There is NO SUCH THING as a "gathering song". Jeffrey Tucker just reiterated it.
I wish I knew where the phrase came from. Perhaps it came from the impulse that many people have that musicians should give people a kick when they get in the door, let them know that Church is a fun and happy place, make people glad that they are together with each other.
I wish I knew too, but my speculation is a little different. I think it might have been those same AA meetings from which hand-holding during the Lord's Prayer originated.
The phrase "gathering song" really must be completely retired from use. "Gathering song" implies that Mass is something like a family reunion, a dinner party, a staff meeting, or some other people-center event in which people just sort of show up and enjoy each other's company. This is decidedly what Mass is not. The Mass is the great miracle. As a symbol of what is taking place, the position of the people is in procession as led by the priest to the altar and toward the East of the risen Christ. We are not "gathering" but spiritually processing toward the focal point at the center.
Mr. Tucker says it best, doesn't he? Another thing I've said many times before, on the blog and on the CVA cast - If you're singing while you're gathering, you're probably late for Mass.
The Roman Rite is not structured to have two bookends on either side, one called the gathering song and the other called the "Sending Forth" (to bring up yet another absurd phrase that has entered into our liturgical language).
Another thing I've said before: the "sending forth" is the "Ite, Missa Est" (proper word, "dismissal"). Any singing after that, hey... the Mass is ended!
When I did substitute work in Cranston on Corpus Christi day, the Saturday cantor announced "gathering" and "preparation" hymns (she DID say "recessional" at the end - far better than "sending forth"). The next morning, a young choir member, I'm guessing no more than 18 years old, asked if she could sing with me at the 8:30 Mass. And just to show how a little catechesis goes a long way... I asked her if she wanted to announce. She said sure. I pointed out (politely) the benefits of "entrance" and "offertory" and the "malefits" of "gathering" and "preparation" and she did VERY well. At the 10:45 choir Mass, at which both the Saturday and 8:30 cantors were present, the 8:30 cantor announced (I asked her if she wanted to before the Saturday cantor showed up).
Bob Glassmeyer noted in the combox another pet peeve - the term "presider" when they really mean "celebrant":
We also don't have a "presider."
We have a CELEBRANT.
Who OFFERS SACRIFICE.
When I think of "presider", I think of a courtroom judge presiding over a trial. I think of Judge Judy dissing the daylights out of a litigant who thinks he/she knows it all. Or even better --- if Father is a "presider", shouldn't he bring a gavel to the altar (or to the pulpit)?
As I crack on the petty stuff (the petty person that I am, ha ha!), Jeffrey also makes excellent points supporting use of the actual Introit of the day instead of this "gaaaaaaaaaaathering" crap.