Format of responsorial psalm in the lectionary: origin
  • Studying the responsorial psalms from the Graduale Simplex, I wondered why the format of the responsorial psalm in the lectionary differs from that in the Graduale Simplex.

    The responsorial psalm in the lectionary follows the format: Refrain, Stanza of ~4 lines, Refrain, Stanza of ~4 lines, Refrain, etc.
    The responsorial psalm in the Graduale Simplex follows the format: Psalm Verse, Short Response, Psalm verse, Short Response, ect.

    It seems that the Graduale Simplex offers an authentic reconstruction of responsorial psalmody (cf. A. Turco, Il Canto Gregoriano – Toni e Modi, I.4), whereas the lectionary format has no such historical precedents.

    From Matthew Hazell I understand that the lectionary format was first introduced by the French episcopal conference, who incorporated the responsorial psalm into its experimental scheme of readings, approved for use on April 20, 1966. It subsequently found its way into the reformed lectionary.

    Who invented this lectionary format? Because it apparently originates from the French episcopal conference, the name of Jospeh Gelineau comes to my mind, whose 1953 Vingt-quatre psaumes et un cantique uses the same format. I would like to hear what anyone knowledgeable has to say about this.

    How did this format find its way into the reformed lectionary? Why wasn't the Simplex format adopted?
  • I think it was invented by Fr Gelineau, in so far as it is the form taken by his 24 Psaulmes et une cantique. And it seems that the modern responsorial psalm was invented (or "reconstructed") twice, one like this and once like the Simplex.
  • I will ferret out some literary references later this evening. For now, I should have to say that your 'lectionary form' is true responsorial psalmody, which is: Responsory by all, Verse(s) by cantor or choir, Responsory, Verse, Resp., Verse, Resp. This form is the one that, if my memory is correct, originated in the Roman west and was distinct from antiphonal psalmody (Antiphon by All, Verse(s) by group one, Verse by group two, Antiphon by all, etc.), which came from the east. These two forms plus in directum, in which all sing the verses straight through without an antiphon or responsory, constitute the three manners of chanting psalmody. The Tract is a venerable example of in directum psalmody. The Tracts are amongst the most ancient chants in the repertory.

    The arrangement which you quote from the GS is new to me (I don't have the simplex) - I have never encountered it in any scholarly or liturgical source.

    What is rather tiring is that many otherwise praiseworthy church musicians still cannot absorb the very real distinctions betwixt responsorial and antiphonal psalmody, and continue incorrectly to label responsories as antiphons, or, even worse, to label both of them as 'refrains' - chant literature is absent anything labeled a 'refrain'.

    It is of further note that the responsorial psalm, contrary to widespread misinformation, is not an unfortunate imposition of Vatican II. It is a restoration of what the Gradual Responsory (a uniquely Roman form) was in early times before it became the truncated form which appears in GR and which we normally call the Gradual.

    We have had this discussion before, several times, but it seems requisite that we go over it yet again from time to time.

    The tenor of your question then, should be, not where did the so-called 'lectionary form' come from, but whence the 'simplex form'.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CHGiffen
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,032
    MJO Thanks for the history, but the responsorial psalm as used in most Catholic churches could hardly be described as a highlight of the Roman Rite. The Gradual as found in the Graduale Romanum, on the other hand IS a glory of the Roman Rite.
  • tomjaw -

    Right you are! That 'as used in most Catholic churches... [it] could hardly be described as a highlight of the Roman Rite'. Far from it. As with so much else that issued from Vatican II, what was well conceived was botched, often deliberately, in the application thereof.

    And, while I truly admire the gradual responsory as we have received it in the GR, I am not in the least without favour towards the responsorial psalm as it should be done with greater historical reference and liturgical artistry.

    Ideally, it should consist of a brief and not too difficult chant-like responsory for the people, with newly composed chant verses sung by a skilled cantor - and when I say cantor I do not mean that species of singer who passes for a cantor or cantrix in most of our churches. Each of the cantor's (or SATB choral) verses should have its own chant (or choral) melody. Thusly would the ancient gradual responsory be given new life. It bears repeating that the gradual responsory as we know it in the GR is a vestige of such responsorial psalmody.
  • Thanks, MJO. If you are unfamiliar with the Graduale Simplex, a couple of the GS responsorial psalms are also in the 1974 Graduale Romanum: pp. 681-686. The Simplex is also online.

