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Musical Musings: CNP Feedback

CNP Feedback - Closing Song?

by Gary D. Penkala

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:

Concerning the hymn sung by the congregation after the final blessing at celebration of Holy Mass: is it incorrect to have the congregation sing a hymn after the final blessing and dismissal? I have noticed this at various churches.

Singing the Coda.

A. Dear Singing:

You've uncovered a very interesting idiosyncrasy in the Mass as generally celebrated in the U.S. At Masses in most countries in Europe (at least at every Mass that I've been to or seen on TV) the congregation does not sing what we in this country call a "Closing Song." The reason is simple — there is no mention whatsoever of a song after the blessing and dismissal in the Roman Rite. In the Sacramentary, Mass ends with "Ite missa est / Deo gratias" ("The Mass is ended... / Thanks be to God").

This, however, seems a rather abrupt way to end Mass, with just a short spoken (or even sung) acclamation. In Europe, the people usually exit to a rousing organ recessional after their acclamation, which closes Mass nicely. In the U.S. (perhaps borrowed from Protestant sources), a "Closing Song" is added to end the celebration, often followed by an organ postlude.

Either of these options is an addendum to the Mass, and both seem to work well to close the liturgy. I do have a problem, though, with the congregation thinking there must be a final song (as if they had a "right" to it). Throughout the year, both options should be used (with the organ-recessional-without-closing-song option being suitably explained). We often use this latter option during Eastertide, when a fast and furious organ recessional is right in keeping with the joyful spirit of the season.

There's nothing really "incorrect" about singing a Closing Song -- and while it's not specified in the rubrics, neither is an organ recessional. I really don't think a quiet exit is in keeping with the spirit of the liturgy at that point (except perhaps on Palm Sunday, or on Holy Thursday and Good Friday when it's specifically called for). When a Closing Song is chosen to end Mass, it should be respected, however. It's quite rude to leave church before the hymn is finished ... it's also amazing how many rude people fill (and empty) the pews in our churches!

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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