NPM Winter Colloquium – Your Experience of Hymns and Antiphons?

The National Association of Pastoral Musicians has a colloquium every January, where president Mike McMahon invites a variety of people, mostly members of NPM’s DMMD (Director of Music Ministries Division), to come together to investigate one topic with scholarly intensity. Generally 100-150 folks gather for it.

Past presenters include Msgr. Kevin Irwin, Fr. Gil Ostdiek OFM, Fr. Frank Quinn OP, Paul Westermeyer, Michael Hawn, John Witvliet, Bishop Trautman, Fr. Paul Turner, Edward Hahnenberg, NPM founder Fr. Virgil Funk, Msgr. Tony Sherman and Msgr. Rick Hilgartner, and Abbot Gregory Polan OSB.

This year I’m the presenter. I’m giving four talks on “Antiphons, Hymns, Songs and Their Use in the Liturgy.”

My first talk will deal with methodology and presuppositions, something which I think is important to name before taking up the issue itself. When deciding whether to use hymns or antiphons at Mass, do I think it’s an issue of liturgical tradition, or obeying official documents, or (re)interpreting Vatican II, e.g. to ‘reform the reform,’ or inculturation, or ecumenism, or ecclesiology (local and universal nature of the Church and the liturgy), or artistic quality, or holiness, or promoting true participation in the liturgy? How I weight any of those aspects greatly affects my conclusions.

In a second talk I’ll look at the rich heritage of proper antiphons, including their complicated history, their ambiguous status in official documents, the promises and problems and challenges in the inherited repertorire, and the explosion of resources in the last few years. Third talk is on hymns, same issues. Fourth talk will pull it all together and draw some conclusions.

Question for Pray Tell readers: Feel free to give feedback before Tuesday early morning (DC time) on this question: What is your liturgical experience of hymns and your experience of antiphons, and how do they compare? Please, limit yourself just to sharing of your experience, with a view toward how you were drawn into the liturgy (or not) by singing hymns, and by singing or listening to antiphons in Latin or vernacular. What drew you in? What didn’t? Your wisdom will be incorporated into my last talk!

Thanks in advance.



  1. As you suggest, the choice can be about whatever one wants to make it about, and I am sometimes frustrated that so much good music gets so much political baggage attached to it.

    I grew up on hymns in the Mennonite Church (a different animal), and their use seems to be the norm at most Catholic parishes I’ve been to. The antiphonal singing I’ve experienced at St. John’s Abbey has been very effective – as long as it’s clear when to come in. For me, being able to participate through congregational singing is key, in whatever form.

    Actually, as I think about it, I’ve sometimes found antiphons more suitable during communion, because I feel as if I’m missing out on something when I have to suddenly leave the pew in the middle of a hymn, whereas I can easily sing an antiphon in the communion line, having memorized it after the first couple of go-arounds.

  2. Organists and hymn players dissed the antiphon format (if not the style) of contemporary music in the 80’s and 90’s. To the point where publishers like GIA and OCP eschewed placing the “old” introductions with the new music, and encouraged music directors and accompanists to treat contemporary music more like hymnody. I suspect folks like John Foley and Mike Joncas had it right all along. Richard Proulx, not so much.

    So right off, I’ll confess I harbored a bit of irritation on those developments–a lack of respect for musical form and too much domination by the hymn-playing tradition. I wonder how those folks feel these days that a vocal minority wants to retire hymnody completely from the Mass. I feel for them.

    In music planning, I consult the antiphons and psalms as I gather my musicians’ choices. But I’m not slavishly programming them. I’ve noticed in ordinary time, quite often there are better choices of Scripture than what is given in the Roman Missal. Any thoughtful music director with a sense of Scripture can produce a superior repertoire.

    Rarely do I program a metrical hymn for Communion.

    If MR4 offered a series of responsorial songs and hymns for seasonal consideration (as it does here and there in the present Missal), I think that would be a plus. MR3 and the Antiphonary already give musicians wide leeway to choose and repeat material within a season. Rarely do I see reform2 folks aware of the options. But they seem to dislike options in general, so that’s not surprising.

