Singing the Proper of the Mass: Sundays, Solemnities and More
Apr 12, 2022
Over the past decade or two, thousands of Catholic churches in the English speaking world have discovered the proper antiphons of the Mass and have begun singing them in parish liturgies, many for the first time. These antiphons, along with their Psalm verses, come almost entirely from scripture, are appointed by the Church to be sung as an integral part of the Catholic liturgy, and are set to music in hundreds of ancient Gregorian chants. Like the Lectionary readings and priestly orations, they are “proper” to each day of the liturgical year and are meant to be sung.
Singing the propers helps us pray with the Church, to become more deeply connected to our liturgical music heritage, and to unite our voices with the voice of Christ who sings the perfect song of love to the Father through the liturgical texts and rites.
And yet, the task of singing the propers for the first time can be a real challenge. If the musical settings are too elaborate, then cantors, choirs, and the Catholic faithful can quickly become frustrated, lose confidence, and may want to return to what is familiar. If they are too simplistic, while perhaps bringing some initial success, musicians and parishioners may lose interest in time.
The Source & Summit Digital Platform was created to help parishes solve these and many other problems that parishes face as they work to elevate the liturgy. Far from a mere index or select bibliography of resources for singing the Mass, the platform actually equips parishes with numerous musical settings of the Mass Ordinary and the Propers (though not necessarily all of the elements of the Mass, such as the Eucharistic Prayers, all forms of the Penitential Act, and the complete Order of Mass) all within an innovative liturgy preparation tool. This article will demonstrate some of the many ways your parish can sing the proper of the Mass, no matter what the resources of your music and liturgy program may be.
Various Musical Settings for Varying Needs
After selecting and adding a liturgy, the Source & Summit Digital Platform begins by presenting the texts of the antiphons and readings that belong to any given liturgy, with options in English, Spanish, and Latin for Sundays and Solemnities as well as Major Feast Days, and with English language support for Daily Mass, Ritual Masses, Votive Masses, Masses for the Dead, and Masses for Various Needs. The Entrance, Offertory, and Communion Antiphons often come from both the Roman Missal (RM) and the Graduale Romanum (GR).
Once an antiphon option is selected, several musical settings of the text from different collections become available in the right panel for selection. Below these collections in the right panel there are also several different tone collections, each containing a number of simple formulaic melodies that can be applied instantly to the selected text. For texts in Latin, there are musical settings available from the Graduale Romanum as well as settings using the Gregorian Psalm Tones, while Spanish texts currently are set to simple antiphon tones only. Once a musical collection is selected, various settings can be applied, allowing you to put the melody in modern notation, or to add an accompaniment or chord symbols, or to add or remove verses, or even change the key.
The numerous antiphon settings available within the Source & Summit Digital Platform present parishes with a number of options to choose from as they begin building a culture of sung liturgy. The Source & Summit Gradual collection, in particular, offers a stepping stone model with settings of English Propers in varying levels of simplicity or complexity which are available for different needs, helping you find just the right setting for your parish at any given time. Eventually, and as your musicians and congregation become more familiar with singing the antiphons, fuller and more elaborate settings can be employed.
Recorded Examples of Different Antiphon Settings
The best way to describe the different kinds of antiphon settings found on the Source & Summit Digital Platform is to listen to some examples and compare them side-by-side. Here are a number of sample recordings from Easter Sunday that illustrate the breadth of content and flexibility offered by Source & Summit.
