Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

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JW
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Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by JW » Mon Sep 24, 2018 11:48 am

There has been comment about this under another topic, so I thought it might be interesting to start a debate. It has become fairly common that, when a Latin plainchant mass setting is used, it is sung antiphonally, the choir alternating with the congregation. I assume that this is a hangover from the monastic practice of singing the Office antiphonally, and they may well have treated the Mass Setting in the same way. In addition, the music is printed to facilitate antiphonal singing.

However, this is not necessarily the way that the plainchant Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Credo and Agnus Dei were always sung prior to Vatican 2. As a boy in the 1950s and 1960s, in the choirs I belonged to, the whole setting was always sung by the choir, with the people joining in as they were able; there was no antiphonal singing at Mass

In particular, the Gloria Credo and Sanctus are hymns or acclamations assigned to all present. It is very moving when upwards of a thousand voices sing the Creed together as one body of believers. We do not say these hymns antiphonally and I personally feel that, in these times, it is better for everyone to sing them as one body. It should be noted that GIRM provides for either method.

Please discuss!
JW

alan29
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Re: Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by alan29 » Mon Sep 24, 2018 1:09 pm

Well I think it depends on the complexity of the chant among other things.
I don't find the sound of a crowd bellowing and swooping their way through Credo 3 particularly uplifting, I have to say. (Sadly Credo 3 seems especially vulnerable to this treatment.)
On the other hand other simpler bits of chant can work well - the simple Agnus Dei.

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keitha
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Re: Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by keitha » Mon Sep 24, 2018 3:29 pm

It has always seems to me that the problem with Credo III is that when the congregation sings it through the tempo drops to a crawl and it sound like a painful dirge. I have often found that, sung antiphonally with a good choir/cantor(s) the tempo can be picked up quite effectively. The other benefit is that when it is sung unaccompanied it tends to go flat, but, sung antiphonally, the pitch can usually be maintained. Things do occasionally go wrong. I well remember a Pentecost Mass in a cathedral in Malta where Mass VIII and Credo III were sung antiphonally, but at a pitch that only the choir could reach (and the choristers were struggling) - it became a very painful train wreck!
Keith Ainsworth

blackthorn fairy
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Re: Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by blackthorn fairy » Mon Sep 24, 2018 5:04 pm

From my mempory of the 'olden days' we all sang everything - as JW remembers - with choir leading and congregation following on to the best of their ability. It was later that I came across the antiphonal singing style - sometimes as men/women. Never mind the congregation swooping on Credo III, we used to do Credo I quite often (a better one IMHO) and (my favourite!) Credo IV. Credo IV was to die for. Credo III and Missa de Angelis seem to go togther for sing-songyness.

alan29
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Re: Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by alan29 » Mon Sep 24, 2018 7:05 pm

Is the creed actually a lyrical text that is meant to be sung?
Is it not more of a prose statement that should be spoken?
Just a thought.

AGM
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Re: Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by AGM » Tue Sep 25, 2018 5:34 am

JW wrote “In particular, the Gloria Credo and Sanctus are hymns or acclamations assigned to all present. … We do not say these hymns antiphonally and I personally feel that, in these times, it is better for everyone to sing them as one body. It should be noted that GIRM provides for either method.”

For the Gloria and Credo the GIRM explicitly permits saying these antiphonally.
In the case of the Sanctus I do not think the GIRM provides for singing or saying it antiphonally.

From the GIRM, (53 is about the Gloria and 68 about the Creed):
“53. … It is intoned by the Priest or, if appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir; but it is sung either by everyone together, or by the people alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone. If not sung, it is to be recited either by everybody together or by two choirs responding one to the other.”

“68. … If is is sung, it is intoned by the Priest or, if appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir. It is then sung either by everybody together or by the people alternating with the choir.
If it is not sung, it is to be recited by everybody together or by two choirs responding one to the other.”

In the English translation of the Roman Missal the Gloria is printed in four stanzas. The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is in five stanzas. The Apostles Creed is in two stanzas. So it is clearly an option to say these hymns antiphonally.

The GIRM has about the Sanctus in 79(b):
“The acclamation, by which the whole congregation, joining with the heavenly powers sings the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy). This acclamation, which constitutes part of the Eucharistic Prayer itself, is pronounced by all the people with the Priest.”

I have not found an instruction similar to 53 and 68 about the Sanctus and it is printed as a single stanza.

[Excerpts from The Roman Missal, (c) 2010 International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.]

JW
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Re: Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by JW » Tue Sep 25, 2018 7:42 am

AGM, thank you for the clarification and correction. And thanks to everyone else for their comments. As with so many issues we all have our own personal preferences and the pleasure of this forum is that we can examine and debate them in a friendly way!
JW

AGM
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Re: Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by AGM » Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:38 am

JW, thank you.

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Re: Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by Keraulophon » Tue Oct 16, 2018 7:02 pm

Singing at Sunday's (14 Oct.) Canonisation Mass at St Peter's was antiphonal in the extreme - I suspect adopted as a way of working with the vast crowd of people from many nations, rather than from a desire to exhibit a preference. An excellent Order of Service was provided, but no effort was made to indicate what page should be turned to or to run through any unusual items beforehand.

Most of those seated near me were not able to join in the traditional Latin prayers and plainsong melodies. Apparently it's not only in the UK that familiarity has been lost! The sound picked up for the broadcast of the ceremony favoured the clergy and choir, providing a different impression of congregational response. Several videos can be found on YouTube, for those who are interested.

For example at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ug5amN7XWVA

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Gwyn
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Re: Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by Gwyn » Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:02 am

Keraulophon notes:
Most of those seated near me were not able to join in the traditional Latin prayers and plainsong melodies. Apparently it's not only in the UK that familiarity has been lost!
A tragedy, and on our watch. Shame on us.

alan29
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Re: Antiphonal Singing of Latin Plainchant Mass Settings

Post by alan29 » Thu Oct 18, 2018 1:37 pm

Not really.
Sad for those who hanker after such things.
A tragedy? No.
I reserve that word for matters such as the abuse of minors and the cover-ups that served to multiply the hurt to the victims and the damage to the rest of the church.
That is what causes me to feel shame.

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