Advent Introits Year C

One of the delights–and challenges–in planning and presenting music at St. Stephen’s in Orinda is that each we sing (or play, if it’s the handbell choir in action) an introit at the beginning of the service as well as an anthem (usually at the offertory, sometimes at communion). An introit in our practice is a short piece of music, usually less than 90 seconds, that usually functions as a call to worship. I first started writing them for our Summer Choir, which only has a half hour or so on Sunday to learn both introit and anthem. Writing my own allowed me to build in flexibility, since I would never know how large a choir I would have, nor the composition of the choir, until the morning itself. I’ve expanded my reach to other seasons of the church year (I know: summer is not a season–but it is a fact of life!), including Advent–and I’ve just finished my set for Year C in the three-year lectionary cycle we follow.

My introits are always based on the lectionary psalm. I find a verse or two that give the flavor of the psalm and speak to the theme–as best I can understand–of the readings. The last couple of years I’ve added an extra dimension. I’ve written a psalm tone for cantor and choir, and an antiphon for the congregation. The antiphon uses the same music for each week of the season (Advent, Lent, Eastertide), modified each week to fit the words of the antiphon drawn from the psalm. I then use that same antiphon in each of the introits I write. This adds both a unifying element and sometimes throws me a bit of a curve, as I sometimes get a neat idea for the introit that seems to disagree with the antiphon. As a composer, I love the challenge.

Antiphon Melody for Advent Year C

I’m looking forward to sharing with you how this antiphon melody shapes each of the introits in future posts. I’ll include mp3s of each introit, and a look “under the hood” at the composition process. This advent’s antiphon, by the way, came from another piece I just finished writing: a work called Waiting, written for our handbell ensemble. I’ll include an mp3 of that piece when I discuss the first introit, Show me your ways, O Lord.

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