Hymn selections: by readings or liturgical action?
  • For the English Ordinary Form of the Mass, I am really curious to know your opinion on the strategy of hymn selection, specifically on choosing hymns based on...
    a.) readings (1st Reading, 2nd Reading, Gospel)
    b.) liturgical action taking place (Procession to the altar, Offertory, Communion, Recessional)

    The past 3 years, I decided to go with option b.), that which seems proper to focus on hymns in the Saint Michael Hymnal that are fully representative of what is taking place, and have them cycle throughout the year (minus the proper seasons such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter). These tunes are easy to pick up, kids sing them, MEN in our congregation sing them, and because they are repeated once every other month, it has seemed to work well with our congregation singing:

    +Processional (strong, grand, majestic)
    #410 - All Creatures of Our God and King LASST UNS ERFREUEN
    #499 - Crown Him with Many Crowns DIADEMATA
    #415 - All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name CORONATION
    #426 - Alleluia! Sing to Jesus! HYFRYDOL
    #483 - Come, Holy Ghost LAMBILOTTE
    #575 - I Sing the Mighty Power of God ELLACOMBE
    #689 - O Worship the King HANOVER
    #716 - Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven LAUDA ANIMA
    #718 - Praise the Lord! Ye Heavens, Adore Him AUSTRIA
    #721 - Praise to the Lord LOBE DEN HERREN

    +Offertory (familiar to most ears, we do not announce the hymn so the familiar introduction encourages people to pick up hymnal)
    #525 - For the Fruits of His Creation AR HYD Y NOS
    #572 - I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say KINGSFOLD
    #659 - O God Beyond All Praising THAXTED
    #601 - Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee HYMN TO JOY
    #612 - Let All Things Now Living THE ASH GROVE
    #622 - Lord of All Hopefulness SLANE
    #627 - Love Divine, All Loves Excelling HYFRYDOL
    #647 - O Christ, Our Hope HERMANN (LOBT GOTT)
    #665 - O Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts FULDA (WALTON)
    #750 - Sing Praise to Our Creator GOTT VATER! SEI GEPRIESEN

    +Communion (meditative, specific to the Eucharist, Mary, thanksgiving; only sung after the everyone has received communion and hosts placed in the tabernacle, again, not announced)
    #503 - Daily, Daily, Sing to Mary ALLE TAGE SING UND SAGE
    #521 - Father, We Thank Thee RENDEZ A DIEU
    #593 - Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All SWEET SACRAMENT
    #624 - Lord, Who at Thy First Eucharist UNDE ET MEMORES
    #667 - O Jesus, We Adore Thee FULDA MELODY
    #670 - O Living Bread from Heaven AURELIA
    #675 - O Mary, Our Mother PADERBORN
    #748 - Sing of Mary PLEADING SAVIOR
    #759 - Soul of My Savior ANIMA CHRISTI
    #784 - The King of Love ST. COLUMBA

    +Recessional (proper to the Marian Antiphon of the season, i.e. Salve Regina, Alma Redemptoris Mater, etc.)

    That said, I know many music directors choose option a.), but would like to know how that is works out:
    ...does it really make a difference in the spirituality of the congregation?
    ...do people even notice that one line from the hymn matched one of the readings?
    ...does it matter?

    I'm giving a talk this Sunday (7/22) about music in the liturgy, any feedback before then appreciated. Thanks!

    (if you're curious about everything we do, here are the spreadsheets)
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1eF7pmVmjdVXceBXmLPEj6PuwET91XTyqBLvA605nU2E/edit?usp=sharing
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,463
    First of all, you seem to have a very good music program, and I am happy to see so much chant being used for the Ordinary of the Mass.

    I am in a slightly different position than most OF musicians, in that we chant the Proper of the Mass at nearly all Masses (exceptions are Sat. PM Low Mass with hymns, and Mon. AM Low Mass), so the hymns that are chosen are, for lack of a better word, "filler" for when the Proper is finished.

    I try to base the Offertory hymn on the Responsorial Psalm or the Feast, or something more directly "Offertory related" like "Let all mortal flesh" or "Praise my soul, the King of heaven"; If the verses of the Offertory Responsory (cf. C. Ott, "Offertoriale") are from a psalm that has a metrical paraphrase in our hymnal, I will program that.

