Needed: Suggestions for acapella hymns
  • Our organist has been absent on a growing number of Sunays, and no one has come forward to help out. (Small town.) I need some ideas for acapella hymns that can be easily picked up by choir members who cannot read music. I figure if that's the way our music is going, why fight it?
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    a starting point might be here:

    200 hymns that work well without accompaniment
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,454
    This may be the perfect time to try propers. You could just use them at one place, for example, just offertory, or communion or introit. Here are three that I use:
    http://musicasacra.com/sep/
    http://musicasacra.com/books/simplechoralgradual.pdf
    http://musicasacra.com/weber/
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • (Oh, my Lord....)

    "Sundays."

    Duh.
  • benedictgal
    Posts: 797
    This Sunday, I plan on using (along with the SEPs):

    O Sons and Daughters
    Alleluia, Sing to Jesus
    Regina Caeli
    At the Lamb's High Feast
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • That's a huge help, thanks!
  • A cautionary suggestion. I followed a DOM who was incredibly talented at finding hymns in the OCP hymnbook match the readings exactly, worked real hard at this. And this was in total disregard for the fact that most of them were totally unknown by the people. So Masses were her, playing her guitar, accompanying herself and with the organ, singing while the people stood or sat there.

    Protestant churches save and bind annually the programs for the services. A new DOM walks in, sorts through, finds out what they already know how to sing and chooses rather heavily from that list. So the people sing most of the time.

    Choosing new music regardless of whether or not they know it results in a group mentality of "If they wanted me to sing, they'd pick music I know."

    I've made tremendous mistakes in handling choice of music for a congregation and I'd love to say that you reach a point where you gain the knowledge of what to do and what not to do. But, at least in my case, that's not true.

    So, for Benedictgal's choice of music and knowing the limited number of hymns that most Catholics know for post-Easter Masses, I'd say that people will sing O Sons and Daughters, At The Lamb's High Feast and Alleluia, Sing To Jesus....that one probably the one that they will sing strongest.

    Regina Caeli they will not sing. [if they already know it and sing it, move on to another message and ignore all of this.] The first Sunday. It appears to be at Communion, so especially if it is during the reception of the Sacrament, that's not a bad thing. Sing it and repeat it three times for four weeks in a row and then move it to the post communion song. Just before Mass run through it with the congregation. Would especially help to grab some singers to sing with you as song leader...amazing how two or three voices together kills the "Let's Ignore the Arm-Waving Cantor" syndrome.

    The church knows what it is doing, rarely sticking soloists out in front of a congregation, but using a real cantor to set pitch and tempo. Too bad they lost that and we have to put it back into effect.

    Back on subject:

    Some will sing. It's a step forward. And it's a very good choice of music with the congregation in mind.

    There is no reason for a Catholic church to have to have an organist. But if they are to have any instrument, it should be the organ, if only because there is so much Catholic music written, or if you prefer, music that is based upon or has the character of Catholic Liturgy.
  • My Anglicans don't bind the programs together, but I have my Word documents of every Sunday and feast day services' "hymns and propers" listing stretching back upteen years. So I can look back and see what has been done and what hasn't, what went well and what did not (I go back and make notes). I have a template for this, with checkmarked items across the top to make certain I actually changed what needed to be changed.

    But there are still times (after 11 years there, same pastor) that I pick something the pastor doesn't like or which falls outside of his preferences. Also, there are definitely regional variations on what congregations know and what they are willing to learn.

    Overall, Frogman has it entirely right! And I got a huge laugh out of <"Let's Ignore the Arm-Waving Cantor" syndrome.> and his last paragraph.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Noel is right. You don't need suggestions - you know what they will sing already. If it's an emergency situation with no one to lead the hymns, you can't really afford to be picky about the best suitability for the day.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • As JMO says, 200 hymns....no, any hymn that needs accompaniment IS NOT A HYMN. Hymns, being metrical in nature, are sort of little machines that function on their own, due to their structure.

    Hence, any song that is sung that cannot be sung without rhythmic accompaniment IS NOT A HYMN. Chants that repeat melodies are metrical in their large form and qualify as hymns. So repetition is also an integral part of determining what music we know is hymns.

    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,454
    So definitions please: hymn, motet, anthem?
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • Metric [mostly harmonized] song, latin choral piece, english choral piece. Gleaned from past discussions on the list!

