Attende Domine

crown of thornsWhen the parish music committee convened last month, it was mostly students (for whatever reason). The unanimous choice for Lent was the plainchant “Attende Domine.” I’ve been thinking about introducing it for at least a decade. So it was a pleasant surprise the committee leaped in, even without my input.

Ralph Wright’s translation is in our hymnal. Over the years, I’ve had success with very simple Lent entrances: “Parce Domine” in my current parish, and “Grant To Us, O Lord” in my previous one. Quite often, we’ve used verses based on the Lenten “gathering” antiphons to extend the pieces just enough to cover the procession.

I’ve had a bit of blowback about a parishioner-composed Mass we implemented in Advent. The surprising comment is that it lacks joy. But what I’ve noticed is that over the past two months, it’s decidedly repetitive. Maybe familiarity is breeding. Ash Wednesday plus five Sundays is a long stretch of time. We’ll see how the piece works for us this year.

I’ve set eight additional verses of “Attende Domine” to the chant melody–somewhat based on the antiphons, and others based on Scriptures used in the Liturgy of the Hours. On Ash and Lent 1, we’ll probably announce the number. But usually for these situations, the start of the music and procession signal people to stand and listen and then repeat after the songleader.

Anybody else have liturgical fruitfulness with this approach: the one piece for entrance?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Attende Domine

  1. Interesting timing, synchronicity maybe, as I am basing my current music curriculum in the school on Lenten music, with chant in Latin as a new Lenten discipline. ATTENDE DOMINE was my first example, and every class down to the 2nd took it up quite handily. I provided them with a few clues, such as how the last phrase, Quia peccavimus…., has the high Do to So to Re interval, with the Re being the hard one to aquire. I’ve helped them hear that Re as the momentum from pec- to “ca”, and they nail the interval. We’ve also done “Parce” this week with equal success.

    • Todd says:

      As always, I find older singers get hung up on the language. After 4-5 years, there’s still resistance here and there on Latin. People want to get it right. The music itself is easy.

      • Liam says:


        A humorous aside: Perhaps you’ve heard the hoary old choral director advice for such situations: Just have them mouth “wa ter mel on” silently while stronger, surer singers carry the burden.

        (As opposed to real choral director advice for sopranos for the high alleluias in Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus: Sing “Hah-deh-DOO-yah”; that I’ve encountered several times…)

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