Participation: Gradual vs. Responsorial Psalm
  • Here is a short excerpt from a book I am writing:

    Following the First Reading is a Responsorial Psalm or Gradual. This psalm is a response to the First Reading (thus its name): if you have paid attention to the words of the First Reading, then the words of the psalm will have greater meaning to you. The Gradual is more suited for active listening on the part of the congregation, whereas the Responsorial Psalm involves vocal participation from the faithful in singing or saying at least the antiphon (the verse repeated in between the other verses of the Psalm).

    Is that a decent (albeit one-sentence-long) description of the difference between the congregation's participation in the Gradual vs. the Responsorial Psalm? I don't want it to sound like there is no need for active listening during the Psalm...
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    This psalm is a response to the First Reading (thus its name)

    I think that's inaccurate. The RP is "responsorial" because of its structure, not its location.

    I also am a little concerned about implying divisions between schola, congregation, faithful, etc. The members of the schola singing the Gradual are definitely part of the congregation and the faithful. They just have a distinctive singing role.

    I like "active listening." While the schola sings, the role of the rest of the congregation is to follow along and think about the text being sung, and ideally to reflect on how the music is conveying it. That's active, interior participation.

    .02
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    Is the "responsorial psalm" truly a "response" to the first reading? While there are many times when the character of the psalm reflects the character of the first reading, I'm not entirely convinced that this was a conscious effort on the part of those who assembled the new lectionary. For example, I opened my copy of the lectionary to the Sixth Sunday of Easter, year C. The first reading is from the Book of Acts. The last section of the reading is a reference to Judas (Barsabbas) and Silas and the charge they received from the other apostles. (Acts 15:1-2,22-29). The psalm refrain is "O God, let all the nations praise you," and the psalm text itself is 67, "May God have pity on us and bless us." I don't think there's a deep theological connection between the two, despite the value of the spiritual lessons contained in each.

    Given that the gradual chants do not change with the three-year cycle, but rather remain the same regardless the first reading, I fear your argument doesn't hold water.

    It seems to me that the whole characterization of the "responsorial" psalm being a "response" to the first reading is a liturgical construct by the post VC II liturgical "experts", made of whole cloth and designed to give lofty credence to their otherwise weak or unnecessary innovations.

    Active listening versus active participation can be better argued on the basis of interior disposition rather than the structure of the Mass itself.
  • I'll track down my sources for the "response -> Responsorial" connect. One of them is the GIRM: "After the first reading comes the responsorial Psalm, which is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and holds great liturgical and pastoral importance, because it fosters meditation on the word of God. The responsorial Psalm should correspond to each reading and should, as a rule, be taken from the Lectionary." (GIRM 61)
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    As far as the GIRM, sure, that's the theory.

    The reality is different. I think David is right: things after the Council were rushed, and it looks like the RP texts were cobbled together hastily. Their connection to each reading is haphazard, or at least non-obvious. In general, it's a tall order to have a psalm text "correspond" to both an OT reading and some exhortation from St. Paul.

    What does "correspond" mean, anyway? GIRM doesn't say.
  • James McKinnon, in THE ADVENT PROJECT, presents convincing evidence that the psalm entered the Liturgy of the Word not as a response to a lesson but as a lesson in its own right.

    The Responsorial Psalm is called "responsorial" because the verses are sung by a cantor and the people (or schola) sing a response. The proper Graduals are also responsorial in form.

    The tract, which also follows a lesson, is not responsorial. It is "direct" psalmody because the verses are sung "tractim"--straight through without a response.

    The graduals are abbreviated responsorial psalms, in which only one verse remains. They are musical gems. Whether one psalm verse is sufficient is, of course, open to debate.
  • Bruce -
    You are, of course, right about the Responsorial Psalm. As an aside, I have heard from several sources that the Council's intent was for the Psalm to be sung in directum, and that the responsorial form was intended to be temporary or even not intended at all. (This is not to imply that there is anything sui generis amiss with a responsorial psalm.) Do you, or anyone else, have any knowledge pertinent to this question? And, another related aside: one of the good aspects of the Novus Ordo is its restoration of the Lesson from the Old Testament - does anyone know at what point in time this Lesson had been dropped? I can find only conflicting and obtuse references. It was, though, centuries before Trent.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    The proper Graduals are also responsorial in form.


