congregational singing at communion
  • Hi everyone,

    What are your thoughts on having the congregation sing during communion?

    And, what are your thoughts on the priority given to congregational singing at communion in GIRM §86-87?
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473

    Singing during Communion certainly has a place; of course the GIRM allows for the Communion chant to be sung by the choir or schola alone. In that case, I would say (this is my OPINION) that it IS a priority to have a congregational song AFTER Communion.

    As much as some may say otherwise, Communion does have many depths: It is not Eucharistic Adoration. The significance is that we receive the true, literal, body and blood of our Lord - but we do not do it as a solitary act. We do it in COMMUNION with the rest of the community. So there ought to be a sign of unity - and the GIRM (and other documents) speaks of the importance of this.

    I'd say do away with congregational singing if you wish, but be sure to put a hymn afterwards.
  • One hates to plan liturgies in direct contradiction to the GIRM; however, the practice of enforced congregational singing at communion is awful in my book--for many, many reasons. My pastor refers to it as 'singing with your mouth full'. At our OF Masses the choir sings the Communio beginning with the celebrant's communion, receives communion, then sing a motet, and then lead the congregation in singing the Marian antiphon during the ablutions. After a brief (seated) silence, everyone stands and sings a hymn of praise. Much of the so-called Communion Procession (a term I dislike) is in silence.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,476
    We sing

    1. a psalm, the Communio if we can manage, then
    -a hymn, then, if there's a choir
    -a motet or Marian antiphon

    Btw, although Communion is not ONLY adoration, I don't believe adoration is thereby excluded.
  • Dan F.Dan F.
    Posts: 205
    At my parish, the choir sings the communion chant in English (plain chant arranged by our director), receives communion, then sings a communion procession hymn. However, it feels like another special choir piece because nobody in the congregation sings.

    In fact, I think that the communion procession is a terrible time to plan congregational singing. Even though I enjoy singing, I don't sing during communion when I am part of the congregation. I'm focusing on receiving the Lord before and during, and then spending a few moments in quiet adoration after.

    I would much rather save the hymn until after all had received and had a moment of thanksgiving. The notion that the congregation will be belting out a tune as they walk up the aisle seems to me to be unnecessary and unattainable.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,476
    My parish loves hymns, and there are some people who would miss singing at Communion. They tend to sit in the front pews, and so are back in their seats when it starts.

    Most people don't sing at Communion, which is great.
  • There is a tremendous misconception that the GIRM says that singing of a hymn should begin during the reception of the Blessed Sacrament by the priest when in reality it means the Communion chant. Of course, it also says that this chant becomes part of the "communitarian" nature so they must mean that all that receive are to sing.

    This is possible if seasonal Simplex chants are sung and repeated on a regular basis, but hardly seems practical using the correct Communion chant for the day. There are a few times when the GIRM seems to vary from trying to outline what should happen in an active house of worship, such as a monastery, and a local church. To me this is one, and reflects an lack of focus on exactly what is expected.

    It would have been clearer if it read:

    A: In a monastic house, the communion chant should be sung....and so on as described.

    "86. While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is
    to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy
    of heart, and to highlight more clearly the “communitarian” nature of the procession to receive
    Communion. The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the

    B: In a local church where the congregation may not be capable of singing the Communion Chant, the communion may be sung by the choir. A hymn may be added then. possibly as the meditation, so that the congregation may come together in a "communitarian" moment. The choir should finish the Communion Chant in time that they may also receive.
  • Blaise
    Posts: 439
    We have:

    1. Men of the choir sing the communion chant
    2. The organist plays while the choir goes to Holy Communion
    3. Once the choir returns, the choral anthems/motets begins, one or two of these per Mass while the congregation goes to Holy Communion
    4. After the distribution of communion to the people, when the priest returns to the presidential chair and while the deacon(s) clear the altar, the people sing a hymn. There is plenty of opportunity for the people to chant the responses to the priest during the Mass.

    I think this arrangement works out nicely.

    Dan F., I agree with you regarding waiting until everyone has received Holy Communion before congregational singing starts.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I am very bigoted and opinionated on this. The GIRM is right: there should be congregational song. BUT at the same time I refuse to have it unless it is responsorial in form. It is utterly impractical to have music that the congregation doesn't KNOW (as in have memorized) during communion. Hence why a responsorial psalm is so great for communion!

    For me, if it doesn't have an easy, quickly learned refrain, the congregation doesn't sing it at communion.
  • So Gavin, why not sing the Simplex Communio?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    Starting the first Sunday in May, the choir or cantor will begin singing the communion antiphon in English. I am not ready to tackle verses yet. After the antiphon, I will play while the choir/cantor receives communion. That takes more than a minute or two since the stairs to the loft are steep, and neither the extraordinary ministers, nor the choir/cantors are getting any younger. Then we will drag out the least wretched hymn from RitualSong we can find, and the congregation will listen to us sing it. The only thing new or unusual will be the addition of the communion antiphon.
  • Would you describe your loft?

