Cantibus Inter Lectiones

General Preface

The liturgical reforms of the 1960s brought a welcome revival in the singing of the Gradual Psalm and Gospel Acclamation at the Eucharist in their early responsorial format. Although it has remained an option to sing the traditional chants from the Graduale Romanum between the readings, the practice of singing the texts as they appear in the Ordo Lectionum Missae (1969; revised 1981) has become the norm in most instances.

Several new styles of responsorial psalmody have come into use, including those of Joseph Gelineau SJ, and the chants of Gregory Murray OSB and others. The disappearance of the chant tradition, however, has been lamented by many. It is hoped that the present settings bridge the gap between the relatively complex chants of the Graduale Romanum and more modern styles of psalmody. Taking as a model the style of chant associated with psalmody at the Office, the aim has been to achieve a simplicity that might encourage congregational singing, and serve to reinvigorate something of the chant tradition.

The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NRSV) has been adopted by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops for their Lectionary, first published in 1992 and in the revised version of 2009. Apart from the fidelity of this translation and the standard of its language, it presents a most suitable English prose text for singing the psalms to traditional chant, and has achieved wide ecumenical recognition. The texts here follow those adapted for liturgical use by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, with the recognitio of the Holy See, and published in the revised Lectionary (2009).

The tones for the psalm verses follow the Sarum Use, the branch of the Gregorian tradition that was known in England before the time of the Reformation. These will be found in some instances to differ slightly from those more commonly used for Latin psalmody: The flex is not used, and the simple mediant cadences in Tones I and VI, for example, carry no fixed accent. Details of the tones themselves can be found in Music of the Sarum Office, ed. W. Renwick, Tome D2 (The Gregorian Institute of Canada, 2006) -

The Sarum psalm tones have proven their suitability for use with English texts over a long period in Anglican use, extending back at least to G. H. Palmer's Sarum Psalter (1894 and later editions) and H. B. Briggs and W. H. Frere's A Manual of Plainsong (1902 and later editions). As in these publications, the psalm verses use abrupt mediant cadences (omitting the final note) where required by the English accentuation, and in accordance with the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, dated 8 July 1912 (as noted in Liber Usualis, p. 114).

The melodies of the antiphons have been carefully adapted from traditional chant formulae, and reworked afresh to serve the English texts. They are effectively new compositions, but they grow organically from the collective memory of the Church, just as many individual Latin melodies were developed over the centuries from common musical cells. Invaluable guidance in this process has been provided by the work of W. H. Frere in his edition of the Sarum Tonale, published in The Use of Sarum, II (1901), and in his analytical introduction to the facsimile of the Antiphonale Sariburiense (1901-24).

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