Office for Music

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Rev. James J. Chepponis, MDiv, MA, Director
Donald Fellows, Associate Director
Doris A. Mercer, Secretary
Herbert Dillahunt, NPM Liaison
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Saint Paul Seminary:

2900 Noblestown Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15205-4227
Phone: (412) 456-3042
Fax: (412) 456-3163

Music References in the GIRM 2002

Excerpts from an English Language Study Translation of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani Prepared by the NCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy, ©2000. All rights reserved.



32 The nature of the presidential texts demands that they be spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone present listen with attention. While the priest is speaking these texts, there should be no other prayer or liturgical song, and the organ or other instruments should not be played.


39 The faithful who gather together to await the Lord's coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together psalms, hymns, and inspired liturgical songs (see Colossians 3:16 ). Liturgical song is the sign of the heart's joy (see Acts 2:46 ). Thus Saint Augustine says rightly: "To sing belongs to lovers." There is also the ancient proverb: "One who sings well prays twice."

40 With due consideration for the culture and ability of each liturgical assembly, great importance should be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass. Although it is not always necessary to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung (e.g., in weekday Masses), nevertheless, the complete absence of all singing by ministers and people — which by law accompanies celebrations, which take place on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation — should be particularly guarded against.

In choosing the parts actually to be sung, however, preference should be given to those that are more significant and especially to those to be sung by the priest or deacon or reader, with the people responding or by the priest and people together.

41 All things being equal, Gregorian chant should hold a privileged place, as being more proper to the Roman liturgy. Other kinds of sacred music, polyphony in particular, are not in any way to be excluded, provided that they correspond with the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.

Since the faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is desirable that they know how to sing at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Profession of Faith and the Lord's Prayer, set to simple melodies.


47 After the people have gathered, the opening liturgical song begins as the priest with the deacon and ministers come in. The purpose of this liturgical song is to open the celebration, intensify the unity of those who have assembled, lead their thoughts to the mystery of the season or feast, and accompany the procession of priest and ministers.

48 The opening liturgical song is sung alternately either by the choir and the people or by the cantor and the people; or it is sung entirely by the people or by the choir alone. The antiphon and psalm of the Gradulae Romanum or The Simple Gradual may be used, or another liturgical song that is suited to this part of the Mass, the day or the season and that has a text approved by the Conference of Bishops. If there is no singing for the entrance, the antiphon in the Missal is recited either by the faithful, by some of them, or by a reader; otherwise, it is recited by the priest himself, who may also incorporate it into his introductory remarks (see n. 31).


52 Then the Kyrie always begins, unless it has already been included as part of the penitential rite. Since it is a liturgical song by which the faithful praise the Lord and implore his mercy, it is ordinarily prayed by all, that is, alternately by the congregation and the choir or cantor.

As a rule each of the acclamations is repeated twice, though it may be repeated more, because of different languages, the music, or other circumstances. When the Kyrie is sung as a part of the penitential act, a trope may be inserted before each acclamation.

53 The Gloria is the ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, assembled in the Holy Spirit, praises and entreats God the Father and the Lamb. The text of this hymn is not to be replaced by any other. The Gloria is begun by the priest or, as needs dictate, by a cantor or a choir, but is sung by everyone together, or by the people alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone. If not sung, it is to be recited either by all or by two parts of the congregation responding to each other.

The Gloria is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, on solemnities and feasts, and in special, more solemn celebrations.


61 After the first reading comes the responsorial psalm, which is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and holds great liturgical and pastoral importance, because it promotes meditation on the Word of God.

The responsorial psalm should correspond to each reading and should customarily be taken from the Lectionary.

It is appropriate that the responsorial psalm be sung, at least as far as the people's response is concerned. Hence, the psalmist or cantor of the song sings the verses of the psalm at the ambo or other suitable place. However, in order that the people may be able to join in the responsorial psalm more readily, the people remain seated and listen, but also as rule take part by singing the response, except when the psalm is sung straight through without the response. If the psalm cannot be sung, then it should be recited in a way more suited to fostering meditation on the word of God.

When sung the following may be used in place of the psalm assigned in the Lectionary: either the gradual from the GradualeRomanum or the responsorial psalm or the Alleluia psalm from The Simple Gradual in the form they have in those books.


62 After the reading which immediately precedes the Gospel, the Alleluia or another song indicated by the rubrics is sung, according to the liturgical season. An acclamation of this kind constitutes in itself a rite or act, by which the assembly of the faithful praises and welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to them in the Gospel and professes its faith in liturgical song. The Alleluia is sung by all standing, led by either the choir or a cantor, and if appropriate, it may be repeated. The verse itself is sung either by the choir or by the cantor.

  • The Alleluia is sung in every season outside Lent. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the Graduale.
  • During Lent in place of the Alleluia the verse before the Gospel is sung, as indicated in the Lectionary. It is also possible to sing another psalm or tract, as long as it is found in the Graduale.

63 When there is only one reading before the Gospel reading:

  • during a season calling for the Alleluia, there is an option to use either the psalm with Alleluia as the response, or the responsorial psalm followed by the Alleluia with its verse;
  • during the season when the Alleluia is not allowed, either the psalm and the verse before the Gospel or the psalm alone may be used.
  • The Alleluia verse before the Gospel may be omitted if it is not sung.