    And congregational singing trumps everything. No way would I program a choral presentation of a proper. Nor do I think much of the music-of-the-day approach outside a daily community–the worst of the 60’s masquerading as ars celebrandi by the black.

  3. Father Anthony, by antiphons, do you mean songs which are in antiphonal form (ie One Bread, One Body) or the proper entrance, offertory & communion antiphons designated for a particular Sunday or feast?

    1. @Linda Reid – comment #3:
      Either – some propers are more official (in missal, graduale, Graduale Simplex), some are less official in that they use other texts (such as Psallite does some times -and for good reason textually and spiritually!), some are just oldtime songs with refrains like One Bread, One Body. They’re all antiphons, but in different senses.

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #20:
        Well, this is too late but here is my experience. Before VII, I was a kid and went to Mass because my mom told me to go! 🙂 I went to Mass and read my missal. The music was lovely but I was a spectator.
        The council happened and my parish in Baltimore jumped in to the reformed liturgy with both feet…..except that music ministry was only open to men and boys 🙁
        I sang my heart out in the pew -both hymns and antiphonal music -and longed to be able to minister. Both forms drew me into the worship. I cannot remember going to a liturgy where the “proper antiphons” were sung in place of hymns/songs
        I found a niche at my all girl high school and worked hard at my guitar playing and voice. I became the music minister for the school.
        After all that prelude, I must confess that antiphonal songs/psalms drew me into worship. (Gelineau, Deiss etc,) As a pew person, I was able to sing an antiphon and then listen to a verse proclaimed. I don’t have a problem listening to a verse. After all, we listen to the readings proclaimed! When I am a cantor, I love being able to proclaim the verses to the assembly. With proper preparation, I can also pray these verses as well as proclaim them! The music of the SL Jesuits, David Haas, Marty Haugen and our own Michael Joncas drew me into prayer and helped me fall in love with scripture and the liturgy
        It is only in the last few decades that I have come to be able to appreciate the through composed hymn. I love singing a hymn full throated to the stains of the organ. I also love hymnody on the guitar – it takes on a quieter less grandiose character and is beautiful prayer.
        I have used Psallite quite a bit, but usually as the psalm and at communion. I have not used propers in any other way.

  4. I am a non-musician who cannot sight read music. I love music and like to sing. Although I have sung in non-polyphonic choirs, I prefer to sing with the congregation. I will use “hymn” and “antiphon”in a non-technical way to describe my experience with song.

    No “antiphon” can match a “great hymn” (i.e. an extended text sung by the congregation who knows the words and setting well such as the Gloria, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer). However for this non-musician singer there can be too much of a great thing. While I would want to sing all the above at Mass, I would tone down some of their “greatness” by using simple chant settings for one or more.

    The problem of “too much of a great thing” becomes larger when we consider adding four well known and liked hymns, e.g. Come All Ye Faithful, O Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Joy to the World. We might sing these at full throttle Christmas caroling, but some of potential to be toned down that is built into them is needed during the Mass.

    Giving me hymns with a lot of words and music that I do not know means I just don’t sing. Practice before Mass is fine, during Mass out of the question. Toning down the “greatness” of hymns can be accomplished by giving us familiar words and familiar music that functions more like simple chant settings, and provides us with some contrast with the other “great” music.

    “Antiphons” solve the problem of “too much of a great thing” by giving us “small chunks of great music.” The Sanctus, Agnus Dei are to my mind the classical models of the antiphon. The Byzantine Liturgy has the Trisagion and several similar sized “antiphons” that provide the liturgy with a supply of great and well know music in smaller pieces. Most people don’t consider them as antiphons but they fulfill what I see as the psychological purpose of an antiphon, a small size chuck of great music for us non musicians to sing.

    Of course little chunks of great antiphonal music can be had when hymns are provided with a refrain. Again this spreads out the great music for the congregation to sing without overwhelming us with a lot of text and a lot of new music or a lot of great music at one time.

