About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“In spite of what it is currently called, the music of these songs is not modern: this musical style is not new, but has been played in the most profane places and surroundings (cabarets, music halls, often for more or less lascivious dances with foreign names). The people are led on to rock or swing. They all feel an urge to dance about. That sort of “body language” is certainly alien to our Western culture, unfavorable to contemplation and its origins are rather suspect. Most of the time our congregations, which already find it hard not to confuse the crochets and the quavers in a 6/8 bar, do not respect the rhythm; then one no longer feels like dancing, but with the rhythm gone to pieces, the habitual poorness of the melodic line becomes all the more noticeable.”
— Unnamed choirmaster (Northern France) circa 1986

PDF Download • “The Parish Hymnal” (1957)
published 28 April 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

862 Parish Hymnal 1957 YMNALS MUST HAVE BEEN very popular in the century before Vatican II. So many were created! Some people believe there was just the Saint Gregory Hymnal by Nicola A. Montani, but that’s not true.

An extremely rare hymnal compiled by Sister Catherine Cecilia can be downloaded for the first time ever:

    * *  PDF Download • THE PARISH HYMNAL (1957)

If we were transported back to the 1950s, would our ears be shocked? Would the singing impress us? It’s impossible to know. Growing up, I studied pianism with great fervor. My brother and I devoured every video we could find and memorized all the Horowitz films. There’s a famous recording of Horowitz—along with conductor Carlo Maria Giulini and The Orchestra of La Scala—performing Mozart’s 23rd Piano Concerto; it can now be viewed on YouTube. In high school, I won a competition playing that same concerto (with the Busoni cadenza). My ears hear the Horowitz performance differently now than they did twenty years ago. Horowitz does certain things extremely well—there’s no question about that. On the other hand, he’s way off in some parts: wrong notes, poor choice of dynamics, and sloppy playing are evident. The same can be said 1 of Giulini, although he was a first-rate conductor in his day. This is why I say we cannot know what our “current” ears would think of music in the 1950s.


The hymns contained in the following pages have been drawn from some of the best available sources. The origins of some of them are not known with any degree of exactitude due to the long and nearly untraceable popular usage to which they have been put. Their long establishment in the repertoire, however, is the best approbation they could have.

The viewpoint of the editors has been that this should be a fundamentally congregational collection in both style and scope. To this end the hymns have been placed in the most convenient voice ranges, and every factor which could enhance the value of the collection as an aid to good congregational hymn-singing has been emphasized.

The value of hymn singing is not to be underestimated. It is one of the most effective means for synthesizing the spirit of a parish or community in public worship. In the singing of a vernacular hymn, the individual and the group merge their intentions and both derive profound spiritual benefits therefrom. As was once said by Dom Columbo Marmion, OSB: “Lend your voice to the Word, that He may use it as His organ to praise the Father.” We are convinced that this is precisely the effect on the individual of a tradition of good hymn-singing.

These old hymnals are being uploaded to the internet in partial preparation for a new hymnal—and our readers will be invited to assist in its creation!


1   When conductor & pianist are not together, that’s never right. It’s not an agogic thing. Nor is it some kind of effect. Nor is it artistic license. It’s always wrong: for beginners or masters.