Advent: sneaking in entrance propers
  • MarkB
    Posts: 878
    I'd like some opinions about something I'm considering for Advent this year.

    Background: six months into being new director at a typical novus ordo parish with OCP resources, easy-going pastor... just wants the music to sound good, choir needs a lot of hand-holding but is eager to learn chant and vocal harmonies... they had sung only melody before, we've started adding alto harmonies to some songs and for four weeks have been singing the Ave Verum Corpus chant before the "normal" Communion song (this at a parish that has not sung Latin chant in ages), I've been chanting the Communion antiphon from Weber's collection while the choir receives Communion. (Yes, we have choirs at Mass and distance in our choir space.)

    All of which is to say, good things happening, going in a promising direction, choir and parish have been supportive of what I've done.

    For Advent, I'm considering using the attached as preludes for weeks 1-3. It weds the Taize "Wait for the Lord" with the entrance antiphon texts/psalm verse set to Gregorian psalm tone 1.

    So instead of using the entrance antiphon text as the antiphon, the Taize refrain serves as the antiphon, and the antiphon proper is relegated to a verse. The congregation would be more likely to sing the Taize refrain, and this way they would hear the proper antiphons, albeit as verses. Hence, "sneaking" them in.

    What do you think of this idea?

    My parish is not ready for propers to replace songs; I don't want to go that far. Using the antiphons as part of a prelude piece that has a familiar musical component to it is as far as I think I can go. I think this idea would be much better than using any contemporary "Ready the Way of the Lord" songs or the "Come, Come, Emmanuel" contemporization, or other contemporizations that have become faddish Advent songs over the past decade.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,965
    Music from Taize has these fine qualities of simplicity, unpretentiousness, a basis in Scripture, and choral harmony that seem lacking in some contemporary songs sung at most parishes.
  • Last Advent, I published a seasonal order of worship with the Entrance Antiphons from Richard Rice's Simple Choral Gradual which we used in lieu of the entrance hymn. It seemed to work well. I re typeset them with just the melody using Sibelius, and am willing to share the graphic files if anyone wants them.

    At some point during the pandemic, we ended the practice of the processional hymn, and now we use the Simple English Propers for the INT/OFF/COMM. I still have hymns sung at the Offertory, Communion, and Recessional. I don't anticipate we'll add the hymn back when this is over.
  • Mark, you're doing exactly what I started doing during our pandemic conditions since the hymnbooks have been removed from the church. We have several of these songs in our repertoire and some other similar pieces such as a setting of Trisagion. I do have to do some regular refrain songs now and then, I feel, but the innovation has been tolerated well. Mind you, I'm starting my 23rd year in the job.
    While the choir goes to communion (moving through the congregation) I used to do something similar because they could join in the refrains a capella from around the church, making a nice effect, but now I just do the proper antiphon directly from Fr Samuel Weber's book of the Proper of the Mass. I am inclined to favour doing something that is exactly from the Missal because many congregants buy missalettes and so have those in their hands these days.
    At the offertory (with no collection being taken) I have just recently taken to doing whatever the Graduale Romanum lists as an alternative to the mass proper because it matches with the lectionary for this specific year. This means I have something to contribute that connects with the liturgy of the word as it finishes. It also gives me a chance to branch out in to some of the Grad and Alleluia music I've never had a chance to access. The offertory repertoire at this time of the year features long stories about Moses, Daniel, Job and Esther and those don't seem to recommend themselves as well as my new initiative to folks in the pews. I always start with the English translation, sung to the psalm tone and then do the proper antiphon melody in Latin. This past Sunday there was no such item available but the GR Communion Vovete was different than both the RM communion options and spoke of presenting offerings so I went with that over Daniel.
    Did anybody sing Palestrina's Sicut cervus since that was one of the RM communion options? I had one choir that learnt it last year but that mass is down to three singers now. How long, O Lord, how long?
  • MarkB, you mention that "my parish is not ready for propers to replace songs." Why not sing propers at offertory and Communion and *follow* them with hymns? You could also sing an introit as prelude three minutes before Mass begins? Most propers are not that long in themselves, and it's not mandatory to sing verses and Gloria Patri with them.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    Along with what marymezzo said, you could always consider chanting the gregorian followed by English (perhaps Fr. Columba Kelly's?) introit, which might perk up the ears of the parishoners, to realize that the verse is actually something important, since it's being reiterated from earlier..?
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen marymezzo
  • MarkB
    Posts: 878
    Ladies, thank you but this is a parish that up till my arrival was using tambourines, maracas, claves and bongos. I can't turn this ship on a dime. I have just introduced the choir to reading chant notation and singing easy Latin chants.