The words “I have risen, and I am with you still” (Resurrexi et adhuc tecum sum) have been sung to an ancient Gregorian chant melody at the opening of the Easter Mass of the Day for nearly 1500 years. The setting found in the Source & Summit Missal collection is based on this Gregorian chant but is simplified and adapted to the needs of the official English text so that it can lie comfortably within the bounds of congregational singing:
The Source & Summit Missal offers not one, but nine different ways to sing every Entrance, Offertory, and Communion Antiphon for Sundays, Solemnities, and Major Feast Days. Before every notated antiphon setting, each antiphon text is given in its entirety with musical pointing that prepares the texts to be sung to any one of the eight simple tones found on the inside back cover of the missal. A mode suggestion is given with each antiphon text in the form of a roman numeral to the right of the antiphon scripture reference, but any pointed antiphon text can be sung with any of the eight tones in the missal. Here is the Easter Entrance Antiphon sung to the fourth tone, matching the mode of its through-composed counterpart as well as its Gregorian parent:
The Source & Summit Digital Platform contains far more musical settings than those found in the Source & Summit Missal. The Solemn Antiphon Tone collection is particularly useful when the simplicity of the missal or Simple Antiphon Tones are a bit too simplistic. This tone collection has more musical variety, including musical intonations and more varied terminations:
The popular Meinrad Tones are also available as a Tone Collection and can be applied to any antiphon text on the digital platform in either English or Spanish:
Central to the antiphon collections on the digital platform is the Source & Summit Gradual collection, which itself contains a number of different musical possibilities. While every setting found in the Source & Summit Missal is also found in the Source & Summit Gradual, there are often additional settings in the gradual that are both simpler and more elaborate than the settings in the missal.
First, full text settings with more musical complexity than the SSM are sometimes given which incorporate more of the melodic language used in Latin Gregorian chant. Here is a slightly more developed version of the Easter Entrance Antiphon as found in the Source & Summit Gradual:
There are sometimes “shortened text” settings that reduce the length of longer antiphon texts, making them easier to sing and to be retained in the short term memory. Because of the nature of the text of the Entrance Antiphon for Easter, a text shortening is not offered in the Source & Summit Gradual collections.
A further option is available that is especially useful for fostering congregational singing of the Mass antiphons. The Source & Summit Gradual collection offers “simple responses” for most antiphon texts which extract a short passage from a longer antiphon that is about the length of a typical Responsorial Psalm refrain (see Musicam Sacram 33). These simple responses are through-composed melodies so they are not as melodically monotonous as the tone based settings, and yet they have a musical form that is simple and brief enough to be sung almost entirely by rote after hearing them only once. Here is a simple response setting of the Easter Entrance Antiphon:
The Source & Summit Digital Platform also contains the entire Simple English Propers collection as well as the antiphons of the Lumen Christi Missal and Lumen Christi Simple Gradual. The antiphon settings of the Lumen Christi series have been taken wholly into the Source & Summit Missal and Gradual and expanded greatly upon there.
The Source & Summit Gradual offers simple chant settings of every Responsorial Psalm in the Lectionary, including Responsorial Psalms for Daily Mass, along with the verses as found in the US Lectionary. The musical settings for Sundays and Solemnities as well as major Feast Days are also contained in the Source & Summit Missal. These simple chant settings can be sung with or without accompaniment and are easily sung by congregations. Their musical style is similar to the Simple Response settings of the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion Antiphons.
Here is the Responsorial Psalm for Easter Sunday:
Since Easter Sunday would not be complete with out the Easter Sequence, here it is as it is found in the Source & Summit Gradual for good measure:
Like the many different methods for singing the propers during the processions of the Mass, the possibilities for singing the Alleluia (or Lenten Gospel Acclamation during Lent) along with the Verse Before the Gospel on the Source & Summit Digital Platform are numerous.
One of the challenges liturgical musicians constantly face is pairing the alleluia of their choice with the proper verse of the day. With the Source & Summit Digital Platform, this pairing is always automatic, no matter which of the 30+ alleluia musical settings are selected.
Once the liturgical texts to be sung are selected, the alleluia settings found in the Source & Summit Missal and Gradual can be selected quickly in the right panel. The power of the digital platform is found, though, in the Alleluia “Resources” further down on the right panel. Here, all of the Alleluias used in the Source & Summit Missal, as well as a number of double and triple alleluias from the Graduale Simplex and other traditional sources, can be selected individually. Once selected, the proper verse for the liturgy being prepared is automatically pointed or notated to be sung with the selected alleluia refrain. In this way, any available alleluia can be used on any day with a single click.