    How so?
  • As Bruce explained, the form in which we have received them is abbreviated from their original form; i.e. what we have left of the historical gradual is a respond and a verse where there were once multiple verses alternating with the respond. The same process of 'truncation' is evident in the other Propers, as well. The verses of the Introit have, over time, been reduced to one + Gloria Patri, while the verses of the Offertory and Communion antiphons have been dropped altogether - except that, recently, the addition of verses to the Communion antiphon has been encouraged. (Alas! Abbreviating parts of the mass in the interest of time or simplification is not a modern phenomenon.)
  • Perhaps "active and conscious listening"?

    Every once in a while I notice a member of the congregation whose participation is something less than conscious.
  • Indeed! Just as the sequential visual recognition of words is not necessarily reading, the sequential aural recognition of words is not necessarily listening, conscious, active, or otherwise. We despirately need to emphasize the qualitative aspects of participation rather than simply the quantitative, which have dominated notions of active/actual participation.

    I don't know what kinda slackers Ioannes Andreades hangs out with: I've never seen the cloud of unknowing hanging around any place I've ever been ... :-)
  • David Andrew wrote: " 'The proper Graduals are also responsorial in form.'
    How so?"

    Their responsorial structure becomes apparent when the choir takes advantage of permission, given in the Ordo Cantus Missae, to repeat the "respond" after the verse has been sung, making it an actual response. NOT repeating the "respond" is a late and decadent practice. Sometimes the texts make little sense when it is not repeated. See the gradual for St. John the Baptist Day.

    Some (Ferreetti?) have suggested that the texts of the graduals of Easter week (which all have the same response) may all have originally been part of a single responsorial psalm.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Bruce, that's fascinating stuff. Here is William Mahrt on the relationship between the Gradual's structure and its place in the Mass. Notice that the Gradual is forward-looking toward the Gospel, not backward-looking to the readings:
    The gradual and alleluia ... have a function quite similar to that of the responsory of the Office, with the additional feature that the melismas of the alleluia are so extensive as to have their own internal melodic form. Thus the succession of gradual to alleluia creates a sense of climax, leading to the singing of the gospel, the high point of the liturgy of the word.
    That's from Ross Duffin's excellent book, A Performer's Guide to Medieval Music (Indiana UP, 2000).

    Many people talk about the "theme" of the Mass's parts, as if every unit of the liturgy had to convey the same message. Such an approach flattens the Mass. I'm convinced by Mahrt that the Mass's elements are always in motion and directional, leading to the "source and summit" of the Eucharist.
  • M. Jackson Osborn wrote: And, another related aside: one of the good aspects of the Novus Ordo is its restoration of the Lesson from the Old Testament - does anyone know at what point in time this Lesson had been dropped?

    We have no clear evidence that the Roman order of Mass EVER regularly included an Old Testament lesson. Jungmann surmised that it did; but underlying his surmise was an assumption that the graduals and alleluias were RESPONSES to lessons, and that the gradual must originally have been a response to one lesson and the alleluia a response to another.

    McKinnon, in discrediting this assumption, draws the conclusion that the Roman Mass never (regularly) included three lessons. Proving that it did not is, of course, nigh unto impossible.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium directed that more scripture should be read at Mass to "open the treasures of the Bible" to the faithful. The addition of an O.T. Lesson to the Roman Mass strikes me as an entirely justifiable enrichment, even if it is unprecedented.

    Jackson Osborn reports that he has heard the "Vatican II" intended that the psalm in the renewed Liturgy of the Word should be rendered in directum. Sacrosanctum Concilium says nothing about the way in which this psalm is to be rendered. GIRM presupposes that it will be sung responsorially. Responsorial rendition of this psalm was introduced very early in various places and survived up to the time of the Council in the form of the gradual. I don't understand why in directum rendering would have been preferred.

    I am also at a loss to understand the vehement distaste for responsorial psalmody among certain church musicians--both Roman and Anglican. They deride this venerable form of psalmody as if it were a gimmick.

    McKinnon offers that conjecture that the psalms, introduced to the liturgy as lessons, were because of their lyrical character, sung to more elaborate lesson tones than the other lessons, and that refrains were first added as a festal adornment. Eventually in directum rendition was reserved to penitential days--whence the evolution of the tract.

    Pes quotes William Mahrt's view on the function of the gradual and Alleluia. Certainly the Alleluia looks forward to the Gospel. According to McKinnon, Rome imported the alleluiatic "Gospel Acclamation" from Byzantium.

    Whether the gradual looks forward to anything is less obvious. Mahrt (in the passage you quoted) merely states his contention. He does not offer any argument in its defense. Perhaps he feels that in the old Roman rite, where the Alleluia follows the gradual immediately, the Alleluia draws the gradual into its "sweep."