    Besides fixed “antiphons” like the Trisagion and the Agnus Dei, liturgies have variable antiphons. In the Byzantine liturgy great variable antiphons are often sung with little or no text between, e.g. a brief half verse recited by the cantor. Our model seems to be the reverse. We give people a small refrain with a large amount of text between. Usually these little “antiphons” are not great music; they seem to just break up the text.

    Instead of our musicians writing five stanza hymns when people only sing two, they should try writing beautiful “antiphons” about the length of the Sanctus that can be sung several times with brief versus between. Part of what I like about Taize is that they sing beautiful antiphons again and again.

    Part of the thinking of liturgists seems to be to use hymns or psalms to educate people, e.g. match the readings of the day. I don’t think about the text while I am singing. Maybe good singers do, but not me. Give me small or large chunks of great music to sing; have the choir sing if you want me to think about the texts

  5. Sounds like it will be a thoughtful presentation. I’m sure it will be highly informative. I would be curious about your sense of just how essential vs. dispensable the proper text is to the liturgy and what factors affect what strikes me as the awesome decision to depart from it. Second, you might address the issue of how essential that text is and its relationship to the original music source, and what changing that music does to the overall liturgical structure. Such issues have been in discussion for half a millennium but there are still interesting considerations.

  6. I’ll never forget my cursillo weekend nearly fifty years ago. It was there I heard and sang Gelineau psalms for the first time. Not long thereafter I was exposed to Lucian Deiss. At St. Meinrad I was enthralled by the compositions of Columba Kelly, Tobias Colgan, and John Foley. Later, I would be deified by the psalm settings and antiphons of Haas and Haugen in their two great GIA collections.

  7. Dear Fr. Ruff,

    I am an organist for six liturgies each weekend (And that’s with no weddings or funerals). After playing a hymn six times I’m about ready to hang myself. When accompanying antiphons with the corresponding psalms, every time I play them I find something else in the text that grabs me and strikes me, allowing a little more of Gods word to enter my heart. I also find pleasure as an organist to find different ways to harmonize antiphons and paint the Psalm texts harmonically. Sacrosanctum Concilium speaks of the need for the baptized to experience more scripture in the liturgy and antiphons are a way to do it. I also greatly enjoy seekeng out new resources for the assembly to sing the proper antiphons in English. To be quite honest after using antiphons and psalms solely for the last two years I would not care if I ever played another hymn in celebration of Eucharist (Hours is a different story).

    1. @John Gaffney – comment #7:
      Just when we liturgical musicians are sick to death of a hymn, that’s just when the average churchgoer actually knows the hymn well enough to sing it, and dare even pray it. In my limited experience with singing the propers, giving an assembly a new antiphon to sing each week is a quick way to shut them up for good.

  8. What strikes me as odd at first blush is that this colloquium will more resemble the Rand Think Tank modality than a seminar blending practicum with philosophy. I mean, look who’s attending and presenting: academic and aesthetic paragons. Now, examine the very interesting variance and number of perspectives in the seven responses preceding mine. What are the tangible outcomes NPM expects from a summit of experts at cathedrals, monasteries and universities? Those folk cannot possibly represent the reality of what many of us DMs routinely face. For example, among your four talk plan, are you going to address how a DM can coherently and pastorally advise and persuade self-taught Spanish language musicians and singers that the ranchero/conjunto style is NOT AUTHENTIC to the liturgy, and were one to try they would be soundly rebuffed as being inauthentic themselves because of social and ethnic reasons. In other words, will all the experts on hand have practical advice to DM’s and choirmasters in the field who often get a “talk to the hand” response when addressing even the basics of your paradigms of antiphons, songs and hymns. It all strikes me as supremely ivory tower and of little worth to fractionate all your issues mentioned when resource distribution among participants is so at odds with real life situations.
    If you do want my two cents, I offer this: Why do big gun DMMD programs perpetuate the “performance Mass idiom” that is no different in effect than doing the Coronation Mass or Verdi Requiem when a prelate arrives in the narthex, or the Mass is televised, or it’s an event or thematic (World Youth Day…..Papal tour…..Midnight Mass from St. Patrick’s) Mass? Are brass and tympani S.O.P. because they have to keep their expenditure line itemed? Is humility and noble simplicity not even on the table when the program ordos are initially on the agenda? Is the singing of a Proulx or Nestor hymn concertato expected and prima facie superior to an a capella rendition by the people?
    That’s it.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #8:
      Charles, you’re making lots of unfounded assumptions about who is present and what the content will be. I’m amazed at how far off-base you are. Your rant is out of line. What are you so upset about?

