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Musical Musings: CNP Feedback

CNP Feedback - Entrance Chant

The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians. From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.

Q. Dear CNP:

I have contacted you before and was surprised by your quick response and helpfulness. I am the "new" music coordinater of our small church. I have been handed this job with very little briefing and the most information I have found is on your web site. My question concerns the person who previously chose the music. I noticed that he always chose a hymn from Worship by GIA for the entrance song and then a communion song from Gather. Is there something I need to know about picking the entrance song that is important? I really appreciate your help.

Balanced Musician

A. Dear Balanced:

I'm glad you've found the CanticaNOVA Publications website to be useful.

Here are some articles that may be helpful in supplying some general background: What one sings as the Entrance Song depends on how faithful one wants to (and/or can) be to the rubrics [rules] found in liturgical books. The new Introduction to the Sacramentary (called the General Instruction on the Roman Missal -or- GIRM for short) has this to say about the Entrance Song:
Para #47. After the people have gathered, the Entrance chant begins as the priest enters with the deacon and ministers. The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.

Para #48. The singing at this time is done either alternately by the choir and the people or in a similar way by the cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone. In the dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Entrance Chant:
  1. the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting
  2. the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual
  3. a song 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. a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop
Let's clarify what paragraph #48 means, using the Sixth Sunday of Easter for our examples.

Option #1A uses the Antiphon from the Roman Missal [text only - no music]. This is found in the Sacramentary (the priest's altar book) at the top of the page for the Sixth Sunday of Easter. It is also usually found on the first few pages of a Missalette. It is not found in Worship or Gather. The text reads: (Latin) Vocem iucunditatis annuntiate, et audiatur, annuntiate usque ad extremum terrae: liberavit Dominus populum suum, alleluia. (English) Speak out with a voice of joy; let it be heard to the ends of the earth: The Lord has set his people free, alleluia.

The most faithful way to begin that Sunday's Mass would be to have these words sung (in Latin or English) either by the choir, cantor, congregation, or a combination. Very, very few settings like this exist [mostly because composers and publishers in the 1970s and 1980s were not much concerned with being faithful, but were unfortunately more concerned with expediency – getting people singing at any cost!]. Certainly, this text could be divided among choir and congregation – the people could sing, "The Lord has set his people free," or even just, "Alleluia, alleluia!" It will take a while before settings like this are published, but fortunately, the US bishops (and CNP) are moving in this direction.

Option #1B uses the Psalm from the Roman Gradual. This book, sometimes called by its Latin name, Graduale Romanum, offers Gregorian chant settings of the Latin Propers (the Introit, Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia w/verse, Offertory and Communion) for each Sunday and feast day. This book is available from CanticaNOVA Publications, along with a Guidebook to help users understand the Latin titles and rubrics. "Introit" is the Latin name for Entrance Song. For the Sixth Sunday of Easter the Roman Gradual offers music for the text above: "Vocem iucunditatis annuntiate... alleluia, alleluia." In addition, a psalm verse is added ("Iubilate Deo omnis terra: psalmum dicite nomini ejus, date gloriam laudi eius."). The sung format would be: Antiphon, Psalm verse, Gloria Patri, Antiphon. This is the traditional formula followed for the Introit even before the new Mass of 1965. I know of no volume in English of the entire Graduale Romanum.

Option #2 uses a seasonal antiphon and psalm from the Graduale Simplex. This book is available from CanticaNOVA Publications, along with a Guidebook to help users understand the Latin titles and rubrics. This book, in English Simple Gradual, does not set to music the Propers for every Sunday and feast. Rather, it selects certain simple chants and psalms and compiles two "seasonal" Masses for the Easter season (apart from specific ones for Easter Sunday, Ascension and Pentecost). One can use either of them on any Sunday of Eastertide. The Introit antiphon for one is, "Ego sum pastor bonus, qui pasco oves meas, et pro ovibus meis pono animam meam, alleluia," with up to 9 verses from Psalm 23 available to sing. The Introit antiphon for the other seasonal Eastertide Mass is, "Cantate Domino canticum novum: laus eius ab extremis terrae, alleluia," with 10 verses of Psalm 98. These antiphons are much simpler than those in the Roman Gradual; the idea is that the congregation can learn to sing the antiphons, while the choir/cantor supplies the verses [much like the Responsorial Psalm].

There actually is an English translation of the Simple Gradual. Paul F. Ford has produced, By Flowing Waters [available from The Liturgical Press], which uses the exact format as the Simple Gradual, but translates the Latin into English and adapts it to the same music (for the most part). Thus the two Entrance Antiphons for the Easter season are (in English), "I am the good shepherd, I pasture my sheep, and for my sheep I lay down my life and take it up again, alleluia," and "Sing a new song to the Lord, praise our God from the ends of the earth, alleluia." The volume has the same psalms (Psalm 23 and Psalm 98), translated into English [New Revised Standard Version], for use between the antiphons.

Option #3, as far as I know, is not available to us in this country – the US bishops have made no special approval of any collections of hymns and/or psalms (e.g. a "National Hymnal"). One might consider using an antiphon and verses from any of the collections of Responsorial Psalms that exist. These texts certainly have the approval of the bishops (of the Holy See, in fact) and are set in the preferred "refrain/verse" format.

Option #4 is what almost every Catholic church in this country does every Sunday! Notice that it's the last option (yes, priority does count!) and its tone clearly indicates it is to be used "by way of exception." Every liturgist and musician for the last forty years has read the first part, "a suitable liturgical song," but ignored the last part, "approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop." The bishops, here, are equally to blame ... they never "approved" any collection of music! So through this "loophole" has flooded into the Roman liturgy in the US every sort of hymn and song, from the wonderful ("All Creatures of Our God and King") to the inane ("Come Away to the Land of Freedom"), and many musical ditties and textual drivel in between.

Notice that the English title of this first congregational Mass song in the new (2002) GIRM is "Entrance chant," not "Entrance Hymn" or "Opening Song," or, heaven forbid, "Gathering Song." The preference for Option #1 or #2, and even Gregorian chant, is quite clear.

The closer we come to Option #1, the more faithful and authentic will be the liturgy we celebrate as members of the Roman rite of the Catholic Church. Until useful materials become widely available, we must substitute, even by using Option #4.

You indicated that in the past, a regular pattern of using an Entrance Song from Worship and a Communion Song from Gather was followed. This was probably the case to offer the perception of "equity" between the two hymnals, in perhaps too rigid a way. Most of the hymns in Worship are traditional and can be seen as "processional" or "march-like," while most hymns in Gather are folksy and introspective, perhaps seen as more "meditative." To be honest, I would swing the balance much more toward Worship – many of the theologically-suspect contemporary hymns in Gather (like "Ashes" and "On Eagle's Wings") are coming under scrutiny by a sub-committee of the US bishops headed by Bishop Allen Vigneron of Oakland CA. Now might be the time to wean your congregation away from some familiar but "theologically-loose" songs in Gather [see the article, Where Is Duke Street?]

My overall suggestion to you would be to continue to use good standard hymns (mainly from Worship) with which the congregation is familiar. Also, start getting them accustomed to the "responsorial" format at the Entrance, so once authentic and faithful worship materials become available, you'll be able to take full advantage of "proper liturgy."

A rather long answer ... but the "simple" question was deceptively complicated. Thanks for reading all this!

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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