    For communion I usually program something "Communion related" or seasonal (if Christmas, Easter, etc.), or just a general hymn--never anything Marian or pertaining directly to a saint.

    After Mass a Marian Antiphon is sung, while the clergy/servers remain in formation. The procession leaves during the Postlude.

    Again, my situation is not average.

    Now, here's some nit-picking for you:

    I noticed that you said that the communion hymn doesn't begin until after everyone had received. This, to my reading, means that this is actually what the GIRM regards as the "hymn of praise" after communion (GIRM 88), rather than an alius cantus aptus replacement of the Proper Communion (GIRM 87). Does this mean that the Communion is jettisoned completely, not even to be replaced by an a.c.a. of any sort? This particular practice doesn't seem very liturgical, and if you are preparing to give a talk on liturgical music, you (and your pastor) should give some thought as to why you are replacing the Introitus (GIRM 48) and Offertorium (GIRM 74) with "another appropriate liturgical chant" but removing the Communio (as distinct from the "hymn of praise") from the Mass altogether.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Thanks for the reply!

    I should've included the Antiphon details in the first post:

    For the processional hymn, we time the last verse to end when the priest and altar servers are about to enter the sanctuary (so typically two verses). Then the introit antiphon is sung in English (R. Rice), with a verse when there's incense.

    Once priest consumes host and drinks chalice, we sing the communion Antiphon (R. Rice) with at least one verse. As people receive communion, organ music and/or Motet by choir. Then, as said before, once everyone receives communion and hosts back in tabernacle, then the communion hymn. Hope those details make sense!
    Thanked by 2Salieri CHGiffen
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,463
    Ah. Good. Makes perfect sense! Please feel free to ignore the last paragraph of my previous response!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    I am fine with connecting hymns with readings or actions when possible. An index in the back of our GIA hymnal makes suggestions. Unfortunately, some of those suggestions are hymns we don't know, or don't want to know. The communion hymns are exceptionally bad. In those cases, we use what we know and can use. Our communion consists of playing the organ while the choir receives, then singing the communion hymn. I have started pulling in hymns that are not in the communion section, but that work just as well if not better. All this is after the communion proper is sung.


    ...does it really make a difference in the spirituality of the congregation? No. The congregation doesn't want to sing communion hymns anyway, so they don't. They sing entrance and recessional only, since I threw out the offertory hymns some years ago.

    .do people even notice that one line from the hymn matched one of the readings? The pastor does, but many of the people don't.
    Thanked by 1JamesSenson
  • Something responsorial is best at Communion, in my mind.
    Thanked by 1JamesSenson
  • davido
    Posts: 182
    I start with the readings and minor propers for the feast and see if anything jumps out at me. But I have a list of 50-100 hymns that I then plug into the spots. I reference readings more so I don’t miss obvious stuff like putting the King of Loce My Shepherd is on a Sunday with a good shepherd reading, or All People ThAt on Earth do dwell when the introit is cry out with joy all the earth.
    Thanked by 1JamesSenson
  • davido
    Posts: 182
    I also categorize hymns according to recessional, processional, etc, i.e. in my mind THAXTED and LAUDA ANIMA are only recessionals and so forth
    Thanked by 1JamesSenson
  • I think that all your solutions are good. There isn't one single 'right' way to choose hymns, only ways that make particular hymns make sense for a given celebration of the mass.

    Your desideratum for the Processional hymn, that it be 'grand' and 'majestic' is really good. This is my feeling.

    For the Offertory, I look, as well, for a hymn or a tune that hast some gravitas and a text with some theological depth.

    For Communion I am more relaxed in my choices and look for more intimacy and a lighter mood that goes well with the quiet inner joy of receiving our Lord.

    For the Dismissal Hymn, I look here for some joyful gravity.

    As for matching the lectionary, I generally try to match the Old Textament Lesson and the Gospel, since these two readings complement each other, the Epistle normally being a thing unto itself.

    It is best if all the hymns have some literary grounding in the lectionary. When and where this isn't possible, the Offertory and Communion should match the lectionary (or the propers) as far as possible, with the Entrance and Dismissal hymns being general to the season.

    Gravitas is the order of the day for Entrance, Offertory, and Dismissal, with a lighter, more intimate choice for Communion.