    Learning and singing the Ave Verum Corpus before the first "regular" Communion song was a big change from prior practice and was the first Latin the parish has sung regularly in ages. That there hasn't been an uprising in the parish after singing Ave Verum Corpus for five consecutive weeks is a big deal. Introducing Weber's vernacular Communion antiphons at the start of Communion was also a new thing. Next for the choir and congregation to learn and sing at Communion are the first two verses of Adoro te Devote.

    I got the pastor's permission to sing the Orbis Factor Kyrie during Advent and to use the ICEL chants for the Mass ordinary during that season. Those will be more steps in the right direction.

    Little by little. I know priests and directors who pushed too far, too hard, too quickly and failed because they alienated the parishioners. While I introduce some propers and Latin chant, I'm still programming "Gather Your People" and "Bread for the World" and "The Summons" and all those sorts of OCP liturgical songs. My strategy has been to add sacred music where I can without taking any familiar or beloved liturgical music away, and to get the choir and parish to expect that every Mass will have one Latin chant at Communion. It's working so far.

    I've commented before that there are almost no practical resources to guide music directors in gradually reorienting a typical OCP/GIA novus ordo parish toward sacred music and doing so successfully, meaning not being run out of your job and not alienating parishioners. I've had to use my own judgment and come up with my own ideas, such as the Advent preludes I posted at the top of this thread. The video resources in other recent threads have been helpful; I've shared those with my choir members.
  • I think your idea is a rather clever one. A refrain which is seasonally appropriate and everyone already knows, whilst still retaining the proper text... if you're going to 'sneak' it in either way, this is a clever way to do it.
  • And a note on the Weber: I had greater success introducing the option ii's for most of the first year (at least if option i was more difficult). We are now into year 2 and I'm able to put more option i's in front of my schola because they are familiar with the verses and have been reading the chants for quite a while now. You might already be doing this anyway. Mercifully for me, my schola is a willing bunch, so although they sometimes sigh at the prospect of learning a more florid chant, they always give it a try and learn it in the end. They are enjoying the fruits of their labors now that we are returning to the point in the liturgical year where many of the chants are familiar again. It's much easier this time around.
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 195
    You may be able to do a modified version of the propers in Advent fairly easily. You could use the Simple English Proper Antiphon sung by a cantor and follow that by a metrical setting of the psalm from which the verse comes set to your favorite appropriate hymn tune.
  • MarkB- we seem to be in the same boat liturgically speaking. My pastor wants me to move towards CCM (contemporary Christian Music). I don't feel the ability to branch into chant. I've been told point blank "no." It's a very hard pill to swallow. I am glad you are able to bring beauty and solemnity back.
  • Oh dear. So your priest has a complete and utter disregard for everything HMC has had to say on the matter.

    I once worked at a prominent place of pilgrimage... I had a traditional priest who hired me in to introduce chant and elevate music, generally speaking. I introduced the introit and communion antiphons (english) in addition to hymns, Missa XVII during lent, etc. Baby steps but we were moving in the right direction. We also had a communion rail reinstalled, masses were said ad orientem during advent and lent (whole season, not just particular masses), traditional devotions were rekindled and the rosary was said prior to every mass. I had a newer digital instrument which sounded as nice as anything ever would in what was ultimately a strange room. I'd sometimes spend up to 3 hours preparing a single weekend's registrations.

