SK SOMEONE THEIR FAVORITE Latin hymn, they’re likely to say Ave Maria, Ave verum or Panis Angelicus. Ask them which one and you may be met with a blank stare. Maybe they know of a few versions of the Ave Maria – the Schubert and the Bach-Gounod, for instance, but you can bet the Ave Verum is going to be by Mozart and Panis by Cesar Franck.
One thing about delving into hymnbooks is finding how many different ways there are to do things. It seems particularly strong with Latin hymns. Vernacular verses are forever mutating and multiplying, but Latin texts are fairly static. If you can’t modify the words, then that creative energy can flow into new musical arrangements.
Noel Jones, in his Catholic Choirbook Series makes good use of this feature by giving a variety of settings for each text. The choir may start with Adoramus Te Christe in unison accompanied by the organ and then move on to a polyphonic setting more easily once the words are known.
Many old (and not-so-old) Catholic hymnbooks have a surprising number of tunes for the standard hymns at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Growing up I was lucky enough to be aware of two tunes for Tantum Ergo or Down in Adoration Falling. Now I see that possibilities are much more rich and varied.
|St Gregory Hymnal||7||10|
|St Basil 1918||6||7|
|Eucharistic Hymns, Benediction, Hymns to Mary||9||8|
|A Treasury of Catholic Song||8||8|
The Westminster Hymnal gives no tunes at all for Benediction, with the footnote:
To provide music for Benediction throughout the year is outside the scope of a hymnal. A selection of tunes for “O Salutaris” can be made from those headed “Long Meter” in the metrical index. “Tantum ergo” can be sung to any tune headed 878787 in the metrical index.
Using different settings helps broaden a choir’s repertoire. The congregation can at least be familiar with the words while becoming accustomed to new music. Different music may suit different seasons and circumstances.
So, maybe next time someone seems bored with the traditional hymns, maybe try a new tune before throwing out the old words.