HIS WEEKEND I HOPE to see the final printed copies of a book for Mass that started taking shape at the beginning of 2011. From a project that was going to take six months to complete, it has been more of an adventure than anticipated, but the end is in sight!
Choosing music is fun. Wading through old hymnbooks is like searching for buried treasure. Sometimes you find things to laugh about, sometimes you find things of great beauty, sometimes you find pieces that could do with a little fixing up.
It doesn’t take long to become a hymn geek, pondering whether to go with a Caswall or a J M Neale translation of such and such, wondering if an odd word is a typo or something that has shifted meaning over time and exclaiming at odd moments about a long meter tune that would be perfect for the anonymous hymn to St Therese of Lisieux you found. That’s the fun part.
The hard work is assembling it all – lots of typing up music, lots of getting the line breaks and page breaks right, lots of checking up on sources, making sure you have the perfect version of harmony and lyrics. And each time I think to myself, I’m going to tidy up all the files and make them available to save someone else a little work.
Three weeks ago, Adam Wood started the CMAA GitHub repository. Earlier this year he published his manifesto on Open Source Sacred Music and began a lively discussion on how Jeffrey Tucker was wrong about Open Source… It is all great stuff to read and think about.
My books could not have happened without much open source software and music. I can’t make them available as they are because of the handful of hymns owned by companies like GIA, OCP and Faber Music. I’m not even sure if they could be useful outside of their extremely small niche. But part of the beauty of them is that they are unique to this area. I have Australian hymns (one of which appears slightly modified in the Campion Missal. The third verse of “Thee, O Christ, the Prince of Ages” reads “From our own dear land, Australia” over here, page 80) like “Hail Redeemer” which is out of copyright here, but requires a licence in the US.
Sharing music in different forms on the internet is not new and there are growing possibilities for those willing and able to learn to use tools like gregorio and lilypond. For sure people will still prefer ready-made books, and that is where the Campion Missal and the Vatican II Hymnbook really shine. Hopefully all this good material can keep spreading.