“That’s not Eucharistic” • Why We Sing the Communion Antiphons

NE SUDAY I received (through a third party, of course) a complaint about what the choir had been singing during communion. We frequently included the proper communion antiphon. The criticism was terse: “That’s not Eucharistic.” Correct. It was not. Well, not directly or in an obvious manner.

But it was.

During the 1990s, my choir had been singing the Communion antiphons from the Graduale Romanum nearly every week, often in addition to another sacred liturgical work. I not only became addicted to singing chant, I was also deeply drawn to the texts. Always from scripture, these texts have been sung during communion for well over a millennium. I always provided translations and the scripture references in a worship aid so that all could meditate on the Word.

The edition we were reading from was Solesmes’ Gregorian Missal for Sundays. Published in 1990, this book provided the propers from the Graduale Romanum, the translations in English, and were adjusted to the Novus Ordo three-year cycle of readings. This publication absolutely transformed my life.

S CHRISTIANS, WE BELIEVE in something rather unusual and perhaps very strange. We believe in the Incarnation—that God “lowered” Himself to dwell among us. (Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; Phil 2:7) The Word of God took human form—the Word made Flesh. We take these words for granted. Do not.

What does this have to do with the Communion Procession? A great deal. The Communion Antiphons, whether from the Gradual Romanum or The Roman Missal (there is a great deal of overlap and some variation) most always point back to the Gospel reading of the Day or Feast.

The Body and Blood of Jesus is made present not only from the bread and wine, but also in the Word. By receiving the Word, we receive Jesus. The Gospel, which is the Good News proclaimed by Jesus who is the Word made Flesh—is in itself an encounter with Jesus.

Saint Cecilia and Why the Word is Preeminent

To sing or meditate on the Gospel and the Word of God while receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus is precisely what the Church intends today, tomorrow, and has intended for over a thousand years. If Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, so too do we embrace the Gospel—the Word while in His presence.

T IS WORTH REMEMBERING that during the early Church, Gregorian Chant and the Roman Rite grew up side by side. Chant is simply elevated text (if highly evolved over a millennium). Just as the Hebrew People sang the Torah for thousands of years (and not simply their favorite songs), so too is the Mass ideally sung.

As a Church, we have become accustomed to singing our favorite songs that comfort us. We have become accustomed to singing exclusively about bread and wine during the Communion Procession—a very good thing! But I would propose that we occasionally dig deeper into the Word of God as sung and prayed by our ancestors in faith. Receive the Word made Flesh. Receive Jesus.

UCH OF THIS was inspired by conversation with Alan Hommerding, Senior Liturgy Publications Editor at World Library Publications. During his visit to Boston for WLP’s “Sing the Seasons” we had time to trade stories, chat about music, life, liturgy, theology, etc. During the choral reading of beautiful and varied new works from WLP, he kindly highlighted the liturgical and theological connection between scripture and Eucharist, and the Church’s need to revisit these Antiphons.

To this end, World Library Publications has published, to date, the following collection of Communion Antiphons with texts from the English translation of The Roman Missal, Third Edition:

  • Communion Antiphons for Advent • SATB, Organ, Assembly
  • Communion Antiphons for the Christmas Season • SATB, Organ, Trumpet, Assembly
  • Communion Antiphons for Lent • SATB, Organ, Assembly
  • Communion Antiphons for Easter • SATB, Organ, Assembly
  • In addition, I have composed antiphons for all of Ordinary Time including Feasts and Solemnities that replace a Sunday. WLP is currently looking at these.

    HAVE COMPOSED THESE AS A BRIDGE in two directions. First, I hope these settings in English can be an introduction to many who have not encountered the propers at Mass. While maintaining the traditional form, these sometimes modal, chant-based works are set with contemporary sensibilities in mind. Furthermore, I hope these settings can be a bridge to inspire more composition in various liturgical styles.

    Secondly, my most sincere hope is that some may put my settings down and consider singing the antiphons from the Graduale Romanum and in doing so, rediscover the transcendent beauty of our traditions. (See Richard Rice’s book Communio.) This music is truly the music of the Roman Catholic Church. It has lived on for centuries upon centuries, gave birth to nearly all of Western Music (although its roots are shared with the East!), and reflects the wisdom of the ages.

    As musicians of the Church, may we all live to serve.

