How Ordinary Time are your Easter Time songs?

I have observed that it is a difficult thing to sustain Easter Time over its fifty days. Flowers wilt and spirits sag.

The Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharistic and Lectionary Antiphonaries (Roman Gradual, Simple Gradual, and Roman Missal) ply their alleluias valiantly.

But the songs chosen for entrance and communion processions and the antiphons chosen for the responsorial psalms seem deaf, for the most part, to the ubiquitous “E.T. Alleluia,” “P.T. Alleluia,” and “Or: R/. Alleluia” of the official books and those that follow them (e.g., By Flowing Waters, Psallite, and Simple English Propers).

Is this your experience too? Or have you found ways (music, environment, number of ministers, vesture, to name a few) to sustain the newness of Easter?

17 comments

  1. One problem I have found with our Easter season repertoire is that the hymns are Christocentric and, generally, ignore the fact that we worship a triune God at eucharist all year round. If we were to broaden our praise, it would not feel that we are either doing a rerun of Easter 1week after week or abandoning the season altogether.

  2. It is hard, isn’t it? But “Jesus Christ is Risen *Today*” really sounds odd much past Easter II.

    We use a more joyful-sounding Gospel Acclamation from Easter to Pentecost, and I’ve written descants containing “alleluia” for all of the psalm settings, too.

    Honestly, the hardest part in our music department is the drop-off in choir attendance as spring activities kick in. But we do what we can.

    1. Honestly, the hardest part in our music department is the drop-off in choir attendance as spring activities kick in. and Linda said below
      Like Clay, I have a major difficulty is keeping the choir focus and continuing to attend

      The problem is the way that the liturgical year has developed and the practice of programming for high and low attendance.

      Attendance climbs from a low during summer (often no choir) through an average in October (as children go back to school and outdoor competing activities decline). So liturgical churches have moved a lot of the Christmas celebration into Advent to accommodate the plunge in attendance that occurs right after Christmas to lows in January and February

      Attendance and church programming increase during Lent as a preparation for Easter, but they both decline quickly as Spring and outdoor events take over (except for a few special events like First Communions, graduations).

      I suspect this psychology of church attendance and programming focusing upon Advent rather than Epiphany and Lent rather than the Paschal season has been helped along by the extensive emphasis upon preparation for First Communion and preparation for Confirmation in Catholic parishes.

      It becomes easily to view Catholicism as consisting of preparing for seasonal and life cycle celebrations rather than of the weekly (Lord’s Day) and daily (Divine Office) cycles.

  3. The seven weeks of Easter flow into Pentecost. It’s hard to find hymns that recognize the Holy Spirit orientation of the readings in the last weeks before Pentecost (we’re an Ascension-on-Thursday place) and still recognize the “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” that we left behind a month before. We try it with as many Alleluias as we can find to sing.

  4. I try valiantly to keep Easter for 50 days with our music- plenty of alleluias, Easter-centric hymns. The Sunday before the Ascension (ours is still on Thursday) I begin to look forward to that feast along with Pentecost but I try to keep an Easter hymn somewhere in the celebration. We have a particular fondness for Byrd’s Alleluia Canon!
    Our sacristan is amazing at keeping plants alive, but when the Easter lilies have finished blooming, we buy more spring flowering plants to adorn the altar, ambo and font!!
    Like Clay, I have a major difficulty is keeping the choir focus and continuing to attend, but it is getting better.

  5. Asperges at the introductory rites at Eastertide are appropriate. Oddly today, the Bishop of Brooklyn led us in the Confiteor; two infants were baptized by him later. Another odd thing was that the Paschal Candle was in front of the altar. I just think our spaces ought to be vested with white and gold banners [no text on them], all the candles in the sanctuary ought to be lit. Baptismal fonts ought to be decorated lavishly to mark the new life that emanated from there at the Great Vigil and perhaps later in the season; and if running water can happen,let it be so. It’s our greatest season, and we ought to let all the symbolic stops out, especially at our Sunday gatherings.

  6. When I moved the ensemble from singing a gathering song to a contemporary arrangement of the introit text that was one of the first things that struck me–all the alleluias–even when matched with other texts that initially seemed reflective rather than triumphal. The result for us has been the frequent use of “alleluia” throughout the season (always in the entrance song, frequently in a communion or offertory song) but with a gradual progression from the excitement of Easter Sunday to acceptance, solidity, anticipation–how will this week’s “alleluia” sound.