    I now see that the responsorial form is R V1 R V2 R ..., which can sometimes also take the form R V1 R' V2 R' ..., with R' a shortened version of the respond (see W. Apel, Gregorian Chant, 181-182). In both cases the respond is a natural part of the structure. Many of the responsorial psalms in the GS actually follow the latter arrangement (but not all). This makes the responsorial psalms from the lectionary and many from the GS both true responsorial psalmody, even though they differ in arrangement. Thanks for pointing this out.

    But my questions remain: who introduced the lectionary format (which does differ from the GR gradual) and how did it end up in the reformed lectionary? Why wasn't the Simplex format followed (which, by the time of 1969, was already out)?

    Both questions are of pure historical interest.
  • Interesting points, vanroode. I'll do some more review, but it seems to me that the abbreviated responsory as in your simplex may be a borrowing or adaptation from the responsories of the office. This bears further study and comparison.

    As for the gradual as found in our GR, the form is responsory, verse. That's all. That's all that's left of what was once an extended responsorial form.

    Thanks for bringing this up.
  • I don't believe there is any actual manuscript evidence regarding the putative "original" form of the responsorial gradual. Only mentions of it. The Solesmes/Simplex construction is as plausible as the Gelineau, maybe more so since as MJO mentions, at least some of the Simplex psalms are based on responsorial forms still present in the Office.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,455
    Is it simply explained as using the same form for the gradual as for the introit, offertory and communion?
    Has anybody experience of doing the responsorial psalm the GS way? which includes that the 'entire congregation' should sing the response, does that work? How does the congregation get to know what to sing? Does your 'entire congregation' read music? (I am however not sure that DoL has faithfully translated the Latin caetus fidelium)
  • Ted
    Posts: 186
    The so-called Responsorial Psalm at Mass may not be as old as many have thought. Rather, the Gradual Psalm is likely to have developed as the Old Testament reading between the lections during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and that, because of their lyrical nature, these psalms were eventually set to a more ornate melody and sung in directum by a cantor or deacon. Various scholars today point to the Tract as being the original form of Gradual psalm that prior to the 5th century was sung only in directum. At the time of St Augustine (5th c) the responsorial manner seems to have been newly introduced in North Africa, but we do not know if the respond was in the manner of the monastic antiphon (at the beginning and end of the psalm) or in another manner, such as the romanticised idea of Gelineau. In the late 6th century, St Gregory the Great forbade deacons from singing it because they seemed to be entertaining the congregation with their voices rather than giving a sacred sung reading. In any case, the responsorial use at Mass did not last beyond 150-250 years in Rome, for by the late 7th century it had taken the form that we have in the GR, sung by cantor(s) and responded to by choir, and, of course, we still have the Tracts during the penitential seasons, which are probably a vestige of the original in directum manner of singing the Gradual psalm as the OT reading. This is just to say that the Responsorial Psalm in the fore-Mass today is more of a creation of the post Vatican II Consilium with its emphasis on "active participation", than as having any basis in the usage of the early Church.
  • The responsorial Psalm in GS is most certainly based musically on the responsories, as many share the melody of the OT Compline responsory, In manus tuas.

    Based on the Lectionary introduction, no. 20, the Psalm in the GS is correct:
    In responsorial singing, which, as far as possible, is to be given preference, the psalmist, or cantor of the psalm, sings the psalm verse and the whole congregation joins in by singing the response.


    I assume the Lectionary picked and chose which verses were sung for brevity and to avoid all those "psychological difficulties."

    Edit: I do wonder why the verses are distributed between responds as they are. Seems a bit forced and invented, and frankly makes the Psalm into a song form, which also does damage to our understanding and appreciation of the Psalms.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • This is a very good discussion which I hope will continue.
    There are good treatments of 'Responsorial Psalmody' in several editions of Groves, which are quite revealing. I shant go into quoting them here, but they are certainly germane. They seem to trace gradual psalmody back to a basically ornamented monotone (cantillation?) derived from the synagogue, developing from purely soloistic to responsorial form over the first few centuries. A careful examination of many of the gradual melodies would seem to affirm the ornamented monotonic origins of many of them. In tracing the lineage of liturgical psalmody, though, it is good to keep in mind that psalmody did not become dominant, let alone predominant, in western liturgy until well into the third and early fourth centuries.

