PS 42: Music for Triduum

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check the full document Paschale Solemnitatis on this site, among many on the internet.

After some short sections the past few days, we pastoral  musicians get a nice juicy one in PS 41:

42. The chants of the people and also of the ministers and the celebrating priest are of special importance in the celebration of Holy Week and particularly of the Easter Triduum, because they add to the solemnity of these days, and also because the texts are more effective when sung.

I know: you musicians reading are saying “Of course they are more effective.” But we have to sing and lead it well ourselves.

Bishops are asked to provide music for these important moments. Publishers have mostly done the trick on this, at least in the US. If a parish isn’t already singing these, they could be planning now for 2016:

The episcopal conferences are asked, unless provision has already been made, to provide music for those parts which should always be sung, namely:
a) The general intercessions of Good Friday; the deacon’s invitation and the acclamation of the people;
b) chants for the showing and veneration of the cross;
c) the acclamations during the procession with the paschal candle and the Easter proclamation, the responsorial “Alleluia”, the Litany of the Saints, and the acclamation after the blessing of water.

How does your music ministry fare on this list? Remember, these items should always be sung. That means a priority above other things, especially any special music chosen for the choir alone. The singing of the people is indeed a priority, even if a musical setting of a given text is unavailable:

Since the purpose of sung texts is also to facilitate the participation of the faithful they should not be lightly omitted; such texts should be set to music. If the text for use in the liturgy has not yet been set to music, it is possible as a temporary measure to select other similar texts which are set to music.

I would interpret this as a setting of a piece already known to a faith community. Not an alternative that is deemed nicer or more cool.

Just a side note on c) above … many years ago, I employed multiple acclamations with the Exsultet. I’m thinking this was an initiative I shouldn’t have set aside. Even with good singers, that long proclamation can lose energy and verve. Singing for several minutes is quite demanding on both singer and listeners.

A second grouping of musical moments, once that first set above is down pat:

It is, however, fitting that there should be a collection of texts set to music for these celebrations, paying special attention to:
a) chants for the blessing and procession of palms, and for the entrance into church;
b) chants to accompany the procession with the gifts on Holy Thursday in the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and hymns to accompany the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose;
c) the responsorial psalms at the Easter Vigil, and chants to accompany the sprinkling with blessed water.

I wouldn’t disagree with these priorities as they are listed. A parish not doing many of these might take two to three years to uncover the best settings their musicians can muster.

Finally, the Passion narrative, the Exsultet itself, and the blessing of water at the Vigil. These are all solo pieces, and appropriately, rank below the two sets of priorities above. Of course, if a community has clergy that sing, these don’t have to wait:

Music should be provided for the Passion narrative, the Easter proclamation, and the blessing of baptismal water; obviously the melodies should be of a simple nature in order to facilitate their use.

For people who already have their act together (so to speak) Rome offers a caution about choirs usurping the role of the people:

In larger churches where the resources permit, a more ample use should be made of the Church’s musical heritage, both ancient and modern, always ensuring that this does not impede the active participation of the faithful.

Whew! That’s a lot on Triduum music. Surely there are comments on this.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to PS 42: Music for Triduum

  1. charlesincenca says:

    As the recent turn of events in Philadelphia have demonstrated, having one’s “act together” still depends upon from whose perspective one makes that assessment. And, of course, the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” portions quoted above about conferences providing the necessary chants for the intercessions, venerations etc., depend mightily upon the initiative and cooperation of bishop to pastor to musician towards securing a worship “aide” that actually contain the items listed. OCP (and I’m not a hater) fails miserably in satisfying the requirements of PS as you noted. The ambiguous tension between your last two cited passages likely would cause a “newbie” DMM consternation if not bi-polarism if, for no other reason, the pulp missal doesn’t specify chanting the Passion (which also doesn’t require clergy, but that’s another document), the Passion chant is, in fact, simple to execute well, so where to find a “simpler version?” And your admonishment of the last paragraph cited regarding “usurping” FCAP seems self-contradictory if you limit FCAP to actuosa. Todd, honestly, do you really think that every single soul must be provided some sort of means to vocally enjoin the singing of “O vos omnes?”
    Like I’ve said a couple of times, maybe someone ought to start a guild where the single guiding preposition is “We are not an either/or enterprise, we are a both/and endeavor.”

    • Todd says:

      I have no comment on Philadelphia. But generally, I will say that the strongest leadership in the basket asserts itself, more or less in alignment with directives as the people know or imagine them. PS offers an ideal. Most places are still getting there.

      A music director relying on a single source (be it OCP or CC Watershed) will always be found wanting. No single source an be expected to satisfy totally.

      And you know that I can advocate both/and while rejecting the fussbudgetry of reform2 on participation. The whole actual/actuosa thingie holds no water for me. Give the people lots to sing–that doesn’t mean everything–and generally, it means no impediments, as the CDWDS cites here.

  2. Liam says:

    Regarding the Exsultet: I would not want to see more acclamations. That would tend to turn it into a misbeggoten litany or hymn, rather than what it is in historical form: an anaphora. Moreover, it’s the only anaphora that gets to be led by someone who is not a priest or a bishop. (You may ask, what is being offered and sacrificed in this anaphora? Answer: the waxen Paschal Candle.)

  3. Pingback: Rehash | Catholic Sensibility

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