About the Collection
This is a collection of congregational communion antiphons for the liturgical year, composed by Jared Ostermann and in weekly use at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Sioux Falls, SD since 2014. The goal of this collection is to provide at least one proper communion antiphon suitable for congregational singing, for each Sunday and major feast or solemnity of the year. The psalm verses may be sung by cantor or choir, in unison or in SATB harmony. In accordance with GIRM ⁋87, the antiphons are taken from the Graduale Romanum and from the Roman Missal. In some cases multiple options are provided for the same day, taken from both the Graduale and Roman Missal, or from the multiple options within the Roman Missal, or corresponding to different years (AB or C) of the lectionary cycle. The language for both antiphons and psalm verses is English. In those cases where the Graduale antiphon is used, but no official English translation exists (i.e. there is no equivalent Roman Missal text), the translation is taken from the New American Bible or the Revised Grail Psalms (where the antiphon is a direct scriptural quotation), or the Gregorian Missal for Sundays, published by Solesmes monastery. Wherever possible, the psalm or scripture paired with the antiphon has been chosen based on the directions given in the Graduale. In other cases (such as Roman Missal antiphons with no equivalent and thus no psalm pairing instructions in the Graduale) the psalm chosen generally matches the psalm that the antiphon quotes or paraphrases. In a few cases, where there is no instruction or clear psalm pairing available, I have chosen the psalm verses myself. The psalm translation is the Revised Grail. Non-psalm verses are taken from the New American Bible.
The Church’s twentieth-century liturgical documents include many appeals for a greater participation of the faithful in the music of the liturgy. While hymns, spiritual songs, and other freely-chosen texts can be used for this purpose, the greater ideal is that the faithful will sing the official liturgical texts. The 1967 document Musicam sacram, for example, notes that in addition to singing the Ordinary of the Mass, “It is desirable that the assembly of the faithful should participate in the songs of the Proper as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings” (⁋33). While the Responsorial Psalm is a Proper chant that has been widely and successfully implemented, the Proper antiphons for the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion processions have proved much less approachable. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal for the United States notes that the first option for the chant at the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion processions is “the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting…”, (⁋48, ⁋74, ⁋87). The challenge is that there are no official musical settings of the Roman Missal antiphons. In addition, the musical settings in the Graduale Romanum require advanced skill in reading and singing chant notation, and are beyond the grasp of the congregation. If the congregation is to be drawn more fully into singing the official texts of the Mass (rather than merely singing other freely-chosen songs at Mass), new Proper compositions are needed. This collection of antiphons is an attempt to bridge the gap between existing repertoire and the ideals of congregational singing in the Mass. From another perspective, these antiphons allow for the Proper to accompany the entire communion procession (or a significant portion thereof), rather than being relegated to a brief musical statement before or after a communion hymn.
As is the case with any composition intended for congregational use, the challenge is always to maintain a suitable balance between simplicity and musical interest. In addition, a balance has to be achieved in many cases between the full richness of the antiphon text, and an abbreviated text suitable for a repeated antiphon (presumably, an antiphon sung by congregants processing to and from communion without a music book or liturgy guide in hand). The proper musical and textual balance will also depend somewhat on the ability, size, and disposition of the congregation itself. With all of this in mind, I have attempted to provide settings that will be accessible to a typical congregation - without sacrificing too much in terms of musicality or textual content. These antiphons have worked well in our parish over the past 4-5 years, and I offer them publicly in hopes that they can be useful in other places as well.
Generally speaking, these antiphons should be sung in the same manner as a responsorial psalm - that is, with the antiphon sung once by cantor or choir, then repeated by the congregation. The verses are then sung, with a repeat of the antiphon after each psalm verse.
To use the psalm tone for the verses:
Each psalm tone has four measures, made up of an initial reciting tone, one or two moving notes, and a final note. These usually correspond to the four lines of a psalm text. In cases where there are fewer than four lines of text, instructions for which measures to sing are given at the top of each psalm tone. In cases where there are more than four lines of text, some lines of text will end with a cross symbol. This indicates that the entire line is sung on the initial, reciting tone of the corresponding measure. There is a pause at the end of the line (where the cross symbol is), and the next line continues on the same reciting tone. The 'moving syllable' of each text line is underlined and bolded. On the moving syllable, move from the reciting tone to the first moving note. Continue with one syllable per note, placing any "extra" syllables on the final note of the measure.
A note on the markings in the verse texts:
The verse texts themselves may appear strange at first, as they are broken up with vertical lines throughout the text. Cantors may disregard these symbols - they are instructions to the choir regarding the grouping of syllables. As any conductor knows, when dealing with a group of singers and a long line of text sung on a tone, it is usually difficult to keep the group together on the text - at least, if one is attempting to sing the text artfully. Even if the musical material is simple, each line of text often has to be practiced and marked up - which takes valuable rehearsal time. This rhythmic notation system (the idea for which I am happy to say I stole from Anglican service books) is a shortcut to effective group psalm-tone singing.
The vertical lines divide the text into groups of 1, 2, or 3 syllables. The conductor should provide one beat per group of syllables to keep the text moving in a natural way (i.e. in keeping with the way the text would be spoken). The tilde (~) symbol counts as one syllable, and allows the following (sung) syllable to be felt as an upbeat to the next syllable group. It will take some time for a choir to navigate both the textual rhythm and the melodic contour of the psalm verses simultaneously. I recommend speaking the text as a group, with conductor, to become comfortable with the textual rhythm notation, then adding unison singing of the melody of the psalm refrain. Only move to SATB singing once the first two steps are mastered and intuitive. While there is a learning curve to this system, the long-term advantage is that the choir will be able to sight-read new psalm and liturgical texts (of varying lengths and content), while staying completely together in enunciating the text. With my choir, we spent the first year with these settings just singing the unison melody of the psalm tones. Now, we are able to sing the verses SATB each week, without using up any rehearsal time. This is a valuable skill, with many liturgical applications beyond the psalm verses at communion.