    Harmonic rhythm is key to a hymn, which evolved eventually out of Blessed Notker Balbalus' ground breaking work creating non-scriptural texts to ease the learning of long florid melodic sections on the vowel "A" in Alleluias, providing the basis for the eventual creation of typically 4 part SATB settings that we know as hymns.

  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,454
    Merci, Gratias, Thank you!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,312
    Noel, aren't you thinking of sequences -- the things that were supposedly invented as mnemonic aids to learning florid melismas? Hymns go back much longer in the Office, right?
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,454
    OK, but what is an "English motet" then, or do the lines get blurred?
    I was wondering about: "If Ye Love Me" or "God So Loved the World".
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,370
    From Wikipedia, which gives a fair rendering of the meaning of (Renaissance) motet:
    [T]he Renaissance motet is a polyphonic musical setting, sometimes in imitative counterpoint, for chorus, of a Latin text, usually sacred, not specifically connected to the liturgy of a given day, and therefore suitable for use in any service. The texts of antiphons were frequently used as motet texts. This is the sort of composition that is most familiarly designated by the term "motet," and the Renaissance period marked the flowering of the form.

    In essence, these motets were sacred madrigals. The relationship between the two forms is most obvious in the composers who concentrated on sacred music, especially Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, whose "motets" setting texts from the Canticum Canticorum, the biblical "Song of Solomon," are among the most lush and madrigal-like of Palestrina's compositions, while his "madrigals" that set poems of Petrarch in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary would not be out of place in church. The language of the text was the decisive feature: if it's Latin, it's a motet; if the vernacular, a madrigal.

    The concept of motet changed in the Baroque era, morphing into somewhat different forms, depending upon the region or country or language used. Thus there were French motets (the most significant strain being those set forth by Lully), and German motets of various kinds, including especially those of Heinrich Schütz (who composed such works both in Latin and in German) and Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). The form also developed in England, and those motets which were written with English texts were (and are) called anthems. Motet writing suffered somewhat of a decline in the classical era, although Mozart's Ave verum is a significant example. The romantic era saw a rebirth of motet writing, usually in the vernacular (eg. Brahms and Mendelssohn), but not always (Bruckner being the prime example of a Latin motet composer). Even into the 20th century there were English composers who composed Latin works stylized as motets, while anthems (vernacular compositions) remained prevalent. Starting with the Baroque, it was not uncommon for motets (or anthems) to have some sort of instrumental accompaniment, even if only in the form of a basso continuo, and later motets/anthems were often written to be accompanied by organ or other instruments. In the 20th century and since, there have been a number of composers who have written works in the form, often emulating the earlier Renaissance style or structure.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'm not certain that these distinctions have any importance. When I first started working as a church musician, I would make announcements differently... "The opening song is..." "The opening hymn is..."

    A "hymn" was something I liked (invariably played on organ). A "song" was something I didn't like (invariably played on piano). "Hymn" had a loftiness to it that "song" lacked. I was so very content with myself for making that clear distinction.

    Of course, the GIRM 2011 now tells us everything is a "chant" - whether we chant it or not!

    Frankly, these days I could care less what anyone calls anything, so long as it sounds good.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • As I understand it, and I might well be wrong, up until Notker all texts were scriptural, he broke the tradition, writing the sequence hymn texts such as Veni Sancti, which opened the door to creating texts freely, which then made word-ending rhyming popular and the use of poetic feet....but this could all be a dream, a bad one, in which I have totally misread and understood!

    The Office Hymns....

    Gavin, all songs in France are chants, if that helps!

    I like WIKI, especially when it totally contradicts what I think that I have learned! It's like having a really obnoxious friend who, though obnoxious, is still a friend. Everything in this WIKI article contradicts a discussion that I read that went on here in the old days, way back about 3 years ago. The whole motet is a madrigal thinking on the WIKI seems fuzzy...so now we've got feet and fuzzy navels.

    Educate me, people, don't just sit there!
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • Does anybody have the download file of the Gregorian Chant program that should be available from "gregorian.soft.free.fr" but which is not working at the moment? Thanks.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,312
    Noel, Notker is typically credited with having created the first sequence in the 800s, but some non-scriptural Office hymns (e.g., Te lucis ante terminum) date back to the 500s if not earlier.

    To characterize the motet as a sacred madrigal suggests a theory about which came first, so I wouldn't opt for that. Instead, I'd define a motet as any polyphonic sacred work (including, e.g., Perotin).
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,454
    Frankly, these days I could care less what anyone calls anything, so long as it sounds good.