  9. Fr. Anthony, you have asked specifically for us to share our experience of using antiphons and hymns (and “songs”? From your title this would seem to be another category and it would be interesting to see how this category is distinguished from the other two) at (OF?) Roman Rite Eucharist. Since I celebrate with so many different communities, it is difficult to report standard patterns, but I hope the following is helpful.

    Processional Antiphons: I’d distinguish between the use of these antiphons in Latin and in English.

    I have most frequently experienced the Latin antiphons from the Solesmes _Graduale_ in cathedral and university settings. They are always sung by a schola/choir without congregational vocal participation. The texts are always printed in Latin with an English translation in a participation aid. The Introit is usually sung prior to the formal beginning of the Introductory Rites, followed by a congregational hymn as the ministers process into the sanctuary. The Offertory is sung during the collection of money and is sometimes followed by a congregational hymn and sometimes by a choral anthem or motet. The pattern tends to reverse for the Communion: a congregational hymn or psalm (usually with a refrain or vernacular antiphon) is sung as the assembly receives communion and the Latin communion antiphon is sung in the time after Communion.

    I have more rarely experienced processional antiphons being sung in English, usually in parish settings. Here only the Introit and Communion antiphons are sung in “responsorial” format, i.e., the antiphon is intoned by a cantor, repeated by the congregation, the cantor sings as many psalm verses as are needed to cover the ritual action, with the congregation singing the antiphon after each psalm verse. A Doxology is normally sung before the final repetition of the antiphon. Sometimes these are the only musical elements accompanying the procession of the ministers and the assembly, but frequently they are followed by congregational hymns.

  10. I have never experienced a processional antiphon sung to accompany the procession of the ministers from the sanctuary area after the blessing and dismissal.

    Processional [Metrical] Hymns: In cathedral, university, parish and monastic settings I have frequently experienced metrical hymns being used to accompany the entrance of the ministers, during the preparation and presentation of the oblations, during the distribution of holy communion, and to accompany the exit of the ministers from the sanctuary area. The use of hymns for entrance and exit is more frequent than the other uses mentioned. The texts sometimes reflect the proposed antiphons (most notably when Christoph Tietze’s “Introit Hymns” are used) but they generally either: a) reflect in some way the scriptures being proclaimed at that Eucharist; b) reflect in some way the ritual action being undertaken; or c) serve as general statements of praise and thanksgiving to God. “Through-composed” metrical hymns appear more frequently at entrance, preparation of the oblations and exit, while “metrical hymns with refrains” appear more frequently at the time of the communion procession. The degree of solemnity of the feast is usually marked by the complexity of the musical treatment of the hymn, with concertato elaborations and obligato instruments adorning feasts and seasons of high festivity. I believe the strength of the hymn-singing tradition in my area of the Midwest comes both from ethnic traditions of hymn-singing (German, Polish) and from the strong influence of Lutheran hymn-singing (the major ecumenical group in our area).

    I should note that these communities have also had a variety of experiences with responsorial “songs” such as the biblical compositions of Fr. Lucien Deiss, and some litanies being used on occasion at the times appointed for the processional antiphons, usually to mark a particular season or feast.

