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Renowned as composer, conductor, theorist, author, pedagogue, and organist, Aurelio Porfiri has served the Church on multiple continents at the highest levels. Born and raised in Italy, he currently serves as Director of Choral Activities and Composer in Residence for Santa Rosa de Lima School (Macao, China).
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“Although the Mass contains much instruction for the faithful, it has nevertheless not seemed expedient to the fathers that it be celebrated everywhere in the vernacular. The holy synod commands pastors and everyone who has the care of souls to explain frequently during the celebration of the Masses, either themselves or through others, some of the things that are read in the Mass, and among other things to expound some mystery of this most Holy Sacrifice, especially on Sundays and feastdays.”
— Council of Trent, XII:8 (1562)

Responsorial Psalm: The "Gelineau Disease” ?
published 18 June 2014 by Aurelio Porfiri

355 Responsorial Psalm AN SOMEONE EXPLAIN to me the destiny of the responsorial psalm? Please let me know, because I’m starting to get confused. Now, let us explore together some background.

In the Mass before the liturgical reform — currently called the “EF” (Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) — we had the Gradual, a very complex composition for very skilled singers. Some masterworks of Gregorian chant are indeed in this musical genre. The Gradual was a lyrical meditation on the psalmodic text and (on a deeper level) the topic of the entire liturgy of the day. So we had there the exaltation of the text, the flourishing of the words.

Now, after the liturgical reform, we have the responsorial psalm, whose rationale was to assure that the people could participate by joining in the refrain. No problem about that. But still we need to remember that this moment is a lyrical, poetical, musical meditation of the psalm.

THESE DAYS, IN THE BEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES, we focus on the refrain only, giving to the psalmodic text some recitative tones, referred by someone as the “Gelineau disease.” I’m sure someone will say: “You, too, are doing this. We’ve seen your settings of the responsorial psalm!”

It is partially true. When I compose responsorial psalms, sometimes I also find refuge in this easy escape (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!). So I want to say to myself first, and to others as well: let us rethink the role and importance of this liturgical moment in the shining light of a wonderful musical tradition.

If ever there will be a hospital for liturgical musicians, those with the disease mentioned above (the Responsorial Psalm moment) will surely be one of the most crowded…

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