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“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.”            Psalm 98

The most important part of our lives as Catholic Christians is the celebration of the Eucharist, especially on Sundays.  Since the founding of the Church, this has included the use of chants, psalms, and spiritual songs in praise of God.  The Second Vatican Council that addressed sacred music more thoroughly than any other, states, “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 112)  Out of love for God and in obedience to the Church, we at St. Gabriel the Archangel strive to live this wonderful vision.    

Choirs

“The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care.  Choirs must be diligently developed…” (Sacrosanctum Concilium)  The choir, whether in religious communities or parishes, has always provided the musical leadership for the Roman Catholic Mass.   We are fortunate at St. Gabriel to have a fine long-standing tradition of sacred choral music.

  • Our main choir, the St. Gabriel Parish Choir, sings at the 11:00 am Mass from September until the Feast of Corpus Christi.  This choir is known for its excellent and diverse repertoire, and is open to any adult or high school student interested in a challenging, yet satisfying choral singing experience.  Rehearsals are every Wednesday from 7:30-9:00 pm.
  • The voice of a child is arguably more pure and beautiful than any other.  At St. Gabriel, the Youth Choir sings twice a month at the 5:00 Saturday evening Vigil Mass and the 9:00 Sunday morning Mass, and at school Masses during the week. Through this choral experience, students can learn basic musicianship and vocal skills, not to mention many concepts of the Faith through sacred music.  This choir is open to any student (parishioner or non-parishioner, parish school student or not) from grades 4-8.  Rehearsals are every Thursday morning at 7:15 in the choir loft, before the 8:00 All School Mass.
  • The Children's Choir is a training choir for children in grades 3-(4).  This special choir will sing occasionally throughout the year at the 5:00 Saturday evening Vigil Mass and the 9:00 Sunday morning Mass, and at school Masses during the week.  Rehearsals are on Tuesday morning at 7:20 in the choir loft, before the school Mass.
  • The 9:00 Choir sings at the 9:00 a.m. Sunday Mass on the fourth Sunday of each month. Anyone is welcome to attend; there is no age requirement.  Families are welcome!  The choir rehearses before Mass at 8:15 on the day they sing. No commitment is required; just come at 8:15, sing, and praise the Lord!
  • The St. Gabriel Resurrection Choir sings for all Masses of Christian Burial at the parish.  This choir is one of our most valuable choirs because it prays for the deceased through music and helps perform the seventh corporal work of mercy—burial of the dead.  The Resurrection Choir prays and sings with those gathered in a loving offering to God on behalf of and for our parishioners.
  • The Emmaus Choir leads the music for our Sunday evening 6:00 pm Mass.  This choir sings a variety of styles, and is accompanied by diverse acoustical instruments.  This group rehearses at 4:45 before the 6:00 pm Mass every week.
  • Instrumentalists add a festive flourish to Sundays and seasonal liturgies.  Anyone interested in the possibility of sharing their talents is most welcome to contact the Director of Music.

New members for any of these choirs are always being accepted.  Please contact the Director of Music at the wittrym@stgabrielstl.org or 314.881.1104 for more information.

Cantors

The role of cantor is very important to our Roman Catholic liturgy. Cantors are present to help lead congregational singing and chant the responsorial Psalm and other parts of the Mass as needed.  The responsibility of leading the parish in sung prayer is very great, but rehearsal time is very flexible.  We are always searching for new cantors.  Opportunities are available for parish cantors to sing at weddings and funerals for a stipend. Please contact the Director of Sacred Music at wittrym@stgabrielstl.org or 314.881.1104 for more information.

The Assembly of the Faithful

Speaking of the assembly of the faithful—you are important to our music!  Through prayers, responses and dialogues, and singing, you, the faithful, support our work and act as the main voice in our parish music program.  The assembly's singing is an expression of our faith, and therefore is a necessary part of the liturgical celebration.  In addition to your active participation at Mass (St. Gabriel is known for fine congregational singing, we might add), your prayers support our musical mission and enable us to continue our fine musical offerings. 

Our Pipe Organ

The pipe organ at St. Gabriel was built in 1961 by the St. Louis Pipe Organ Company as a gift in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Eschbacher and rebuilt in 1991 by the Wicks Organ Company (view the stoplist in the "Documents" tab to the left).  Robert G. Dial performed additional work in 2002.  The organ, located in two chambers in the gallery of the church, is of three manuals and around thirty ranks of pipes.  The pipe organ is an especially important element of our program because, “In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument that adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up the spirit to God and to higher things.” (SC, No. 120)  It is used at every vigil, Sunday morning, Holy Day, and school Mass, as well as for occasional concerts.  Last year, Ekkehard Fehl cleaned, voiced, and repaired all the pipework in the organ, and added a 3 rank mixture to the Great Organ.  We are still in the process of finishing work put into motion in 1991, and plan to add 6 to 8 more ranks of pipes in the near future. Your financial support in this matter of key importance to our music ministry is greatly appreciated; should you be interested in making a donation, please do not hesitate to contact our Director of Music at the phone or email listed to the left of the webpage.

Where do I fit in?

Because you are worshipping in the pews week after week, you are already part of the parish music program at St. Gabriel the Archangel!  

Some music ministries, such singing as a cantor or in the St. Gabriel Choir or playing an instrument, will require a low-stress audition and some basic musicianship skills.  For other choirs, an audition may not be required, and parish membership is not strictly necessary. 