    [we had a potential donor for an organ who refused to do so because it would be going back in the choir loft and he hated choir lofts. It was that simple. Later I found out that he had only ever BEEN in one choir loft and it was....Charles' loft....with seating that is...different.]
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    The seating is very different. It is backless benches with a 45 degree angle sloping downward on the back side for kneeling by those in the row behind. Whatever they were thinking in 1926 escapes me. They must have been heavily into penance.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Noel: also a fantastic option, and I have used some chants from BFW. At my last church it was a slow process, so we wound up using one setting per season. In particular, the communion from Advent II was picked up quickly by the congregation.
  • I've been politely chastised by a friend who says that the propers are for the choir and that leaves time for the people to sing...and that is definitely one way to go.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,083
    On Sunday I was chastised by a colleague because I wanted to announce the number of a Latin hymn during Communion at a Low Mass (1962 Missal) -- because I would have to say the number in English. He considered that a terrible infraction. I just rolled my eyes.
  • I've never liked the idea of congregation singing during the Communion procession. It asks a person to do too many things. A simple refrain would be the only thing I'd be for, but pastors are trained to believe that people must sing at Communion to express their "unity" as if attending Mass wasn't sufficient. Let's at least move away from the "bread" songs and into the Communion chant with verses.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,423
    Here's what we do:
    1. communio, Latin chanted by schola
    2. Motet or some larger choral piece
    3. cong. hymns sung while choirs go to communion
  • "Please turn to hymn number XVI. We will sing verses I,V and VI. And please, refrain from placing contributions of v and x cents in the basket, because we need at least V or X dollars if we are going to keep the lights on from every I of you."

    Hymns are the last thing the people in church should be singing. After the Sung Ordinary in Latin, English or Eskimo. And they are telling us that by not opening the books. But no one seems to want to accept the fact that this great experiment has failed. Give the variable parts of the sung Mass back to a choir.

    The people should sing:

    The Kyrie
    The Credo
    The Sanctus
    The Acclamation
    The Amen
    The Pater Noster
    The Agnus Dei

    Now, once they can sing all these consistently, then you will have a singing Catholic church. They love repetition. The Mass is constant repetition. People love the Mass.

    The things about the Mass people do not like are things that they are not familiar with...and homilies that are pointless. The Mass gets to the point as a result of centuries of prayer. The sung parts of the Mass do as well.

    Then, once you have a singing church and if you have a long aisle, add beautiful hymns for processions. And repeat them. Just a few.

    If people tell you they get tired of beautiful hymns...then they need to spend even more time reading and singing them until they find the beauty in them. And they don't need to be the old hymns that I am researching and publishing. Maureen and Kathy have already proved that wordsmithing is not a lost art, confined to advertising and hymntunes do not need to be old, as Francis and others prove as well.

    If you have singers with the ability to sing the propers in simple or complex form that adorn the Mass with beauty, sing them. Otherwise don't.

    Being forced to do the Easter vigil for the third time using music out of a throw-away worship guide full of bad music and bad theology that we never sing has poisoned my mind.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Imagine a completely silent communion in a massive, packed cathedral. In that silence (what Wallace Stevens once called "the holy hush of ancient sacrifice"), all you can hear is the sound of shuffling humanity, moving forward. You're not used to this. The lack of music de-familiarizes the proceedings and makes it possible to take in the humble magnitude of what's going on. After the last person communes, following a short silence, the priest intones an antiphon, the schola finishes it, and the congregation joins the schola in finishing an Alleluia. Then the schola sings psalm verses, to which the congregation responds with Alleluia.

    I nearly experienced this once. The only difference was that a cantor stood up, woodenly explicated our experience ("to join our hearts in communion song, &c., we turn together to page 229 the missalette and sing..."), and then launched into a hymn that could only be described as a "ditty."

    Thus driving home the familiar sigh.
  • The 'expression of unity' through enforced/coerced singing during Communion = social engineering of the worst kind.
  • Thus driving home the familiar sigh.

    How many have left the church over this....from the awful music, poorly done...when one must go to an Anglican church to hear chant and polyphony because "the people don't want Latin and chant" the leaders have bowed to....
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    Oh, I know. It's a sad situation. I often have to visit the Episcopalians or the Presbyterians to hear authentically Catholic music. The local Catholic churches are too busy singing, "Gather us in on the Edmund Fitzgerald..."
  • The Grad. Simplex ad libitum communion psalms are the way to go. They're responsorial, Latin, and chant. One can be used at the Easter season and the other the rest of the year. No new words every week, no holding a book in front of you as you process. Psalm 33/34 is also one of the oldest used psalms at communion, extending as far back as St. John Chrysostom. A responsorial psalm at communion with the response sung by the congregation goes back at least to the 4th century.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,083
    "Gather us in on the Edmund Fitzgerald..." -- LOL.