    The First Alleluia, used in Eastertide in place of the gradual, is probably the descendent of the alleluiatic psalm--a responsorial psalm in which "Alleluia" was sung as the refrain.

    Jackson reports that he has heard the "Vatican II" intended that the psalm in the renewed Liturgy of the Word should be rendered in directum. Sacrosanctum Concilium says nothing about the way in which this psalm is to be rendered. GIRM presupposes that it will be sung responsorially. Responsorial rendition of this psalm was introduced very early in various places and survived up to the time of the Council in the form of the gradual. I don't understand why in directum rendering would have been introduced after the Council.

    I am also at a loss to understand the vehement distaste for responsorial psalmody among certain church musicians--both Roman and Anglican. They deride this venerable form of psalmody as if it were a gimmick.

    McKinnon offers the conjecture that the psalms, introduced to the liturgy as lessons, were, because of their lyrical character, sung to more elaborate lesson tones than the other lessons, and that refrains were initially added as a festal adornment. Eventually in directum rendition was reserved to penitential days--whence the evolution of the tract. This is, of course, conjecture.
  • Apologies. I "copied" text when I ought to have "cut" it. This explains the repetition in my previous posting.
  • Bruce -
    Thanks for the references. As for in directum singing of the gradual psalm - I was not stating a preference, nor, certainly, implying that there is anything at all wrong with responsorial psalmody: only that I had heard this from several 'sources'. I do not share the disdain which some have for this quite ancient style of psalmody. In fact, I have written the psalms for several great feasts for SATB choir singing the verses with an adaptation of the plainsong for the congregational respond. It seems to me that this is quite consistent with western liturgical tradition. And, as you have pointed out, the pre-Conciliar gradual is the remains of a 'responsorial psalm'. Obection to it, it seems to me, is just more thought-less objection to anything related to the Novus Ordo. The only thing wrong here is the trite musical settings which seem to predominate.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    The great responsories of the Night Office have a similar structure to graduals and alleluias in that they have elaborate melodies for both verses and responds. (It's difficult to imagine a congregation remembering such long, elaborate melismas, but the monks of course sang them.) These responsories did indeed have a close relationship with the readings they followed, and they were even copied in manuscripts with the titles of those readings. As for how many verses, Hiley (1993) says the earliest evidence is unclear: Amalarius of Metz reports more than one, but the earliest Frankish mss. all have one only. More verses are characteristic of late medieval practice. Then Hiley says this: "The variety between sources in chocie of verses seems to reflect early practice, whereby the cantor selected his verses at will." It's interesting to think of the communal and communicative effects of that.
  • My sources about the purpose of the Responsorial Psalm...

    "Loving and Living the Mass" (Fr. Thomas Kocik), p. 50: "This psalm ... is meant to be a meditative response to the message of the First Reading."

    "The Mass and the Bible" (Fr. Peter Stravinskas), p. 35: "This psalm is intended to be a meditative response to the message of the First Reading."

    "The How-to Book of the Mass" (Michael Dubruiel), p. 106: "[T]he Responsorial Psalm ... responds to the First Reading. This connection should help us continue our meditation on what God is telling us through His Word."
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    CR

    Here's another reference for you. This is Fr. Bugnini commenting on the GIRM:

    [p. 423:] In order that the chant or song after the readings might be really a response to the word of God just heard, the entire system of chants was revised. The responsorial psalm that follows the first reading is chosen in function of that reading and completes it. The verses of the psalm are grouped in stanzas of equal length in order to facilitate its singing by the psalmist or cantor. The refrain, which consists of the most characteristic and meaningful verse of the psalm, explains why this psalm has been chosen.

    Sundays and weekdays have their own special psalm. But two complementary lists are also supplied. The first gives a certain number of refrains that may be used during a particular season in place of the refrain [p. 424:] assigned to each day. This facilitates the singing of the refrain by the congregation. Thus, the cantor sings the psalm proper to the day, while the congregation frequently repeats the same refrain or refrains.

    The gospel is usually preceded by a different type of song, one normally comprising two parts: a refrain of the congregation (usually an Alleluia, which is replaced by a different formula of praise during Lent). This acclamation precedes and follows a verse, which is a proper one in the case of solemnities but taken from a common repertory in other cases. Many of these verses are from the gospel, for which the song is a preparation. For this reason, and because of its paschal character, this song is sung standing.


    From Bugnini, Annibale. The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975. Transl. Matthew J. O'Connell. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1990.

