S CHURCHES work towards reopening, there is a great deal of understandable anxiety for those responsible for its implementation. In the Archdiocese of Boston, it is also no small change for us to concede congregational singing and choirs of any size. So many of you have already sacrificed so much, spiritually, artistically, and economically.
Whenever a challenge or difficulty would arise, my father would half-joke, “Offer it up for Lent.” It didn’t matter if it was July, Christmas, or Pentecost, he would wisely invoke the Lenten fast. We are certainly experiencing an extended period of Lenten self-sacrifice — far longer than forty days — and with no end in sight. The sacrifice is for the greater good, something many of our elders are quite familiar with.
I hope to offer some words of encouragement, perspective, and some practical resources perhaps helpful to some.
I’ve witnessed so much extraordinary hard work to keep communities together. I’ve seen great musical creativity, problem solving, generosity, and selfless concern from musicians who have all been hit terribly hard. Your pastoral work is clearly a mission.
I am hoping that despite captivity, despite adversity, and despite many in our very midst facing death, we will elevate to new understandings of love, compassion, and consciousness.
While becoming better Christians, we may also turn out to become better musicians. Forced to operate differently we have become resourceful, flexible, and creative problem-solvers. We may expand our repertoire into new areas. We are acquiring new skill sets that will add more color to our musical palette.
In doing so, be patient with yourselves. Be forgiving of yourselves. Do not be afraid to fail. Failure leads to success.
We are being pruned. We will grow back stronger.
This is Good News. And we will be ok.
Re: No congregational singing and no choirs: While a tough pill to swallow, many of us have been closely following reports of potential dangers posed by even small choirs of four-five members spaced six apart. These reports were offered by institutions with much to lose. Aerosols might travel much father than six feet, and we don’t know yet how aerosols affect transmission. I’m not betting my choir’s health (or lives) on it.
Yes, there is the one study from two German scientists that states singing is not dangerous. I hope to God it is true, but I have yet to see corroborating evidence or any scientific peer review in that direction. I’m not betting my choir’s health (or lives) on it.
Churches in Massachusetts were not expecting to reopen in Phase One. It is time to be abundantly cautious, see what works, and what does not.
If we are not cautious, we won’t reach Phase Two.
Here’s a short video from the Archdiocese of Boston with guidance about reopening. You can share this with your congregation. To watch click here.
Entrance processions are limited. There is no offertory procession. Communion processions may be longer or unpredictable in length.
Therefore, in addition to utilizing reverent instrumental or sacred solo music, now may be a time to explore singing Entrance, Offertory, and/or Communion antiphons often seen printed in any missalette. The Church has always asked us to sing these, as they are the first option in the GIRM, and the often point back to the Gospel. Maybe start with an occasional communion antiphon. Consider adding some from time to time as an additional tool from which to draw.
I also encourage anyone to compose your own in whatever style or instrumentation. Use piano guitar, organs—whatever works best for you. Keep it simple, maybe devise your own psalm tone or harmonization that you can use from week to week.
Christopher Walker has composed many antiphons published with Oregon Catholic Press
All of the following are FREE:
- I am giving permission to musicians in the Archdiocese of Boston to use my own set of Communion Antiphons for Ordinary Time: Download here: Communion Antiphons for Ordinary Time They are designed to work well with cantor and accompaniment. I play these with organ or piano. Add guitar chords if you need. I have no problem with that! This collection might be published in the future, but I feel the current need demands I share them for free. The rest of my communion antiphons have been published by World Library Publications.
- The Propers of the Mass in English ~ Fr. Samuel F. Weber, Organ Accompaniments and modern notation available at this link
- Simple Choral Gradual ~ Richard Rice
- Textsin English from 1986 Sacramentary
- Simple English Propers ~ Adam Bartlett – Organ Accompaniment and modern notation available at this link.
- Communio ~ Richard Rice ~ Chants of the Gradale Romanum – verses written out. Also available with Verses in English!
- Parish Book of Chant ~ Richard Rice
- Gregorian Missal for Sundays ~ in accordance with the Novus Ordo Solesmes *contains English translations
Some are opening on Pentecost Sunday. Here is a free setting in English of the Pentecost Sequence.
• To download click here.
• To listen to a demo, click here.
Scroll to last pages, and you’ll see guitar chords in three different keys.
God bless all of you in your amazing work. We may have limitations placed upon us. Be assured, your pastoral music ministry is more important now than ever!