Monday, June 26, 2006

the Roman Gradual and music ministry

I, like PrayingTwice, have been away from the blogging for a while, prompted partly by a lack of things coming to mind to blog out, and partly also by playing Neverwinter Nights. :)

I did want to blog a bit, though, about the Roman Gradual and the important role that I feel it plays in my own approach to music ministry. This discussion assumes people know what the RG is and are familiar with the approach to choosing music put forth in the BCL’s “Music in Catholic Worship”.

The big thing is that the Gradual texts are *part* of the Mass, just as much as the readings from the Lectionary. This is a RADICAL shift for most folks from the idea of “the songs at Mass”.

When I first discovered the Gradual, I was intrigued by how some of the texts were matched to readings, but others (such as, for example, the Introit of 13th OT) don’t seem to match at all. My “Music in Catholic Worship” mindset found this odd, until I stepped back and realized the point above - these texts are part of the Mass, and they, like the presidential prayers (Collect, post-Communion, etc.), have a liturgical legitimacy of their own that “Here I Am, Lord” lacks.

In other words, the Gradual texts are part of the Mass and are there by default. “Here I Am, Lord” is only there because of “Music in Catholic Worship” and a subjective judgement that this music is suitable for a particular Mass.

This really shook me when I first found it, as did the stipulation in the GIRM that the priest’s homily should proceed from the readings, the Ordinary, .... OR the Proper. A priest could actually work in the Gradual texts into his homily, but I would be loath to suggest a priest would plan a homily around “Now In This Banquet”. My earlier post on the Pentecost Introit (and Communion) offers a good example of when this might be appropriate.

Of course, the problem is congregational singing - we won’t get many congregations to sing chant Propers, even in English. (If you want to try this route, the Anglican Use Gradual may be of use to you.) So, some folks are now looking to things like Tietze introit hymns and responsorial Communion antiphons that adapt the Gradual texts (or those in the Missal, which don’t always match) to an idiom more amenable to congregational singing.

A third route exists, though: treating the Gradual texts as additional “fodder” for music planning ideas. NPM is getting into this act; notice the ones marked “E” for “Entrance antiphon”. (More often than not, of course, this refers to what is in the Missal.)


At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 7:57:00 AM, Blogger Jeffrey Tucker said...

Of course you are right. This is the great oversight in the last 40 years in Catholic music. Not 1 in 100 directors of music in parishes know this. The great educational task of our times is draw attention to this truth.

At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 3:40:00 PM, Anonymous Robert W. Clayton said...


The Rev. Samuel F. Weber, OSB
Wake Forest University
The Divinity School, Box 7719
Winston-Salem, NC 27109-7719
Ph: 336.758.4289; E-mail

At Wednesday, June 28, 2006 10:51:00 AM, Blogger Brian Michael Page said...

Sometimes you can find a good solid established hymn that is close to a proper. It doesn't always work that way, but in a society that seems to be locked into hymns (at least for now, hopefully not much longer), I had no problem with programming "Gift of Finest Wheat" as the opening (not gathering) hymn for Corpus Christi, as the Introit and the hymns refrain match rather well (give or take the honey).


At Wednesday, June 28, 2006 11:02:00 PM, Anonymous Father Klingele said...

The following book contains an interesting proposal to set the Introit to metrical tunes: "Hymn Introits for the Liturgical Year: The Origin and Early Development of the Latin Texts" by Christoph Tietze.

At Thursday, June 29, 2006 4:59:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...


I know well of Fr. Weber’s project, but he sacrifices the possibility of congregational singing.

My pie-in-the-sky ideal is that the people need not sing texts that change all the time - Introit, Offertory, Communion. However, this is too radical a stance, I think, to take much hold in a typical parish.

Fr. Klingele points out the Tietze introit hymns - this, as well as responsorial Communion antiphons, are workable solutions for having congregational singing.

Brian - yes, this idea led me this Sunday to kingship hymns. One nice thing I find in the propers are additional planning ideas.

At Tuesday, July 04, 2006 5:09:00 PM, Blogger ScholarChanter said...

Perhaps one solution is something that our Renaissance masters used: The propers can be chanted to a simple chant tone, then the chant can lead into the choir singing the proper.


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