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.