Can a hymn be chant?

I have just had an e-mail from Jacques about today’s big story reported over at the  THE CHANT CAFE that dramatic changes are afoot concerning musical guidelines and the new missal.

Jeffrey Tucker writes,

There appears a loophole. Musicians can sing what is appointed, or (“option 4”) they can sing something else, and that something else is limited only by what the musicians themselves deem as “appropriate.” What this has meant, in effect, is: anything goes. This is why it often seems that when it comes to music at Mass that, well, anything goes.

If it’s not a hoax then the American GIRM 2011 is essentially saying that set texts will have to be sung at the Introit, Gradual (Responsorial Psalm) Offertory and Communion rather than whatever the choir fancies.

48. This chant is sung alternately by the choir and the people or similarly by a cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Gradual Romanum, as set to music there or in another setting; (2) the antiphon and Psalm of the Graduate Simplex for the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.

This directive obviously pertains to America not to England and Wales so we will have to see what  happens this side of the pond, but as one commentator writes on Chant cafe,

I have already heard one liturgist say that we are now required to call the entrance and communion hymns chants but that ‘chant’ is just another word for song and that no changes, other than the change in terminology, are required. We can go on doing the same old thing as long as we call it something different.

So lets not dash to ‘The Chanter” and pop open the Veuve quite yet…


One thought on “Can a hymn be chant?

  1. Thomas Windsor says:


    I found this most interesting;
    So those so called hymns are banned anyway, at least in England and Wales.
    It does not effect us, our Schola(s) up in London are of course banned from singing any vernacular music during Mass :-))

    Another point; Of course a Hymn in the Catholic sense is a Liturgical piece of Music, so would be one of the current or former Office Hymns, and would be in Latin rather than a translation!
    Sequences have also been described as Hymns in the past.

    So those books sometimes being described as ‘hymn’ books are nothing of the kind, they are just carol and song books.

    Now back to work on some REAL Hymns!

    God Bless

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