Congregational Communion Antiphons for the Church Year
  • At long last I have obtained all the necessary permissions (USCCB, ICEL, GIA) to make my congregational communion antiphons available for free online. If I knew how deep that rabbit hole goes, I might not have started! But I do have to say, everyone was very helpful throughout the process. The antiphons and the picture files for liturgy guides are at:

    These antiphons have been "field-tested' for years at my cathedral, where we use them every week. Aside from any compositional failings, I am well aware that some here will consider English antiphons (and not even chant-style antiphons at that!) a poor substitute for the "real Latin thing." Some others will hold the strange notion that we should not sing Roman Missal antiphons (even though they are the first option given for communion in the GIRM). The true wild-and-crazy fringe element may even hold that the Church has never asked for vernacular propers (even though the Roman Missal itself contains propers and is officially translated into the vernacular) :)

    I'm not necessarily interested in debating those points here. What I do know is that there is a place and a need for accessible congregational communion antiphons in many places - especially where priests or music directors are trying to move away from communion hymns. The possibility of using the English texts I've used is suggested implicitly in Musicam Sacram 33 and explicitly in the GIRM itself (p. 87). In any case, these settings have helped us move away from communion processional hymns at my cathedral, and I would be happy if anyone else finds them useful as well.

    As a point of interest, whenever the Graduale and Missal were the same, I used that antiphon. There are a total of 106 antiphons in my collection, of which 50 are the same in the Graduale and Missal. This may not be the final answer (I may be forgetting some important variable), but it looks to me like the Graduale and Roman Missal have the same communion antiphon just about 50% of the time. Make of that what you will...

  • Thank you for your work on this—I look forward to using them in my parish.
  • Please don't take this the wrong way, but could you explain more about how these pieces work with a congregation? The refrain cum anglican chant model is that of the responsorial Gradual-substitute and the provision of 'PICTURE FILES' makes it unclear to me whether these are in fact congregational or whether a slightly bored cantor needs to be on hand for the verses.

    The pointing system is quite unlike that we West Coast ringers are used to, and suggest one had best ignore the |'s and the ~'s:

    2 | ~ O | LORD, | you have | favored your | land,
    and brought | back the | captives of | Jacob.


    O LORD, you have fa-|vored your | land, *

  • I would only bicker with your parody of Anglican chant. The verses are clearly intended for a choir (perhaps a cantor when there is no choir), so why not give them the 'real thing'. I agree with Richard just above only in that your pointing is quite ambiguous as it relates to the chant that you have provided. Richard is also correct that this is responsorial, not antiphonal, psalmody. So there actually is no antiphon, only a responsory.

    I admire what you have done, and only regret that your chosen texts were not those of the translated Roman Gradual. Bravo!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,955
    I like these and am glad you used the missal texts. That's what many of us are using. The Gradual is unworkable in some situations so better missal texts than none. Ignore the "wild-and-crazy fringe element." They have little to offer and don't live in the real world.
  • Thanks for the comments, everyone - the process of having other eyes look at both music and explanatory notes is helpful (what makes sense to me may not make sense to others!).

    To everyone - yes, these can be done either with cantor or choir. One weakness of what I've put out there is that I have all my syllabic notation for choir in the texts, and I just plain ran out of energy to remove all of that for a "cantor version". I will say that all of our volunteer cantors use the choir version, and within a few minutes are able to cantor just fine despite the syllabic notation. But ideally I would have a "clean" cantor-only copy available online too.

    Richard, there is an in-depth explanation of how to use them and how the pointing and syllabic notation function, under the "about" tab on the website. If you read that and it's still not clear, please let me know so I can make it more understandable.

    MJO - I actually started this project back in the day using tones from Wesley, Goss, Stainer, etc., and I'm certainly not going to contend with anyone who holds that those are more musically worthy! The #1 challenge I found with those tones is that there are almost always 4 harmonized moving notes in a measure, which I found very awkward to point in many cases, and more difficult to teach to the choir/cantors. My psalm tones are not a parody of Anglican chant, but new tones composed more on the model of the Meinrad tones with 1 or two moving notes per measure. As a secondary concern, the classical and romantic Anglican tones tend to be strongly tonal, with V-I motion and even secondary dominants throughout. My antiphons tend to be more modal, thus there was something of a clash in style when using those tones.

    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Last one for the morning:

    RE the "antiphon" vs. "responsory" question, I have seen this line of discussion before and I'm honestly not sure if I understand what the goal is. Does it mean something or make a difference in some practical sense if one could prove that something is not an "antiphon"? (not snark - I just don't understand what we are arguing about and why).

    As far as the terminology, the GIRM refers to the #1 option in the United States for communion: "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". So as far as I'm aware I am just using the same terminology as the official liturgical documents.

