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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The soul is distracted from that which is sung by a chant that is employed for the purpose of giving pleasure. But if the singer chant for the sake of devotion, he pays more attention to what he says, both because he lingers more thereon, and because, as Augustine remarks (Confess. x, 33), “each affection of our spirit, according to its variety, has its own appropriate measure in the voice, and singing, by some hidden correspondence wherewith it is stirred.” The same applies to the hearers, for even if some of them understand not what is sung, yet they understand why it is sung, namely, for God's glory: and this is enough to arouse their devotion.
— St. Thomas Aquinas

A Blemish On Hymnody Printing?
published 13 September 2016 by Jeff Ostrowski

OWN THROUGH THE CENTURIES, folks have debated how best to print hymns. Printing “words only” like the Germans used to—and the English still do—has tremendous advantages. For example, it facilitates having multiple tunes for the same text. It also furthers comprehension of the poetry, especially when it comes to “eye rhymes.” It’s also 100 times easier for the typesetter, and looks gorgeous on the page.

This method, however, is problematic for complicated melodies:

125 English Hymnody

I’ve sung that melody for two decades, and know it well. Indeed, it’s always been one of my favorites. 1 Nevertheless, I would greatly struggle to place the correct syllable under the correct neume the way it’s shown here.

For the record, they included this hymn melody in MR3, but the translation is one of the worst I’ve ever come across. I discuss that translation here, and find myself in agreement with composer Paul Inwood. (I never thought I would type those words!) In a nutshell, the editors of MR3 decided they would never use “thee” or “thy,” so they had to find a translation without those words. They feel that congregations cannot comprehend words like “thee” and “thy.” However, their argument doesn’t make sense, because “thy” is used in the Lord’s Prayer at every Mass—yet nobody struggles to understand it.

In conclusion, if the hymn tune is extremely complicated, the words should probably appear under the notes.


1   I know this variant, as well as the Editio Vaticana version (which is more commonly encountered).