Not everything that can be sung should be sung, nor should it be sung the same way every time. We need to follow a principle of “progressive solemnity.” Think of it like musical dynamics that express the melodic line and musical story. Progressive solemnity helps communicate what is most important, what is secondary, and what is uniquely special about this celebration or season.
Progressive solemnity begins with the expectation that every liturgy, even without choir, cantor, or musical instrument, is inherently musical because the primary music minister is the gathered assembly. And the primary songs the assembly sings are the ritual dialogues. Think of all the dialogues between the priest, deacon, lector, and people—“In the name of the Father … Amen”; “The Lord be with you … And with your spirit”; “The word of the Lord … Thanks be to God”; “Let us pray to the Lord … Lord, hear our prayer.”Progressive solemnity helps communicate what is most important, what is secondary, and what is uniquely special about this celebration or season. Click To Tweet
These are the first things we always plan to sing. Next are the Mass acclamations, especially the Gospel and eucharistic prayer acclamations. Therefore, at the simplest, most informal liturgies of the year, singing the dialogues and acclamations—even a cappella on a single note—is normative because singing them expresses their ritual nature.
Learn more about progressive solemnity in the U.S. Bishops’ document “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship,” paragraphs 110–117.
This post was first published in “GIA Quarterly: A Liturgical Music Journal.”
Image credit: arturmarciniecphotos.
Read more reflections on the Sunday readings here:
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- Can we be salt and light?
- Who is advocating for those in need?
- Bonded to Christ’s Mission
- Deepening the unity