week one of my choir members asked a general question about music for
the mass and it reminded me that even those involved in Music Ministry
do not always know why a particular piece of music is chosen and what
its function is within the liturgy. With this in mind today we begin a
series of “Liturgy Matters” on music for the mass.
INTRODUCTORY RITES—the music for the introductory rites consists of the Gathering Song, the Penitential Rite, and the Gloria.
The Gathering Song is sung by the whole
congregation. It sets the mood for the mass by utilizing texts that
inform us of a particular theme. For example: “All Are Welcome,” which
tells about what kind of a place we are gathered in at church, what we
will do together and who is welcome in this place of worship. The
tempo is lively and the melody inviting. This hymn, like so many, has a
refrain which remains the same for each verse. It is typical of the
“American Contemporary” style. Sometimes we use the same gathering song
for several consecutive weeks. This is either to teach the assembly
something new or to reinforce seasonal themes. The goal here is to have
a sense of the season by the sound of the music. What mood does it
evoke? At what time of year is it utilized? One can identify these
features by paying attention to the Gathering Song week to week.
Music for the Penitential Rite varies with the season of the year too.
Most times it is a simple Kyrie chanted by the priest and repeated by
the assembly. In the season of Advent and Lent the choir might sing the
Kyrie either alone or with the people responding. The form can be the
Greek Kyrie eleison and Christe eleison, or there may be verses (or
tropes) added that praise God for the things done to accomplish our
salvation. Gregorian chant is useful here or contemporary melodies may
used to express our desire for forgiveness.
Instead of a penitential rite sometimes the
Rite of Sprinkling is chosen. Music for this ritual may have textual
and musical themes about the saving waters of baptism or sometimes the
Gloria is sung as the priest goes through the assembly with holy
water. (January 19, 2005) —More next time