    Then a new priest was stationed there and within two weeks all chanting was banned, no hymns could be sung all the way through; no latin; communion rail was no longer even an option... the altar candles were all stripped, and our sister parish was even permitted to use a fake paschal candle that was found in an old closet to save money. It was catastrophic. I did not last long.

    Another priest at another parish was interested in hiring me at one point (totally unrelated to the above) and would have been able to offer me a decent pay raise. Part of the job required working with a folk-mass group. This parish has guitar masses and they aren't going anywhere, apparently. I told him point blank that the only thing I could contribute to a hippie guitar group was to shut. it. down. (I happen to know this priest particularly well, so I was quite frank with him.) He was very disappointed. When I pressed him on the matter of what HMC actually calls for, there wasn't much he could offer me as a rebuttal other than to suggest I was being too staunch and perhaps even un-pastoral. It's a shame too. They have a large 50 person choir, a nice pipe organ and perpetual adoration at that church. I would have loved to work there, but owing the circumstances and his own liturgical proclivities, we mutually agreed I would not be a good fit.
  • @serviamscores - HMC? Am I missing something? Holy Mother Church, right? or is there a document that my brain isn't quite connecting with those initials?
  • Yes, "Holy Mother Church".
  • @MaestroMark32 I would be grateful to receive a copy of Rice's pieces with melody line only, please. I was just thinking about doing this, but if it's already been done... :) - my email is eleanor.campion at gmail dot com Thank you!
  • JHR
    Posts: 5
    MarkB- your post has me cheering you on! what you're doing is exhausting isn't it! I am in a similar boat as Director of Music Ministries in a Parish heavily wedded to OCP, and needing to tread so lightly and cautiously as I introduce the Propers. started at Communion, have now added the Entrance - all over 4 years time (the pace is ridiculously slow), but retained the OCP songs all the while. and mine is only one church in the cluster of 4 where my influence over the other music ministers is merely a suggestion, not mandate. has anyone done any research showing that singing the propers over feel-good gathering songs and the like actually gets you any faster to a "Singing Parish" ? (That's the advice I receive - to develop a "singing parish".) i'd love to have something in writing that i can point to to justify why i'm doing what i'm doing I'm fighting myself weekly. My gut knows the right thing to do, while I allow OCP repertoire to continue. I do spend an inordinate amount of time each week picking through OCP and only program what my ears consider true and beautiful (so text and tune are my guide - not how beloved it is). but like mark says, resources are needed for how to align a pastor and congregation's mind-set with our thinking. (fortunately music resources are blessedly now abundant! we love bartlett, weber, ainslie...) by the way, everyone's ideas on this thread are very much appreciated.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,155
    How about Fr Columba Kelly's approach, in which the cantor sings a setting of the Missal antiphon (and psalm verses) while the is an additional congrgational refrain? And, if it makes them easier to sell to the parish, they are published by OCP.
    Thanked by 1Paul F. Ford
  • I don't have experience proving it makes for a better singing parish, but I can tell you that on more than one occasion I have pointed out how profound a particular proper text is relative to any hymn we would otherwise schedule in it's place. I know these experiences have made a favorable impression upon the schola as they understand the profundity of the propers vs. "the stuff we pick". There are certain proper texts that say things I've never found in a hymn (and if I found them and scheduled them I'm sure some liberal-minded parishioner would be offended) but because these texts come from the gradual and are a part of a codified tradition we can "get away with it" ——much to the spiritual benefit of all involved.

    I'll also add that while you'll definitely get people who will grumble, you'll also get people who will surprise you. Not-infrequently I receive complements after Mass, especially from visitors who never hear any chanting at their own parishes, how profound it is to hear chanting at the Mass and how "holy" and "calm" it makes the Mass feel. "When you're chanting I just really feel like I can pray better!" ("That's because you can!") Funny how that works.
  • While probably not exactly liturgically correct, here is what we have been doing. A processional hymn is sung, followed by the entrance antiphon sung to a simple psalm tone. Father begins Mass immediately after the antiphon.

    At communion, the communion antiphon (again, set to a simple psalm tone) is sung, followed by a eucharistic hymn.