For this new series, a few preliminary words concerning the Psallite project, published by Liturgical Press. The original core collection, issued in three volumes for the three years of the Lectionary cycle, was a collaborative enterprise by five composers working together, and consists of an Entrance antiphon and psalm (“Song for the Table”), a responsorial psalm (“Song for the Word”), and a Communion antiphon and psalm (“Song for the Table”) for every Sunday and major feastday of the three-year cycle. Subsequent collections in the same style provided a comprehensive Mass setting, music for RCIA, and bilingual music for weddings and funerals.
The music is primarily vocal and can be sung unaccompanied, although keyboard accompaniments, guitar chords, vocal descants and choir parts are provided. Occasionally, instead of a psalm, the antiphon will be joined with an Old Testament or New Testament canticle.
A feature of the Psallite project is the “Gospel Communion.” As the preface to each volume puts it, “The Song for the Table, which is the heart of Psallite, takes its texts and themes from the Liturgy of the Word, especially from the gospel of the day, transformed into processional music. People will now experience that the promises God made in his Word are fulfilled in the body and blood of Christ.” The music is specifically designed to be sung while walking in procession, and was tested out with this in mind during the composing sessions!
January 1: Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
On January 1, the Roman Missal antiphon runs “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” Despite the Marian nature of the feast, it is entirely fitting that at the “hinge” between an old calendar year and a new one we should focus on the Son of God as the unchanging center of our lives. The antiphon was rendered more poetically and with greater theological “punch” in the 1998 ICEL Antiphonal as “Jesus Christ is the same today / as yesterday and for evermore” — which the Psallite composers adapted slightly for musical reasons. The antiphon could in fact be sung over and over again as an ostinato, symbolizing the “eternity” aspect of the text, aided by the continuously oscillating false relation between a B flat in the accompaniment and descant to measure 2 and a B natural in the melody of measure 4.
The 2012 Antiphonary of the Roman Missal provides the Lucan Magnificat text for verses to go with this antiphon, citing the Graduale Romanum where, however, it is linked with the Marian antiphon “Rejoice, Daughter of Sion”. The Psallite composers preferred one of the other options in the 1998 Antiphonal: Colossians 1:12-20, which really complements the antiphon and additionally has strong resonances of the opening of John’s Gospel, recently heard at Christmas.