this?

You are not alone in thinking this: from A&B
Like the readings, the Psalm is part of the Liturgy of the Word and the words need to be proclaimed clearly. For the same reason it can be sung from the Ambo. Coming after the Old Testament reading, it is also a response to God's Word - hence its title, the responsorial psalm.


But Thomas' point was, I think, more referrring to the format of the musical piece rather than its function.

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Re: Antiphons

Post by Gwyn » Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:04 am

docmattc wrote:But Thomas' point was, I think, more referrring to the format of the musical piece rather than its function.

Indeed.

Thanks for the pointer to the A&B website Doc., it looks quite useful at first glace. It looks as though their forum is well and truly defunct though.

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Re: Antiphons

Post by mcb » Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:26 pm

Gwyn wrote:I may be / often am wrong, but I've been led to believe that the responsorial psalm after the first reading at the Liturgy of the Word is so called, not because it has a response, but because it responds to the first scripture reading. Can someone clarify this?

I think this is a bit of folk etymology, though for all that it surely contains a grain of truth. The Bishops of England and Wales are among those who subscribe to the psalm-is-a-response-to-the-reading idea, in Celebrating the Mass:
161: The responsorial Psalm follows the First Reading and is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word. After hearing and taking to heart God’s word, the assembly responds with words which are themselves God-given. This response, the Psalm, holds great liturgical and pastoral importance because by this use of the word of God meditation on the word of God is fostered. 214

but they do go on to gloss the term responsorial as first and foremost a description of the musical form.

It seems clear, anyway, that the term originally relates to the musical form: a responsorial psalm is one in which the people repeat a fixed refrain between verses. I can't find any respectable source for the Bishops' 'alternative' take: footnote 214 in CTM refers to para 61 of GIRM, which only talks about the response in the conventional sense.

There's a good account of the original sense of responsorial in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Anyone know where the 'alternative' interpretation has its origins?

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Re: Antiphons

Post by Southern Comfort » Tue Oct 21, 2008 9:03 am

It's called a responsorial psalm not only because it's got a response, but also because it is a response.

This insight first developed in the 1970s and I believe its origins are to be found in a workshop that Paul Inwood and Bishop David Konstant did at what was then the Westminster Cathedral Conference Centre (now the St Paul's Bookshop on the same site).

It's based on two things to be found in what is now GIRM 61:

(1)

...the Responsorial Psalm, which is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and holds great liturgical and pastoral importance, because it fosters meditation on the word of God.


- my emphasis: i.e. it helps you to respond to the reading you've just heard.

(2)

...The entire congregation...takes part by singing the response, except when the psalm is sung straight through without a response.


- my emphasis again: in other words, it's still a responsorial psalm even when it hasn't got a response. This in turn means that the descriptor is not limited only to the musical form.

........................

In my view, Thomas derailed the discussion by saying that the preferred form in the Roman Missal was effectively a responsorial psalm at Communion. I don't believe this to be true.

(a) The purpose of the Communion Psalm is not to respond meditatively to a reading but to connect Communion back to the Liturgy of the Word as a whole and especially the Gospel; (b) it's a processional psalm rather than one to be sung sitting down, so the music needs to have a different character; (c) it uses longer psalm extracts than a responsorial psalm because it is covering a longer period of time - in fact it can often even be a complete psalm; (d) it has an antiphon rather than a response.

The Psallite folk seem to have got this about right, with their rationale that in the "Song for the Table" the people will experience that the promises God made in his Word are fulfilled in the body and blood of Christ. Though their antiphons are not identical to what's in the Missal, they're as good as if not better, especially as they fit with the entire three-year Lectionary cycle and not just one year of it or no year at all.

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Re: Antiphons

Post by dmu3tem » Thu Oct 08, 2009 2:11 pm

Re. Communion and Entrance Antiphons, a very naive question, for which I hope there is a simple answer.

I notice that in many places - and also at SSG and PMM summer schools - extra psalm verses are often added to the basic antiphon supplied in the Missal. Could someone enlighten me about how they are selected?

Is there in fact an official selection of psalm texts that go with the antiphons for that particular day? If so, where can I find it as I see no examples of this in the standard Missals I have available?

Or, is it simply a case of people following their own judgement - possibly guided by what was done in Tridentine days - and picking what they consider to be appropriate verses to go with the antiphon? If so, is this sort of thing authorised in any official document?
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Re: Antiphons

Post by festivaltrumpet » Thu Oct 08, 2009 4:12 pm

dmu3tem wrote:Re. Communion and Entrance Antiphons, a very naive question, for which I hope there is a simple answer.

I notice that in many places - and also at SSG and PMM summer schools - extra psalm verses are often added to the basic antiphon supplied in the Missal. Could someone enlighten me about how they are selected?

