Monday, August 21, 2006

Communion Trials

What music is right for communion? It seems to have finally dawned on many people that the advice (first put forward in Music in Catholic Worship of 1972, I think) that having the people sing is, well, rather awkward, even annoying. In most parishes, then, what you get is some organ or piano mood music or maybe a little piece sung by a choir.

But after many years, our choir finally mustered the courage to attempt the official Communion chant from the Graduale. Surprise! What the GIRM and tradition asks of us turns out to be what is most appropriate! The text is always right. The pieces are astonishing in their beauty, and they are not as difficult as other parts of the Gregorian repertoire.

They are, after all, antiphons, so they are meant to be sung several times so that the ear becomes accustomed to the sound, and the spirit is fed by a beautiful repetition. In some cases, when people are finished receiving communion or just feel so inclined, people will join in on them.

But what comes between the repeated antiphon? This is where the trials begin. The Church calls for a Psalm verse. Which one? The Gregorian Missal doesn't say. For that you have to go to the Graduale Romanum itself. But the Graduale doesn't actually print the text, must less the music. Of course experienced singers can use text alone and know how to manage it. But these days, parishes seem to lack people with such abilities. For both text, and text set to the right psalm tone, you have to go elsewhere.

Where? There are books available, one in Dutch (if you clicked that, you have surely landed in one of the most obscure spots on the whole of the web), and another from Solesmes that is long out of print that I can't seem to find. So what to do?

Now, this is where it gets crazy. You can go to this link , which I have from being a member of the Gregorian Yahoo email list. A member here has been posting Psalm verses for communions.

They are .png files, excellent scans, but the size of California. My process (probably flawed): download the right files, open them in Photoshop, edit them to take out all the top matter, convert them to .gif (to reduce size and increase manageability), import them into .doc and resize them again, and print to .pdf, so they can be sent to the person who will be singing them.

Whew! Now, as an example, this coming weekend, the Communion antiphon is the De Fructu. Here is the result of the crazed effort to have the right Psalm verses. If you use these antiphonally with the Communio of the day, you will have the perfect communion music.

But what a process! There surely has to be a better way. What I would love to see is for someone (please not I!) to do this for all 100 or so Communions in the new rite Sunday calendar, and make it available online in an easy link.

There are so many priorities but surely this ranks up at the top of the list. Until that time comes, if there is an easier way, I would love to know it.

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