Introduction and seeking advice on Responsoral Psalm
  • Glory to Jesus Christ!

    Hello, my name is Daniel Malneritch. (Saint Joseph of Cupertino is my patron saint and is the reason for my username here.) I graduated from Franciscan University in the Summer of 2011 where I studied Theology and multimedia. I hold a commercial pilot license and am working towards a certified flight instructor license. I'm from Georgia and have moved back home where I am a volunteer musician at my parish. Here I've been able to use on occasion resources such as SEPs and the Parish Book of Chant. I have also recently been hired at a nearby parish as an assistant music director. This will be an interesting environment to work in as the pastor wants virtually the same music at each of the Masses. So I can make suggestions but don't have the ultimate authority in musical selections for Mass.

    This brings me to my question. Rather than using an approved (as per GIRM §61) option for the Responsorial Psalm, this parish uses a song instead. The pastor is "open" to the idea of me working with them on finding an appropriate Psalm (although he may request something different from time to time). What I need then is a psalm setting that a contemporary "band" would feel comfortable playing. This band (don't shoot me ;) ) involves guitars, keyboard, bass, violin, and yes drums. There are other things too that need to be addressed musically at the parish, but one thing at a time...

    Any thoughts or advice is appreciated.

    Thanks! God bless,
  • First of all, welcome to the forum!

    You might want to gently tell the pastor that the use of a "song", in lieu of the approved options for the Responsorial Psalm is a reprobated practice as indicated by the GIRM and Redemptionis Sacramentum. You don't need a band for the responsorial psalm. This can be done acapella. I do this at my father's parish. The Chabanel psalms certainly lend themselves to that.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Look into the psalms by Michael Guimont, published by GIA. They're appropriate for band, organ, or even a capella, and uniformly well-composed.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    I second the Guimont psalms. Dignified, yet can be preformed by various groups. My other parish has used them for years, and they're great.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    Welcome to the forum! You will find that the vast majority of people here don't seem to have an understanding that in the realities of the church music world, some people are required to do "contemporary" music, and so you will find that almost everyone will try and convince you to incorporate "chant-like" music, whatever the cost. If this is a possibility for you, that is wonderful, but it sounds like your hands may be tied, so if that is the case, then I would like to point you in the direction of ILP music's Psalm collection-

    They are for the most part, rather nice, lectionary-conforming, Psalms that are in a contemporary style, that were written with a "band" in mind.
    I don't think they have yet the music sampler for Year C, but you can listen at the below link to some examples from Year B.
  • You might also try Psallite from The Liturgical Press:
  • The Responsorial Psalm, however, was never meant to be performed by a "band". Furthermore, songs should not substitute the Responsorial Psalm. Here are the relevent citations from the authoritative documents:

    (61--end of section) In the Dioceses of the United States of America, instead of the Psalm assigned in the Lectionary, there may be sung either the Responsorial Gradual from the Graduale Romanum, or the Responsorial Psalm or the Alleluia Psalm from the Graduale Simplex, as described in these books, or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, including Psalms arranged in metrical form, providing that they have been approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm

    Redemptionis Sacramentum:
    [59.] The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.

    [62.] It is also illicit to omit or to substitute the prescribed biblical readings on one's own initiative, and especially "to substitute other, non-biblical texts for the readings and responsorial Psalm, which contain the word of God".138

    I hope these references help the OP.

    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    I don't think any part of the Mass was "meant" to be performed by a band. However, a large number of church musicians, willingly or not, are in situations where there is no compromise, and they are stuck with a "band."
    Thanked by 3DougS Ben Yanke ryand
  • Pretty sure there is no part of the Mass that was "meant" to be performed by an orchestra, either.
  • As someone who, in fact, has looped multiple albums of Byrd, Tallis, or Josquin and spent entire days in bliss, I have to throw in here that the only requirements are that the music be appropriate. Instrumentation as authorized by the Psalms, the very wellspring of Catholic worship, is quite wide.

    It's the cursed problem that a gorgeous instrument like a guitar also seems to have the magical power to drive common sense out of people's heads.

    The guitar creates the extra added burden of sounding acceptable, as someone pointed out to me years ago, no matter what the skill level of the person playing. This seems to make people think they are, in fact, playing well.

    So the band-avoiding recommendations, while my preferred option, are not in fact mandatory,nor does a 22-year-old just trying to start helping bear any burden to do beyond what it is necessary.

    That said, the substitution of a song for the Word of God appalls me. THAT has to stop as soon as can be.

    And, as I have pointed out before but not been thrown off the list, it is passing strange to me that Sting, U2, Coldplay, and, pre-eminently, Enya, have mined Gaelic melodies and produced very nice chant like music, but the best in that vein that I know of is the "Celtic" Alleluia, which, when you play it fast, stands revealed as a jig.