    Soli Deo gloria

    Communion Antiphons for Lent & Easter • NEW • World Library Publications

    I AM PLEASED to announce the release of my Communion Antiphons for Easter with World Library Publications. These thirteen antiphons are set from the English translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. All the verses set are those prescribed by Graduale Romanum. On a personal note, this is perhaps my favorite collection to date.

    You may also view and listen to the Communion Antiphons for Lent here or below.

    SCORES FOR EASTER are available in hard copies or digital format:

    Order • View sample pages:
    Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Easter” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

    “Click & Print” • PDF Download:
    PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Easter” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

    All are chant based.
    Can be sung with cantor or unison schola
    Ample opportunity for optional SATB

    HERE IS A SMALL SAMPLE of recordings—four of the thirteen communion propers are directed by Paul French. French and his singers beautifully captured the joy, movement, and energy of these chant inspired works.

    Order • View sample pages:
    Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Lent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

    “Click & Print” • PDF Download:
    PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Lent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

    HERE YOU CAN LISTEN to recordings of seven of the thirteen communion propers:

     

    Sacred Music for Christmas on “Sounds from the Spires”

    RECENTLY joined Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Director of Music for Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, on her program Sounds from the Spires. I am very fortunate to have been on the show several times. This will explain any drop in the ratings.

    Pascual’s weekly show can be heard on SIRIUSXM 129 Radio, The Catholic Channel, Saturday, 11pm-12am, Sunday, 6am-7am and 8pm-9pm (All Eastern times)

    You can listen to a PODCAST of this interview broadcast on 12.4.2016:



    MUSIC FEATURED ON THIS PROGRAM:

    Light Upon the World | Richard J. Clark, baritone; Produced by Paul Umbach | Available on iTunes and CD Baby.

    Communion Antiphons for Christmas | SATB, Organ, Trumpet, Assembly • World Library Publications • Recordings Directed by Paul French

    Madonna & Child | Organ • recorded on the Smith & Gilbert Organ (IV/52) at St. Cecilia Church, Boston

    Although this conversation with my children happened before a prior interview, the story bears repeating:

    My six-year-old son put me in my place before a radio interview. My daughter, who was eight, said, “Daddy is lucky because he is famous because he is being interviewed.” My son who was six responded: “No, he’s not famous. Never, ever! Only God is famous.” This, coming from a boy who loves getting into mischief, especially if it gets a laugh from his siblings and disapproval from his parents. But here he was dead serious and spot on!

    Soli Deo gloria!

    Communion Antiphons for Advent & Christmas • NEW • World Library Publications

    ORLD LIBRARY Publications, the music and liturgy division of J. S. Paluch Company, Inc. has recently released my collection of Communion Antiphons for Christmas. These nine antiphons are set to the English translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, with verses according to the Graduale Romanum.

    You may also learn about and listen to my Communion Antiphons for Advent here.

    Scores are available in hard copies or for digital download:

    Order • View sample pages:
    Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Christmas” (for SATB Choir, Cantor, Assembly, Organ, Trumpet)

    “Click & Print” • PDF Download:
    PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Christmas” (for SATB Choir, Cantor, Assembly, Organ, Trumpet)

    All are chant based including quotes of Puer natus est nobis and the Mode I Ave Maria.
    May be sung with cantor or unison schola or optional SATB
    Several include optional vocal and trumpet descants.

    BE SURE TO LISTEN to recordings directed by Paul French, Director of the William Ferris Chorale and Music Director of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Chicago. You can hear six of the nine antiphons here. (Each antiphon has several more verses than are recorded here.)

    *Note the two options for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: Rejoice, O Daughter Zion (Exsulta fiIia Sion) is prescribed for the Mass at Dawn in the Roman Missal. It is also is prescribed also for the Solemnity of Mary in the Graduale Romanum.

    HY SING THE PROPERS AT ALL? Forget GIRM 87 that gives singing the antiphons from the Roman Missal or Grandulae Romanum the highest preference. Forget the tradition of the propers being integral to the Roman Rite for well over a millennium. Forget that Sing to the Lord: Music In Divine Worship (SttL) gives singing the antiphons and psalms very high priority.

    But remember the wisdom of the faithful who came before us. What matters most is that the antiphons and psalms we sing during communion most always point us back to the Gospel. Often they are from the Gospel itself or another reading. The psalms, which are just as important as the antiphons, shed deeper light upon the sacred mysteries and the Gospel. These scriptures amplify our prayer while receiving the Bread of Life.