  7. Paul, great question! I rather think there’s a clear exhortation in that question calling repertoire “deciders” to due diligence that we expect of our priests as both celebrants and homilists. As should be preferred, celebrants observe the axiom to “do the red and say the black” from the liturgical books, but then utilize their own charisms within the context of delivering their homilies. Shouldn’t we musicians also share in that discipline? Yesterday’s circumstances serve as a perfect example. One can chant “Quasimodo” or a vernacular version of it (“As newborn babes long for spiritual milk…SEP/Bartlett) only to function properly (!) as the Introit. But how can a director ignore the impetus to program “Ye sons and daughters”? (“Well,” some might say, “you can’t sing nine verses as an Entrance!”) True enough. But why not consider chanting the Proper and then chanting the first three verses of “O filii…” to satisfy both concerns, and then return to the chant hymn for both the gospel acclamation (vs.8) and as the Offertory beginning at vs.4? What other day in the whole year are we provided this opportunity?
    Then moving to the next processional, what other day serves so well to couch “Adoro te devote” as an option four at the Communio? Sure, one could claim this metric chant is specifically reserved for devotion, not as a liturgical accompaniment. But, if one prefaces singing “Adoro te…” with the Proper “Mitte manum…” (Stretch forth your hands and feel the place where the nails were….SEP/Bartlett), I believe, no pun intended, that you are musically recreating that very moment when Christ compelled Thomas to that act, at which he then exclaims the most personal devotion: “My Lord and My God.”
    And then, imagine concluding with M.D. Ridge’s brilliant “Three Days” to THAXTED with its recollections of the disciples’ waiting in fear! . But if such discipline isn’t applied, then the question of your…

  8. At St. Teresa parish in Belleville, we try to highlight the baptismal character of the season by using the sprinkling rite on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of Easter and a sung setting of the Apostle’s Creed on the 2nd, 4th, and 6th. Also, every week this season we sing a different Alleluia for the recessional, chosen from the various gospel acclamations that we use throughout the year. In a way, that helps tie all the Sundays of the year to Easter.

  9. Thanks, Fr. Allan. If you visit my modest blog, Optima Musica Dei Donum, you’ll find a snapshot of a west coast cohort, Fr. Jeff Keyes, down the blogroll a bit, with a caption we in California are quite fond of permutating yours above:
    DRINK the red, sing the black!
    Cheers.

  10. This would fall outside the scope of “say the black, do the red,” but singing the dismissal with the double alleluia throughout the Easter Season is another way to keep Easter going.

    I realize that we discussed this particular “organic development” earlier, but I remain unconvinced by the argument that it somehow fits the octave better than the season as a whole (particularly since it is used again at Pentecost). So I’m looking for its inclusion in RM IV.

    1. Deacon, I’m inclined to agree, although I probably wouldn’t take the step of doing it. If it were not on the books for Pentecost, then, no, but since it is…

      Also, it is worth bearing in mind that the Gregorian Masses in the kyriale have traditionally had an “Ite, missa est”, so it would seem that the sung dismissal is preferred.

  11. Paul, very good question. I have found that using the same, festive Alleluia before and after the Gospel proclamation helps, and to do it all through the Easter Season. Also, my musicians are not afraid of using “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” all throughout the Easter season to help us keep our energy high, as well as other specifically Easter anthems and hymns.
    Also, I “bend the rules” a bit as I add “Happy Easter” to my greeting at the beginning of Mass for all of the Sundays of Easter. I’ve been doing it for 5 years now, so it’s become something of a habit here in our parish. Then, we use the Easter-time sprinkling rite with a lively form of “springs of water” to give continuity and cohesion to the entire season.
    Our parish also celebrates all First Communions at our Sunday Masses as well as our celebration of Confirmations (all in white vestments, not red), within the season of Easter. I have to say, my parishioners know that Easter is a season, and not just a Sunday.

  12. One of my favorites was “Hallelujah, we sing your praises,” which was used as a dismissal song quite frequently in Easter season at a former parish. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeIFfjjq5eo# (begins at 6:50)

    At our wedding, since it took place in Easter season, we used this as the final song. Perhaps it’s just me, then, but I can’t imagine ever getting tired of it or it becoming “ordinary.”

  13. Our parish is approaching its 25 anniversary, and from the start we have ‘kept’ the great 50 days. We have our Easter season musical repertoire, a sprinkling rite at every liturgy, and the custom of holding out some ‘Easter flower’ funds to carry the look of the environment for the full season. Our homilists are aware of the meaning of the season as a whole, and preach accordingly, carrying out the mystagogy for the whole assembly, not just the newly initiated. (8 adults were baptised on our 1st Easter, long before we had any buildings.) One of my favorite elements if the “Halleluia Chorus Invitational” after Communion at all liturgies on the 5th Sunday of Easter- when everyone who has ever sung the piece comes up and joins the choir and orchestra. The people of our parish know how to celebrate the full 50 days. It isn’t the liturgist’s thing or the priest’s thing or the choir’s thing. It’s we the church being church. Alleluia.

  14. Though I wish it were rolled out with different timing, WLP should be releasing my Easter season Communion processional “Finest of Wheat” in its August subscription service mailing. Please remember this thread if you receive the service; the song gathers together many elements mentioned herein: multi-tiered, persistent “alleluia” refrains (no worship aid necessary!), paired with some 25-30 short-and-sweet 4-bar verses set primarily from the season’s Propers, plus occasional Lectionary allusions. Too relevant not to self-promote this one.

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