Here are three of the Alleluia options found on the digital platform, each with the proper alleluia verse for Easter Sunday:
The Source & Summit Missal Setting:
A simple Double Alleluia setting, especially useful for Daily Mass:
A more elaborate Triple Alleluia from the Graduale Simplex, based on the Easter Dismissal:
Something unique to the Source & Summit Missal and Digital Platform is the inclusion of the Offertory Antiphon of the Mass. While the Roman Missal does not include the text of the Offertory Chant, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) describes it and points us to its source, the Graduale Romanum. The Offertory Antiphons found in Source & Summit are taken from this liturgical source and are also presented in an English translation that is approved for liturgical use and that integrates seamlessly with the translations of the Roman Missal, Third Edition of 2011.
The musical settings found on the Source & Summit Digital Platform mirror its treatment of the Entrance Antiphon. Full Text, Shortened Text, and Simple Response settings are offered (wherever possible) for every Offertory Antiphon text. The same Tone Collections are also available for use with any text.
The Offertory Antiphons in the Source & Summit Missal are simpler in nature and are meant for singing by the Catholic faithful in the pews:
As was mentioned before, any of the pointed antiphon texts can be sung to any of the eight tones found in the Source & Summit Missal. The tone that is suggested for the Offertory Antiphon of Easter Sunday is Tone 4. Here is the antiphon sung using Tone 1 instead:
Here is the same text sung to Solemn Antiphon Tone 5 as found on the Source & Summit Digital Platform, which gives the text a decidedly different character:
And finally, here is the Easter Sunday Offertory Antiphon sung to Meinrad Tone 6:
The Communion Antiphon closes out the sung parts of the proper of the Mass. Like the other two processional propers (the Entrance and Offertory Antiphons) The Communion Antiphon settings available on the Source & Summit Digital Plprovide a breadth of flexibility for any parish, no matter its context.
Notably, the digital platform presents a number of proper antiphon options due to the fact that it supports both the texts of the Roman Missal and Graduale Romanum. The Graduale often presents texts that are in greater alignment with the 3-year Lectionary cycle, often quoting the Gospel of the day, while the more general antiphons of the Missal are mostly unchanging from year to year.
Here is the through-composed Communion Antiphon as found in the Source & Summit Missal, which takes its basis in its classic Gregorian chant parent:
As always, if this setting may be more than your parish may be able to handle at any given time, the missal also allows the same text to be sung to any of its 8 antiphon tones. Here it is using its recommended Tone 6, which is in the same mode as the chant found in the Graduale Romanum:
If the Simple Antiphon tones are a little too simple for Easter Sunday, but a through-composed setting is out of reach, the Solemn Antiphon Tones may be a great option. Here is the Easter Communion with Solemn Antiphon Tone 6:
And here it is with the Meinrad Tone in the same mode:
A Note on Singing Antiphons Seasonally or Ad Libitum
While singing the proper of the Mass means that, ideally, every proper text is sung in its proper place, the Church in her wisdom knows that this may not always be possible. A fourth option is given in the US GIRM (see nos. 48, 74, and 87) for the cases where pastoral realities may make it difficult to sing fully the texts of the Mass itself, and it is this option that many parishes have taken for the past several decades as a kind of default.
The Introduction to the Graduale Romanum gives us some further possibilities, making the task of introducing the proper of the Mass for the first time even easier. It states that “it is possible to replace the text proper to a day with another text belonging to the same season” (Graduale Romanum / Ordo Cantus Missae Introduction, par. 7). And so, the Source & Summit Digital Platform allows for the selection of Seasonal Antiphons taken both from the Missal and Graduale which allows parishes to repeat an antiphon setting more than once within a season, which can be a great help in introducing the antiphons in a parish setting for the first time. Similarly, during Ordinary Time, the Graduale lists seven Communion Antiphons that are Eucharistic in nature which may be used ad libitum in place of the prescribed Communion Antiphon texts. These possibilities, along with the various melodies that Source & Summit makes available for the Mass antiphons, makes singing the proper of the Mass achievable in virtually any parish setting.