    As for Augustine's account of responsorial psalmody (as noted by Ted) as being introduced into Africa, this would be consistent with its reputed origins in the Roman church and its spread from there to Africa, which had great literary and intellectual traffic with the Italian peninsula.
  • I found some other interesting ideas about the reconstruction of the responsorial psalm in the 1960s. Nothing coherent, though.

    First, while the 1967 instruction Musicam Sacram only refers to the "form of gradual or responsorial psalm" for the chant after the lessons, an earlier draft (January 13, 1965) is more specific:

    "38. Peculiarem vim habent cantus post lectiones occurentes, in modum gradualis aut psalmi responsorii peractus. Natura sua est pars liturgiae verbi; proinde est proferendus omnibus sedentibus et auscultantibus, immo, quantum fieri potest, participantibus.
    Forma igitur hunc cantum exequendi eligi potest praesertim aut iuxta melodias ornatiores in Graduali Romano extantes et a cantoribus proferandas, populo auscultante, aut, pro opportunitate, iuxta melodias Gradualis simplicis, psalmista praeeunte et populo respondente."

    For the chant after the lessons, only the Graduale Romanum and the Graduale Simplex are given as options. The bold part was dropped in the final version of Musicam Sacram 33. It was thought to be too restrictive, leaving no room for other compositions (cf. E. Jaschinski, Musia sacra oder Musik im Gottesdienst? (1990), 280 and 397-99).

    Second, another name came to my mind: Lucien Deiss. While Gelineau was only a consultor to the Consilium, Deiss was a member of Coetus XI, which worked on the reformed lectionary. In his writings, Deiss expressed a certain disdain for Gregorian chant, thinking it was not suitable for today's liturgy. Its rich melodies encouraged meditation and that, according to Deiss, didn't match the nature of the chants after the readings. I would like to see his article 'The Responsorial Psalm' in Notitiae 24 (1966), 365-72.
  • So!
    It is sad, very sad, not to mention vexatious, to find that the folksy likes of L Diess were in any way a voice in these matters.
    His views of chant are even worse than his music. They are certainly ill-conceved.
    Meditation is precisely what is called for, and historically present, following the readings.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • If you have access, you can also read McKinnon's "The Fourth-Century Origin of the Gradual" in Early Music History, Vol. 7 (1987), pp. 91-106, though he does not speculate the exact way in which this psalm was actually sung at mass. He dismisses the possibility it has any connection with Jewish psalm singing in synagogues, as there is no evidence psalms were sung in synagogues at the time.
  • Geremia
    Posts: 183
    Here it is:
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,455
    The article by Deiss can be seen, or downloaded, here.
    Thanked by 1smvanroode
  • Palestrina
    Posts: 338
    Have just read Deiss... What a joke! ‘Here’s my idea of the “spirit” of an earlier form for which I present no sources. Now, allow me to continue my fairy tale with my idea of what it SHOULD all sound like today.”

    Frankly, this seems to me to be to musicology what the Neocatechumenal Way is to ancient liturgical scholarship.

    McKinnon, conversely, well worth the read. Compelling interpretation based on solid sources.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW tomjaw
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,278
    Frankly, this seems to me to be to musicology what the Neocatechumenal Way is to ancient liturgical scholarship.

    Ah, yes, the Deiss who was responsible to help rewrite church music history along side of the towering VII periti but also including Gelineau and Bugnini.

    “To tell the truth, it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity. The Roman rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed…"
    ye great Gelineau

    some of the experts:

    Father Yves Congar
    Father John Courtney Murray, SJ.
    Father Karl Rahner, SJ.
    Father Joseph Ratzinger

    [Were any of those four involved in the format of the responsorial psalm?
    Please stick to the topic. --admin]
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,455
    Palestrina - I am not clear what you are saying Deiss has wrong about the earlier 'form'. It seems to me that Deiss and McKinnon are both describing several psalm verses by a cantor, with a repeated congregational response. Though only McKinnon gives the historical evidence, before going on to speculate about the evolution into the Gradual.
    My beef is that the lectionary Responses are often too long to be learnt in one go. And while the GS Responses are generally short and simple, as presented there is no opportunity to hear them before being expected to sing them, neither text nor tune. McKinnon does not address that aspect. So whereas the Gradual can work as a meditation, the Responsorial psalm does not in practice work as a sung lection.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw