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Musical Musings: CNP Feedback

CNP Feedback - Sung General Intercessions

Q. Dear CNP:

I was just asked to consider singing the response to the General Intercessions at the Sunday Mass. If other responses are not sung, should these be sung?

Concerned Liturgist

A. Dear Concerned Liturgist:

I'm not sure what you're including in the "other responses" that are not being sung. At Sunday Mass, all the Eucharistic Acclamations (Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Amen) should always be sung, as should the Responsorial Psalm, the Gospel Acclamation, an Entrance Song and a Communion Song. When used, the Gloria is most often sung; likewise the Agnus Dei and perhaps the Lord's Prayer & its Doxology. A few parishes are even singing the Dialogues (Greeting, Preface Dialogue, Blessing/Dismissal) and rightly so! If your parish is not singing a good majority of the responses listed above ... then, no, you certainly should not consider singing the General Intercessions (or just the response). This is much further down "the list" than any of these other responses. Singing the General Intercessions while reciting the Sanctus is placing emphasis in the wrong spot.

If these musically "important" parts are already being sung, then it could be very effective to sing the General Intercessions on occasion [solemnities like Christmas & Easter, Advent, Lent or Holy Week]. My suggestion would be to sing the intercessions and response in Byzantine style. The intercession is chanted on one note (say G), ending with "...let us pray to the Lord." [the last 4 syllables, "...pray to the Lord," are sung on low D, F#, F#, G]. The response is traditionally, "Lord, have mercy," or "Lord, hear our prayer," sung on G, A, F#, G. This response is simple for the congregation and can easily be harmonized by the choir:

soprano: G, A, F#, G
alto: D, E, D, D
tenor: B, C, A, B
bass: G, low C, D, G

This arrangement can be found in some hymnals [see GIA's Worship-3rd Edition #240] and even missalettes. If you choose to sing the intercession texts, they must be brief, universal, and noble. "For our Holy Father and his mission to bring peace to the world, let us pray to the Lord," works. "For our Christian Mothers Guild, that they may find a new deep fat fryer for the Lenten Fish Fry to replace the one lost in the unfortunate kitchen fire last week, let us pray to the Lord," will only sound sillier if chanted.

I hope these suggestions are helpful.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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