"Gradualizing" the Responsorial Psalm
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,001
    For the past year, partly taking advantage of the moratorium on congregational singing, I have been singing the Gradual after the First Reading at the principal Mass on Sundays: I have been singing it in English, either in a "simple" version from Arbogast's "Complete English Propers of the High Mass" (1964) or the "full" Gregorian chant from G.H. Palmer-Francis Burgess's "The Plainchant Gradual, Parts I & II". I have been talking with some in the parish who have requested re-introducing the Responsorial Psalm.

    I have decided that I will do the Psalm during Ordinary Time, because of it's connexion with the First Reading, which often the re-distributed Graduals do not have; and which, is not strictly necessary, according to the Gregorian tradition, but which, unfortunately, has come to be expect by most people (much like many Directors of Music, following publications, believe that all the hymns at Mass must be chosen solely because they reflect the readings); However, during Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Eastertide, and on Pentecost & other Major Feasts, I will continue to use the Gradual (or First Alleluia in Eastertide) after the First Reading: This will give us about a 50/50 split between the Psp. Ps. & Gradual during the Year.

    I must say that I am not a fan of the Responsorial Psalm in its current format, and firmly believe that the melismatic Gradual chant is superior, not just because of its pedigree vs. the unashamed modernism of most Rsp. Ps. settings, but because I feel that the melismatic chant allows for a time of meditation that the Rsp. Ps. does not, and which is generally lacking in the Novus Ordo Mass.

    Because of that I am experimenting with how to "Gradualize" the Rsp. Ps.. Attached is a sample for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, which is an example of what might possibly be done to restore the style of the Gradual to the Rsp. Ps., by making the verses at least somewhat cantorial. Again, I feel that the Graduals are far superior, so this is an attempt at making a silk purse out of a sow's ear; making the best of something, while trying not to compromise one's liturgical and musical principles too much. (A constant struggle for me in dealing with the N.O., but that's another discussion that has been had one too many times on this Forum of late).

    I have used the Respond by Fr. Weber, from the alternate (more melodic) settings in the back of the Ignatius Pew Missal. The Verses are set to the 7th Mode St. Meinrad Tone, which I feel, because of its greater melodic variation, is better suited to something like the Rsp. Ps., that the office tones (as an aside: for the same reason, I dislike the use of the Meinrad tones in the Divine Office, where, in my opinion, the traditional tones should be employed with antiphonal singing). The closing melismata at the ends of verses are from a set of stock 'Pneuma' for the ends of Antiphons from the 'Breviarium Sarisburiense cum nota', ed. by William Renwick (Gregorian Institute of Canada): there is a neum for each of the 8 modes (Antiphons in Mode VIII and Tonus Peregrinus get the same neum, since both end on 'G').

    The text of the verses is from "The Abbey Psalms & Canticles", Copyright (C) 2010, 2018 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.
  • A very good start, Salieri. To 'gradualise' the RespPs completely I normally compose a distinct somewhat melismatic melody for each verse. You might experiment with this. I have had nothing but positive feed back from people who had no idea that the RespPs could be so beautiful.
  • PaxTecum
    Posts: 241
    Another thing you can do is not sing it responsorially. Use the format of the Office.
    ie:
    Response
    v1.
    v2.
    v3.
    (etc.)
    Response

    This would allow for an artful melismatic presentation of the verses in a row.

    Just a thought.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,973
    The intention of some of the Consilium reformers was that the responsorial psalm should be, in effect, a reading from the book of psalms. You can see a hint of that in the Graduale Simplex requirement that the selection of verses must retain coherence of thought. The suggestion by Settefrati93 brings us nearer to that, I think. N.B. it also means the music must not obscure the text.

    Thanked by 3Salieri CHGiffen Elmar
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,001
    some of the Consilium reformers was that the responsorial psalm should be, in effect, a reading from the book of psalms

    Which is what it is in most places: In fact, the principle Mass on Sundays (and certain feasts) is the only Mass each week where the "chant" after the First Reading is sung: Otherwise it is treated like a reading. (And we are the only broadly-speaking "Reform of the Reform" parish that I know of in the diocese.) I even know priests who believe that weekday Masses have three readings: The First Reading, the Psalm, and the Gospel; and Sundays have four: The First Reading, the Psalm, the Second Reading, and the Gospel.

    N.B. it also means the music must not obscure the text.

    Thus why I only include a melisma on the final syllable.
    Thanked by 2a_f_hawkins Elmar
  • We routinely (and Justly) talk of singing the readings (indeed every word of the entire mass), so singing the 'gradual psalm' is certainly not out of order. Neither are verses which are somewhat melismatic. Even the historic Roman gradual is meditative, and its elaboration merely amplifies this. Elaborate chant is meant for and aids meditation on the text by which it is enshrined. It is no coincidence that the most elaborate chants in the repertory are the meditative ones of the graduals and tracts. We should strive to imitate these models if we really wish to 'gradualise' the RP. Neither is all this contradictory of a meditative 'reading' - readings are sung.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,802
    Use the format of the Office.


    Don't know why, but this made me think of an animated paperclip is a Benedictine habit, tapping your computer screen and saying "Hey, it looks like you're writing a Gradual!"
  • It doesn't make sense to transplant a form from the Office to a wholly different context. In fact, one of the major issues with current RP praxis is that it emulates the Office too closely for something that ultimately does not resemble Office psalmody.
  • one of the major issues with current RP praxis


    Shall we start another thread to count the other major issues with the current RP praxis?
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,044
    Why? I think those issues have been done to death here. Why keep beating on a dead horse?
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen Liam Elmar
  • ok
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • cmb
    Posts: 70
    Another thing you can do is not sing it responsorially.

    This was done quite a bit during High Covidtide when congregational singing was interdit and our Masses were supposed to be 45 minutes or less.
    Thanked by 1PaxTecum
  • .
  • Elmar
    Posts: 422
    To start with a side issue:
    For the past year, partly taking advantage of the moratorium on congregational singing...
    I've seen this type of improvements (including our 2-year moriatorium on EMHCs) implemented without proper catechesis, en when people realise that these changes are permanent they experience this as something like 'pastor has taken xyz away from us, clericalism is back and we are returning to before VII'.

    Back to topic:
    The intention of some of the Consilium reformers was that the responsorial psalm should be, in effect, a reading from the book of psalms [...]
    N.B. it also means the music must not obscure the text.
    ...which can lead to only the response being sung and the verses being read by the lector (even when there are singers).

    I dare to say, most people in a typical parish don't know the psalm text by heart (OK we have the missalettes to compensate for bad acoustics and sloppy pronunciation...) but everyone did in the context of composition of Gregorian melodies of the propers in medieval monastries.
    Melismatic chant helps meditating on well-known pieces of Scripture, not so much in the context of teaching Scripture.
    On the other hand, office-like psalmody is meditative as well... MJO, you hit the nail:
    I normally compose a distinct somewhat melismatic melody for each verse. You might experiment with this. I have had nothing but positive feed back from people who had no idea that the RespPs could be so beautiful.
  • ...which can lead to only the response being sung and the verses being read by the lector (even when there are singers).


    Yes! I've seen this sort of nonsense.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 422
    ... and I've experienced it with my own choir. First I thought that it was some intrigue by the lector groep, but it turned out that they weren't the "people who do not like the way you do it" - if there were any at all besides the pastoor himself.