  11. As for how well these various uses of antiphons, hymns and songs drew me in to the Eucharistic celebration, I have to say that I try to submit myself to whatever the local community’s celebrational pattern is to derive whatever grace God grants me through it. So hearing the schola/choir sing the proper processional antiphons while reading and reflecting on the text of the antiphon draws me into the celebration one way, while the vigorous singing of congregational hymnody, especially if the texts reflect the scriptures of the day, draws me into the celebration differently. I often feel that using both antiphons and hymns at the same processional points of the liturgy is ritually redundant, but that may reflect my historical study more than any deeply held principle. I confess that I prefer to engage vocally by singing these texts rather than simply hearing them sung solely by a choir/schola (since I would be able to sing the antiphon’s music because of my chant training), but I do not feel “robbed” of my full, conscious and active participation when only the choir/schola sings these texts. Unlike Mr. Rakosky in #4 I think deeply about the texts I’m singing while I am singing them and find that on occasion the wedding of tune and text in a well-chosen and -sung hymn powerfully illuminates the scriptures and the liturgical event for me.

    I hope this is helpful.

  12. I think deeply about the texts I’m singing while I am singing them

    I think deeply about sung texts when I am listening to them. Actually having an extensive music collection, and now access to many internet resources, I do that quite a lot in a given day. Of course since I also have an extensive book collection and read a lot that is another source of thinking deeply about texts. And as a retired person who takes long walks, and who works in the garden, I tend to think deeply most of the time.

    However, Weekend liturgy is the only opportunity that I have to sing each week, so I am mainly interested in great music that I know how to sing.

    There are plenty of other times to think deeply about texts and everything. In fact it is kind of nice not to think deeply and just become lost in the music. When musicians force me to learn music and/or texts during Mass, I resent it. Hey, I could have stayed home and done that more easily and better. When it comes to listening to music I have to travel more than twenty miles to avoid making Sunday Liturgy the nadir of my weekly listening to liturgical music.

    Possibly another reason that I don’t think deeply while singing is because I sing mostly from memory. Gregory Norbet came here a few years back to give a retreat in which he sang most of his songs, giving us a sheet with just the words. I sat in the front row and could sing them all from memory. That is probably another reason why I become totally absorbed in the music.

  13. When I am in the pews and we sing a strophic hymn (“Holy God We Praise Thy Name”, “All Are Welcome”), typically the entire assembly sings all of the verses, and I feel that we “own” the words we are singing. The entire text, and the faith it expresses, belongs to all of us.

    When I am in the pews and we sing a stanzaic form in which the entire assembly sings only the antiphon, with a cantor or choir singing the verses (as in what has become the conventional Responsorial Psalm form), my feeling is that only the text of the antiphon really “belongs” to the assembly as a whole, whereas the text of the verses – the meat of the psalm or canticle – belongs to the music ministers. Perhaps that isn’t a rational way to look at it, but it is a feeling, or impression.

    Thus, today, for the Responsorial Psalm, we happened to sing a setting of Psalm 19. The assembly sang, “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.” That was the only part that belonged to all of us, or so it felt. All of the wonderful verses of praise of the law of the Lord belonged to them – to the choir.

    On occasion, I’m able to pray the Liturgy of the Hours such that the psalms and canticles are sung antiphonally, i.e. alternating between left side and right side, or between men and women – essentially, the entire assembly being divided into two choirs. On those occasions, even though I sing only half of each psalm or canticle, I still feel as though I “own” all of it, but that my part is to sing what is assigned to me.

    This is just my impression, my experience. There is a difference between singing something that we already have taken ownership of (as singing a hymn), and being given something by someone else (as verses of the Responsorial Psalm), with our part being only the response to what we’ve been given. I am not saying that one form is superior to another, but that the experience of the two forms is different.

    1. @Jim Pauwels – comment #13:

      You raise a very apt and potent matter about which there is some confusion.

      (A)That of congregational participation in Antiphonal psalmody =
      All:Antiphon, Group I: Verse, Group II: Verse, All:Antiphon, &cet.

      (B) That of congregational participation in Responsorial psalmody =
      Cantor + People: the Respond, Cantor:verses, People: the Respond

      There is, certainly less for the People to sing in responsorial psalmody, which in the mass consists in the Gradual/Responsorial Psalm, and the Alleluya & Verse.