    Same with American music idioms derived from English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh folk music, and,yes, the blues, properly played (Its origin is the Gaelic scale with the dominant 7th added, not any place scandalous). They would all provide a basis for chantlike music, yet we get....?????

    All of which opinions are added to point out that the biggest thing our young friend here can do is make sure that it is a Psalm and something that everyone can do, and the advice to that end has been VERY illuminating to me, as well.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,374
    I have a pastor who sight sings better than I do, and who was a fairly decent organist in his younger days. He has banned the Celtic Alleluia, with the statement that he doesn't want that trash in his church. Misa Luna is also on the banned list. He said he never thought he would hear anything that made Mass of Creation sound good until he heard Misa Luna. I like the way he thinks!

    We had a visiting early music group that sang a mass by a a late 16th, early 17th century Spanish composer. It had a guitar part and was just lovely. Used like that, the instrument is appropriate for liturgy.
  • Kenneth, as an aside, it might be worth your while to read up on the famed Irish harpist/composer O'Carolan. MJBallou can correct me, but I believe that he did, in fact, compose either movements or whole settings to the Mass. And we're talking many decades before Clannad (Enya's training ground.) Regarding the appropriation of tunes from the Isles, Chas. V. Stanford collected many of the hallmark tunes in that "nationalist" era of Romanticism alongside RVW, Holst, Elgar et al, Dvorak, Smetana, Sibelius et al., and we have many of those (Stanford giving them piano accompaniment in his "National Hymn Book") as foundational hymns, thankfully in most publishers' offerings.
    I'm not quite sure how you're co-relating American blues to celtic attributes, but I'm not totally comfortable with using the dominant seventh as such a progenitor. The anachronism "blues" has more to do with the purposeful ambiguity of the minor/major third to tonic interval melodically, than the voice leading of the dom.7th, IMO. That is African-American, not Celtic, demonstrated ably by either Precious Lord or Wade in the Water.
    Now, back to the program-
    We used Arlene's "Gustate et videte" translation from her Parish Book of Psalms for the first time 20th Ordinary as I like to spread out the different versions over those three weeks. And it so compliments SEP nicely.
    I didn't ask her permission, but I assigned some basic chordal accompaniment (eg. below, "G" being "so" incipit tone) and distributed it to my various cantors and choral leaders just to show them a viable change of pace from R&A. I can tell you I'd use these over Guimont in a heartbeat every time.
  • Good correction on the Blues--it's the passing tone. But it comes from the whole mix of Scotch-Irish and African peoples in the South.

    Of course, what I am saying is that I don't know why pagan love totems like Sting can write good chant music but our people come up with the Celtic Alleluia!! But we have wandered far afield.

  • I appreciate the responses. I have more to work with, so hopefully something viable will come to fruition. Of course I wouldn't mind not having to work with a band, but that's the way things are. My fear is that they would have fear and immediately rule out anything "chant-like." They're much more used to "jamming" with music at Mass. The pastor's claim is that Church law affords him the right to change parts of the Mass including the psalm. He might do this for instance if he thinks something else will go along with the preaching better or the occasion (e.g. natural disaster). Which of course some options are available, but not just anything goes.

    Prayers of course are appreciated.

  • If you read the portions of the document that I cited, you will find that Church law does not give the pastor the right to change parts of the Mass, including the psalm. In fact, the GIRM outright prohibits it.

    If there is any doubt about this, here is one more reference:

    Sacrosanctum Concilium:
    3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the Liturgy on his own authority.

    Redemptionis Sacramentum reaffirms this:
    [11.] The Mystery of the Eucharist "is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured".27 On the contrary, anyone who acts thus by giving free rein to his own inclinations, even if he is a Priest, injures the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved,28 and becomes responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today. Nor do such actions serve authentic pastoral care or proper liturgical renewal; instead, they deprive Christ's faithful of their patrimony and their heritage. For arbitrary actions are not conducive to true renewal,29 but are detrimental to the right of Christ's faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church's life in accordance with her tradition and discipline. In the end, they introduce elements of distortion and disharmony into the very celebration of the Eucharist, which is oriented in its own lofty way and by its very nature to signifying and wondrously bringing about the communion of divine life and the unity of the People of God.30 The result is uncertainty in matters of doctrine, perplexity and scandal on the part of the People of God, and, almost as a necessary consequence, vigorous opposition, all of which greatly confuse and sadden many of Christ's faithful in this age of ours when Christian life is often particularly difficult on account of the inroads of "secularization" as well.31

    [12.] On the contrary, it is the right of all of Christ's faithful that the Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms. Likewise, the Catholic people have the right that the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass should be celebrated for them in an integral manner, according to the entire doctrine of the Church's Magisterium. Finally, it is the Catholic community's right that the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist should be carried out for it in such a manner that it truly stands out as a sacrament of unity, to the exclusion of all blemishes and actions that might engender divisions and factions in the Church.32

  • How may people here are at a parish where the Responsorial psalm is (prepare yourself) spoken?