    I generally avoid as far as possible inane little tunes such as Moscow, which are totally uninspiring, regardless of the text with which they are matched.

    These are my guidelines. Others have theirs. There are no canonical rules that govern everyone's choices.

    You seem to have established a very praiseworthy system.

    Thanked by 2CHGiffen JamesSenson
  • Thank you all for the responses.

    It is interesting how the music director's power of choice among hymns can dictate the orientation and disposition among congregants. On the other hand, looking at the Extraordinary Form, the chanted music proper to each Sunday as well as the selections for the Ordinaries naturally removes that responsibility from the music director (more so than the OF)

    So this is my dilemma with advocates of option a.) particularly if they do not sing the Antiphons:

    While there isn't a rule from the GIRM regarding hymns matching texts of readings, looking at the Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons for both the OF and EF, there generally isn't a match of those to the readings. So the common trend are hymns are chosen in place of the Antiphons (with many music directors not realizing they exist). Since they are replacing a text proper of that Mass, wouldn't it be more appropriate to choose a hymn based on the Antiphon and not the readings? (Does anyone do this strategy?)

    I am aware of how open hymn selection is in the OF, but just curious to know these perspectives.
  • While there isn't a rule from the GIRM regarding hymns matching texts of readings, looking at the Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons for both the OF and EF, there generally isn't a match of those to the readings. … wouldn't it be more appropriate to choose a hymn based on the Antiphon and not the readings? (Does anyone do this strategy?)

    I created and used these locally from roughly Ash Wednesday 2015 until the end of July 2017.
    Thanked by 1JamesSenson
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,463
    This goes to a bigger problem, I think, and that is looking at the Mass, and by extension to the music during the Mass, through a very Low Protestant lens, which is the over-emphasis on the readings and sermon.
    Thanked by 1JamesSenson
  • Saleri - I fully agree. I was raised Catholic, fell away as a teenager to become Protestant and came back a few years ago. The manipulation of the liturgy, whether through a liturgy committee or music director or pastor, is definitely Protestant-based and evident in the scheming of music in the Mass.

    While the above mentioned option (a.) seems to be a valid common practice, as a practicing Catholic, I honestly have no idea why anyone would choose music during Communion to reflect the readings. Comparing the texts of Prayers during Communion found in prayerbooks and missals, it should be obvious what words/hymns should be sung during Communion if there is a congregational hymn.

    Maybe this is why a majority of Catholics do not understand or acknowledge the real presence of the Eucharist (?) (feedback appreciated)
    Thanked by 1MarkB
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 733
    In my mind, it makes sense to choose your offertory and Communion hymns based on the proper texts belonging to that Sunday - if at all possible.
    There are obviously good hymns for those parts of the Mass, in general, but I would prefer a hymn/piece that reiterates or expounds upon the proper texts, just sung.
  • I can see the Offertory being an appropriate time to acknowledge the readings through music. My issue with Communion music based on readings is that it takes away from the wealth of hymns actually about the reception of the sacrament taking place.

    Growing up as a Catholic in the Diocese of Richmond (Virginia), I never heard these hymns until in my later 20s when I got to my current parish in the Diocese of Arlington...

    +Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All
    +O Jesus, We Adore Thee
    +Lord, Who at Thy First Eucharist
    +The King of Love
    etc. etc.

    or even these about Mary...

    +Immaculate Mary
    +Hail, Holy Queen
    +Daily, Daily, Sing to Mary
    +Sing of Mary
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,884
    If one considers the Gradual texts the most apt model it's evident that the Communions lean very much more towards 'a' than the Offertories do. Perhaps that's when a reminder of the Lesson will be most effective, and a moot point when there's a well chosen Sending Antiphon.
  • James,
    in the Diocese of Richmond (Virginia), I never heard these hymns


    I understood that the diocese was somewhat desert-like. Has it improved?
  • I know only some churches with solid music directors but as a whole, Diocese of Richmond is quite terrible. When a majority of the churches say their confession times are only by appointment, that's a clear indication priorities are in the wrong place and I'm sure it's reflected in the music.

    A few I highly recommend:
    Saint Benedict, Chesapeake (only TLMs)
    Saint Benedict, Richmond
    Saint John the Apostle, Virginia Beach
  • Fyi in case anyone vacations in VB, Saint John is not far from the beach