Saturday, 7 January 2012

Responsorial Psalm Comparison

In an earlier post, I linked to some wise words by Jeff Ostrowski of the Corpus Christi Watershed. Here is a video comparing some fairly well-worn Responsorial Psalms and a chant version from CCW.

What do you think?

Which do you think would foster greater participation amongst the faithful?


Barona said...

Two points.

1. The plainchant, being a-rhythmic, is far more conducive to meditation. It is far healthier for cognitive relaxation.

2. The modern rhythmical selections are a mixed bag. Some,are quite respectable as tunes (abstracting from the issue of rhythm). Sadly, quite a few are harsh and angular. They lack flow, seem forced...

In answer to your question, I think that the plainchant can be taught to any congregation. Given its superiority - musically and rhythmically - it should be given primacy. However, this does not exclude the possibility of more contemporary settings being judiciously...

Anonymous said...

I think it would have been helpful if the Chabanel people had recorded a verse with each responsum, in their style and the GIA-ish styles, because the chanting or singing of the verses is so essential to responsorial psalmody.

Note that in Canada it is not possible to use the Chabanel psalms, because their texts are not authorized for use in Canada.


Vox Cantoris said...


If you go to the Chabanel psalms web page you will find all the psalms there with the texts fully sung.

Canada may use the Grail as it is in CBWII or the NRSV which should never have been authorised for the Psalms in the first place with its inclusivistic language. That bishop had his hands into everything, if you'll pardon the comparison.

As for using them or not, if someone chooses to make a fuss, then the words can be modified to the Chabanal tones which I've done from time to time. But I usually stick to the CBWII versions.

The good news is all this will be fixes soon when the Revised Grail is fully implemented in harmony with Liturgicam Authenticum in the next few years.

Anonymous said...

David, I know, of course, that the verses are to be found on the Chabanel site. What I meant was, that this interesting comparison (which you posted) would have been still more interesting if the verses had been compared as well.

As for the psalm texts: they are part of the Lectionary, and hence in Canada strictly speaking only the revised NRSV version in the (new) Lectionary can be proclaimed at Mass. Presumably the CBW III versions, based on the 1986 Grail, can also be proclaimed, since they are approved by the Bishops and have not been superseded. The CBW III Grail texts are -not- the same as those in use in the United States.

It's true that you can change the words and chant the Chabanel tones, of course ... but it's extra trouble for a parish music director.

Are the texts in CBW II (two) the same as those in use in the United States? I am surprised, but I didn't know this. And do we suppose that any previously-approved lectionary text can "still be used"? Surely not, otherwise we could still use the old Lectionary instead of the new one.

Vox Cantoris said...

Where I am Cantor on Saturday for the Vigil Mass, we use CBWII, many still do. These psalms are slightly different from CBWIII because they are from the Grail and III uses the inclusiveness NSRV which the CCCB had NO APPROVAL to use. Do you remember? The Canadian Conference of Disobedient Catholic Bishops took it upon themselves to implement the NRSV for the Lectionary and Psalms without approval from Rome.

I believe sung texts are different from written hence, the differences between the spoken Entrance and Communion Antiphons and those in the Gradual Romanum. The Simple English Propers are an example. The sung texts are different from the spoken and see no difference in the Responsory Psalm. If is read, you use the Lectionary, if it is sung, that is another matter.

Now, has the CCCB stopped the import of all settings from OCP or GIA? I think not. Have they commissioned psalmody from Canadians? No.

Nor would they. They would assign the task to other members of their internal clique as they did with the sung Mass settings in Celebrate and Song, which I have blogged about and provided an requested article in the December edition of Catholic Insight.

Anonymous said...

I suppose when in doubt about which version of the resonsorial psalm text to use, one could always fall back on the gradual. :-)

Vox Cantoris said...


You rock.


Anonymous said...

Well, of course! The Gradual isn't "fall back", it's choice number one! But in practice it can't be used, because it's in Latin. Unless you're at a Latin-and-tradition-friendly parish, in which case lucky you. With the schola I chant from the Gradual -- at other parishes. At my parish it's CBWIII and Gather ("Shepherd me, O God…")


AJ in Toronto said...