    I could go on for many pages, but I leave you with this simple story:

    The best note I ever received on this topic came from a woman who probably knows nothing about the antiphons, the GIRM, or the rubrics. But she knows prayer and she knows her heart. She said “Isn’t it wonderful to sing the Gospel while receiving the Eucharist!”

    This kind of intuitive understanding is born of the wisdom of the ages—from many faithful who came before us. This above all is why we sing the Mass.

    Consciously or not, the scriptures sung in the antiphons and psalms touch the heart. Live daily with the Word, and we will be transformed.

    Soli Deo gloria

    New Organ Work • Madonna & Child

    HE CREATIVE process often takes time to evolve, always in surprising ways, and sometimes takes on a life of its own even after a premiere.

    I was honored to be part of a wonderful concert with so many amazing musicians. It happened to be on Father’s Day. With that in mind, I just had to compose something for my two-month-old daughter. Composing variations on her name would have sufficed. But I could not shake the significant inclusion of variations on the Mode I Chant, Ave Maris Stella, which comprises much of the middle section of this work. Ave Maris Stella became its anchor—the grounding upon which the child’s theme could flourish.

    The premiere was at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts on the 101-rank E. & G. G. Hook & Hastings Organ. At the premiere, the piece was titled for my daughter, “Variations on the Name Adeline Grace,. But so many after the concert asked me, “Wasn’t that Ave Maris Stella in there?” Yes, it was most assuredly there.

    FTER A FEW DAYS, I have had a better understanding of what has transpired. It took me—the composer—to realize this is really a work about mother and child. There is the gentle cradling of the child in a mother’s lap. But there is also the heaviness in the child’s theme—a premonition of a Cross to bear. As Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 8:23)

    Note the word Jesus uses: daily. This goes to our calling in life. We are all called to be a disciple of Jesus. It is the mother and father who nurture the child in the Faith, to be a true disciple of Jesus.

    In the end, this work was perhaps equally inspired by my daughter and her extraordinary mother. What I did not initially understand, now makes sense as a musical portrait of Mary and Jesus. One can hear the heaviness, but also the lightness and comfort Jesus found in his own Mother, who is also our Mother. In both of them we find comfort. In Jesus we find salvation.

    Recorded on the Smith & Gilbert Organ (1999) at Saint Cecilia Church, Boston, Massachusetts. Recording by Evan Landry Score available at RJC Cecilia Music.

    “Sounds from the Spires” with Jennifer Pascual • SiriusXM Radio

    RECENTLY joined Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Director of Music for Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and host of Sounds from the Spires, at the SiriusXM Studio in Midtown Manhattan. Her weekly program can be heard on SIRIUSXM 129 Radio, The Catholic Channel.

    My six-year-old son put me in my place before our interview. My daughter, who is eight, said, “Daddy is lucky because he is famous because he is being interviewed.” My son responded: “No, he’s not famous. Never, ever! Only God is famous.” This, coming from a boy who loves getting into mischief, especially if it gets a laugh from his siblings and disapproval from his parents. But here he was dead serious and spot on!

    PODCAST Broadcast on 2.28.2016:

    PLEASE READ MY MIND
    Don’t believe everything you hear on the radio. As my choirs well know, it is a requirement that they must read my mind during rehearsal; not everything that comes out of my mouth is reliable. As such, there are two corrections here: 1) “I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” is from Psalm 27, not Psalm 122 as stated. 2) Our Lady of the Atonement R. C. Church is in San Antonio, Texas, not Houston. I knew that. I’ve always known that. But I said Houston. Please read my mind.

    MUSIC FEATURED ON THIS PROGRAM:

    Communion Antiphons for Lent | SATB, Organ, Assembly • World Library Publications • Recordings Directed by Paul French

    Variations on Misereris Omnium | Introit for Ash Wednesday • St Cecilia Schola • Variations played on the Smith & Gilbert Organ at St. Cecilia Church, Boston

    By the Rivers of Babylon | Allesandra Cionco, soprano; Michael Dahlberg, cello; R. Clark, piano

    Magna Opera Domini | Commissioned for the ordination of Bishop Steven Lopes. • Recording Directed by Edmund Murray

    Podcast • Communion Antiphons for Advent on “Sounds from the Spires”

    THE COLLECTION of Communion Antiphons for Advent was recently featured on “Sounds from the Spires” on SIRIUS XM 129 Radio, The Catholic Channel.