    Clearly, both the function and nature of the Gradual was revised, and radically so. If you read this book by Bugnini, you will come away with a very clear sense that the entire Roman Missal and Divine Office was basically up for grabs.
  • Pes - From my time spent at NLM and WDTPRS and from what I've read of Dobszay's "The Bugnini-Liturgy", I too have come to the conclusion that the Consilium basically had its way with the liturgy. Until such time as their reforms are reformed, the Ordinary Form is what it is.

    Now, the quality of the reform is one thing, but the reform itself is another. It seems, from your quote from Bugnini's book, that the Responsorial Psalm in the Ordinary Form is indeed intended to be a response to the First Reading. (Perhaps it is not always as clear as at other times?) So then, is it improper or incorrect for me to say in my book that, in the Ordinary Form as it stands today, the Responsorial Psalm is MEANT to be a response to the First Reading, while the Gradual is not?
  • Cardinal Newman (The Church of the Fathers 23) understood responsorial to be synonymous with antiphonal.

    Why is the first reading so important that it earns extra meditation while the epistle and gospel don't? In terms of following Vatican II directives to "open the treasures of the Bible", I would have preferred someone longer readings from the same passage as in the 1962 missal instead of the 3 readings every Sunday changing every 3 years. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of scripture as if it is all readily digestible and has obvious interpretation. There is barely a pause at my church between the parts of the lit. of the word. The epistle-gradual-alleluia-gospel seems to me to be the way to go.

    Am I wrong in recalling that McKinnon thought that the alleluia after the gradual was the result of the fact that certain psalms end with alleluia, but people, not keeping in mind that the alleluia was part of the psalm, began to conceive of the alleluia as a separate chant?
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    CR, I think the evidence is decisive that the RP was designed in theory to react in some way to the first reading and to involve the congregation in singing. To some extent, this represented a departure from the design and practice of the Gradual, but not entirely. The major difference seems to be that the Gradual was presented as something worth its own level of attention, and of course it was part of the ascent in floridity toward the holy Gospel.

    In my opinion, the creation of the RP's for the new three-year lectionary was, to put it mildly, less than optimal. The very fact of the lectionary's being tripled in size necessitated new creations. That much is understandable. In my opinion, the grating thing about all this was the sheer scale of all the Council attempted. It was clearly a "seized moment" for introducing wide-scale changes all at once, and this had two easily predictable effects: shoddiness, and demoralization.

    Basically, in terms of common practice, the RP is easily perceived as a throwaway. I would predict that if it were suddenly to disappear, congregations would breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Pes wrote:

    "Basically, in terms of common practice, the RP is easily perceived as a throwaway. I would predict that if it were suddenly to disappear, congregations would breathe a sigh of relief."

    +++

    Why?

    The music to which responsorial psalms are frequently sung is abysmal. So is much of the music to which the Ordinary of the Mass is frequently sung. Just as it does not follow that the Ordinary is bad because (when it is sung at all) it is often sung to bad music, so it does not follow that responsorial psalms are, of themselves, bad because they are often sung to bad music.

    I venture to say that both Roman Catholics and Episcopalians have become much more familiar with large portions of the psalter than they were forty years ago because responsorial psalmody has been introduced to the liturgy.

    The assumption that, if the responsorial psalm were to go, a Gregorian gradual, sung in Latin, would replace it, is unjustified. In parish churches before Vatican II the graduals were seldom sung to their proper melodies. They were usually sung (badly) to psalm tones, or they were monotoned.

    The proper melodies of the graduals may compensate for the brevity of their texts. Nothing compensates for the brevity of the gradual texts sung to psalm tones.

    Nevertheless, I am not sure that many congregations would be pleased if responsorial psalms were replaced by Gregorian graduals sung to their proper melodies in Latin, or even if they were replaced by English translations of the graduals set to adaptations of these melodies.

    Two years ago the Episcopal Church adopted a revised lectionary. I do not like it, and I am pleased that it has not been well received. (The Diocese of New York plans to introduce a resolution at General Convention to make it optional.) Nevertheless, Church Publishing commissioned me to set the psalms appointed in this lectionary. I set the verses to psalm tones, and I set the refrains to adapted office antiphon melodies. These settings, I am told, have been well received.

    A few months ago I attended a Mass in a very conservative parish, where the proper psalm was replaced by a psalm-tone setting of the gradual. So, instead of singing a substantial part of the psalm with a gregorian antiphon as a response, they sang a snippet that lasted only a few seconds. Their motivation, obviously, was to avoid doing anything they regarded as newfangled. (Responsorial psalmody is, of course, anything but newfangled.)

    Some people reflexively recoil from any practice introduced after Vatican II.
  • Does this sound any better? Any further suggestions for revision?