      Certainly everyone has more to sing in Antiphonal than in Responsorial psalmody, but each has its rewards; the one, in which two groups of the people (or people vs choir, etc.) alternate psalm verses and then sing together the Antiphon; or, they may sing all the vv in alternation, singing the Antiphon only at the begeinning and the end. Both methods have historical precedent which is discussed at length in the recent issue of the journal of the Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society.

      And, certainly everyone has less to sing in Responsorial than in Antiphonal psalmody. However, Responsorial psalmody is not without its rewards. There is ample time for meditation through active listening while the cantor or choir sing the verses (ideally, to music some degree more elaborate that a simple psalm tone) in groups of two or three, while the community sing the Respond between the cantor’s vv. Just because one isn’t singing as much in Responsorial psalmody does not mean that one is ‘doing less’ . Meditating, being moved by the beauty of the cantor’s delivery and song (and, most of all, text) is certainly ‘active participation’.

      Both of these styles of psalmody have their places in the lesser propers of the mass, the introit, offertory, and commuion being processional antiphonal psalmody, and the gradual/resp. ps., and the Alleluya and verse being meditative responsorial psalmody which constitues an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word…


  14. Each form, then (Antiphonal and Resposorial [and there are others]) plays a distinctive role in the liturgy, to which role it is uniquely suited: action and movement = antiphonal singing, quiet meditation and listening = responsorial singing. It is unfortunate that even scholars of high repute have in their editions and collections turned nearly all the mass psalmody into that of the responsorial type. Introits, offertories, and communion are willie nillie turned from antiphonal to responsorial psalmody. This is a sad trend, and would seem to be motivated by the old, so old, notion that the people in the pews are daft and therefore couldn’t possibly handle antiphonal psalmody. So! We do away with it and turn the introit, psalm, alleluya, offertory and communion ALL into very very simple responsorial psalms. I shant name names here, but when even great scholars rid the mass of its repertory of antiphonal psalmody it is truly sad.

    Well, you might ask: how is one to sing antiphonal psalmody at the mass? Simple. Teach the people to sing verses to simple psalm tones in alternation with the choir or schola, or (liturgical) north and south sides of the nave in alternation, or men and women in alternation, or school children and adults in alternation, etc., etc.

    For instance then, at the introit choir+congregation might sing the antiphon, followed by choir=v. 1, congregation=v. 2, choir & congregation=antiphon… and so forth. The same form should be used for the offertory and communion antiphonal psalmody. These chants should not be turned into responsorial chants which belong at the Liturgy of the word. They should remain the active antiphonal psalmody that they historically were. People can do this if someone cares enough to teach them. They really are not daft.

    (And stop calling antiphons and responds ‘refrains’.
    This is chant… not carols or folk songs!)

  15. I’ve always enjoyed singing, and so joined a C of E church choir as a 14 year old, even though at that age I had no faith. Gradually the words and meaning of the hymns and canticles seeped into my mind and a basic faith began to form. At Uni I joined the chapel choir, psalms and a hymn were sung every morning as well as full Sunday services both Anglican and Protestant.

    Then I became a Catholic and listened, frustrated, to the rather feeble Gregorian choir. When the priest appealed for recruits for this group, I volunteered, only to be told that membership was not open to women. So my Catholic singing was effectually restricted to the Benediction hymns. Years of monotoning psalms with Poor Clares did nothing for my enjoyment, until suddenly we were allowed to sing in English at Mass in the 1960s. Since then I have taken every available opportunity to sing at worship services, because I want, indeed NEED, to have a part in the liturgy. For many years I was a member of my church choir where I was blessed with the opportunity to lead the responsorial psalm. I made the most of this privilege – I love the psalms and there are many good new settings. I loved being able to convey the sense of the psalm for the congregation.

