Non solum: The Christmas Proclamation

A Pray Tell reader writes:

Who sings or reads the announcement of the Feast of Christmas as part of their Christmas celebration? If you use it, how is it used (i.e. at the Hours or at Mass? Before Mass begins?)? And if you sing it, do you really try to hit that high F?


  1. This will be the first year we have included this at all of our Christmas liturgies. The lector will proclaim it before our gathering song. It should be a great addition to our celebrations.

  2. We chant it immediately before the midnight (at midnight) Mass begins, I have a bass with nice resonant voice chant it where ever he is comfortable, I don’t believe he reaches an F.

  3. I am quite looking forward to my son, a transitional deacon, chanting it tomorrow evening.

    Merry Christmas to all at PrayTell!

  4. That’s one small problem in adapting chant to modern notation, is that we assume the pitch has to be exact. The pitch is relative, so sing it at whatever pitch works – much better than altering the chant to avoid the high note, because that ascending 4th is so striking. Our cantor is an alto, so we are starting on an A, at the stroke of Midnight. That will provide a smooth pitch transition into the G major O Come all Ye Faithful. My understanding is that it is no longer permitted during the Mass.

  5. We have it after carols/readings that precede the (not Mid)Night Mass.
    Most recently it has been sung by a bass priest.
    He sings the new words to the solemn tone and I’m not sure where he pitches it but definitely no high F. When in the past we used the simple tone, it was sung down a tone at least.

    1. @Paul F. Ford – comment #4:
      Alas, my problem seems to be that wherever I start it I can’t reliably hit both the lowest note and the highest note (I guess I don’t quite have an octave in me). My plan is to go for D rather than F.

      I notice that in the recording on the NPM site the cantor has a noticeable pause before hitting the high F. I don’t know if that is for effect, or if he is gathering his resources.

  6. I have sung it, and hit the F; and sung it, and punted. We sang it off and on for a few years, but the past few years have done a choral anthem instead.

    I found it powerful to hear (when not the cantor worried about the F) proclaimed just before that Mass in the middle of the night, and that bursting forth “was born of the Virgin Mary” is wonderful (as long as the note is securely hit).

  7. I gave my cantor (a basso) the music (with the high F), told him to slap a bass clef on it with 4 sharps and he can practice to his heart’s content.

  8. The golden rule is that most people can comfortably manage an octave range from C to C. The average person would find it easiest to sing the reciting pitch of this one on G.

  9. Intoned it many times but in a much more elaborate setting than the one in the current Missal. It has normally been right before the Mass starts and the processional starts immediately.

    There really is no ‘F’ in traditional chant notation. Pitch continues to creep up. In Handel’s time it was down over one tone. I know groups that now tune at A = 446 to 448. It must be in a comfortable range.

    Since the arrival of the new pastor we don’t sing much of anything anymore.

    Interesting liturgical moment … the last time i intoned it, the guest choir had been singing carols before the service. As the candle bears and I entered the choir sang a rousing version of “Silver Bells” … sigh!

  10. I chant it every year! I do it right at the beginning of Midnight Mass (10:30 pm) and no changing the key for me. As a tenor that high F is what we vocalists call the “money note.”

    1. @Carlo Argoti – comment #14:
      As a baritone, that high F is what we call the “I’m finished singing for the night note!” I start on a G, peak at a C, using Paul’s movable ‘do’.

  11. I see problems of chronology in this thread, and in the divorce-remarriage thread.

    Here, Paul Ford’s comment, originally numbered #4, is now #7, comments ##4-6 having been inserted since he posted. This makes Fritz’s response, formerly #6 and now #9, confusing because he referenced Paul Ford’s reply at the time when it was still #4. #4 is now a quite different post by someone else.

    I assume that present comments ##4-6 were held up for moderation. When this happens, is there a way for Fritz’s post to be automatically updated with the new number?

    In the divorce-remarriage thread, a different problem: I would not have posted my response at all had I been able to see the response which now appears above it, which makes the same point. I assume it, too, was held up for moderation.

    Actually, the solution to all of these would for moderated comments to appear with the timing when they are released by the moderator onto the thread, not the time when they were originally received. Could our tech guy give us a New Year gift by making this change?

    And now, back to your regular Christmas programming…

  12. We sing it at the end of the carol service, before “Hodie Christus natus est” and the entrance hymn. Since we chant “Hodie” in F, though fully realizing the “no flats/sharps” edition is a modern answer to 4-line, one year I decided to match that anyway. This also humours the music director, who while otherwise sane says ‘the guy’s supposed to scream’. Hopefully I conveyed ‘breathless excitement’ rather than “uh-oh, needed a bigger breath before `was'”. So it’s a whole step down now.
    I add mild similar ornamentation of the two “peace” phrases and the end, based on the more elaborate version mentioned above. “Desiring to consecrate” gets a whole step up, because I’d missed the memo on ‘begotten… one in Being’ myself. “Ages beyond number” I leave alone: it wisely is reasonably independent of solid cosmological paradigms still testable on details, so does not need to be mumbled sotto voce to avoid Augustine’s concerns about scandal from Christians saying silly things about cosmology. Maybe the Virgin will be honored by a brief high F this year, depending on how the warmup goes.

  13. We do sing the Proclamation at the Midnight Mass (which is at Midnight). Remember that all pitches are relative. I lower it for my cantors so that they only have to sing a high D.

  14. I was called on to sing the Kalendas this year, and went up to D. The cantor (deacon?) at St. Peter’s this year got all the way up to… C#.

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