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Musical Musings: CNP Feedback

CNP Feedback - Holy Thursday

by Gary D. Penkala

The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proved quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians. From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.

Q. Dear CNP:

I'm a new music director looking for general ideas on programming music for Holy Thursday. Can you offer some help?

A. Dear Music Director:

The Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper marks the beginning of the Paschal Triduum. This is a three-day commemoration of the Lord's passion, death and resurrection. While the Triduum spans three days, it can easily be seen as ONE celebration. Note that the rubrics call for an Opening Song and Greeting on Holy Thursday. There is no Dismissal or Closing Song at the end of this Mass... the celebration seems to continue. The Commemoration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday (in the middle of the Triduum) has no Opening Song or Greeting, nor does it have a Dismissal or Closing Song. The Great Easter Vigil begins in darkness, without Opening Song or Greeting, but closes triumphantly with the Dismissal and double Alleluia of Easter and a festive Closing Song.

The music of Holy Thursday should emphasize its role as the beginning of the Triduum. A festive Opening Song (notice the white vestments, not violet or red) should be used that speaks of salvation and victory, rather than just Eucharist. "Lift High the Cross" is a perfect example, as are some of CanticaNOVA Publications' own pieces, like We Should Glory in the Cross (Penkala). Perhaps a simple chant Kyrie followed by a well-known congregational setting of the Gloria. During the singing, the church bells are rung and the organ accompanies the congregation (choir descant? trumpet obbligato?). After this, the organ should be turned off and remain silent until the Gloria of the Great Easter Vigil. The remainder of the music for Holy Thursday (as well as ALL for Good Friday, and everything until the Gloria of the Vigil) should be sung a cappella (without any accompaniment). For Holy Thursday, use a simple psalm refrain and Gospel acclamation. Choose a chant Mass (these sound wonderful a cappella) and simple acclamations. The organist or choir director should have a pitch pipe to secure the key for the choir, which leads the congregation.

"Ubi caritas" is suggested as the music during the Offertory Procession, although it also seems very appropriate during the Foot Washing. The Gregorian chant version of "Pange lingua" may be sung in Latin by a schola during the Procession with the Eucharist, alternating with the English verses sung by the congregation to the same melody.

Choral motets with themes of Eucharist and service are certainly appropriate during the Mass (Offertory, Communion). Refrain from any music at the end, after the procession and the Reposition.

For more information, look at these pages on the CNP website:

Holy Thursday: Liturgical Information

Holy Thursday: Musical Information

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