Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Psalm Settings

I'm pretty sure I've written before about the difficulty in finding good Psalm settings for Mass. At my place of employment, they must be only the one approved translation (I know I've had discussions about this before with different ones of you who read this; I do not consider myself an expert, I only do what I'm told unless I have reasons to dispute it!)
I have had varying success occasionally using settings from another church in the city, but I have received complaints that some of them are "too contemporary/modern" sounding. (I wish people knew how to describe music better! I suspect they complain more when I do the exact same setting on the keyboard rather than the organ!) The settings are also somewhat difficult to teach someone to sing who doesn't read music, since all the verses are a little different, so I usually just sing them.
One solution I regularly use is the Psalms in "Respond and Acclaim" by OCP. While they are accused of being boring or not having a melody that "goes anywhere," how much can you really do with an 8-word sentence (also that you hope the congregation can remember how to sing after only hearing once--brevity IS the key here!)
But my main complaint with these settings is what seems to me an excessive use of the minor mode "Taste and see the goodness of the hoo hoo..." so for the past couple weeks I have been simply playing the minor mode ones in major, and they sound great! There is usually an interesting modal cross-over thingy that actually can sound really cool depending on how I sharp the 7th, and is what makes the setting listen-able!


totustuusmaria said...

I think the reason why I hated the organ all my growing up years was that my only experience of it was going to parishes other than St. C. and hearing the most absolutely boring Psalm Responses imaginable song loudly over a microphone by a man with a nasily voice. It was only when I got older and heard the same horrible Psalm responses accompanied by the guitar that I realized it wasn't the fault of the organ.

Unfortunately, I dion't know of any fully satisfying Gregorian sounding Psalm responses, and all the "traditional" ones grate on my nerves because of their horrible sweet-music sounds. I found I like the Psalm responses when I go home to St. C., otherwise, I'd just as soon have the gradual. In fact, I'd much rather have the gradual.

There is such a poverty of good Psalm settings, that most often the Psalm response is more torturous to me than worshipful.

Pardon my scorn. I feel like the Psalm response is something of a thorn in today's liturgy. It could be so good, if it were just true art.

Gavin said...

I somewhat regularly use the Gelineau collection. Those are mostly good, but there's some I couldn't learn to sing in a month!

What you REALLY ought to try is Jeff Tucker's style of just adapting a psalm tone. Trust me, it seems deadly dull but it REALLY DOES WORK! I sometimes even use the Meinrad tones, and some of those can create nice antiphons.

Cantor said...

I also use the Gelineau collection, but more “regularly” than “somewhat regularly”. Of course, the issue there is that Mara’s pastor doesn’t believe the psalm translation (1963 Grail) used for the Divine Office can licitly be used at Mass. I say that with some irony, but that is apparently the truth.

Resp. psalms are a tough problem. They created this enormous body of psalm texts for the Lectionary, but didn’t provide for any real means of singing those texts.

One option is to use seasonal responsorial psalms, or seasonal responses to proper psalm verses.

I also use Guimont a lot. It kinda wears on me, and some of them are inching toward “dreadful”, but there are some nice ones, too, esp. the Christmas midnight and Isaiah 12.

Anonymous said...

Besides thsoe mentioned here already (I use the Guimont when they are in the hymnal, but nearly always find myself changing a single note in the verse tone or the accompaniment that seems inserted arbitrarily to sound "unexpected.)
I have usually sung them to psalm tones, and my experience is that there is no "dullness" (except perhaps for the cantor or organist, and frankly that doesn't matter,) but instead an intense focus on the WORDS, and thus, on the Word.
Congregations sing them like mad, and there are ways, beside the fact that there are 8 different tones (+ peregrinus,) to vary them. Accompanied, unaccompanied, in a kind of faux organum, over a pedal tone...
And Celebrating the Liturgy, the disposable from Litpress has the correct lectionary psalm set to a psalm tone, so there doesn't have to be any work involved, (although I wish the verses were pointed better.)
And of course there are the Chabanel psalter, I've had good luck with them, good response and participation.
And, shhh, don't tell the copyright police, but I got this idea on the internet -- there are Celebration Series psalms that our people love, so instead of directing them to a page in the hymnal, I direct them to the correct words in the missallette, and write out those correct words to the familiar tune for the cantor, give it a chant "feel," and have the cantor sing the verses to a psalm tone.)

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