CNP Feedback -
A Proper Introduction
The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven 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 have a question regarding the introduction of the Propers to my congregation.
During Advent and on Christmas Eve, I am having our choir/cantors sing some of the Communios from the Graduale simplex and Graduale Romanum and your Mass Propers for Advent.
I don't think the congregation or the priests are quite ready for the Introit as intended.
Would it be "OK" from a liturgical point of view to use the Proper Introit as a prelude, as a means of introduction?
Any thoughts are welcome.
N. Troy Tintro
A. Dear Troy:
When a vast (but thankfully diminishing) majority of Catholic parishes in the U.S. are singing dated, sub-standard musical styles from the 1970s, the use of Propers in any form is a welcome change.
By all means, do as you suggest!
Here are some ideas that parishes are using to introduce the "sound" of the Introits to congregations.
- Have the choir sing an Introit in place of a choir "anthem" or "motet."
These are beautiful, historical settings of psalm verses that have a specific relationship to a particular Mass.
As Gregorian chant goes, they're of medium difficulty — harder than the Communios but easier than the Graduals.
Choirs should learn at least one Introit per season, simply as a repertoire piece, if nothing else.
Each year, add a different Sunday, and in a few years, you'll have all the Introits under your belt.
And don't overlook teen and children's choirs — Latin has a particular fascination for them these days!
- Sing the Proper Introit as the Prelude music for Mass, either after or instead of the organ prelude.
- At solemn Masses, particularly when incense is used at the beginning, sing both an Introit and a hymn at the opening Procession.
You can chant the Introit as the ministers (and schola?) process to the altar, singing a hymn during the incensation.
Or reverse the order and open with a hymn, saving the Introit for the incensation.
- Use the Introit as "walking music" in places where the congregation normally wouldn't consider singing a hymn.
- At the procession that opens solemn Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer
- To lead the family and friends to the font during a Baptism
- To begin Tenebrae
- To open sung Compline (Night Prayer) as part of a Penitential Service
- Anywhere else that the organist might have been invited to play something to get the priest or people from one place to another
- During Eastertide, why not sing the Introit during the Procession, leaving a full hymn for during the Sprinkling Rite?
That avoids having so much congregational music at the beginning of Mass.
The other order makes sense, too: start with a hymn and sing the Introit during the Sprinkling, followed by a congregational Gloria.
- Alternate weeks, chanting the Introit one week and a singing a hymn (or better yet, a hymn based on the Introit text) the next.
- Work the congregation into singing the Introit text: a refrain can be chanted in Latin or English, using a Gregorian psalm tone or a Meinrad-style tone; psalm verses and a doxology are easily sung between repetitions of this refrain.
- Wouldn't it be wonderful for the Schola to chant the Proper Introit, and afterwards, with the sacred ministers in the sanctuary, for all to sing the English translation of it, using a modal psalm tone that matches the Introit!
These ideas have great merit and may have the outcome of leading the clergy and congregation into accepting a sung Introit as a perfectly legitimate option for opening Mass, either occasionally or on a regular basis.
There's no questioning the rubrical validity of opening Mass with a chanted Gregorian Introit — our battle will always be to educate clergy and congregations who falsely claim "pastoral insensitivity" when this format is used.