Alternatim performance of chant Ordinaries
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,495
    So I was on a social media site (the one whose founder looks like H.P. Lovecraft) and the topic came up of congregations alternating parts of the Ordinary, men/women. This struck me as some kind of hellish holdover from dialogue mass days, as I'd never heard of such a thing. I made somewhat of an ass of myself. But then I was looking at "Rubrics for the chant of the Mass" in the LU (p. XV in my copy), and saw that alternation at the double bars seems to be the "right" (per those rubrics) way of doing the Gloria, and a possibility for the Credo.

    We alternate cantor/Schola for the Kyrie, and the cantor starts the Sanctus and each iteration of the Agnus. But I've never experienced a division within the definitely "choral part", be it decani/cantori, male/female, or whatever.

    So my question is: how widespread a practice is this? How many of you do the Gloria this way, or the Credo? Or anything else? Do you expect the congregation to do it along with you, and how long did that take to establish? Is it something you walked into, or did you establish it? And if you walked into it, how do you feel about it? Does it vary between SSPX / FSSP-ICK / Ordinariate / geographical parishes?
  • MarkB
    Posts: 205
    My only experience with that is at St. Michael's Abbey in Orange County, CA. The choir of canons regular sit on opposite sides of the sanctuary and the two sides alternate chanting the Gloria and the Credo at the double bars. The congregation sings with the second choir.
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • I have heard this being done at Notre Dame, Paris. The choir or schola or cantor doing alternate verses (odd numbered) with the people (even numbered). The people take their cue from the organ, which plays fortissimo reeds throughout on the peoples' verses. There is nothing beautiful about it.

    However, alternating verses between two such groups is an ancient and commendable practice. Though it may be encountered in monasteries here and there, it should be done more widely in talented congregations. Men vs. Women, or Gospel side vs. Epistle side, or Choir vs. People would be good arrangements.
  • We always alternate men / women of the choir on the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo. Some places I've introduced it, but generally my experience (SSPX, FSSP, Diocesan) has been that is the norm where I've been as well as (for the most part) where I've attended.

    Every 3 years, I switch the order of alternation on the general ordinaries... that is, there are a few where ladies always start because of how it is pitched, but where we alternate men / women; every 3rd year we switch to alternate women / men. Ensures we are always continuing to pay attention and not go on auto-pilot. :)

    My general experience has typically been that it does not include the congregation, though there are a few parishes I've attended where that has been established. During the summer in my current parish, the alternation is cantor / congregation. We do Mass XI and Mass VIII only to encourage more participation, but it is only a handful of people singing.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,445
    For the Chant Kyrie, Gloria, and Creed, and the doubled Litany of the Saints we usually alternate between Cantor/s and Choir, the people join in with the choir. We have also alternated between men vs women in the choir, and if there are only two or so in the choir it can sound like we are alternating with the congregation. I should note that up to 2/3rds of the congregation sing.

    During Chant Vespers and Tenebrae we either alternate Gospel vs Epistle side or if there are only a few Cantors vs everyone else.

    In Switzerland I have heard a priest alternating with the congregation for Kyrie, Gloria, Creed etc.

    I would suggest I would consider it normal for some sort or alternation to go on during the Ordinary Mass settings, but with may be an EF thing. I have certainly heard OF folks just sining through.

    For the Byrd 3 Part Mass during the Kyrie we alternate between the Byrd and Mass XVI thus, XVI, Byrd, XVI, Byrd, XVI, Bryd, XVI, Byrd (K1), Byrd (K2). to give the 9 fold.

    When we sing some of the Issac Communions we also alternate between the Issac setting and the chant setting, with psalm verses in between.
  • GerardH
    Posts: 67
    The OF GIRM makes provision for alternation between choir and congregation for the Gloria and Credo (par. 53 & 68). It is a practice I've seen much more in the EF (except when the congregation storms in for Credo III or Mass VIII). At my own parish when using the ICEL Gloria we alternate between women and all - it certainly adds more interest to an otherwise less-interesting chant.
  • >> The choir or schola or cantor doing alternate verses (odd numbered) with the people (even numbered). The people take their cue from the organ, which plays fortissimo reeds throughout on the peoples' verses.

    We do this for Kyriales I, VIII, IX, XI, XVII - schola alternating with the rest of the choir & congregation. Oh and Credos I and III. Not beautiful, but it is impressive to hear the Credo sung that way.
  • smvanroodesmvanroode
    Posts: 708
    Here in The Netherlands it's common practice to sing the Gloria and Credo alternating between the choir and the congregation. It sounds like this (Credo III at Westminster Cathedral):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJIe_O8xn2A
  • madorganist
    Posts: 512
    We alternate schola/congregation. The people know what the 8' open diapason sounds like and that's it's their cue to sing - in case they missed the double bar line. We have the St. Edmund Campion Hymnal in the pews and the numbers are posted on the board and printed in the bulletin. There's no excuse for people to be lost unless they don't know how to read, and participation is generally enthusiastic. Occasionally we get the odd first-time visitor belting out the schola parts, but they quickly figure out what's going on. The alternatim practice is widespread in Europe, less so in the US. It seems to be more prevalent in SSPX churches than FSSP. I can't speak for the Institute. I'm not a fan of men/women alternation. The traditional pre-congregational singing practice was for two halves of the schola to alternate, or to alternate cantor(s)/schola. We do the former for Masses III, IV, and IX, which are too difficult for congregational singing (and no, we don't post the page numbers when the schola sings alone).
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 169
    We alternate men/women in the schola (EF). The congregation doesn't sing much, and we often sing less-familiar ordinaries. But I must say in the OF I often hear at least a remnant of this practice: the priest or organist will sometimes alternate with the congregation, for instance. There used to be (at least in some places, such as parts of rural Brazil, there still is) a practice of men and women sitting on opposite sides of the aisle in the congregation, which perhaps encouraged alternating men/women in the congregational singing?
  • Catherine, the practice - if I remember correctly - was started by St. Ambrose in Milan with precisely that aspect - men on one side, women on the other.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,445
    My father in law remembers when this was the practice in at least one chapel in Switzerland. The new young families have rather changed the dynamic over the last 10 years.
  • madorganist
    Posts: 512
    I'm told segregation of the sexes is still to be found in parts of Austria - at regular novus ordo Masses too, not just trad enclaves. I remember going to a Mass in rural Austria where there was nothing notable about the ceremonies or music, but where the people's demeanor in church was extraordinarily reverent, with no talking whatsoever until they got out to the street. It made quite an impression on me.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,495
    I haven't heard from anyone here who DOESN'T alternate, or doesn't admit to it.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,541
    The diocesan TLM choir I direct doesn't alternate. I try to keep things simple with the choir, and I'm trying to involve the congregation as much as possible in singing all of the Ordinary. Such is an uphill battle, as the congregation is still trying to figure out when to stand/sit/kneel, let alone sing. I might start the project of having choir members sit in the congregation and sing for chant masses.

    The Society chapel with which I sing alternates: cantors with full choir/congregation. It's just a matter of figuring out who will be the cantors for the mass, as it changes from Sunday to Sunday and some fellows just sing along with the cantors out of habit. Plus, our director will regularly switch in and out cantors in the middle of the Gloria. We've had some success with getting the congregation to sing with us.


    An ex of mine told me once she didn't like alternatim as she felt she was "only singing half of the Faith". She later left me and the Church to join the Orthodox. I guess All of Schism sounds better than Half of Catholicism?