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April 4, 2004

Psalm 116

We are going to have somewhat limited resources musically for the Triduum at Calvert House this year. This is ok for the chant choir because we are used to doing everything acappella anyway. The Hymnal resources at Calvert House are Gather Comprehensive at Calvert House and Ritual Song at Bond Chapel. The Choir uses the Graduale Simplex for most of their chants, and the stuff in English is put in the program. I print out the grail psalms and point them for the choir.

I was not happy with the available choices for the psalm for Holy Thursday. The choices for the GIA books have never been satisfactory for me, and the Graduale and By Flowing Waters simply does not have the text.

In the old days I was a composer and when in this situation I would just write something. So that is what I did today. I took some motif from a Holy Thursday hymn, chose a chant pattern from the Graduale and hopefully I have fashioned a prayer.

All of you musicians out there can provide some critique of my psalm composing.

Here is a sound recording:

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UPDATE: The PDF file and the sound recording are new. This is now draft three of the psalm. Thanks to Aristotle and to RC for the constructive suggestions.

Posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. at April 4, 2004 6:20 PM

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Quite nice.

The refrain sounds familiar -- like something out of Marier's hymnal.

Posted by: RC at April 4, 2004 7:54 PM

I do not have a copy of Marier's hymnal, unfortunately. It should probably sound like quite a bit of the chant repertoire. I borrowed figures from the Graduale and just applied it to the text.

Posted by: Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS at April 4, 2004 8:22 PM

of course you may notice that I tried to emphasize the Precious Blood.

Posted by: Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS at April 4, 2004 8:23 PM

That is a very graceful setting.
If our parish can ever be weaned off Haugen, would you give permission for use and non-commercial copying?

(Any other psalm settings you'd like to post?)

Posted by: Beautiful! at April 4, 2004 8:29 PM

May I suggest a change in the pointing?

How about:

you have loosed my bonds
====== =====

(to make the mediant start on the accented syllable "loosed" rather than the unaccented "have")

As a matter of taste, I sometimes like when the mediant falls on an unaccented syllable, and I think it would be nice to do in the preceding line:

I am your servant, the son of your handmaid

Now, sing that A in the antiphon with a nice bright pitch....

Posted by: RC at April 4, 2004 8:45 PM

sounds good. I always struggle with pointing the english text. Those chants always sound better in Latin.

Posted by: Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS at April 4, 2004 9:04 PM

ok, I made a few other changes too.

Posted by: Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS at April 4, 2004 9:24 PM

Peace, Fr Jeff.

It's an absolute mystery to me why you consider yourself a former composer. There's little difference in crafting a homily or composing a good piece of music. Except that the latter tends to be a bit more playful.

Posted by: Todd at April 4, 2004 9:27 PM

Fr. Jeff, might it be more appropriate to use Psalm Tone 2d (minor, starting on D) for the verses? Psalm Tone 7 is associated with the mixolydian mode (at least in my ears). Musical esoterica, I admit, and most people would not notice the difference unless pointed out.

As far as the antiphon goes: lots of stepwise motion, no crazy interval leaps, limited range...I think it'll fly :-)

Posted by: Aristotle A. Esguerra at April 5, 2004 6:59 AM

Hey Todd, I did not really use the word "former," and yes I use much of the same energy in composing homilies and writing articles and books. Still, what I am doing with this is more arranging than composing.

In the old days I was more explicitly a composer, made my living as a musician and a cantor. These days are markedly different and I can compare the difference with the "former" days.

Aristotle, good idea, I will check it out. I am really enjoying the musical give and take.

Posted by: Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS at April 5, 2004 8:01 AM

I looked up tone 2 in the Liber and actually like it a lot more than what I had chosen. Thanks, Aristotle, for the heads up.

Also I was thinking of changing one of the pitches, in the last phrase on the text "the" singing a g instead of an f. listening to the recording it seems I am singing a g anyway.

stay tuned for draft 3 of the psalm later today.

Posted by: Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS at April 5, 2004 8:39 AM

A most interesting discussion.