64 The Sequence is optional, except on Easter Sunday and Pentecost. It is sung after the Alleluia.


74 The procession bringing the gifts is accompanied by the liturgical song for the preparation of the gifts, which continues at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar. The rules for this liturgical song are the same as for singing the entrance antiphon (see n. 48). The liturgical song may always be associated with the offertory rites.


83.During the breaking of the bread, the Lamb of God, as a rule, sung by the choir or cantor with the congregation responding; otherwise, it is at least recited aloud. This invocation accompanies the breaking or the bread and, for this reason, may be repeated as many times as necessary until the conclusion of the rite. The final repetition concludes with the words: Grant us peace.

86 During the priest's reception of Holy Communion, the Communion song is begun. Its function is to express outwardly the communicants' union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to give evidence of joy of heart and to highlight more the "communitarian" character of the Communion procession. The song continues while the Sacrament is being ministered to the faithful. But the Communion song should be ended in good time whenever there is to be a hymn after Communion.

Care must be taken that cantors are also able to receive Holy Communion conveniently.

87 An antiphon from the Graduale Romanum may also be used for the Communion song, with or without the psalm, or an antiphon with psalm from Graduale Simplex or another suitable liturgical song approved by the Conference of Bishops may be used.

If there is no singing, the Communion antiphon in the Missal may be recited either by the faithful, or by a group of them, or by a reader. Otherwise the priest himself says it after he has received Holy Communion and before he gives Holy Communion to them.

88 After Communion, the priest and people may spend some time praying silently. If desired, either a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may be sung by the entire congregation.


99 The reader is instituted to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture, with the exception of the Gospel reading. The reader may also announce the intentions for the General Intercessions and, in the absence of the psalmist, sing or read the psalm between the readings.

102 The psalmist or cantor of the psalm is to sing the psalm or other biblical song that comes between the readings. To fulfill their function correctly, these psalmists should possess the ability to sing and an aptitude for correct pronunciation and diction.

103 The schola cantorum or choir exercises its own liturgical function among the faithful. Its task is to ensure that the parts proper to it, in keeping with the different types of chants, are carried out becomingly and to encourage active participation of the people in the singing. What is said about the choir applies in a similar way to other musicians, especially the organist.

104 There should be a cantor or a choir director to lead and sustain the people in the singing. When in fact there is no choir, it is up to the cantor to lead the various liturgical songs, and the people take part in the way proper to them.


142. However, if no liturgical song is sung at the offering of the gifts, and the organ is not played, the priest is permitted to offer the formulas of blessing in the presentation of the bread and wine audibly, to which the people respond with the acclamation: Blessed be God for ever.

147. For their part, the people associate themselves with the priest in silent faith, as well as by the prescribed acclamations in the Eucharistic Prayer, which are their responses in the Preface dialogue, the Sanctus, the acclamation after the consecration and the great Amen after the final doxology, and also other acclamations approved by the Conference of Bishops and confirmed by the Holy See.

It is especially fitting that the priest sing those parts of the Eucharistic Prayer which are provided with musical notation.

159 The Communion song is begun while the priest is receiving the Sacrament (see no. 56:9).

196 At the ambo the reader proclaims the readings that precede the Gospel reading. If there is no psalmist, the reader may also sing or recite the responsorial psalm after the first reading.

218. It is fitting that the parts which may be recited together by all the concelebrants and which are provided with musical notation in the Missal be sung.


294. The faithful and the choir should have a place that facilitates their active participation.

309. The readings, responsorial psalm and the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) are proclaimed only from the ambo; it may be used also for the homily and General Intercessions (Prayer of the Faithful). The dignity of the ambo requires that only a minister of the Word should approach it.


312 In relation to the design of each church, the schola cantorum should be so placed that its character as a part of the assembly of the faithful that has a special function stands out clearly. The locaton should also assist the exercise of the duties of the schola cantorum and allow each member of the choir complete, that is, sacramental participation in the Mass.

313 The organ and other lawfully approved musical instruments are to be place suitably in such a way that they can sustain the singing of the choir and congregation and be heard by all with ease when they are played alone. It is appropriate that the organ be blessed before its designation for liturgical use. This should be done according to the rite described in the Roman Ritual.

During Advent the organ and other musical instruments may be used with moderation, corresponding to the character of the season, but should not anticipate the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord.

During Lent the use of the organ and musical instruments is permitted for accompanying sustained singing. Nevertheless, exceptions are made for Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent), for solemnities and feast days.



366 It is not permitted to substitute for the chants found in the Order of Mass, e.g., at the Agnus Dei.

367 The norms laid down in their proper places are to be observed for the choice of chants between the readings and the opening song, the song for the preparation of the gifts, and the Communion song.



390 It is up to the Conferences of Bishops, once their acts have been given the recognitio of the Apostolic See, to define for introduction into the Missal itself the adaptations which are indicated in this General Institutio and in the Order of Mass, such as:.

-the text of the chants at the entry, at the preparation of the gifts and at Communion (see nos. 48, 74, 87);

393 Bearing in mind the important place which singing has in celebration, as a necessary and integral part of the Liturgy, it is the place of the Conferences of Bishops to approve appropriate melodies, especially for the texts of theOrder of Mass, for the people's responses acclamations, and for the special rites that occur in the course of the liturgical year. Likewise they may judge which musical forms, melodies, and musical instruments may be admitted into divine worship, in that they are truly apt for sacred use of can be rendered apt.