Tuesday, February 03, 2009

planning liturgical music

Planning the music for Mass used to be one of my favorite things to do. In fact, that is probably the most common question I get when people first hear my job; "So does that mean you get to plan all the music?"

the power!

But lately, especially the more I learn and read about what the Church directs the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to be like...I find that nothing I do is quite correct.

I read the English translations in the Gregorian Missal of the proper antiphons for the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion, and I could try and pick hymns that match those at each of those spots. Trouble is, there aren't many hymns that match. Or for example, take the Communion for 2nd Sunday of Lent: "Tell no one about the vision you have seen until the Son of Man has risen from the dead."
talk about random. No, there's not really any hymns that "match that."

Otherwise, I could try and find the "theme" of Mass for that day. My liturgy planning aids from various large Catholic music publishers give me such helpful hints as "Images of light are common to both sets of Gospel readings. X Y and Z are obvious musical choices that can be incorporated into Year B and RCIA liturgies today."

OR I could take the route of opening my hymnal to the "Lent" section, and randomly distributing the 8 or so acceptable song choices throughout the 5 Sundays of Lent.

I'm supposed to be planning Lent music right now, that's why I'm thinking about this.

In fact, besides planning music as used to be being one of my favorite things to do, Lent songs and particularly Holy Week songs are among my favorites for the year!

But this is just getting...frustrating.
(however, at the 10:30 Mass, I do incorporate both the English Entrance Antiphon, Proper Offertory verse, and Communion chant, so technically I don't have to worry about those proper texts.)

but besides that, it's just difficult. WHICH of those three routes should I go?
I think during Ordinary Time I tend to look more at the the proper texts, but for seasons like Lent I pretty much just distribute the 8 Lent songs among the Sundays, heh heh.


Cantor said...

You can meet the Gregorian communion propers “halfway” and do the same psalms that the Graduale recommends. For 2nd Lent, I believe it’s Psalm 27, so if someone has been clamoring for Haas “The Lord is My Light”, there you go.

For the 4th Sunday of Lent, try using Psalm 122, since it shows up in the entrance and, depending on the Lectionary cycle, the communion as well.

Psalm 42 can be used for the 3rd Sunday in year A and at RCIA Masses; it also could kinda-sorta work for 5th Sunday, since the introit is from Psalm 43, which is (IIRC) basically a continuation of Psalm 42.

Gavin said...

I had written something on this SOMEWHERE in the forum... good luck finding it now :P I'll try to give my "guide" as I remember it:

1) First choose hymns which match the propers. In some cases it's easy (there's actually a Christmas hymn "Sing oh sing this blessed morn, unto us a child is born..."). There are other, less obvious solutions. For example, no, there's no hymn to correspond to "visionem". But any hymn which specifically related to the story of the Transfiguration will do, such as "Tis Good Lord to be Here".

1a) When that fails, consider the source of the proper text. Is it from a penitential psalm? Then perhaps a penitential hymn would work.

1b) Or equally good is to consider the spirit of the text. The "visionem" text speaks of Jesus hiding his Godhood until the proper time... and it's at communion... hmmm... "Adoro Te"! Especially if you sing "Godhead here in hiding". Subtle, but it gives the same effect.

2) If you can't use anything at all related to the propers, then look to the readings AS WELL AS the collects, propers, and other changing parts. What do these say? If they have a unity of theme, find something to correspond with it. If you find them sharing lines or emphases with hymns, then use the hymn.

3) Still not getting enough? NOW you start pulling out random hymns of the season. NOTE: An overall season does NOT have the same emphasis throughout!! For example, the first two weeks of Advent are usually very much about the Second Coming, while the last two are more about the Incarnation. VERY different music should be selected for these!! And plan wisely, you don't want to program "Forty Days and Forty Nights" because it's a random hymn and not be able to use it with the readings about the fasting because you had used it for the previous week!

4) FINALLY, as a last resort, fill in any missing "slots" with hymns of a general or ritual nature. Communion hymns at communion, hymns of thanksgiving after Mass, etc.