Sunday, September 02, 2007

Good organ-based vernacular congregational communion music?

Hi folks,

For those who read this blog, I would appreciate your input on what could be said to constitute good organ-based music that is suitable for communion and has a congregational refrain with vernacular lyrics.

Some that pop into my mind are:

Gift of Finest Wheat (Kreutz)
I Received the Living God (Proulx)
Bread of Life (Farrell)*
Taste and See (Dean)
Festival Canticle: Worthy is Christ (Hillert)

*Yes, I know, Bernadette Farrell. She’s written a lot of garbage, but I do like this one, at least for its melody. The lyrics, admittedly, are a bit sunshine-y.

The background for this pondering is the discussion about communion music in the comments to PT’s last blog post. I came to realize that, when I was around PT’s current church, one reason the “organ Mass” did not have the congregation sing during communion is that the hymnal they used, Worship II, had almost no responsorial music. It seems the bulk of our responsorial music we use in the liturgy is, unlike most “hymns”, of fairly recent vintage - generally, after Vatican II. It also seems to be largely Catholic in its origin - the Hillert notwithstanding - whereas most of the “hymns” we sing from hymnals such as Worship are of Protestant origin.

EDIT: Add Hurd “Ubi caritas” to this list - thanks, Copernicus!


At Monday, September 03, 2007 12:24:00 PM, Blogger Mara Joy said...

At that First Eucharist, kind of has a refrain, depending on which verison you use. Any version of a Psalm-type "Taste and See" can be good. and other "communion" hymns? like that are in my hymnal? and not heretical? uh...thinking, thinking...

At Monday, September 03, 2007 1:43:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Hm...ISTM that “At That First Eucharist” doesn’t have a *refrain* per se, so much as a regularly recurring piece of text - not unlike Psalm 118.

Me thinks now of how to distinguish this from a “refrain”...

Which is the hymnal you have, btw?

At Monday, September 03, 2007 2:41:00 PM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

Cantor wrote: "...whereas most of the “hymns” we sing from hymnals such as Worship are of Protestant origin."

Ha, there's a historical reason for this, you know ;-P

Seriously, have you tried asking an Anglican or Lutheran what they typically sing at Communion? I'm sure they have a lot of good stuff, and the theology isn't _that_ different.

At Monday, September 03, 2007 8:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about "bread for the world"Farrell
"i myself are the bread of life"Cooney
"seed,scattered and sown"

At Monday, September 03, 2007 8:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

of course i meant "i myself am the bread of life"

At Wednesday, September 05, 2007 9:36:00 AM, Blogger Mara Joy said...

we use GIA's Ritual Song. and, likewise, I'm not exactly sure how to define a refrain, but I can imagine the congregation chiming in (even those who are not in their pews) at "thus may we all one bread one body be, through this blest Sacrament of unity."

however, I have wondered about this song before...doesn't it seem like it emphasizes the US and the UNITY rather than pure worship of the Blessed Sacrament? (it's that whole thing how I try to resist certain we-focused theologies: while they are not inherently wrong, because they are way over-used in most places, I get nervous at their presence at all, even though they are not intrinsically wrong. you know what I mean.) so I use that song in my five-song Communion rotation...

I've actually started recently singing "Tantum Ergo" at communion. people love it. I wondered it was really theologically appropriate there, as in outside Eucharistic Benediction, but I asked my priest and he pointed out that Mass and receiving the Eucharist there is really the ultimate act of adoration.

At Wednesday, September 05, 2007 10:16:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...


I would say the we-aspect of ATFE is “subservient” to the material that addresses God.

MCW §62 says, “Because they emphasize adoration rather than communion, most benediction hymns are not suitable.” I am not a theologian, so I don’t feel comfortable engaging the apparent discord between the BCL and your pastor (who, from your previous posts, seems unafraid to take issue with the BCL).

I think the Gregorian propers are, if not the best communion music period, at least our best model for communion music: psalms and other Scripture passages.

At Wednesday, September 05, 2007 11:27:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that may be one thing MCW got right. I think "At That First Eucharist" is enough about a proper doctrine of Communion to be acceptable. And let's not forget that no proper is about adoration of the Host. When I used communion hymns, I used both hymns about communion and "softer" hymns about the day. There's NO reason whatsoever to only use communion hymns at communion or even to NOT use them outside of communion!

Having attended and played for a number of Lutheran and Episcopalian services, I can vouch that the practice is much the same, only that they tend to schedule MORE Communion hymns than we do. The Lutherans particularly use 3, since they have a rather complex way of serving communion. I can vouch that neither church body has that great of singing at Communion. The hymns are actually more about the Real Presence than most Catholic hymns, even the old ones. You may be able to use most of them, but many Lutheran hymns are just too Lutheran to use. Especially "Schmucke Dich". I still say that a psalm is the best way to do communion music.

At Thursday, September 06, 2007 4:59:00 PM, Anonymous Alice said...

If we take the Propers as our guide to suitable Communion music, there is no reason to use ONLY texts about the Communion. In the past few weeks, I have found myself using "I Am the Bread of Life" and "Blest Are They" because those were the Communion verses for the day. Hymns about Communion are my fall back when the Communion verse is on a theme that did not inspire song writers.

My fall back list on the organ includes the falling:
O Sacrament Most Holy
I Received the Living God
Eat This Bread (Taize)
Gift of Finest Wheat

I usually read the words before I look at the tune because there are some nice tunes that partially cover some rather confusing lyrics, such as "I Myself Am the Bread of Life" or "Let Us Break Bread Together". I might use the later at Offertory; however, the former is just too confusing.

Although I usually try to find a song with a refrain for Communion, sometimes a very common hymn works too, since people should have it at least partially memorized.

At Friday, September 07, 2007 5:57:00 AM, Anonymous Copernicus said...

Try these:

Taste and See (Proulx)
Ubi Caritas (Hurd)
Lord, your love has drawn us near (Dean) (inc. Ps 116)
This is my Body (Psallite) (inc. Ps 23)

All have short, memorable refrains, and my experience is that they work well as communion processional songs, at least if the assembly is willing to sing in procession.

At Saturday, September 08, 2007 9:12:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...


I don’t know the Proulx Taste and See - is it in a hymnal? I haven’t looked at the Dean, which I assume is in Breaking Bread.

Agreed re the Hurd. A nice piece.

I have not been impressed with what I have seen of Psallite, but I’ll give the selection you mention a look.

At Saturday, September 08, 2007 9:13:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...


how about "bread for the world"Farrell
"i myself are the bread of life"Cooney
"seed,scattered and sown"

I would respectfully contend that these are more piano-based. IIRC, the Cooney has a fairly high tessitura as well.

At Monday, September 10, 2007 12:12:00 PM, Anonymous Copernicus said...

I don’t know the Proulx Taste and See - is it in a hymnal? I haven’t looked at the Dean, which I assume is in Breaking Bread.

I don't know about a hymnal containing the Proulx (I'm not in the US), but it's available as an octavo from GIA. There are sample pages and a sound clip

Likewise the Dean - I'm not familiar with US hymnals, but the octavo from OCP can be found here, again with a sound clip.


At Wednesday, November 18, 2009 12:40:00 AM, Anonymous Be Thou My Vision said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I also read some of your
posts and I find it very helpful.


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