Historical question: When were antiphons used between every psalm-verse?
  • I remember learning somewhere that there was an era in the Church when antiphons were used between every verse in the psalm. But that over time this deteriorated to the antiphon being just at the beginning and the ending of the psalm, and then deteriorated further to just the first-half of the antiphon at the beginning, and the full antiphon at the end.
    Does anyone know roughly what dates these eras correspond to? When do we have record of antiphons every verse, and when do we see it shift? Or, am I mistaken as to the history in the first place? Thanks so much!
    O, I should add: Is the antiphon in the RC Hours every four verses or so, an attempt to go back closer to the "between every verse" idea? Are there any contexts in the US today that actually do the "between every verse" idea?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,181
    Does your question relate only to the Office, father_ben?

    As for today, singing the antiphon every verse or every two verses is a common practice during Mass in parishes where chant is used: that is, for the introit and communion; and also for the offertory, if verses are used at all.

    I think this relates to the idea that the Mass and Office differ in terms of what is the main act of worship at a given moment. In the Mass, an antiphon is sung incidental to some procession or other action of variable length, an action which is the main act of worship underway. In that context, it is fitting to lengthen or shorten the singing by adding some psalm verses and antiphon repetitions, to correspond to the duration of the action.

    In the Office, the psalm being sung is, at that moment, the main act of worship taking place. The antiphon is secondary to that, and any ceremonial is incidental to it; so there isn't such a natural fittingness to add repetitions of the antiphon to make the singing conform to the ceremonial.

    Perhaps someone knowledgeable can add an answer about the historical part of your question.
  • Father Ben,

    The practice of singing antiphons between verses of psalms is still preserved in the traditional Divine Office: during the Invitatory. In fact, the antiphon alternates between its full form (for example, "Surrexit Dominus vere, Alleluia") and merely "Alleluia" this morning).

    Chonak's explanation makes good sense, I think about the variable length of the Introit and such.
  • The offertory and its ancient verses don't fit into this scheme. The verses are *often* not actual psalm verses, but reworkings of psalm texts with particular "centonized" melodies. Also, the relationship between these verses and the Offertory "antiphon" is at times akin to the structure seen in a Responsory (that is, only the first or second half of the "antiphon" is repeated.)

    That said, what chonak says about this Introit and Communion seems right.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,409
    We know little about singing in the early church, and the references we have to the existence of singing seem to give little idea of how it was sung. The brief clues, such as Jerome's waspish comments, tell us more about how it ought not to be sung (in the opinion of the commentator). Clearly when texts are very, very expensive, and literacy not universal people rely either on memory or on some form of "lining out". The methods used for monks chanting psalms which they have memorised will be quite different from those employed by Ambrose to keep up the spirits of a congregation besieged by Arians. As the current Roman Missal Lectionary lays out for the RP one obvious way of proceeding is for a cantor to sing a refrain/response/antiphon which the congregation repeats after each verse.
    How has opinion developed since this article on congregational song of 40 years ago?
    Temperley, Nicholas (1981). "The Old Way of Singing: Its Origins and Development". Journal of the American Musicological Society. 34 (3): 511–544.
  • Ah, I see instantly that a glaring blind-spot of mine comes from being an Anglican, and in my formation I have only encountered antiphons in the Office (for the Venite, psalms, and Canticles), and they have only been before and after. According to Chonak's answer -- am I mistaken in thinking that antiphons were ever between every verse in the Office?
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,409
    The current Liturgy of the Hours (Office) is very flexible in the style of rendering psalms (and canticles). General Instruction (1970):
    #121 The psalms can be recited in various ways taking into account whether they are said in Latin or in the vernacular, and especially whether they are said by an individual or by a group, or recited in a celebration with the people. ... #122 .. sung or said straight through (in directum) with alternate verses or strophes sung or recited by two choirs or two parts of the congregation, or in responsorial fashion - the ways tested by tradition and experience. #123 An antiphon is said at the beginning of each psalm (cf ## 113-120). ... The antiphon may, if so desired, be repeated after the psalm. ... #125 The literary character may suggest ... repeated after each verse, ...
    That was the third overhaul in 50 years! The two current Graduals for the Mass suggest generally a repetition of the antiphon after each verse or strophe, but again are flexible.
    And then again most of the uses make the psalm a thing per se, but the Introit, Offertory and Communion are accompaniments to processions to be truncated and selected as needed.
  • FKulash
    Posts: 79
    am I mistaken in thinking that antiphons were ever between every verse in the Office?

    I've never heard of anyone doing that.

    In Sweden (or at least in Swedish books) the antiphon is often repeated throughout the psalm (though not as often as each verse), especially if the antiphon forms a refrain in the Hebrew original. For example, in Melodier till Kyrkans Dagliga Bön, the antiphon for Psalm 46 is "The Lord of hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our stronghold." The rubrics say repeating the antiphon is an optional alternative to chanting that text to the psalm tone, so you might sing the antiphon five times in all. A book for Compline, Den Svenska Tidegärden: Completorium, has responsorial options for each psalm, where the antiphon is repeated after every two verses.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,409
    father_ben_jefferies your original question is addressed here
    Looking again at the General Instuction of the Office, I am struck by the incongruity of calling an element which may only be said once an antiphon.
  • ScottKChicago
    Posts: 349
    I like the way the psalms were being sung in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, before the fire, of course: Antiphon, then alternating verses between cantor and all, then antiphon. The people get to participate in praying the psalm, then, not limited to just the little antiphon ditty repeated. In some cases, I think Roman Catholic church music has gone a bit too far in the direction of congregational refrains; the people can do more.
  • Thanks, a_f_hawkins, so much for those references!