    I had the opportunity to speak with the program’s host, Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Director of Music for Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

    We discussed the antiphons/propers of the Mass as well as the composition process of this new collection of propers. Why is it important to sing the propers? What scriptures do we sing during Advent? This is the kind of thing I find exciting.

    • PODCAST • Listen here to the program broadcast on 12.13.2015:

    You can listen to the music on this program here:

    Communion Antiphons for Lent

    AM PLEASED to announce the release of my Communion Antiphons for Lent with World Library Publications.

    These thirteen antiphons are set from the English translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. All the verses set are those prescribed by Graduale Romanum.

    Scores are available in hard copies or digital format:

    Order • View sample pages:
    Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Lent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

    “Click & Print” • PDF Download:
    PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Lent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

    All are chant based.
    Can be sung with cantor or unison schola
    Ample opportunity for optional SATB

    HERE YOU CAN LISTEN to recordings of seven of the thirteen communion propers directed by Paul French. French and his singers beautifully captured the joy, movement, and energy of these chant based works.

    LSO AVAILABLE:

    Hard copies and downloadable digital scores of the Communion Antiphons for Advent, published with World Library Publications.

    You can listen to recordings directed by Paul French here.

    Soli Deo gloria

    Thank a Church Musician Today! | St. Cecilia Day Variations

    THANK A CHURCH MUSICIAN TODAY! Thank your choir! Church musicians put in long hours away from family, missing weekends and evenings. They don’t get paid much money even when at the highest levels of their profession and art. But making music for God is in their blood. They know no other way to live!

    St. Cecilia“Playing the organ, Cecilia chanted to the Lord, saying: Let my heart be made spotless, so that I may not be confounded.” – Vespers Antiphon for the Feast of St. Cecilia, November 22

     VIEW SAMPLE SCORE: St. Cecilia Day Variations

      • ($19.00) Digital PDF copy comes with reprint license limited to use for one performer. You do not have permission to disseminate the score. Upon purchase, you will receive an email from which you can download the score.

    • Recording by Richard J. Clark on the 1999 Smith & Gilbert Organ, St. Cecilia Church, Boston, MA with St. Cecilia Men’s Schola:

      ADVENT IS NEAR!

      Hard copies and downloadable digital scores of the Communion Antiphons for Advent, published with World Library Publications.

      You can listen to recordings directed by Paul French here.

    Communion Antiphons for Advent • World Library Publicatons

    ORLD LIBRARY Publications, the music and liturgy division of J. S. Paluch Company, Inc. has recently released my collection of Communion Antiphons for Advent. WLP will follow up shortly with my settings of communion propers for Lent.

    The antiphons are set from the English translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, which during Advent are congruent with the Graduale Romanum. Likewise, the verses set are those prescribed by Graduale Romanum.

    Scores are available in hard copies or digital format:

    Order • View sample pages:
    Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Advent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

    “Click & Print” • PDF Download:
    PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Advent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

    All are chant based.
    Can be sung with cantor or unison schola
    Ample opportunity for optional SATB
    Includes an additional setting for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

    BE SURE TO LISTEN to the recordings directed by Paul French, Director of the William Ferris Chorale and Music Director of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Chicago. French and his singers beautifully captured the joy, movement, and energy of these chant based works. Glorious Things Are Spoken for the Immaculate Conception was recorded at St. Cecilia Church in Boston with Jaime Korkos, mezzo-soprano and Marc DeMille, baritone.

    NFUSE CHANT WITH PASSION! Most of these settings are marked con moto. Chant or chant-based works must not be lethargic, plodding and as a result boring. They can be tranquil at times, but yearn for movement.

    Taken directly form the scriptures of Advent, we have been singing these texts together as a Church for about thirteen hundred years. This is an extraordinary sign of unity and communion with our ancestors!

    And the tradition lives and breathes within us today. It informs us of who we are. It connects us to the very source of life in the Eucharist. Finally, our traditions propel us toward an intimate relationship with God.

    In the end, I hope these are useful, prayerful, reverent, and with a bit of passion.

    Soli Deo gloria