Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Music for the Three Palm Sunday Entrances

Often in parish life, the hustle and bustle of preparing for the Paschal Triduum overshadows the attention given to Palm Sunday, and particularly the various forms of the entrance procession. After all, are we sure the palms have been ordered? Is the sound system going to be set up for the gospel reading outside? Are all of the parts of the passion reading assigned? The list could go on.

Further, there are very few, if any, available musical settings for the actual texts of the processional and entrance chants as they are given in the Roman Missal. That is, until now, thanks to Illuminare Publications. Here are some sample scores for Palm Sunday from the developing Lumen Christi Series, available for free download:

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

The Roman Missal describes the three forms of the Palm Sunday Entrance: 1. The Procession, 2. The Solemn Entrance, and 3. The Simple Entrance:

The memorial of [the] entrance of the Lord takes place at all Masses, by means of the Procession or the Solemn Entrance before the principal Mass or the Simple Entrance before other Masses. The Solemn Entrance, but not the Procession, may be repeated before other Masses that are usually celebrated with a large gathering of people.

While the Missal, thankfully, includes musical settings of the Hosanna filio David chant in English and Latin, the rest of the sung texts have no musical settings included: they are found there as text only. As a result, many parishes often default to singing the hymn All glory, laud and honor or another more generic hymn or song during the entrance procession.

In the scores provided above, all the texts for all forms of procession are set in simple, English chant settings, including the two responsories that are provided in the Missal. These are set in such a way that all of the faithful can sing the response after the intonation of cantor.

The Procession and Solemn Entrance

The Procession and Solemn Entrance both prescribe the following text for when "the procession enters the church":

R. As the Lord entered the holy city, the children of the Hebrews proclaimed the resurrection of life. * Waving their branches of palm, they cried: Hosanna in the Highest. 
V. When the people heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they went out to meet him. * Waving their branches.

In the Lumen Christi Series sample scores, this is set in both chant notation and in modern notation with a simple organ accompaniment. The verses of the responsory should be sung by a cantor, and the response is arranged in such a way that it can be intoned by the cantor with all responding to "Hosanna in the highest". This musical setting is simple and intuitive enough that I imagine it could be successful on the first try.

Further, the simple response allows the faithful to both take a vocal part in the singing while being able to watch the procession with palms enter the Church. It is unfortunate that many parishes require them to instead have their heads buried in a hymnal, singing multiple verses of a hymn, which keeps them from witnessing the grand procession.

The Simple Entrance

The chant for the Simple Entrance is sung in a similar way. The text provided in the Roman Missal is also in responsorial form:
Six days before the Passover, when the Lord came into the city of Jerusalem, the children ran to meet him; in their hands they carried palm branches and with a loud voice cried out: 
* Hosanna in the highest! Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy!  
O gates, lift high your heads; grow higher, ancient doors. Let him enter, the king of glory! Who is this king of glory? He, the Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory. 
* Hosanna in the highest! Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy!

Similar to the Solemn Entrance, this chant has a short response that all of the faithful can take up after hearing it only once. Verses can be sung by a cantor or by the choir as the procession enters the church.

*     *     *

One of the beautiful features of these entrance chants for Palm Sunday is that they both relate the historical entrance of Christ into Jerusalem to the liturgical re-presentation of the same action. The faithful are able to cry out with the words of the Hebrews, whom they symbolize in this liturgical feast.

How much more deeply could your parish enter into this mystery by singing the very texts of the Mass itself? Perhaps this is the year to find out.

The Lumen Christi Series intends to help make this possible in every parish. You can learn more about the current and future offerings of Illuminare Publications here.

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