    Following the First Reading is a psalm, either the Responsorial Psalm or the Gradual. The Responsorial Psalm is generally thematically related to the First Reading and involves the vocal participation of the whole congregation in singing or saying at least the antiphon (the verse repeated in between the other verses), whereas the Gradual is more of a meditative piece of its own requiring vocal participation from the choir and conscious and attentive listening from the rest of the congregation.
  • It sounds fine. Just one little detail - if it doesn't sound overly 'picky': the congregation's part is a 'respond', a 'responsory', or a 'response'... not an 'antiphon'. This is why it is a 'responsorial' psalm = solo verses & a respond by all. If it were an 'antiphon', the performance would 'antiphonal' = verses alternatiing between opposing groups & the antiphon by all.
  • Ah, right, sorry! :)
  • One of the particular problems with the RP in the Catholic world in the US is the dreadful NAB translation.
    If you asked someone to produce a body of free-verse poetry of utter banality that actively worked to obscure and blunt the expressive impact and rhetorical richness of its earthshatteringly profound subject matter, you would probably get something like the NAB psalter.
    If this version were one's main exposure to the psalms, one could reasonably conclude that they are nothing special.
    Fortunately, I have the Book of Common Prayer psalter (both Coverdale and 1979 American) pretty firmly rooted in my head.
    I usually 'translate' into one of these versions the wretchedness that occurs between the first two readings at Mass.
    I
  • M. Jackson Osborn wrote:

    "If it [i.e., the psalm response] were an 'antiphon', the performance would 'antiphonal' = verses alternatiing between opposing groups & the antiphon by all."

    In recent times we have referred to psalmody in which the VERSES are sung antiphonally as "antiphonal psalmody." The ANTIPHONS are, however, what was originally sung antiphonally. In the original form of antiphonal psalmody the verses (as in responsorial psalmody) were sung by a cantor, but the responses were sung by alternating groups. One group or choir responded to one verse, the other group or choir responded responded to the next verse, etc. See Robert Taft, BEYOND EAST AND WEST: ESSAYS IN LITURGICAL UNDERSTANDING. (I can't find the book; so I can't give you a page citation. If you get hold of the book, you'll find the article).

    I surmise that with the development of the monastic office, in which the whole psalter was recited every week, the original procedure became too time-consuming and was replaced by antiphonal performance of the verses.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    DBP, I couldn't agree more. Reading it, at first you feel bored, then (after comparing it with others) angry, then (after hearing about the copyright) furious. From there, you move through fatalistic chagrin (the familiar sigh) to firm resolve, and that resolution is to make the best of a sub-optimal set of givens (e.g. use Chabanel Psalms, Guimont, Gelineau, et al).

    The only lingering fatalism has to do with new translations. I feel bad for Catholic composers who are given such dull stuff to work with.
  • Bruce Ford's mention of a book caused me to do a search and I found this interesting resource place:

    http://www.librarything.com/work/1594438
  • Felipe Gasper
    Posts: 786
    ISTM that the response to the first reading is the dialogue, “The Word of the Lord....Thanks be to God.”

    Also, does any official liturgical book give melodic formulas for singing the responsorial psalm? If not, then this is an incredibly large collection of texts that are meant for singing but that have no prescribed melodies in the official books. “Even” the lessons have the Prophecy/Epistle/Gospel tones....
  • Paul F. Ford
    Posts: 798
    Felipe asked:
    Also, does any official liturgical book give melodic formulas for singing the responsorial psalm? If not, then this is an incredibly large collection of texts that are meant for singing but that have no prescribed melodies in the official books. “Even” the lessons have the Prophecy/Epistle/Gospel tones....


    Years ago, when I was first beginning my work on an English version of the Graduale Simplex, I made a study of all the melodic schemes used for the responsorial psalms and alleluia psalms in the book, based on pages 440–445 of the book (attached). These pages appear to be based on the work of Dom Raymond Le Roux, a monk of Solesmes, who was an authority on the responsorial forms.

    It’s my sense that these pages were meant to provide the formulas Felipe is asking for. My work is in blue and this is my rough translation.

    What do you all think?
  • Paul F. Ford
    Posts: 798
    I failed to mention that I have used the melodic schemes for work I continue to do for my seminary in a Spanish version of the Graduale Simplex that I am working on.

    I've also used them for English versions of proper responsorial psalms for feasts and occasions not covered by the Graduale Simplex.
  • Just a short THANK YOU for the excellent information you all post here. I wanted to know the difference between the Gradual and Responsorial Psalm, et voila! Thanks you!