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Music Notes Bulletin Column Archive

Nov 5, 2023

What are the Propers – Part 2 of 4

Last week we explored a (possibly) new world of Proper antiphons, and this week we will delve deeper into what exactly the Propers are. There are essentially 10 musical moments in any Mass that has music; 5 are the same every week and 5 change. Those that remain the same are called the Ordinary – this includes the Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Holy/Sanctus, and Agnus Dei/Lamb of God. The five that change are called the Propers – as they are “proper to the day”. They include the Introit, Psalm, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion. You may notice two things – first that the Psalm and Alleluia will be readily familiar, and second that the Introit/Offertory/Communion are three places where hymns are commonly sung.

When as is often the case, a hymn is used in one of these places (say for the Processional or the Offertory), care is taken to try and match the text of the hymn to the text, or at least the spirit, of the proper text. The text of the propers can often be found in Missals, and are as integral to having a complete picture of our liturgies as is the Collect prayers or the prayers after Communion.


Oct 29, 2023

What’s an antiphon? - Part 1 of 4

You may have noticed that recently our cantors have begun singing short phrases – actually excerpts from Scripture – at certain points during Mass. These are sometimes called the “antiphons” but are more specifically known as the “Propers”. We will dive into what the “Propers” are in a future continuation of this column, but for today let us focus on the term “antiphon”.

An antiphon is a general term for any piece of music which is performed by alternating between two groups – this can be two halves of a choir, separate groups gathered in prayer (like men/women), or a cantor alternating with a larger group. While some of these antiphons may be new to some, there are a few I am certain you are familiar with – the responsorial psalm and the gospel acclamation are antiphons! In each, the cantor intones a short refrain (also somewhat confusingly called the “antiphon”), which is then sung by all. In between any number of verses, the antiphon (refrain) returns. More on all this later, stay tuned!



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