ERE’S THE FOURTH PART in a series I’m creating to convince readers to donate $5.00 per month. Scroll down to access the other installments. By the way, the fifth installment (forthcoming) will make you very happy!
All 452 pages of NEW WESTMINSTER HYMNAL—one of the most remarkable ever Catholic hymnals ever produced—has been made available for the first time:
If you value rare books like this one, please consider donating $5.00 per month. Watershed is a 100% volunteer organization; none of us is paid. Without your support, we cannot continue.
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL about hymn books like this? For one thing, it contains numerous Gregorian accompaniments by Dom Gregory Murray. (You can compare Murray’s version of “Corde Natus Ex Parentis” to mine.) This is to say nothing of the excellent hymn texts by Msgr. Ronald Knox and others. Moreover, interesting pairings abound. Consider, for example, Number 32, which takes my favorite Lenten hymn and adds a text by Alan McDougall, whose poetry was prominent in the Campion Hymnal.
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) has this to say about the work of Msgr. Ronald Knox on the NEW WESTMINSTER HYMNAL:
At the Low Week meeting of the hierarchy in 1936, Ronald had been appointed to a committee to revise the WESTMINSTER HYMNAL. Some converts from Protestantism repine at their lost opportunities for congregational singing. Indeed, many adult English Catholics do not hear a hymn from one year’s end to another. Ronald attributed this silence to the low literary quality of many Catholic hymns. He took the work of revision very seriously, and his taste—more than that of any other individual—pervaded the committee, whose deliberations were protracted for two years. He attended every meeting, succeeded in introducing several hymns from Catholic sources which had previously been known only to those who used the ENGLISH HYMNAL, and the work of comparatively modern poets such as Francis Thompson, G. K. Chesterton, Lionel Johnson, Canon Gray, and “Michael Field.” More than this, he made 47 translations from the Latin (out of a total of 106, only 9 of which were by living writers) and contributed 4 original hymns. The new book bears his personal marks clearly; it was issued in 1940 and cordially welcomed by informed critics. Catholic parishes are slow to change their habits. They still sing what the oldest members learned at school. A full generation must pass before the innovations, so patiently debated, are allowed to fulfil their work of enrichment.
This article is part of a series: