Saturday, November 04, 2006

The “responsorial psalm” needs a new name.

I’ve gotten a bit tired of this unwieldy term, “responsorial psalm”. Besides that it is 6 syllables long, with 3 of them stressed, it fails even to describe a unique moment of the Mass. Consider:

Responsorial psalmody is at the heart of the Graduale simplex, which gives chants for use at any of the processionals of Mass as well as the chants between the readings. Responsorial psalmody is how Gregorian Communion propers work as well. Further, the Easter Vigil Alleluia is a responsorial psalm, and even songs like “On Eagle’s Wings” could really be called responsorial psalms.

I’ve got parishioners who just call it the “responsorial”, reinforcing an ignorance of the fact that “responsorial” is just a musical form, and one that can describe several songs used at Mass, even the Prayer of the Faithful (if they’re sung). Some people get confused when the Communion song is a “responsorial” antiphon and psalm.

So, what to call this thing, the text from the Lectionary meant to be sung immediately after the first reading? We can’t use the term “Gradual” since that refers to a genre of Gregorian melody, and the post-1st-reading chant doesn’t even necessarily have music. “Chant after the 1st reading” is much too unwieldy.

How about “lesson psalm”? This establishes both its place during the lessons (i.e. readings) and tells what it is (a psalm, though almost all - maybe all - of them are excerpts rather than entire psalms).

With a revision of the Lectionary coming up (this being, I understand, a bona-fide revision of the choice of readings, not just a new translation as in 1998), now might be the ideal time to bring this to the attention of relevant authorities.


At Saturday, November 04, 2006 9:26:00 PM, Blogger Gavin said...

How about just "psalm"? That's how I refer to it. And need it necessarily be responsorial? This is another case where the GIRM has many options, although the one most used of a refrain is probably preferred. Frankly, though, I'd like to just have the congregation listen to a well-done Anglican chant every now and then. My choir isn't up to it, but it's something to shoot for.

At Saturday, November 04, 2006 9:31:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

But don’t we sing psalms at other times of the Mass? My point is that the name should uniquely identify that moment of the Mass.

ISTM the GIRM is a bit unclear; the sung-through case that it speaks of could refer to the Gradual, or it might be some implicit permission just to sing the verses without a response, as you suggest. And in that case, the term “responsorial psalm” is even more out of place!

At Saturday, November 04, 2006 10:17:00 PM, Blogger Todd said...

I just call it the psalm, too.

At Sunday, November 05, 2006 12:24:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Maybe it’s the programmer in me - I still feel a need for a nice, clean unique identifying term for this piece music. But yeah, I’ll concede that in general use, if you say “the psalm for this Mass is...”, most will understand you, even if the expression is technically a misstatement.

At Monday, November 06, 2006 10:46:00 AM, Anonymous Tony said...

We call it "psalm" also. On the hymn board we precede it with a "P".


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