    Well, yes, except what sounds good to me is probably different than what sounds good to you or to my parish priest or person sitting in the pew. I've always called the "songs" we have sung as a choir anthems, because that is what the previous DM called them. But it didn't sit well with me and for some reason seemed less "Catholic" than "motet". Now I know we sing motets!

    Another problem is when educating others. I had to submit a proposal for music for a wedding at another parish recently when I was told that "Ave Verum," and "Ave Maria," were not suitable Catholic Hymns. Well, the DM there was right, I guess, in that they are not hymns, but another choice, "Servant Song," (the couples' selection for the signing) may well be a hymn, but not necessarily Catholic, and the DM was trying to tell me it was the best option for Communion. I found the whole discussion frustrating, but these are the people with whom I have to debate these points. I was taught in a more protestant setting, education here is lacking and I often feel incompetent to properly give my point of view in a decisive manner.

    Thanks to everyone for educating me!
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    In discussions like this, I find it very helpful to specify whether we are talking about the text or the tune.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    If the discussion is over whether something is a "suitable Catholic hymn", why is the word to dispute "hymn"? I would dispute the "suitable" label. But I guess I'm just weird.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,454
    That was my point, Gavin, so no, you are not weird.

    JMO, exactly. Rhythmic makes it a hymn. I was just wondering the difference between anthem and motet. It's not just that anthem is English, nor is it that motet is derived from sacred texts. So, there is a grey area.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Not weird? I wouldn't go quite THAT far, Canadash! ;)
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,370
    I fear that we are pitting long-held understandings by music historians about motet versus anthem against a relatively current attempt to shoe-horn a different and more modern eccelsiastical interpretation.

    The term motet (or it's linguistic antecedents) go back even before the Renaissance, and, although the Renaissance brought about a significant change and maturation of the motet form (albeit somewhat varying from region to region), it went through substantial subsequent evolution in the Baroque and later eras, which included the development of the English anthem forms in contradistinction to the largely continental motet forms.

    Nowadays, we seem to be tilting at windmills when in the past (even in Palestrina's time) there were both secular motets and sacred madrigals (the motets in Latin, the madrigals in the vernacular). These genres became enriched by the English anthem forms which, in part evolved from the earlier Renaissance antiphons, such as those found in the Eton Choirbook.

    To muddy the waters by trying to impose yet other limitations and modern reassignment of definitions seems to me to be highly counterproductive and, in the end, useless. With the late Renaissance concepts of motet and anthem being regarded as archetypical and generally accepted ideal, why cannot we accept them and move on?

    Far more interesting, to me at least, is the historical evolution of hymns and hymnology, which are rather more than simply rhythmic, rhymed sacred songs, as some seem to suggest. "When they and sung an hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives" did they sing something like "Holy God, we praise thy Name" or "Father, we thank thee" or what? – Certainly not rhythmic and rhymed, but perhaps (although we cannot know for certain) strophic.

    Thanked by 1canadash
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    If we're going to sing extra-liturgical metrical texts there's a lot to be said for using it as an opportunity for inculturation. The Ordinariate offers the English-Hymnal tradition. My ignorance of the repertoire and culture are vast, but I have loved what little shape-note singing I have heard. Might there be something in this for US Catholicism? Doug?
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • I think they sang the Hebrew equivalent of "99 Bottles of beer on the Wall"...
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Inculturation is the reason that the US church is in the musical and liturgical shape it is today, without a doubt.

    There is a difference between the mission field, where Christianity is unknown, where inculturation was thought to be the magic key to bringing the natives around, and the US.
    Thanked by 1benedictgal
  • benedictgal
    Posts: 797
    This is what I did at three Masses this past weekend (all acapella)

    At my father's parish (Saturday anticipated Sunday Mass)
    SEP Introit
    Offertory: Ye Sons and Daughters
    Regina Caeli (incense at offertory)
    Communion: SEP Antiphon and then Alleluia, Sing to Jesus
    Recessional: Jesus Christ is Ris'n Today

    At my parish (two Masses on Sunday morning)
    Entrance: At the Lamb's High Feast
    Offertory: Ye Sons and Daughters
    Regina Caeli (incense at Offertory)
    Communion: SEP Antiphon and then Alleluia, Sing to Jesus
    Recessional: Jesus Christ is Ris'n Today

    The only problem was that OCP totally butchered Alleluia, Sing to Jesus with its bad editing. They excised nearly all of the Eucharistic references out of the hymn. They deserve a huge Gibbs (NCIS) head slap for that.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Agreed.

    ;-)