Is there in fact an official selection of psalm texts that go with the antiphons for that particular day? If so, where can I find it as I see no examples of this in the standard Missals I have available?


The psalm verses accompanying the antiphon are given in the Graduale Romanum.

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Re: Antiphons

Post by Southern Comfort » Sun Oct 11, 2009 5:22 pm

festivaltrumpet wrote:
dmu3tem wrote:...Is there in fact an official selection of psalm texts that go with the antiphons for that particular day? If so, where can I find it as I see no examples of this in the standard Missals I have available?


The psalm verses accompanying the antiphon are given in the Graduale Romanum.


While the Graduale Romanum (1974 edition) may be a useful guide, it's important to be clear that it contains a Solesmes selection of psalm verses. Technically, it has no official status. Some of the selections are not easy to explain.

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Re: Antiphons

Post by Gabriel » Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:06 pm

In the revised Sacramentary - the 2nd edition translation of the Missal which never saw the light of day - one of the additions which ICEL made was to include a note of suggested Psalm verses to accompany all the Antiphons in the Missal.
As this is not included in the Latin (3rd or any) edition of the Missal it will not be seen in the forthcoming translation.

I see that the Liturgy Office has included this useful information in the seasonal summary sheets such as Advent (pdf) unfortunately this has only be made available for Christmas and Lent otherwise.

I have not compared the provision with the Graduale but then I think I am right in noting that the Graduale Romanum does not always correspond with the text of the Roman Missal.
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Re: Antiphons

Post by mcb » Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:24 pm

Gabriel wrote:I think I am right in noting that the Graduale Romanum does not always correspond with the text of the Roman Missal.

I think I read somewhere that the Missal antiphons are for reciting, and those in the Gradual are for singing. (But the "somewhere" I read it was a web site with an agenda, namely promoting singing from the Gradual.) Do you know if that's right?

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Re: Antiphons

Post by Gabriel » Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:25 pm

In Bugnini, Reform of the Liturgy, page 891, 'the entrance and communion antiphons of the Missal were intended to be recited, not sung, and to inspire the creation of suitable songs in the vernacular'.

One wonders what the expectations of 'suitable' were?

Is it fair to say that there is some consensus around the desirability of some sort of antiphon and verse structure to accompany the Communion Procession? Where there are questions are about the text. Is the text given in the Missal suitable for this structure/action? How do you best translate the Latin text? But above all what is the purpose/meaning of the antiphon text at this point - why 'Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering to God' is right for next Sunday to take a random example.

On the other point comparing Missal and Graduale for next 5 weeks shows for the most part correspondence - the Graduale does not always the second antiphon provided by the Missal (though this could probably found in the Graduale somewhere). Last Sunday there would have been none with the Missal offering Ps 19 or Mark 10 and the Graduale Ps 8. It should be noted that, where I presume the Gospel is unchanged from the Tridentine Lectionary, there is an option for year A in the Graduale for a number of Sundays offering a quotation from the Gospel of the day.
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Re: Antiphons

Post by Southern Comfort » Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:05 pm

Gabriel wrote:In Bugnini, Reform of the Liturgy, page 891, 'the entrance and communion antiphons of the Missal were intended to be recited, not sung, and to inspire the creation of suitable songs in the vernacular'.


This is very similar to what Pierre Jounel often used to say: that the antiphons were included to placate the Gregorian chant brigade and that they were never intended to be set to music. They are there simply to remind us that we ought to be singing something at these points ─ something, but not necessarily those texts!

Gabriel wrote:On the other point comparing Missal and Graduale for next 5 weeks shows for the most part correspondence - the Graduale does not always the second antiphon provided by the Missal (though this could probably found in the Graduale somewhere). Last Sunday there would have been none with the Missal offering Ps 19 or Mark 10 and the Graduale Ps 8. It should be noted that, where I presume the Gospel is unchanged from the Tridentine Lectionary, there is an option for year A in the Graduale for a number of Sundays offering a quotation from the Gospel of the day.


At the risk of muddying the waters still further, might I point out that there is a whole other cursus of antiphons and psalms in the Graduale Simplex which can also be used. This is what compilations such as By Flowing Waters have taken and translated into English.

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Re: Antiphons

Post by Gwyn » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:23 pm

Bugnini was/is a controversial chap was/isn't he? Or maybe I'm thinking of another Bugnini.

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Re: Antiphons

Post by Copernicus » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:37 pm

Gwyn wrote:Bugnini was/is a controversial chap was/isn't he? Or maybe I'm thinking of another Bugnini.

Not so. He's a hate figure for eccentrics on the traditionalist fringes who don't have appropriate regard for truth or charity.

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