Having a go…

With the new Roman Missal in my hand, and also with the Processional Book prepared by the Society of St Gregory for the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, I decided to have a go at writing some music for the Communion Antiphon for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time when I am next cantoring at my local parish. I used the first antiphon from the missal and Psalm 20 (19) from the Revised Grail for the verses.

Tell me what you think. It isn’t supposed to be high art, or Gregorian chant, and honestly, I am not much of a musician let alone a composer. It is supposed to be easily singable by a parish not too interested in music while they go to communion.

UPDATE: I took this into Paul Taylor at our Office for Worship this morning and he had a bit of a play with it, altering the timing of the antiphon at one point and changing some of the chords. I like how it sounds now, so here are the new files (thanks Paul!):

Communion Antiphon for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time PDF Score

Communion Antiphon for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time MP3 file

Communion Antiphon for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Midi File

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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15 Responses to Having a go…

  1. Tony says:

    Well I’m a candidate for your criteria, David — not in the sense that I’m not interested but in the sense that my musical ability is pretty rudimentary — and I could follow the music with the midi file. My only concern is that I had to imagine it sung with joy, given that’s the theme, but I assume that’s because a midi file doesn’t offer much ‘colour’. I think it will work. Well done (I never underestimate how difficult simplicity is!).

  2. matthias says:

    And is that the parish you call home or the parish that makes you feel at home,because if it is the latter I shall be there

  3. Jim Ryland says:

    Sorry David… two thumbs down. It is the same old “ear-wash”, more suited for the music in the lift and waiting rooms than for the Mass. I also agree with Tony; where’s the joy?

    I have trouble with the idea of congregational song during the communion. It destroys the meditative nature of the moment when you have to juggle hymnals instead of being deep in thoughtful prayer. Good communion music can certainly enhance the moment but that’s what the choir, organist, motets & anthems, and chant are for.

    • Schütz says:

      Well, i didn’t promise much. I’m not a composer, let alone a musician. I just sang this psalm to myself with that melody and then tried to write down what I had sung. My aim is not to overwhelm with artistry at this point but simply to provide a way of singing the antiphon.

      On the joy thing, maybe i just got the midi too slow. Or don’t you think that minor chords can be “joyful”?

      On singing at communion: the rubrics say that the Communion Chant is sung. It doesn’t say by whom. The use of a responsorial psalm as the communion song is defensible precisely on the grounds that it DOESN’T require any one to hold a hymnbook – there is a simple refrain for the people to sing and the cantor does the rest.

    • Schütz says:

      And i don’t know what kind of “ear wash” you are blessed to hear in your part of the world, Jim, but i was simply trying to come up with something more apprpriate for a Catholic mass than Kevin Bate’s “Take of my bread and eat”! Judgments usually depend on what you are comparing them to.

  4. Stephen K says:

    David, I’ve just looked at the pdf and sung it to myself and, as someone who also attempts to compose simple psalm tunes and adapt singable English to Gregorian chant melodies, I thought it good. It will certainly be easy to pick up and has the merit of being simple and regular with no key and tempo shifts, which is essential for congregations to learn and be willing to have a go. (The downfall of many modern songs is that I think composers try to be too “clever” and mistake difficulty for richness, when it is just difficult!)

    So, good on you!

    • Schütz says:

      Thanks, Stephen. I’ve done a few changes to it, taking Paul Taylor’s advice, and I’ve upped the tempo considerably in the recordings (I think that is why Tony and Jim thought it was “joyless” – when Paul played it on the piano, it seemed very bright and cheerful). You have understood exactly what I am trying to do – not be clever (that’s okay – I am not capable of being musically clever anyway!), don’t spring any surprises or tempo shifts (I got rid of the one timing oddity in the refrain).

      I also have another objective. I think that when we sing non-metrical music, it works best if we pick up the melody and rhythm from the way in which we would normally intone the words when speaking. That is what I have tried to do with the Communion antiphon in this case. If you say it to yourself, and then sing the Antiphon as I have written it, you will see what I mean.

  5. John Nolan says:

    You can certainly be joyful in the minor mode, as shown by the last movement of Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ symphony. Yours is an attractive melody, with a rather drooping, wistful quality about it; repetition might make it cloy in a way that Gregorian melodies never do, but to which Taize chants are notoriously prone. A lot depends on the accompaniment – a discreet organ accompaniment, or better still a string quartet, adding some counterpoint to the falling fourths and fifths would be ideal. Strummed guitar chords would make it sound trite, but then again they would make anything sound trite.

    • Schütz says:

      I’m not much good at accompaniments, having never learned the theory. If you can please show me how to do something a little more interesting than strummed guitar chords (I am rather basing my style of accompaniment on Gelineau) then I would be most grateful.

  6. John Nolan says:

    David, I’m no good at accompaniments either, and never studied keyboard or harmony (I used to play the clarinet, and now study and sing Gregorian chant). It was just that reading your melody my mind’s ear supplied a counterpoint. I’m sure that any half-competent organist could supply one! In any case, there will be no improvement in liturgical music until guitars are banished from church.

    Although it is desirable that the Propers be sung, the last thing we want is an explosion of musical ‘creativity’ in this regard, with individual parishes doing their own thing. If I turn up to sing at a Latin Mass (EF or OF) I know that I shall be singing the Propers as found in the Liber Usualis and Graduale Romanum, composed before the end of the ninth century and disseminated throughout Western Europe without the aid of musical notation (the earliest neumed manuscripts date from the tenth century and don’t indicate pitch). The new missal chants for the Ordinary are Gregorian and more or less interchangeable with the Latin. They are in modern notation (a pity) although the square note version can be downloaded free. Propers, even if sung in English, can and should be based on Gregorian models. Ideally they should be sung unaccompanied. Few organists nowadays know how to accompany Chant, anyway.

    • Schütz says:

      I don’t entirely agree, John. There is no reason why musical forms developed in the 9th and 10th Centuries should be the only forms for the (Western) Church for all time. After all, as Fr Neuhaus used to say, we might still be in the “Early Church”! The thing is that, of all the forms of music in the 9th and 10th Century (and I am sure Gregorian Chant was not the only one), Gregorian Chant lasted. It had a permanent quality, and this is what recommends it for use even today. I see it as entirely possible that a new form of music might have equal staying power (the metrical hymn has done fairly well over the last three or four hundred years), and might equally recommend itself for future centuries. It’s just that not much of the stuff around at the moment (for eg, my little tune given in this post) is of that quality. Part of our difficulty with stable music is, of course, stable texts, and you can’t get sung music that lasts for centuries if the text changes all the time. That was the benefit, of course, of the Latin…

  7. John Nolan says:

    David, I take your point, but the Propers were not usually given new musical settings, except those pertaining to the Requiem Mass. There are polyphonic Propers by Byrd and others, written at a time when Chant was very debased, its natural rhythms destroyed to fit in with ‘modern’ notions. They are still occasionally sung, usually by choirs who are trained in polyphony but can’t do Chant.

    Both SC and the GIRM stress that Chant should be given first place as being proper to the Roman liturgy, without ruling out other forms, especially sacred polyphony. It is also the fons et origo of all western music of the second millennium, both sacred and secular, which is arguably the greatest artistic achievement of mankind.

    Not long ago I attended a Mass (in retrospect I wish I had stayed at home) where paraphrases of the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei were all sung to the same unbelievably trite melody, repeated twice in each case. Yet this drivel is published in a widely-used hymn book and the composer/arranger has stuck his monicker on it. Has he no shame? Compared with this, your effort is Mozart.

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