Congregational Communion Antiphons, does it work?
  • With the GIRM in mind (see below), is it possible to have a congregation sing the Communion antiphon (specifically the one proper to the Mass)? If so, how have you trained your congregation and what musical setting is used?

    Further comments and opinions appreciated, thanks!

    (so you know, our choirs sing the antiphon with 2 verses)

    87. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for singing at Communion: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the antiphon with Psalm from the Graduale Simplex of the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) some other suitable liturgical chant (cf. no. 86) approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. This is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or a cantor with the people.
  • We sing the communion antiphon from the Missal* each week during the distribution of communion and then a hymn while Father “does dishes.” We alternate through the SEP, Andy M.’s from, the Ampleforth Gradual, and others. The refrain is printed on a half sheet along with the order of service and hymn numbers (Worship 4) for the congregation each week. The psalm refrain is also included.

    * Sometimes, I’m not exactly sure where the antiphonal comes from as the SEP doesn’t always match the Missal. The Ampleforth Gradual always matches, but it seems like a few projects took the SEP and it’s psalm selections as their guide. When I write my own, I use the Missal for the text and the ICEL Antiphonary for the verses.

    As to participation, I think the congregation participates at least as well as with random communion songs. Some prefer to be in private prayer, and they are certainly welcome to that. The weeks with exceptionally long antiphons (as the SEP has this week) will not see good partipstion. I like Columba Kelly’s, as published by OCP, but at this point in time, the parish doesn’t have a reprint license.
    Thanked by 1roy2
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,411
    Communion antiphon (specifically the one proper to the Mass)
    Most here would take that one to be: in Latin from the GR, or in English a setting of a translation of that one to a comparable tune. But I cannot see the GR antiphons as being intended for anyone but a trained singer, well rehearsed.
    GIRM lists plenty of alternatives, all of which are allowable, suited to various styles of performance and various degrees of participation. For maximum simplicity there is the GS option of always using Ps 34/33V Benedicam Domino with antiphon Gustate quam suavis, or the same in English for maximal participation.
    Marc Cerisier : this article discusses extensivly why the antiphons do not always match.
    Thanked by 1Paul F. Ford
  • I’m aware of the difference between the Missal and the Gradual. I was under the impression, though, that the SEP followed the Missal.
  • Why 'they' didn't put translations of the GR's antiphons in the missal instead of the ones that they made up from whole cloth is 'anyone's guess'. Whatever their inevitably sad reason, it displays yet more of Roman liturgical ineptitude.
    As it stands now, people are choosing what is near at hand in the missal (in full knowledge that the missal antiphons are not meant to be sung), and the Gregorian repertory is going begging. The GR propers (all of them!) in translations that lend themselves to musical expression are what should be in the missal.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,501
    The Communion antiphons are relatively simple. Since you have a literate parish, why not give it a try?

    One of the obstacles to this will be congregational reticence to intrude on a choir piece. One solution might be planting "ringers" to encourage them.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,411
    Each member of the congregation has a copy of the Graduale Triplex, and has successfully been taught to sight read its contents. At Communion all come in procession singing from their books, which they lay on the altar rails while receiving. They return to their places and continue to stand and sing until the distribution of communion is completed. Surely Kathy, if the world were like that there would be no need for entrance hymns to familiar tunes.
  • I think I need to be more specific with the topic (keep in mind, the question is toward English antiphons at the Ordinary Form of the Mass):

    +How exactly does the congregation learn the antiphon? From a book, missalette, program?
    +How is the antiphon introduced? Does the choir/cantor sing it first and everyone repeat (like responsorial psalm)?
    +Is it repeated throughout the entire reception of Communion with verses in between?

    The more I think about the practicality of the congregation singing the Communion antiphon relative to this point of the Mass along with the historical execution of this chant in the Extraordinary Form, the more I truly believe it does not work and the USCCB/GIRM simply gets it wrong in "this is a cantor with the people." This is what I am thinking:
    ...if the congregation has to read the chant in order to sing, a congregant has to pick up something up in order to sing it, or perhaps be told to. At this point of the Mass, chances are they are not holding anything unless it is their missalette or missal, at which point if following the Eucharistic Prayer then Communion Rite, would need to turn to a certain page.
    ...if the cantor sings it (without the visual aid), then the congregation responds, good luck having them sing it accurately. unless it is sung multiple times with verses in between which brings me to this...
    ...if this antiphon is being sung over and over again, and a congregant has to concentrate on the words, melody, rhythm to sing it correctly, are we missing the entire point of the reception of Communion, which for Catholics, it is the real presence of Christ, and we should be praying to receive Him rather than logistically figuring out how to sing an antiphon? thought: as I was raised in a Protestant Church (lol, where people CAN sing), when people sing a hymn, EVERYONE sings as in the point of singing is intended for an entire church body to sing as one. If the antiphon is sung throughout Communion, there would be moments where some people do not sing as they are receiving the Eucharist. An in-and-out wave of people singing and not singing based on their location in the church (pew, line, altar rail(if...), pew). In other words, we are not singing as one.

