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Get to Know Us: What is an Anthem?

Q: What is an Anthem?

A: In the secular world, an anthem is associated with identity, often either national or collegiate. We hear the national anthems of world-class athletes during the Olympics and our own anthem at the beginning of big events. But in the liturgical world, an anthem is Choral setting of sacred vocal music set to scriptural or liturgical texts, “or texts congruent with them.” (BCP, p. 14). (Source)

“Anthem” is an Anglicized form of the word “antiphon,” which is: A verse sung before and usually after a psalm, canticle, or hymn text. It is often drawn from scripture (especially the psalms) and is appropriate to the liturgical season or occasion. The BCP (p. 141) provides that antiphons may be used with the psalms of the Daily Office. These antiphons may be drawn from the psalms, or from the opening sentences in the Daily Offices, or from other passages of scripture. The BOS suggests antiphons for use on special occasions such as the Stripping of the Altar on Maundy Thursday, the last stage of a Candlemas procession, and the welcoming procession for the new bishop at the Recognition and Investiture of a Diocesan Bishop. Hymns such as “This is the feast of victory for our God” (417, 418), “Remember your servants, Lord” (560), and “Where true charity and love dwell” (606) are sung with antiphons. (Source)

Anthems at St. Francis: At St. Francis’, our anthems are brought to us by the St. Francis’ Singers. Not a traditional church choir, the Singers are an intentionally intergenerational group that rehearses twice monthly, sings in worship once monthly, and chooses anthems to bring out the best in the singers so we can joyfully express our love for God through our music. A traditional church choir would also support congregational singing during hymns each Sunday, but instead, a cantor leads our other worship music. Learn more about the St. Francis’ Singers.

A cantor is: A singer who sets the pitch and leads the liturgical singing of psalms, canticles, anthems, and other sung texts. Cantors often lead unaccompanied singing. In responsorial recitation of the Psalter, the cantor sings the verses of the psalm and the congregation sings a refrain after each verse or group of verses. This was the traditional way of singing the Venite in the Daily Office, and it was also a traditional way of chanting the psalms between the lessons at the Holy Eucharist (BCP, p. 582). (Source)

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