We welcome visitors in the gallery choir loft after every Mass and would be glad to hear from you via phone or email at the contact info to the left of this column.  On behalf of our parish, choirs, musicians, and staff, welcome to our music program!            

Why are we singing the Entrance and Communion Antiphon?

The Church gives us two different types of prayers in our Eucharistic liturgy, the Mass; the Mass Ordinary and the Mass Propers. The Mass Ordinary includes the Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy), the Gloria, the Credo (Creed), the Sanctus and Benedictus (which is now one prayer combined, the Holy, Holy, Holy), and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). These texts do not change from Mass to Mass; they always remain the same. For this reason, they are familiar to every Catholic.

The Mass Propers are liturgical texts that vary from day to day according to the Liturgical Year: the Introit (Entrance Antiphon), the Gradual (what we now know as the Responsorial Psalm), the verse for the Gospel Acclamation, and the Communio (Communion Antiphon). The Entrance Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon are the texts that the Church hopes will guide our prayer on that particular day in the Liturgical Year.

Although parishes, including ours, sing other hymns and songs during the Entrance and during Communion processions, the liturgical texts of the Entrance Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon are the most proper or appropriate texts to be sung during these two processions. And although we have recently only selectively used antiphons at Sunday Masses, this tradition was never intended to be lost or to be ended after the Second Vatican Council. In fact, the tradition is very much alive at St.Gabriel weekday Masses.

Since the First Sunday of Advent, we have begun restoring the tradition of singing the Entrance and Communion Antiphons at each Sunday Mass. The texts are in the worship aid, and everyone will be invited to sing the Antiphons on a very simple, familiar psalm tone each week. (responding to the first line sung alone by the cantor). We will sing the Entrance Antiphon just before the Entrance Hymn, and the Communion Antiphon before the Communion Procession. We will still continue to sing the musical repertoire of the parish after we have sung these beautiful texts the Church has given us for each Sunday of the Liturgical Year.

Why do we sometimes sing in Latin?

For a variety of reasons, the use of Latin in the liturgy often gets people worked up: some think it is the only way to have Mass, and others believe it is a step back to the Stone Age. The truth, as always, lies in the middle.  Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church and all official documents, letters, and prayers are recorded in this language before being translated for use around the world. Until the Second Vatican Council, the entire Mass was celebrated in Latin. After Vatican II, permission was given throughout the world to celebrate Mass in the local language (called the vernacular), but the Church always intended that people would still know how to pray parts of the Mass in Latin. Pope Benedict XVI makes this clear. “The intention of the Second Vatican Council was certainly to sing in the vernacular language of the people, but never to entirely replace the Latin Mass. The Church continues to revisit the intentions of the council, and understand the worldwide, communal and truly Catholic (and catholic) need for parishes to have a common repertoire of music.  And the language of that music would be Latin.”  Latin is our tradition, our Catholic heritage. It is our link to the universal Church. By singing Mass XVIII, we join our voices with those of Catholics around the world. 

Singing the Psalms                    

Our Roman Catholic Church is filled with rich tradition of now more than 2000 years, and even the tradition of our Jewish roots before that.  The psalter, or the 150 psalms of David, are the prayers Jesus prayed. These psalms make up our most authentic and most ancient hymnal.  Our Mass is filled with psalm singing. This is who we are as Catholics! We may not have one Catholic hymnal, but we all share the psalter.

In addition to the responsorial psalm sung between the first two readings, psalm verses are assigned to the Introit (Entrance Antiphon) and the (Communio) Communion Antiphon for each day of the Liturgical Year.   These texts are referred to as the ‘Mass Propers,’ or the text that is proper for a particular day, Feast, or Solemnity.

During the Liturgical Year, there are psalms that are appropriate for each season. For example, during Advent, Psalms 25 and 85 are sung in the Liturgy of the Word as the Responsorial Psalm, and are also paired with antiphons on different Sundays throughout Advent.

On the First Sunday of Lent, Psalm 91 is paired with both the Entrance Antiphon and Communion Antiphon, and in Year C, Psalm 91 is the responsorial psalm between the first two readings.  It is most appropriate to sing Psalm 91 during Communion on that Sunday.

The ‘seasonal’ psalms are as follows:

Advent                        Psalm 25, 85    

Christmas                   Psalm 98

Lent                            Psalm 51, 91, 130

Holy Week                  Psalm 122

Easter                         Psalm 66, 118

Pentecost                   Psalm 104

Ordinary Time            Psalm 19, 27, 34, 63, 95, 100, 103

End of the Liturgical Year     Psalm 23, 122, 145

 

Because of their prominence in our Liturgical Year, we sing these psalms or music based on these psalms quite often. While there are many beautiful songs that we sing while receiving communion, singing the psalms during communion is a more authentic expression of our Catholic tradition.  Psalm 34, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” is ‘the Communion Song.’  It is one of the most ancient texts sung during Communion.  It often appears during Ordinary Time in the Liturgical Year, paired with many different Communion Antiphons. It certainly is a text we should know ‘by heart.’  In her wisdom, the Church has given us the 150 psalms as a foundation for a rich life of prayer.

 


Contact:

Mary Beth Wittry

 314.881.1104

wittrym@stgabrielstl.org


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