« CMAA Video | Main | Nominated »

September 1, 2007

Lectionary Psalms

Ever since a marvelous presentation on the Responsorial Psalm given by Dr. Mahrt at the CMAA Colloquium, I have been wrestling with ideas about what to do here at St. Edward.

For the past few years we have had a steady diet of Respond and Acclaim psalms by Owen Alstott. To be fair, his psalm refrains are singable. They are functional and accessible for the assembly. Our choir has done a marvelous job with the verses at the choir Mass, yet still, for me, they lack a certain beauty. And beauty is the point Dr. Mahrt was trying to make.

Still, the Graduals from each Sunday are a bit beyond the expertise of the local musicians. So what do we find that is somewhere in between the Roman Gradual and the tired old Respond and Acclaim?

Well, one morning, while I was chanting Morning Prayer, I came upon an idea. Often I will chant the psalms from Lauds using the antiphons and the Gregorian tones from the Psalterium Monasticum from Solesmes. Occasionally I can make the English text (my own translation) fit the music.

So, I wondered if some of the lectionary texts could be made to fit the tones associated with those psalms in the Psalterium. Then, later that morning, I was concelebrating Mass at St. Mary's in Norwalk, CT, and their marvelous musician, David Hughes, chanted a capella the Responsorial Psalm to a simple Gregorian tone. It was beautiful!

So I was inspired and off to work. So, here is the result. I would love to see what fellow musicans out there think of these. Some are better than others, and in one you will see I got a bit adventurous and then thought better of it. Comments most appreciated.

Posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. at September 1, 2007 1:19 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Aren't there psalms in By Flowing Waters?

Posted by: Maureen Lahiff at September 2, 2007 9:25 AM

Go for it! I've been doing a similar thing for the last year, writing chant tones to fit the Alleluia verse out of Respond & Acclaim, translated to Latin. It was a very useful experience for me. This year I think we'll do something different, but I applaud you for giving this a try. You'll learn a lot.

Posted by: Carl at September 2, 2007 12:45 PM

Yo. Maureen. How great it was to have you at the BBQ this pm here. Yes,. BFW has psalms, but not the text of the day; only the psalms from the simple gradual.

Posted by: Fr. Jeffrey R. Keyes, C.PP.S. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 2, 2007 9:51 PM

For a parish in transition, I don't see the problem with using many sources, including BFW. Some of the BFW psalms are assigned for the day. And there's nothing problematic about using the psalm verses of the day with a common refrain text.

Your refrains are nice, and your people and musicians will sing them even more readily if they know they're singing music you composed. This has been the main reason Catholics have composed so much in the past four decades: the Church provides a poverty of what they want and can use in their parishes.

Posted by: Todd at September 3, 2007 8:06 AM

Jeff, You know I have no standing to critique the music, thta's not my forte. But I can say how excited I am that you are putting your talent into creating music. Woo Hoo!

Pax et Bomun

Posted by: Steve Dos Santos, CPPS at September 3, 2007 9:15 AM

Good work, Fr. Keyes, I did something similar to this for the Office antiphons in English when I was in seminary, trying to make up for that horrible lack of a real Antiphonale for the new Office, esp. a vernacular one for N.O. seminarians.

Posted by: TJ at September 3, 2007 9:19 AM

Mon ami, Pere Jeff,
Vis a vis this post and the related NLM thread by Jeffrey Tucker-
It seems to me that there is a singular aspect of this perceived dilemma of either insufficiently beautiful musical settings, insufficient textual translations or even the liturgical propriety of the responsorial itself (Michael Lawrence's point,) and that ignored aspect is the reality that it has always been and is nigh on impossible to fix and regulate a liturgical culture that is both native and universal. That reality is, IMO, why the siren call of the Classic Rite done well is particularly enchanting to those of us who care to deliberate these matters.
That said, and glad that you have taken up the pen again, think about the fact that your "idea," borne of a perception to remedy a need, adds to the number of "solutions" to the responsorial "problem" (as does the body of the Ostrawski (sp?) psalter) which supplants the many other commercial options. In other words, your efforts with these settings approach a closer identity with the native Roman Rite culture and is thus eminently worthy. On the other hand, their use at St. Edward's and any other parishes where they're adopted will be unique and specific to those congregations. So what?
The bottom line is that we will always dwell within an artistic universe of plurality, even in The Church. To paraphrase Christ, the poor songs will always be among us. So, we need to minister to those who dwell among those poor, helping them to know of the larger world, the other worlds that exhibit a greater "beauty." It is my hope that we who implement these adjustments in taste and aesthetics locally do so knowing that we aren't just tinkers operating in a local vacuum.

Posted by: Charles in Visalia at September 3, 2007 12:13 PM

If I had known of these a week ago (my last cantor rehearsal,) I would have asked for permission to use one or two.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Posted by: Geri at September 3, 2007 5:33 PM

Fr. Jeff, Will we hear some of these this coming weekend? Hope so.

Posted by: Maria Elena at September 3, 2007 10:54 PM

Father Jeff, Splendid work. I did the all the R. Psalms of the Lectionary in French some years ago, following similar principles. Also, for the verses, at least on Sundays and Solemnities, one can take inspiration from the melodies for the Venite (Ps 94) in the Liber Hymnarius, or even centonize the verse of the Gradual into a melody for the verses of the psalm. How I wish we were singing these things together!

Posted by: Don Marco, O.Cist. at September 5, 2007 5:53 AM

I think they're quite nice, Fr. Jeff. And I agree that Respond & Acclaim does get very old very fast. One question - does the congregation have the text/music or can they just pick these up from the cantor? And remember, you can always add a very light organ support. Heaven knows, just about all the monasteries do so.

Glad to see your creative juices flowing in your copious non-free-time.

Posted by: Mary Jane at September 5, 2007 9:54 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)