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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

March 23, 2015

Greeting the Gospel in Lent

evelyn @ 7:24 pm

Our congregation have been guinea-pigs again, and they seem to have come out of it extremely well.

The experiment concerned the Lenten Gospel acclamations which replace the usual Alleluia. There are four different texts for the people to sing, all of which appear in no apparent sequence in missals and Mass sheets during Lent. No doubt there is a liturgical reason for so many variants to replace the single Alleluia of the rest of the year. It can’t just be a form of Lenten penance, surely?

However, you don’t have to stick to what is in the missal for any particular week.  It is acceptable to select another of  the four instead, and in the heady but confusing times following Vatican II, many parishes took the easy way out and adopted the custom of singing the same Gospel Acclamation – music and words – all the way through Lent. The most popular choice for this purpose was an acclamation which had originated in Glasgow shortly after Vatican II, but soon became known everywhere. Priests especially liked it, because it was easy to lead the people with when there wasn’t an organ.

It is still widely used, and our parish tended to go in for it quite a bit. But this year, parish priest Father Paul Kelly demanded a change. He was very precise about it. He wanted a chant, which the popular tune wasn’t. He knew which chant he wanted:

Lent chant

and he wanted it used for the cantor’s versicle as well.

I welcomed this as an opportunity to address something that had always bothered me: the fact that if the same acclamation was used for every week in Lent, there was only a one in four chance of the words in the people’s hands coinciding with those which they would actually sing.  So I offered to arrange each acclamation, as it arose, to fit Father Kelly’s chant. This I’ve done over the past five weeks.

At first, the people were a bit wary, but by about Week 3 they had got the idea. We introduced it as we do the psalm response: organ, followed by cantor, then everyone. That way they knew how the words would fit in. Here’s what we sang yesterday:

Lent Gospel Acc 5B

After Easter, I’ll smarten things up with some sort of accompaniment and put the chants on the Forth in Praise Resources and Downloads page.  You never know, someone just might be interested in trying the idea out for themselves.

Must stop now, as Holy Week looms yet again, and the pressure is already starting to build …



  1. Evelyn, for as long as I can remember, which is probably as long as we have been singing the psalms maybe about 15 years, we have been singing the appropriate Lenten Acclamations. With the exception of the first Sunday of Lent when we use most probably the one you refer to in your blog we have been using a Mayhew publication of Gospel Acclamations but purely for the Lent and Holy Week ones. This publication seems to still be available. Not sure how our use of it came about perhaps it was recommended at the time to the person leading the music then. This may be helpful to others.

    Comment by Marian — March 26, 2015 @ 7:56 pm

  2. Thanks, Marian. I’m sure a number of readers will want to explore that. If I remember, your parish is well-organised musically, and it’s great that you have different tunes for the different acclamations, and that the people know them. That’s the best way of all. Our different words/same tune exercise is a lesser attempt to cater for all four acclamations. But I still can’t understand why we have to have four of them. If there were just one, we could go in for different tunes for it, as we do with the Alleluia. Much more fun. But Lent isn’t about fun, of course.

    Comment by evelyn — March 27, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

  3. Excellent!
    Simply Excellent!

    Comment by Elvira — March 27, 2015 @ 7:40 pm

  4. Glad you like it, Elvira. All credit to Father Kelly for the idea. I know I wouldn’t have thought of it.

    Comment by evelyn — March 27, 2015 @ 11:47 pm

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