introducing change
  • As mentioned in another thread, I am working on a "5-year vision" for music at our parish. One point is to do the Propers "properly" with congregational responses. If and when I'm asked, "OK, how do you propose this be accomplished?" I want to suggest the practical steps.

    So, how to get from here to there without distracting from the Mass? "Here" is the "4-hymn sandwich" with my daughter I singing the Communion antiphon with, at most, two Psalm verses. "There" is all four propers with the congregation.


  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,099
    If you would like the congregation to sing, simpler is better to start. Psalm-tone propers might be good, and would introduce them to the modes. Singing the 7 Ad lib. communion antiphons (in the Simple English Propes, among others) rather the the proper propers would also be a good start.

    The SEP is not, generally speaking, intended as a congregational book, and some antiphons might be difficult, but the Lumen Christi Missal has a "Simple Gradual" that IS designed for congregational use (available online) and the Graduale Simplex or another adaptation like By Flowing Waters would also be useful.

    To make things easier it might be a good start so simply chant the Antiphons from the Missal in the missalette on a psalm-tone. Modes VIII, II, VI & I seem to work well with English. The Missal, of course, only contains the Introit and Communion, so you could continue doing a hymn.
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  • Here are some of my ideas:

    1.) Start with using the ad libitum communion antiphons. Explain that it is essentially like singing another responsorial psalm, except that it is sung at communion. Many parishes have two hymns at communion (the second being a "thanksgiving hymn"). Use the communion chant to replace the first hymn and then sing a proper communion hymn in place of the "thanksgiving hymn". It may help to print the one you intend to sing in liturgy leaflets, assuming that your parish already does those.

    The four that I believe are most readily sung by the congregation are:

    O Taste and See...
    He who eats my flesh...
    The Bread which I will give...
    You gave us bread from heaven...

    2.) Another tactic is to sing only the antiphon of the Offertory proper before going into a hymn or motet. This one is a little sneakier, but managed to keep both the propers camp and the hymn camp happy.

    3.) If you have a parish that is particularly keen on Hymn-singing, drop the Introit and have a hymn there. It will motivate people to come on time if they want to sing.

    4.) Encourage your pastor to sing all the responses.Yes, ALL of them. Make sure that you also sing the Our Father/Pater Noster. A Sung Creed/Credo might be a bit much for parish congregations, so I would leave it just said. Same goes for the I Confess/Confiteor. If the congregation sings this lot, they are happier to sit back and actively listen to whatever the choir has to offer in either propers or motets.
  • I'd like to reiterate (4) above and raise its priority to highest. If celebrant and people are not singing the dialogues and responses, and the Lord's Prayer, get those going before anything else.

  • Thank you all so much. This is very helpful. Our new priest chants between 50-80% of the Mass, and we usually do sing the dialogs, responses and Our Father (though the tune on this needs some cleaning up).

    Now I would like to know how and when you instruct the congregation on the changes to the propers. Do you stand up and go over this before Mass? We do not have a liturgy bulletin for the Mass at this time, but I see that's something else I might add to my wish list.

  • I would encourage you to use liturgy sheets, as it does make participation much easier for thr congregation. Explain to them that it is just like a responsorial psalm. Just go straight ahead with it since it avoids conflicts with resistors.

    Sneak the offertory antiphon in just before the offertory hymn and you have two out of three propers there before anyone has a chance to create hassles.
  • I think it is essential that you do not announce any changes, instead they HAVE to come from the priest. This shows his support and makes him the contact person for comments, not you. It shows humility, your subservience to him and has much more chance of succeeding.

    Liturgy sheets are essential as Hartley says.
  • jpal
    Posts: 365
    Here are some successful ways we introduced changes when we went through a series of big ones (just before the new translation):

    1) Concise announcements before Mass (read by myself or a cantor)
    2) Support and emphasis by priests during Mass (by cleverly tying it into their homilies)
    3) Announcements and detailed explanations in the bulletin
    4) CDs of new music distributed after Mass (we have 2400 or so families; I think we handed out less than 1000 CDs)
    5) Reminders of upcoming changes repeated for several weeks before taking effect, so that people were sick of hearing about it and already used to it by the time "it" happened.
    6) Having the choir or cantor demonstrate a new musical setting just before Mass.

