Short Antiphon This Week

This week’s Responsorial Psalm poses a real dilemma. How do you make something worthy of the Mass out of seven syllables? Your answer might be that it is not possible, especially in light of the function of the Gregorian Gradual, its predecessor and still the ideal, whose intent is to lift the ear and mind to higher things in contemplation of the text.

Since most choirs still won’t be singing the Gradual this weekend, something had to be done with the short text given us: Rest in God alone, my soul. One way to treat it might be to lengthen some of the more important syllables – God, -lone, or soul; give them a melismatic treatment, in other words.

But I’ve opted to lengthen the words God and soul by just a couple of pulses, and keep the rhythm of the sung text in alignment with its spoken rhythm. There has to be a wedding of form and function to make it successful given the expectation that the antiphon is to be sung by the congregation. People will be able to remember this stab at a melody after one or two repetitions, kind of like their being able to memorize a seven digit phone number. Mode II seemed to work well here, and so did moving on through the word alone on one pulse per syllable. Singers should be careful to sing the “n” of alone and the “m” of my clearly but without even the slightest pause between the two words.

Below is a quick peek at the verses. You can download the whole setting at Chabanel Psalms. Since I’ve started posting these on the Cafe, I’ve gotten lots of helpful and interesting correspondence concerning Psalm setting and Psalm singing. Next week I’ll discuss options for setting the verses.

6 Replies to “Short Antiphon This Week”

  1. Very nice setting, Arlene. Adam Bartlett had also done an admirable job of setting this short but important text. We will be singing his version from the Simple Propers, posted earlier on this site.
    There are two strategic clivis on the word God and the second syllable of alone, with the word God being the high point of the chant. It is also an easy learning experience for choir and congregation alike.

  2. When faced with a challenge like this – a translation that provides an almost too-brief line of text as a responsorial antiphon – it's a good occasion to review what the rubrics actually require here. And as I recall, one is not hidebound to employing the "Responsorial Psalm" of the day given in the Lectionary: there are other options as well.

  3. I've wondered why each verse (4 lines) is set to a single iteration of the psalm tone instead of the traditional two? For example, I'd expect to see the first line of the verse "Only in God is my soul at rest" set to the first half of the psalm tone (, "from him comes my salvation" to the second half, as is customarily done.

  4. Thanks for your comments. I can comment on Fr. A's suggestion and Sam Schmitt's question, I think, at the same time.

    Yes, there are options for the Responsorial But when I started doing these for my parish, the big concern was that people would be looking at the same text that they were hearing sung, in the case of the verses, or singing, in the case of the antiphon. Don't ask why – just a peculiarity of my parish situation. The people have the OCP Missalettes in front of them. Since transparency was something we were going for – providing translations of the Latin and that kind of thing – we got to a point where we tried to put everything in a program every week. We print the RP antiphon (same text as people are looking at in the Missalette), but space doesn't allow for the verses, too. Since they are already looking at the Missalettes for readings, it made the most sense to stick to the what was already in front of them.

    To answer Sam's question: I decided to use to iteration over four lines (sometimes five, sometimes three) because it looks and sounds the most like what people are looking at in the Missalettes. Yes, you would normally expect two iterations. Again, a decision based totally on a brick by brick model for change. But it has turned out to be quite prayerful and beautiful. And people know exactly when it is time to sing the antiphon again.

    I'll talk more about this and other options in a future post.

  5. My parish priest wants RPs to sound as Gregorian as possible and yours fit the bill. The congregation likes singing them. Since we don't use missalettes, they're probably not aware that we're using the US lectionary, which is better than the current UK one when it comes to psalm texts.

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