Psalm Accompaniment
  • cmbearer
    Posts: 60
    How do you accompany the responsorial psalm verses?

    - play the chord at the beginning of each phrase, then the cantor sings that phrase.


    - play the next chord as the cantor moves to the first accented syllable of the next phrase, so that the chord changes falls where there is syllabic stress.

  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 794
    I play the chord first, encourage the cantor to wait for a moment to listen, and then encourage them to begin the phrase. Repeat with every "line" of the psalm.
    Thanked by 1cmbearer
  • Surely it depends on the structure of the chanting its accompanying chords?

    I do as @irishtenor especially when the cantor needs it. However, that can make the chant drag rather. So when I'm singing, I follow the rhythm of the chanting or of the words, and expect the accompanist to follow me.

    Your second option is ideal for Gelineau psalmody, whether the cantor is confident or not.
    Thanked by 1cmbearer
  • I have heard accompanied psalms and other things in which the organ played the chord before cantor, or choir, or congregation sang their responsory or whatever - every single time. This is hilarious - yes, literally hilarious. Every last repetition of the responsory, and every last verse. Organ and cantor or whoever should begin together after the initial pitch or tonality has been established. There is no greater indication that all the relevant singers are musical idiots than this practice. I should also mention that arm-swinging, pirouettes, arm-waving, and such are anathema and, likewise, indicate nothing but the (presumed) musical and liturgical idiocy of the target persons. When I am cantor I give no physical cue at all when it's time for the people's responsory. They know this because they can tell that the chanting of the verses has come to an end on their pitch.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 794
    If I'm working with a competent cantor, I don't worry too much about this, and I really try to just follow them, so that they are able to declaim the text comfortably. As the professional, I should be able to move with them sensitively.

    The method I mentioned above is what I do with a new cantor, one of lesser skill, or one of low-confidence. Being a musician at a seminary, I work with lots of low-confidence / little-experience singers. This helps us be consistent and successful. In my parish work, I find teenagers who are actually quite good singers with a nice sense of the text and who know the psalm tone are often lacking in confidence. This provides a little security blanket for them and allows them to continue in the ministry and hopefully become eventually one of the more competent cantors.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,485
    Gelineau is not Catholic Music... ditch it.
  • Francis,

    Could you explain to the uninitiated why the psalm tones of Fr. Joseph Gelineau, S.J., one of the architects of the musical reform of the liturgy, are "not Catholic Music", especially since one of our CMAA posters has recommended it?

  • The term "responsorial psalm" has a meaning in musical and liturgical history, and a modern, current meaning. The two are almost completely unrelated. The historical responsorial psalm certainly existed, but there is not very much evidence about what it was, and between it and today stands the whole tradition of the gradual psalmody. The modern notion is a construction, perhaps inspired by the idea of the ancient one, but quite unconnected to it musically or liturgically. There is no chant tradition for the modern responsorial psalm, none whatever.

    That said, there are two musical styles established in the modern time for it. One, by Gelineau and Murray and Berthier and Universal Laus, and the other, the work of Solesmes as represented in the Graduale Simplex. Although the Simplex won the field for the Alleluia (most churches sing the Alleluia in the way invented by the Simplex), the Gelineau style is pretty universal for the psalm. (More recent Parish Book of Psalms and Weber and Bartlett and etc notwithstanding.). Characteristic of the style: a "melodic" snippet for the response, usually sung by all including the cantor, and a multi-note recitation for the verses, sung by the cantor alone. Particularly characteristic of Gelineau 's compositions is a new reciting tone for each stress accent in the verse.

    It is not the traditional music of the Roman rite nor classical polyphony. But if it isn't Catholic music for the Novus Ordo, nothing is.