    Does anyone share my sentiment that "O Filii et Filiae" is the "Celtic Alleluia" of the Renaissance?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    Oh, but you have to hear the rest of it.

    Gather us in on the Edmund Fitzgerald,
    Gather us in on the floor of the sea.
    Slosh us around in Davy Jones locker,
    Plenty good fishes for you and for me.

    Tra la la la la la la (interlude).

    "O Filii" as the Celtic Alleluia of the Renaissance? Hard to tell. It does seem to show up in many places about as often as the "Celtic," and I suspect it might have been as popular. A priest recently asked why we don't do a hymn based on "The Ash Grove." I always thought it a secular piece, but maybe time has changed that. I don't know. Time can often make yesterday's trite music seem more serious currently.
  • marymezzomarymezzo
    Posts: 236
    Charles, we now know there is "plenty good room" in Davy Jones' locker for moribund music as well as for the fishes.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    LOL :-) Amen to that!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,476
    Noel has my thinking. Hymns are "icing on the cake". All we really need is to sing the ordinary. Hymns can make SPECIAL additions, but are truly just added music. I think hymns are much more effective when used sparingly and on special occasions, feast days, etc. When you sing three or four at every Mass I think it is overkill.

    O my gosh, Noel. It never occurred to me that Gather us in was a direct lift of Gordons lite foot!
  • Nor i...interesting info on this list....
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Oh my ! I didn't get the joke because I didn't know this song. Ummm, isn't this actually the same song? I mean, it seems like the same song. I understand that all composers draw from the world around them but this is just too much.

  • We usually have our Gregorian Schola sing the proper when Communion starts, then improvise or play something on organ, and have a hymn after communion. I dislike singing during Communion and agree, it is rather impossible to sing "with your mouth full".
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Most of the people here seem to have good communion music. I really had a hard time yesterday at my parish. First of all, we had a new cantor who sounded like a 'prima donna' with such as wide range of vibrato. And the communion song was "taste and see' played on the piano, and the piano sounded real fun. I really couldn't concentrate with people singing 'with mouthful' on this jazzy music. How can anyone truly meet our true God and true man present and receive Him with this kind of music. I felt like I was at a party or at a campfire singing along and muching chips. I wanted to talk about this to the pastor or MD, but decided not to, probably won't be taken well. I just need to focus on our schola. Hopefully it will get better.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I know the "T&S" you speak of, unfortunately. Compare it to this setting (track 21).
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Heavenly... Someday we will have this in our parish.
    The commercialized piano sound which was so prominent was blocking my mind and my ears to hear God.

    Another 'favorite' in our parish is "You are Mine" (David Haas). A child (11 year) told me that this song is very inappropriate. I think it gives him even a creepy feeling when someone shouts out 'You are mine' next to him. Although it supposed to be sacred texts, the music doesn't seem to support it very well . The pop-sacro style of the music reminds him of someone (human) talking to him, not God talking to him.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 990
    When I'm told we have to sing to express our joy and sense of unity, I flashback to the radical cell meetings of my youth. (At one time I could sing the Internationale in three languages.) Social engineering is certainly what it feels like to me.

    While the Simplex, etc. are goals, they would probably be non-starters in my part of the country. However, the priests are all very firm about this singing during Communion. I found the best way around it was one of the Taize refrains, performed in a simple way without masses of solo cantors and/or instrumentation.

    What people like? Gift of Finest Wheat, I am the Bread of Life, and Moore's Taste and See. Why? Because they know the refrain.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,476
    Antiphons are one simple solution to getting over the hymn syndrome
  • Mia, only a small percentage of the members who belong to the CMAA Forum post...let's find out what's really going on at communion:

    Quick CMAA Communion Music Poll at:

    It will close after 100 responses have been entered. Results to follow. AND you can view the ongoing results right away.
  • mjballou,

    You could easily sneak the Simplex in it's english versions in BFW or in Fr. Columba Kelly's version...people would fall in love with them just like the ones you have mentioned. And they are without exception easy and interesting to sing.
  • Forget the's too vague:

  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    Charles W. Do you know that there is a setting of the Ashgrove by Joseph Haydn with sacred words for two pt women's voices??> LOL
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    At the bottom of this page, there are two really nice versions of "Sing my tongue the Mystery Holy"