    Note I am just really interested in knowing if there is a parish out there that has formula to this because I do not believe it is practical.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,501
    Anyone who can sight read a Sanctus can sight read this.

    Especially after hearing the schola sing it a couple of times, during my reception of Communion.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,501
    I'm guessing there is a reason Communios are easy.
  • What you are describing is Responsorial Psalmody, as in The Responsorial Psalm. The Responsory (NOT Antiphon) should be sung first by a cantor and then repeated by the people. The Responsory may be sung after every verse, after every several verses, as you please. The verses may be sung by a cantor or a choir. It would be best to print the Responsory, if not the entire psalm, in a service folder or mass leaflet. Good luck with this. I hope it works out for you and your people.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,501
    James works at a pretty "woke" parish. I think it would work well.
  • James - we do it every week at all of our masses at the cathedral in Sioux Falls, SD. The exception being one Sunday morning Mass when choirs are in session, where we have a chant schola that sings the Graduale proper for the entire procession.

    I wrestled with the practicality question as well, which led me to compose my own settings for each sunday. The antiphon, in modern notation, is printed in the liturgy guide. It is sung once by cantor or choir, repeated by all, and then alternates with psalm verses. Other than mine and Andy Motyka's I am not aware of any comprehensive english language congregational communion antiphons (I do not consider the SEP a congregational resource). I suppose there are some simple psalm-tone resources that might be considered congregational, though.

    I'm in the end stages of putting all of mine online for free (I've been navigating the copyright questions with multiple offices all summer), and others can judge the worth and usefulness of those for themselves. In general, though, I think if we are serious about the congregation singing proper antiphons, we church musicians have a whole lot of composing to do! It's not enough to presume that simple chant resources will work well or at all with typical congregations. The more antiphon collections that are composed and made available, the more options we will have and the more likely we will be to sift out the best ones.

    All of that said, the idea that the congregation should sing the proper is revolutionary in the extreme, and possibly just plain crazy. The proper repertoire was never intended for the congregation historically, and it cannot necessarily be magically modified to be so simply because in 1967 some people thought that would be neat! I think you have to consider that the church is talking about seminary and religious congregations as well as regular parishes, when advocating for congregational propers. Also remember that Musicam Sacram paragraph 33 talks about participation in the propers - possibly by simple refrains or other methods. The idea that lay parishioners will be able to sing the propers themselves (i.e. the complete Graduale propers, in english or latin) does not seem to me to be possible. Communion propers, if they are of a suitable refrain length (i.e. often shortened even from what is in the Missal) and in modern notation, do work in my parish. But I'm not sure the congregational proper project can go much farther than that.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,411
    1. It is quite common for MDs on this forum to note that many in their volunteer choirs cannot read music. I would add that even people who read well enough to play an instrument cannot neccessarily pitch their voices. On the other hand people sing better if they have musical notation in front of them. I have noted these two factors mean that a congregation will sing more confidently even if the wrong tune has been printed, those who can read it ignore it, and it still gives confidence to those who cannot read it!
    2. To repeat: the Church recognized that GR was not suitable intended for congregational singing, and provided GS, which is. In particular there are four options in GS for singing at any Mass - Ps.34/33V, Ps.23/22V, Magnificat, and Ubi caritas. English versions of GS are available, such as By Flowing Waters.
    [added]What GS provides are Proper, even though most of them are Common.
  • smvanroodesmvanroode
    Posts: 978
    I would like to stress that the Graduale simplex wasn't provided with the intent to accommodate congregational singing, but in the first place to meet the needs of choirs for whom the chants of the Graduale Romanum were too difficult.

    That doesn't take away the fact that the simpler antiphons from the Graduale simplex – and their English adaptations – are quite suitable for congregational singing.