    Here are some things we tried which were unsuccessful:
    1) Changing something big overnight without telling anyone what or why.
    2) Long-winded AND/OR defensive AND/OR theological explanations before Mass.
    3) Trying to make people sing something new right before Mass.
    4) Using the word "change."
    5) Assuming that most people would be hostile to chant.
  • Our new pastor is world's apart from the old one and our music went from drums and guitars and everything (all masses) Praise and Worship to hymnody and chant. It was not easy and continues to be a challenge, BUT it is working. People are not singing yet and sometimes look at my "strangely", but they are not complaining quite as loudly and there's been a lot of positive feedback (along with a lot of negative, but it's definitely beginning to even out).
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,931
    wow musicteacher... that's a breath of fresh air, long overdue, eh?
  • mahrt
    Posts: 517
    My suggestion would be to concentrate upon the congregation singing the ordinary; if they sing the whole ordinary, together with the responses throughout the Mass and the Lord's Prayer, that is a lot. This would leave the schola free to eventually sing the propers by themselves.
  • The congregation is singing the ordinary, not loudly, mind you, but I am seeing lips move! Some are also picking up on hymns. There are, of course, those who just blatantly refuse to do anything other than the old P&W, but they aren't complaining quite as loudly any more, and some not at all. We are making strides, though I've lost about 80% of the music ministry. But, that's okay. Baby steps.
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 462
    Our new pastor is world's apart from the old one and our music went from drums and guitars and everything (all masses) Praise and Worship to hymnody and chant

    Thanks for the testimony of hope.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,678
    I've always been a proponent of slow change...

    I recently started a new position and decided to make drastic changes almost overnight. The results thus far have been excellent across the board.

    The truth is that quality music, done by quality musicians will win folks over. End of story.

    Slow change might be necessary in some cases (especially if the leadership is still needing to learn how to do things), but the slow pace is not always necessary. Sometimes parishes can go from Life Teen to Vernacular and Gregorian Propers over the course of a few months.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen melofluent
  • Begin with the modification of the Choir:

    Reverence at all times, but never ostentatiously.

    If you've been using the C-130 landing procedure, drop it. Let musical cues serve. If you don't change the music overnight, you've accomplished the idea that liturgy has its own logic, and doesn't need all that waving. Then, more appropriate music will fit in, because it goes logically with the proper reverence.

    Have the choir singing kneeling, when kneeling is the prescribed posture at any point at Mass. Not only can it be done, but it helps with the idea that we're not making a show. Again, ostentatiously kneeling defeats the purpose.

    Treat the congregation, even (or especially) those whom you are confident will oppose you, as intelligent beings. If you can, provide the music -- we use Mass XVII during Advent and Lent, and so we put copies of this in the pew. We never require congregational singing, but we allow it to happen.

    I agree that the pastor's help is essential. If you can encourage him to preach about the liturgy, that's wonderful. We just had a retreat at our parish, during which the conferences concerned the liturgical instructions for the Triduum. We all went away enriched.

    I've written this elsewhere, but it is essential to improving music, so I'll repeat it here: remember that microphones don't belong in a musician's face, or hanging from a ceiling near him - for the simple reason that he doesn't need a reason or a mechanism to treat the liturgy as if it is all about him. If you want to improve the music, remove the microphone.

    Use chant-like melodies (even recto tono) for the Gospel Acclamation.

    As you gradually acclimate your congregation to such things, you will be able to advance.



  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    For the Gospel Acclamation, use one of the Alleluias found in the PBC. I find the Tone VI and Tone VII triple alleluias work quite well. I'm also known to use the simple melismatic alleluia from the Anglican Use Gradual. I tend to use it for the first few weeks of ordinary time to contrast with the triple alleluia of Eastertide, aswell as during Advent, again contrasting against using the triple alleluia on Christ the King (last sunday of the year).
  • mahrt
    Posts: 517
    I think that the triple alleluia is not the best solution, for the simple reason that the essence of the Mass alleluia is the jubilus. The triple alleluia is an office antiphon (the most commonly sung one is from the Lauds of the Easter Vigil in the old rite), its function is as a refrain to the singing of a whole psalm by a whole community. In the ordinary office, it tends to frame the psalm at its beginning and end without any reference to the rest of the office. The alleluia with jubilus is suited to its function at the Mass, where the ecstatic character of the jubilus expresses a sense of anticipation and excitement which is a purposeful preparation for the gospel (especially when it is sung). This alleluia is the authentic Gregorian chant, which should have principal place in the liturgy. There is a conflict about this, since the GIRM now says that the congregation sings the alleluia. My choir sings the whole Gregorian alleluia with melismatic verse, taking the side of giving Gregorian chant principal place. But I have proposed that if you are obliged to maintain congregational singing of the alleluia, let the congregation repeat the intonation of the alleluia and the choir then finish with the jubilus. An alternative might be to use one of the simpler melismatic alleluias regularly, in which case the congregation could learn to sing the melisma, yes they could. I would not favor this alternative, but I imagine it to be a viable alternative.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    There is a very simple melismatic alleluia printed in the Anglican Use Gradual, which I make use of during Advent. The Tone 8 melismatic alleluia is one I know well and sing often, but the jubilus is beyond the capabilities of most congregations out this way. Australians sing pub music, but won't sing at church. Go figure...