Monday, January 8


Responsorial Psalms - Threat or Menace?

I don't mind a decently done Responsorial Psalm but they do seem to be the focus for a lot of really uneven music and add to the general problem of the Big Giant Voice and the whole issue of how prominent cantors ought to be in liturgy. They seem to generate almost as many problems as they solve. That being said, it should come as no surprise that they were actually never intended to be sung!

Over at the NLM, someone has once again bothered to read the Vatican fine print:
The long and short of it is that the actual sung text is supposed to be from the Graduale, but what is here is too technically difficult to be sung by the people. It is for the schola, and the culture of today's parishes resists such a solution. In any case, we don't have the rehearsal time to work up yet another proper chant in addition to the Introit, Communio, and polyphony.

What's more, it turns out that the "Responsorial Psalm" is an innovation designed for a particular purpose. According to [the] Paul VI Apostolic Constitution as published in the front of the 1970 Missal, the Responsorial Psalm is to be used "in Masses that are not sung." (The details of this interesting turn are covered in the Winter 2006 issue of Sacred Music.)

In other words—and we are still trying to process this revelation—the so-called Responsorial Psalm isn't designed to be sung at all, which is one reason it never really seems to work in a way that adds to the liturgy.
They were intended as a replacement for the Graduale at non-sung Masses, when, it seems, everywhere else, the Graduale was to remain supreme.Okay, music directors. You've got it directly from Paul VI. What are you waiting for?

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