    For the last three Sundays, I used the simple antiphon "Taste how good the Lord is" (GS 460, in Dutch) as a congregational refrain during communion, with the cantor singing verses from Psalm 34 (33) and the people responding. The congregation did pick it up quite easily, even as they processed to receive communion.

    I think it is important that, if you want the congregation to join in the singing of the communion antiphon,
    - it has to start already while the priests communicates; that way there's time for the people to pick up the antiphon while they're still in the pews and can read the text (and music) from their worship aids;
    - it has to be simple and short, so that they can continue singing it with ease without the help of a leaflet or misalette while processing to receive communion;
    - the text and melody should foster a prayerful preparation for receiving communion; for example, the antiphon could emphasize the close relationship between the two tables of the Word and the Eucharist (by quoting the Gospel); or it could make people more aware of the Eucharist as nutrimentum caritatis, the 'food of charity'; etc.
  • What I used in Harrisburg was a mix of John Ainslie's English Proper Chants, Normand Gouin, Charles Thatcher, and occasionally the SEP, Lumen Christi, and the latin.
    The Antiphon was printed in the weekly worship aid. It was begun as the priest received with organ introduction or play-through then the cantor would sing it with everyone.
    There would always be several verses as the Communion Processional took forever... and then it would be followed by a normal Communion hymn. The congregation was a bit hesitant at first, but over time they caught on and I tended to use the simpler antiphons so that it was more in line with the ease of a Responsorial Psalm.
    Over summer without the choir, I would use a common antiphon for a few weeks.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,411
    GS Praenotanda:
    GS(1967) #14a [=GS(1975) #18a]
    Cantor antiphonas inchoat, atque versus psalmorum proponit, populo respondente.
    V. Persons needed for the singing of the chants of the Simple Gradual
    14. The guiding principle is set forth in the Constitution on the Liturgy: "Each one, minister or layperson, who has an office to perform, should do all, but only, those parts which pertain to that office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy" (SC #28) Therefore, in the case of the Simple Gradual :
    a. Antiphons are intoned by a cantor, who also leads the psalms, with the congregation responding. Psalms may also be sung by the choir.
    b. Antiphons and the response to the psalms between the readings should be sung by the entire congregation. .... (DOL 533)
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 542
    We have Requiem masses twice a year in the cemetery; once for Memorial Day, and once in the infants’ section for those who have lost children. Owing to the absence of an organ and the impracticality of a choir due to the outdoor altar being constructed on a small platform on a very steep hillside, the music is just a cap cantor/people. I’ve had success printing Lux aeterna in the worship aid and singing it with verses of the prescribed psalms for the duration of Communion. By about the third or fourth time through, folk pick it up and sing as well as they sing anything.

    Now Lux aeterna is very short and simple. I can’t imagine doing this with the more complex chants, but in this one case the real chant has worked in my situation. At any rate it’s 1) good for people to know that they *can* sing real music and 2) a good prayer to fall back on when praying for a deceased friend and 3) better than the refrain of “I am the bread of life” featured there in darker days.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • dianac
    Posts: 3
    You might consider looking into the Ignatius Pew Missal by Fr. Samuel Weber. We are on our second year of using this in our Ordinary Form parish. The entrance antiphon, psalm, and communion antiphon are in English, and the notation is printed in the missals. We had not included propers in our liturgy until using this resource (this was a VERY foreign and practically FEARED concept). I integrated them gradually over the course of a year (starting with the Communion Antiphon and singing it only by myself at the time). Now, as a congregation, we sing the Entrance antiphon, psalm, and communion antiphon together. The chant is simple and repetitive, which at first bothered me because I thought it wouldn't be musically interesting. Now, however, as I see the confidence growing in the congregation, I am thankful that it is not more difficult, as that can lead to discouragement. I do sing it in a responsorial style so that the tune can be better grasped, and by about halfway through, the church is filled with singing (to my shock and delight). Hope this helps!
    Thanked by 3chonak MarkB eft94530
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 403
    We sing the Communion antiphon in English to a simple psalm tone, printed in the bulletin. Cantors sing it, everyone responds, then we continue as for a responsorial psalm. It's usually followed by a hymn; the choir motet takes place during the Offertory.
    I was surprised at how well the congregation joins in with the antiphon. We do the same for the Introit, which follows the entrance hymn, starting when the clergy walk onto the sanctuary.