    But when a new pp decreed that only word-exact versions of liturgical texts may be used, and expressed a strong preference for the dreary Missa de Angelis, I knew my choir days were over, and I reverted to attending the quick-fire early morning said Mass. Liturgy, the work of the People of God, surely should never be primarily a performance, either by the priest or by any music group. Liturgy has to belong to all of us, and should bring us play our part as best and as fully as we can. I will not ever again be silenced.

  16. I always thought very highly of the “compromise” that is in play at Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, TX:

    * Hymn for the Entrance procession
    * Introit (usually simple melody) while incensing the altar
    * Simple-melody offertory and communion antiphons (no verses)
    * Occasionally a hymn at the Offertory (esp. if there is a polyphonic Ordinary, but usually a choral anthem/motet here)
    * Thanksgiving hymn after Communion
    * Hymn at the end

    This gives 3-4 solid hymns at each Mass as well as the antiphon texts. In tandem with the amount of singing that happens anyway with the Ordinary and responses, it’s a liturgy very full of congregational singing, even as it also accommodates choral singing and prescribed introit/offertory/communion antiphons.

  17. I only have experience singing proper antiphons as a member of our Archdiocesan Choir. In a cathedral setting for large celebrations such as ordinations or major funerals, there is ample time for choral introits with congregational antiphons and also hymnody at any given point in the liturgy. On the parish level, I have used psalms with refrains, with verses sung by cantor/choir, using the psalm given in the RM.
    My issue is, as a parish music director, I have no idea where to look to find a listing of the proper antiphons and psalms for Entrance and Communion for Sundays, much less other occasions. Our hymnals and “big 3” music publishers give us nothing…not even an index. The antiphons which appear in the Roman Missal are not intended for singing, we have been told, and there is no official English translation of the Graduale Romanum. How do I even begin to find texts, much less music, which will unite my assembly with the universal church (in English)?
    By the way, I am attending the Colloquium, and, to respond to Charles Culbreath, it is indeed a gathering of devoted musicians, composers, and clergy, but hardly an ivory tower clique of “academic and aesthetic paragons”. There are diocesan directors of music and scholars, but the majority are ordinary parish music directors like me who work in the trenches and are mostly spending their own money to study and learn in depth. Together with Fr. Ruff’s outstanding presentations, our table discussions help us to explore the best practice for our local congregations and their cultures. Thank you, AWR and NPM!

  18. Fr., I regret that you thought my response was a rant meant to disrespect the event. My intent was to perhaps turn the prism of concerns towards aspects of your content issues that might otherwise miss reflection and attention. So, again, apologies for the misunderstanding.
    In that I, too, employ all three forms at the processions as comprehensively as possible, I have no “beef” with your subject matter being relevant. I was just positing two notions that surfaced in my mind’s eye that might receive short shrift under the constraints of the topics, but are of great concern to other musical constituencies and communities outside of the colloquium demographic.

      1. @Kevin Vogt – comment #24:

        I did attend this one, and the demographic was very mixed: grass-roots level parish music directors, NPM chapter directors, diocesan personnel, teachers, scholars, even a sprinkling of what a friend of mine describes as “chant maniacs” (though I did meet a couple of “hymn maniacs” too) …..

        The level of table discussion was mixed, as you would expect with such a cross-section of participants. Some was quite high-powered, some at a more basic level, and some (reported to me by friends at a couple of tables other than mine) as irrelevant.

        The inputs that I was present for (I left halfway through to go to the St Louis Composers’ Forum meeting) were meaty and excellent, and very well-received as far as I could tell. Thank you, Anthony.

        The only noticeable thing was the unicultural aspect: this was an essentially white Anglo gathering, with no discernible participation from Latino, African-American or Asian cultures. I suspect that for most of those constituencies antiphons and proper chants will not be a major preoccupation.

  19. To answer the question posed in the original post – most of the contemporary hymns are a chore for me. Much of the time they seem like a “broadway(esque)”interruption of the sacred liturgy. I prefer the propers and find myself participating more fully when the proper chant follows the entrance hymn & occurs before the offertory and communion hymns because it is then, to borrow a phrase,
    that I am singing the Mass rather than singing at Mass.

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