Should Psalm music be available to congregation?
  • Quite a while ago, before I became involved with church music mumble-mumble years ago, (I love that phrase) I seem to remember that it became sort of incorrect to have the written music for the Psalm available to the congregation. This was to supposedly encourage them to listen attentively. But when I moved here, I noticed our parish posted and announced the Psalm. And, I admit, the sung response is better than when we do a Psalm that they cannot read. I'm curious to know what others do about this.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    It should be available, where practical.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,370
    I agree with Gavin. :)
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    I have never had to choose. The pastor requires the congregation to have words and notes for psalms, as well as, other music.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • They certainly ought to have music for the response, if they are to sing it; and if they are to know where to respond, they need to have the text of the verses.

    Some liturgists have argued that they ought not to be provided with the text of the readings, since reading the text from the leaflet or from a book is an isolating experience, whereas listening is a corporate experience. Under optimum conditions--where the acoustics are good, and the readers read well--their argument has merit. But sometimes conditions are not optimum, and I would rather have my nose in a leaflet than not understand what is being read.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    I don't get these people who say that the congregation shouldn't be looking at the words of the psalm or the readings; it seems to me another extreme interpretation of 'participatio actuosa'. What about those who can't hear or understand the words without the text? I could see an argument based on practicality: we can't buy/copy/provide the texts. But that's not the reason which is usually advanced.
  • jhoffman
    Posts: 29
    I don't think what liturgists say is necessarily valued by the person in the pew very much. I for one like to have the printed word in front of me. I learn, hear and listen better when the psalm is clearly proclaimed/chanted and I can follow along with the printed word. I don't necessarily find that watching someone sing that I will listen better. The printed word helps me stay focused.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    We don't live in an aural society anymore, thanks to the age of literacy, followed by the internet. We rarely sit around and tell stories- we spend most of our time reading on the computer. I have been thinking about this lately, and have been wondering if (at least for myself I suspect this is true!) I have been wondering if this actually makes it more difficult for us to simply listen without reading. I know I have a much harder time simply comprehending the message when I'm listening instead of reading along.
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  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    In theory I think it'd be just great to just listen to the readings, without reading along. In what other situation do we READ what the other person is saying, WHILE THEY'RE SAYING IT?? In any other context, that would be considered downright rude!

    On the other hand, people DO seem to get something out of it. And having the materials available allows them to prepare themselves. It almost seems like those who read along are like people who hold on to things in your car while you drive (or is that just when I'm driving...?) They're not going to fly out of the car in every calm left turn, but they like to have the reassurance.

    I also think there's something to be said for the TEXT ITSELF being read at Mass. The old translation was boring and forgettable. The scripture translation used at Roman churches sounds like a bunch of pious yammering about nothing. I'm not saying we need a wholesale return to traditional texts, but something about phrases like "I shall not want", "Mea culpa", "Was lost but now is found" MAKES you pay attention and grasp on to the words you hear. As opposed to most of what you hear at Mass now, which is primarily an invitation to zone out and think about your shopping list.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,110
    I agree with Gavin's first post, and would think the improved singing noted by PS speaks for itself. Since we do some of the Easter Vigil responses in Latin polyphony (as well as English chant) I would prefer to have lights on and a translation in the people's hands as well, instead of the ambo lamp and the choirs flashlights clicking on and off in alternatim. I don't get the impression that the lessons are heard with greater attention in the dark.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • The people should definitely be given the music to the responds, for those are what they are meant to sing. The Vv for cantor, or schola, or choir, may be given as an aid in following context, but are not essential. In this manner they know when to sing and do not need any of those varieties of barbaric gestures to cue the presumedly clueless.

    Incidentally, in the Anglican Ordinariate it is the custom to sing the psalm in directum by choir and people to Anglican chant. Hence, this purely academic question: is the psalm of necessity to be sung only responsorially in the Roman rite? Or, are other methods permitted licitly?
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,052
    For the responsorial psalm during Mass, responsorially (hence the name); in directum is the option, and more traditional, for the Liturgy of the Hours.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,629
    If you want me to sing something, give me the notes, so I don't have to guess at whether the jingle goes up or down. It's time we quit insulting our parishoners' intelligence.
  • I really prefer the kind of responsorial psalm chanting done at Notre-Dame in Paris for Vespers, where the response is sung and repeated, and then the cantor and the people alternate psalm verses. Of course, the music has to be provided. Involves the people better than when all they do is sing the response.
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  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'd like to state, for the sake of clarity (though no one has argued otherwise), that one should NOT let a legitimate inability to provide the notation dissuade them from doing a piece of responsorial music with the congregation.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,110
    One can tell the psalm at Notre Dame (thanks ScottKChicago) is being sung responsively instead of only responsorially by the organ registrations ;-) This style is the norm in US Lutheran churches where the congregation has enough practice to be able to follow a pointed text confidently. If only GIA (or other publishers) had spent money for extra ink on a very few extra puntuation marks in the Catholic Community Hymnal!
  • We have been accustomed to regarding the psalm in the Liturgy of the Word as a response to the lesson that precedes it; but James McKinnon, in The Advent Project presented convincing evidence that it was in origin a lesson. (His essential point was that early lectionaries consistently provided only one psalm, regardless of how many lessons the provided.) Direct psalmody (sung by a solist). A bit later congregational responses were added as a festal adornment.

    There is nothing traditional about having the verses of the psalm in the Liturgy of the Word sung by the choir or congregation. They were traditionally assigned to the psalmist.

    I do not understand the widespread distaste for responsorial psalmody among "conservatives." It is an ancient form of psalmody, and it works quite well, particularly when the responses are based upon the simple antiphons of the office.

    Needless to say, if the people are to sing decent refrains, they must have the music.