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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At the Council of Trent, the subject was raised whether it was correct to refer to the unconsecrated elements of bread and wine as “immaculata hostia” (spotless victim) and “calix salutaris” (chalice of salvation) in the offertory prayers. Likewise the legitimacy of the making the sign of the cross over the elements after the Eucharistic consecration was discussed.
— Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, Cong. Orat.

“Common” Hymn Melodies • What are they?
published 6 May 2019 by Jeff Ostrowski

N THE ONE HAND, the Brébeuf Hymnal contains an inexhaustible number of melodies; and the book has been criticized for containing such a large selection of congregational hymns. (Indeed, the Brébeuf contains more options than any other Catholic hymnal currently in print—if one excludes goofy, heavily syncopated, unsingable tunes like this one, taken from a popular OCP hymnal.)

On the other hand, special care was taken by the Brébeuf committee to emphasize “common melodies.” Such an effort makes it possible to get through the entire liturgical year, even if your congregation knows just one melody!  While I don’t suggest anyone do something that extreme—because the same melody over and over would become monotonous—choirmasters and organists value such flexibility. And the Brébeuf is the indisputable king of shared melodies.

Consider how a “common melody” is used for both versions of this hymn:

Rehearsal videos for each individual voice are posted at the Brébeuf website.

Each Sunday, I direct four Masses, three rehearsals, and Solemn Vespers—so I really appreciate flexibility! That same “common melody” appears here:

Rehearsal videos for each individual voice are posted at the Brébeuf website.

Can there be too much of a good thing? Certainly. For example, I have a Catholic hymnal from 1922 which uses thirty-five (35) melodies for the “Tantum Ergo”—that’s absurd. The Arundel Catholic Hymnal—which was the leading Catholic hymnal in England until the appearance of the New Westminster Hymnal—frequently uses as many as thirteen (13) melodies for a single text. In my view, that’s pushing the envelope. Furthermore, common melodies can be employed in a thoughtless, insensitive manner. Arguably, an example would be the Pope Pius XII Hymnal. Good taste and good sense must always rule the day.

HAT I LOVE MOST about the Brébeuf melodies is that 100% are musical. You might object: “Jeff, how can any melody not be musical?” I believe certain melodies are more musical than others. Consider Let A Woman In Your Life from My Fair Lady. I love that song—and Rex Harrison does it really well—but he doesn’t actually sing any notes. He “speaks” the entire song. You can Google other versions, with trained singers performing the same song; but Harrison’s rendition is still the best. But the point is, the Holy Mass is not supposed to be a Broadway show!

Too many hymns published by today’s “big” Catholic publishers are not musical—they’re basically juvenile rhythmic patterns with optional notes. For example, compare the Brébeuf melodies to something chosen as the 2020 “synod hymn” for the (Roman Catholic) Archdiocese of Liverpool:

85408 synod hymn

Folks, this is a real hymn!  If you think I’m pulling your leg, visit their website, and download a pdf of that hymn. You can click here to hear a performance.

The hymnals by the major Catholic publishers are filled with such nonsense, and their melodies seem like an afterthought. Consider this non-musical “hymn” from GIA’s WORSHIP HYMNAL, which I’m sure Rex Harrison could have performed brilliantly:

    * *  PDF Download • Hymn from GIA’s WORSHIP HYMNAL

I don’t wish to be divisive, hurtful, or argumentative; I have no interest in tearing others down. But neither will I pretend the Brébeuf Hymnal is “basically the same” as other publications. It’s not.