RC and Aristotle, who are you, and where did you acquire your knowledge? (I have read bits of Fr. Keyes biography here.)

I am a reluctant composer, my church's resources are not good, and I am trying to move us in what my reading of Church documents indicate is a more fitting direction musically.

Latin is anathema to most of the movers and shakers, so finding (or adapting) suitable and suitably simple motets has taken much of my time.

I have done the same thing with psalms that Fr Keyes has done here, taken a snatch of meodic material from an appropriate page in the Liber Usualis and tried to adapt it to the lecitionary words.
I have By Flowing Waters which I find a useful reference, but the words never seem quite right.

I have the same feelings about different psalm tones having different "moods" that your post seems to express, Aristotle, but as these are only feelings, I would like something more authoratative than my own subjective feelings to guide me.

RC, I too find that sometimes the mediant on an unstressed syllable "seems" right, but I would love to have something more concrete to guide my pointing.

All of the references I have been able to find really deal with Latin, and I would appreciate any guidance for English chanting, for pointing English texts.

I am fanatical about using "correct" words the exact words of the lectionary, but perhaps I am wrong? and only reacting to the careless and clumsy paraphrasing I have seen in most pop psalms, of the Joncas and Haas variety.

Any suggestions, or suggestions of reference works to guide me?


Posted by: To RC and Aristotle and Fr. Jeffrey Keyes at April 5, 2004 8:40 AM

I would characterize myself as a consumer rather than a producer here, one who prays by singing.

Whatever mode or tone the 3rd version is, it has, for me, the right affect for Holy Thursday. Simple, solemn but not gloomy, enhancing the text and not calling a lot of attention to itself by vocal pyrotechnics.

Posted by: Maureen Lahiff at April 5, 2004 12:11 PM

Cecilia: Regarding the moods of different modes, I can say that for me it's a little bit more than a feeling. By studying the melodies of the Graduale Simplex, By Flowing Waters and to a lesser extent the Liber Usualis and Graduale Romanum, one can identify patterns common among antiphons. (Ex: If you have the Graduale Romanum, look at the graduals for the Easter Vigil - you'll notice the melodies for the antiphons share some similarities.)

I can't give you anything more authoritative, but all I can say is that the differences are there. I had the time to research such matters over the Internet and self-study at my last church choir job. But, as it was not directed study, I may have the knowledge, but not the vocabulary to express it.

Fr. Jeff: the change from F# to G in the antiphon is spot-on. Mainly because I think F# is treated as a passing tone in this melody, so it's probably not the best starting point for a leap.

The text is strongly iambic, so the neume "bless" can be a stumbling block at first (it was for me), but with repetition it makes sense. Funny how something that looks so simple can be deceivingly difficult.

Posted by: Aristotle A. Esguerra at April 5, 2004 6:57 PM

Hi, Cecilia --

I'm just a member of a chant choir (Schola Amicorum in Boston), so I don't have the sort of expert knowledge that the trained musicians have. That's why I figured a liking for occasional off-beat mediants may only be a matter of taste. (I think the 'surprise' effect attracts attention to the text.) But perhaps there is a rational basis for it somewhere!

I'm inclined to agree with your "fanatical" adherence to the approved psalm texts. A real stickler here in the US might argue that only the New American Bible is approved for use in the Mass, but really my preference is to use the Grail as the Office does, and as Fr. Keyes did here.

To be fair to the fans of Messrs. Joncas, Haugen and Haas, I believe it actually is permissible to use a metrical psalm setting in place of the Responsorial Psalm. (I'll have to dig around to find a reference, if you want proof of this.) Whether Haugen-Haas concoctions qualify as metrical psalms probably is a judgment call.

Posted by: RC at April 6, 2004 3:31 PM

My preference is normally for the Grail, but with the liturgy my preference if for the Lectionary. I took the text straight from the Lectionary psalm and found it at www.usccb.org

Posted by: Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS at April 6, 2004 5:55 PM