Actually, a new set of Psalms composed by Canadians is becoming available on the CCCB publications website. Here is the link with samples(I hope I've entered it correctly):

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Thesy said...

The GIRM #61 states: "The Responsorial Psalm should correspond to each reading and should usually be taken from the Lectionary." "Should" indicates in Liturgical Law a high level of implementation. Yes, CCCB is putting out settings using the text of the lectionary. Vox, have you tried Gordon Jonston's Responsorial Psalms? They "foster meditation on the Word of God"(GIRM #61). The people pick it up very easily after the cantor sings it once.
If Readers cannot use the translation they prefer why should cantors who sing "the Responsorial Psalm which is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word.." (GIRM #61.

Anonymous said...

That "usually" means "unless taken from the Gradual or the seasonal psalms" not "unless taken from another translation". This is explained at the end of #61.


Thesy said...

Sorry, I overlooked clarifying this as I've never seen the gradual used, only other, many other translations. Thank you for the clarification. Much appreciated....

Vox Cantoris said...

This shows exactly why we need a universal translation for the Psalms in accord with Liturgiam Authenticum.

The CBWIII use of the NRSV has inclusive language which was not approved by the CDWDS. There were changes in what was finally approved.

Vox Cantoris said...

This is from the Diocese of Calgary. Okay, so I need to get out CBWIII and the new Lectionary because according to this, not even CBWIII is suitable. Well, what would they say about CBWII?

The CCCB has sown absolute confusion in this. Why should we be forced to use "Gordon Johnson" or "Novalis" settings? What if the music is inferior?

This is a cash grab.

Well, there are options. The proposal from St. Michael's Choir School is one, we could all write our own based on Gregorian tones similar to what has been done at Chabanel, but settling for inferior quality is worse than using another "approved" translation.

What I want to see is the new Grail adopted for all English speaking countries and then let all composers get to work.

Responsorial Psalm

"For the Responsorial Psalm, it is imperative that the text be from the current Canadian Lectionary. The Responsorial Psalms in the Catholic Book of Worship III and all American hymnals do not match the translation in the Canadian lectionary and cannot be used without modification. Novalis publishing has available Psalms for the Liturgical Year by Gordon Johnson, which uses the Canadian translation of the lectionary for the psalms. These same settings are in the Living With Christ missalette and the Novalis Sunday Missal. Individuals with adequate musical, liturgical, and pastoral judgement are welcome to compose their own psalm settings or adapt existing ones to fit the translation of the psalms approved for Canada with their pastor’s approval.

These guidelines may change in the future as the revised missal is implemented and more resources become available."

AJ in Toronto said...

The CCCB publications website is making available new and reworked CBWIII responsorial psalms to correspond with the lectionary. It is e-delivered with an annual license of $75 which seems to allow for unlimited copying.

Vox Cantoris said...

Yes AJ, I've seen them and I'm not too impressed with the compositions or the price.

With all the "free" quality compositions why should we pay for inferior work?

There is a better way and I think it's time for some collaboration with Ostrowski and Tucker.

You in?

AJ in Toronto said...

I'm definetley in favour of all the wonderful efforts at CCWatershed and by Tucker et al. But I keep worrying about not having a common musical voice for the Church in Canada despite the shortcomings of the offerings.

Anonymous said...

A complete Chabanel-like adaptation for the Canadian Lectionary psalms (modified NRSV) exists. Actually it is much closer to the Gregorian tradition that Chabanel, while still being singable by those used to the CBW responsorial style. A very small number of places in Canada use it.

However, it is not the CCCB's approved setting(s), and permission has not been obtained to publish it more widely, even for free.


Vox Cantoris said...

AM, where do I find this? Is it from the Choir School? I don't believe for one minute that the CCCB has the jurisdiction to approve musical settings, particularly if they follow Gregorian modes. No way. These experts that gave us the trash in Celebrate in Song must approve me singing a Resposorial Psalm to the Gregorian tones? I don't think so.

Can you write me off line at


Anonymous said...

If any reader wishes to review the psalm settings I mentioned above, there are sample recordings available at, and the books themselves can be downloaded by e-mailing