    RE the verse/refrain structure, I've looked to the preface of the Graduale Romanum (available in unofficial translation by Richard Chonak here:

    Paragraph II.1 says: "When the [Introit] antiphon has been sung by the choir, a verse is presented by one or more cantors, and then the antiphon is repeated by the choir. In this manner, the alternation of the antiphon and verses can be as long as is necessary to accompany the procession. However, before the antiphon is repeated at the end, Gloria Patri, Sicut erat, can be sung as a final verse, in the same manner as one of the verses already sung."

    Paragraph II.17 says: "When the priest receives the Body of the Lord, the Communion antiphon is begun. The chant is carried out in the same manner as the Introit chant, and in such a way the cantors also may receive the sacrament."

    So my understanding is that the official recommendation from the Graduale Romanum RE verses between antiphons (again - refers to Antiphons, not "Responsories") is that single verses alternate with statements of the antiphon.

    Can someone clarify for me: A. Why these clear instructions from the documents are incorrect, and use the incorrect terminology?
    B. Why this matters?
  • JaredOstermann : It is also worth quoting the Graduale Simplex
    GS 14. ...
    a. Antiphons are intoned by the 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. ...

    My point here is that GR does not mention the people only because the chants are, for most congregations, not within their capabilities. Your chants are intended for the people, and follow the GS model.
    As I understand it, the reason for adding some new antiphons to the NO was to enrich the choice of liturgical texts, and according to Bugnini to inspire the production of new vernacular songs (though I cannot find an official document to quote). I see no reason why the Missal translations should not be set to music, whereas there is a clear reason for not setting the Latin originals to music :- The GR emphasises that the texts found there are authentic ancient chants, and when IGMR implicitly excludes the new antiphons from singing, it is because the church does not want neo-Gregorian compositions. As you point out half the missal texts for the communion are taken from GR, and thus clearly not excluded from singing. Currently only the US GIRM explicitly modifies the Latin IGMR to allow the missal text to be sung. Also worth noting GIRM 392. "... It should be borne in mind that the primary purpose of the translation of the texts is not for meditation, but rather for their proclamation or singing during an actual celebration. ..."
    "B. Why this matters" Clarity on the meaning of words facilitates communication. But of course if we all know what was meant then, unless litigation ensues, it is just an irritation.
    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They've a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they're the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"
  • Thanks, the "About" tab does make it clear that the need being addressed is for hands-free communion music, if not what that would be a "stepping stone" to.
    I suppose my beef with calling this congregational music is the lack of clarity about who needs the 'stepping stone'. There's a large literature for parish choirs & volunteer cantors, but at a cathedral where the choir can surely manage Propers and motets it sounds like the idea is to gradually wean the people from Eucharistic hymns by taking away only half of what they sing at a step (I wonder whether anyone here has ever sung such a refrain while standing in line and felt they were participating meaningfully). Is the idea that once the concept of a proper text becomes accepted the choir can start to do antiphons and the people can have a post-reception hymn of thanksgiving back?
  • af hawkins - thanks for this quote. It seems that the only thing designated a "response" is the psalm response between the readings, and everything else is an antiphon? That seems in line with the other documents I quoted in terms of terminology. And, everything else you say makes sense to me. And I think some (on the traditional side) have a problem with using the Missal antiphons not because there is any legal argument against it, but because they feel the only "true" propers are those from the Graduale Romanum (and possibly Simplex). Thus, the Missal propers are seen as a threat to the highest ideal of Gregorian propers. Personally, I don't see everything from that zero-sum perspective. I also am willing to accept a broader definition of "proper" as "that which the Church has assigned to a particular liturgical time and place." That definition would include both Missal propers and Graduale propers (simplex or GR).
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Richard - calling something "congregational" simply indicates that the thing is intended to be suitable for congregational singing (that is, simple and accessible enough for the assembly). "Congregational" does not imply any particular vision or agenda for what should be sung when, or what the overall direction of a music program should be.

    There is not a large literature at all for congregational communion antiphons in English - in fact, mine and Andy Motyka's are the only comprehensive ones I know (unless we include various psalm-tone options). Also keep in mind that there are multiple Masses at most parishes, including my cathedral. So where there is just a cantor, these communion antiphons make congregational propers a possibility. Again, there is not a large repertoire for that.

    At my chant schola Mass, (1 of 5 during the weekend) we sing the Graduale proper with latin verses for the entire procession.

    My SATB choir is good, but does not sing gregorian chant from neumes. And there are many weeks and feastdays during the year when the choir and chant schola are not in session. Again, it's good to have an option that is closer to the ideal, for all of those masses where we don't have a chant schola.

    I don't particularly care about a post-communion hymn of thanksgiving. I'd rather have the congregation sing the proper antiphon during communion.

    All of this to say that I don't see a "one size fits all" approach as best. Instead, I like to have different options that fit the particular needs of particular masses and performing forces.
  • This is very helpful, thanks for providing it!