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The use of antiphons at Mass has exploded in the last decade due in part to the generosity of composers who have shared their chant or choral settings for free, as is the case with the Simple English Propers. I have found hymn tune adaptations to be another excellent way to introduce the entrance antiphons to a parish. With familiar tunes, my parish could sing them at sight. Others have written "Introit Hymns" (thank you Teitz and Pluth) but still there existed no complete and FREE resource for antiphon hymns (No reprint license necessary). I was determined to make this happen, and so the project was conceived. It has become a collaborative effort with Greg Heislman, Music Director at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland, OH, who has freely offered the use of his adapted Entrance Antiphon texts which he has expertly crafted over the years. It has grown to include an Entrance Antiphon Hymn for every day of the liturgical year.
The instructions in the Roman Missal for Mass say that the first option (i.e., preferred option), for music during the Entrance Procession is as follows: "(1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another setting." If you look in The Graduale Romanum (Roman Gradual), you will see that each introit chant follows a formula: Antiphon, Psalm verse, Glory be to the Father…(Doxology), return to Antiphon. As a general rule, we follow this formula. Most of the time, the Roman Missal and Roman Gradual texts agree with each other for the Introit. In those cases we referred to the vocabulary in both translations when crafting our adaptations. We would often go directly to the Latin in order to maintain accuracy, but also depended on the English translation of the chants as found in the Roman Missal and a book called the Gregorian Missal. We strive to keep our adaptations as faithful to the original translations as possible. When the Roman Missal and Roman Gradual antiphons differ, we endeavor to set them both, sometimes combined into one hymn, thereby healing the rift between the two sources and bringing together two antiphons that would have been better kept the same. This turns out to work wonderfully. For example, one setting for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord contains the Missal Antiphon drawn from the Gospel account of Jesus’ Baptism and the Roman Gradual Antiphon from the Psalms about God anointing his holy one. Together they make perfect sense in the same hymn. The same occurs with the Feast of the Holy Family and a few others. Similarly, there are some feasts with different antiphons for the Vigil and Day which have been combined into one hymn as one of the several options. Occasionally a verse will be drawn from an old public domain Psalter.
We tried to use tunes in a variety of meters that would be familiar to the average Catholic parish. There are multiple settings for every solemnity and major feast, all but guaranteeing there will be at least one tune that your parish knows very well. Every tune used is in the public domain, and every organ accompaniment is either public domain or my own arrangement to allow free use.
This website has organ files, PDFs and JPEGs of the melody for worship aids, and a “text” version of every hymn that contains the text alone, suggestions for alternate tunes, as well as detailed explanations of the source material. This website also contains texts of the adaptations for the weekdays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, which do not have organ accompaniments on this site yet. For the solemnities in the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter there is at least one meter that is used throughout to allow the use of one tune for the entire season. We have set the organ part to that consistent tune for Lent. Lastly, the original opensource notation software is available for key changes.
The verses of our hymns are labelled in one of two ways. Either with Ant., Vs., Dox., or 1, 2, 3. In the former, you could return to the antiphon after the Dox. to complete the formula. In the latter, the numbers are used because some Ant. and Vs. are combined into one pass of the tune. Sometimes the second iteration of the tune contains both the verse and doxology. In those cases it usually makes sense to use numbers to label the verses of the tune. While we generally follow the formula of antiphon, verse, doxology, antiphon, there is no rule that you must do it that way. There are many different approaches and you could sing only the antiphon, antiphon and verse, antiphon and doxology, skip the final iteration of the antiphon, or sing the antiphon as the final verse of a familiar hymn, etc.
We try to take punctuation cues from the original antiphon texts. Traditionally, hymns will start each line with a capital letter. Often we choose to start with a lowercase letter as a cue to the singer that the idea of the text is continuing. For example, from the feast of St. Martha, we do not capitalize the I in into, even though it is the start of a new poetic line: A woman, Martha, welcomed him into her home to stay.
Proper of Saints
I wanted to provide a solid hymn for every saint for weekday Masses. Each saint that has his own specified antiphon in the Roman Missal gets his own adaptation. Many other saints have antiphons drawn from the “commons,” which are also included. Refer to your local ORDO book for which common setting to use for optional memorials or click this Roman Missal Antiphonary and go to the Proper of Saints section. Or, the readings from the USCCB website say which common settings are used for memorials. These antiphons for the saints, since they were adapted from the Roman Missal, do not contain an appointed psalm verse as in the Roman Gradual. Therefore, they contain only an antiphon and doxology. For any weekday in Ordinary Time that has no feast, the previous Sunday is used.
Exceptions to the Norm
In an effort to make this resource as user-friendly as possible, there are some adaptations that follow a different format for pastoral reasons. For example, there are some tunes that are so married to their familiar text that to divorce them may confuse people, such as Hail, Holy Queen. Catholics love to sing that hymn! So for the Assumption and Queenship of Mary, verse one of the original familiar text is kept, and the Antiphon is set as verse 2 of that tune. We do the same with Come, Holy Ghost for Pentecost. Another exception to the formula of Ant, Vs, Dox, Ant is that some weekday saints have one-verse settings that end with the doxology. For one Christmas setting, the original text of “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” is included so you can sing the familiar carol as well as the antiphon. We make reference to the original Latin texts within one of the adaptations for each week in the Easter Season.
Antiphon adaptations are Licensed in the Creative Commons by-nc-nd 3.0 and may be freely copied, distributed, and performed for noncomercial purposes, as long as copyright and author is acknowledged.
Greg Heislman’s genius adaptations that have been in use at the cathedral in Cleveland for a decade, are a true treasure, and the Church owes him a debt of gratitude for allowing us to use them. I’m grateful to my colleague Clayton Orr for his collection of adaptations for Advent, Christmas, and Lent. Thank you to my amazing and beautiful wife, Melissa, who supported me in a hundred ways. Finally, thanks be to God.
Any questions/suggestions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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