    Instead of having poorly sung psalms at all masses, why not speak the psalm except for one mass, where it is sung with/by the choir?

    Speaking the psalm would immediately increase active participation.

    Singing the psalm should be reserved for times where it can be done properly.

    Doing this puts all those singers back in the choir and also removes them as possible political force against you in the parish...
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,374
    We have spoken psalms at our 7:00 a.m. mass on Sundays. For some reason, none of our cantors want to attend mass that early. They point out that no one in their right mind would, either. We sing the psalms at the other three morning masses.
  • 7:00 Mass for the Mentally Absent.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,374
    The attendance at the early mass hovers around 60-70. However, it is attended by the older, well-heeled crowd. A big part of the parish budget is funded by these folks. They didn't even want music when I took the job 11 years ago. I keep it simple, do two hymns, and play the quieter organ literature which they seem to like.
  • Noel, couldn't disagree with you more on most of your propositions.
    The (Sunday, at least) Mass is ipso facto a sung entity, start to finish.
    Speaking increases FACP? Are you kidding me? I'll counter with a mental image: picture Mr. Droopy, the Elevator operator dog mushing up "Kwoothifye Him, Kwoothifye Him, Thir."
    (Which also tips my hand as to the communal (snoozing) cooing of the Passions, argggh.)
    Those charged with canting the psalm need only be trained. It's not rocket science. And at least, provided a DM, there's someone to train people. How many churches have "master lectors"?
    Psalmists and cantors come from the quire. Thus they should know via training that it ain't American Idol, or The Voice.
    Your minimalist post is rife with resignation. Get ahold of yourself, man!
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I was under the impression that the psalm should be sung as a norm, though I don't recall where that was so legislated. I could be wrong about that, but I'm wondering why it should not be.

    I think spoken at 7:00 or Saturday Masses is a good idea, but other Masses should have it sung - so as to INCREASE active participation, namely by allowing them to participate in the melodies of the respond (vocally), and in the melody of the verses (interiorily, if that be a word).
  • We sometimes have to go with a spoken responsorial psalm, much to be chagrin. But, if I can't find a cantor, I usually do it from the organ myself, although, of course, it should be proclaimed from the ambo. But, as with everything, you "gotta do what you gotta do".
    Our former DM used a lot of paraphrased psalms, which I immediately stopped doing when I took over. And, with regard to early masses (our first mass on Sunday is 7:30, I used that mass to train new cantors. They're not happy, but my rule is if they want to cantor, they have to get their feet wet with the older, more established crowd.
  • Benedict gal is of course absolutely correct and that is kind of first things first. However, I don't think Daniel is in a position to do very much about it. His request for prayer should be honored. However, let's move that over to a separate question, and ask people out there if they have had to deal with the priest who changes the Macscott his own authority.
  • Benedict Gal, I completely agree with you. The trouble of course is how to present it. The issue is that people will close their minds with the wrong approach, especially if one were to come across as saying: "I'm right, and you're wrong."

    I learned the other day that anything chant won't fly. Some people like/want it and others don't. My Mass is more of a "traditional" one, but overall this is a "contemporary parish" and not a "traditional one." Lord, have mercy. But the good thing is they are willing to work with me on improving the Psalm. After that we'll have to work on the Alleluia...

    As far as spoken Psalms, while not ideal, I would prefer that to singing something wrong. Even that I think is hard sometimes to convince people of.

  • Daniel, is yours a paid position or is it voluntary?

    The reason I ask this is because, as a matter of conscience, I cannot do something that goes completely against the GIRM and the authoritative documents of the Church (Sacrosanctum Concilium, Redemptionis Sacramentum). Wrong is wrong.

    The matter of substituting the psalm is something that needs to be addressed immediately. It is a non-negotiable. It is not a matter of saying that you are right and he is wrong. Rather, it is a matter of fidelity to what the Church requires.

    I forgot how to do the html for SARCASM when I typed participation.

    But truly, more congregation members will speak than sing. While there are those here who say anyone can sing, they are wrong.

    Anyone MAY sing. And they MAY NOT.
  • No worries, FNJ, I'm on your page with your last maxim.
    Ach, the perils of internet discourse are well known to me as many have of late reminded and remanded.
    What's more, I unequivocally, willingly, purposefully, yea even profuseLY,,,,agREE with BG on this subject.
    And did the walls come a-tumblin' down....
  • I am in a paid position. Again, I agree which is why I brought it up to the pastor and DM immediately.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,618
    at times mass without 'music' is better