ANY WILL FIND IT UNFAIR that our parish was chosen—along with others—to sing bits and pieces from the Brébeuf Hymnal “harmony edition” for several years. But what I can affirm is that such testing efforts are absolutely essential for a massive and unprecedented project like the Brébeuf Hymnal. Believe me, nobody is more eager for the harmony edition to become publicly available than I am—and very soon it will appear. When it finally does (within the next few weeks) we will be glad it was given a “trial run” first.
For Lent, we’ve been singing this STABAT MATER:
Somebody took out a “pocket recorder” during Mass last Sunday, and sent me the video. The sound quality does not accurately reproduce the glorious sounds we heard:
You can rehearse the individual lines if you scroll down to #480 … but most readers won’t do that, which causes me deep sadness.
PEAKING OF DEEP SADNESS, I have experienced some recently…because of my impatience. There is so much that needs to happen, but nothing can move forward until the harmony edition is released. It should be released over the next few weeks, according to the letter posted here. Folks, you have no idea what it takes to publish a book! The proofreading goes on for ages. The entire process is unbelievably complex and labor-intensive.
Once the harmony edition becomes available, we can begin to release instructions for how to properly use the Brébeuf Hymnal. Some have tried to pressure the Institute to release the Brébeuf indices online, but this suggestion has been met with resistance. Certain members feel that releasing the index won’t really give people an idea of this book, because our hymnal is quite unique. I do see their point. I have examined so many hymnal indices online, and it’s usually just the same pieces over and over, with a few modifications. With these other hymnals, I can basically look at the index for 20 seconds and instantly know what’s in the book—but the Brébeuf isn’t like that. Our book is completely unique, utterly sensational, and must be experienced.
Oh, just wait until we start releasing the seasonal guides! (Again, this will be done as soon as the harmony edition is released.) These guides will be of great assistance to those trying to figure out the structure of the Brébeuf Hymnal, which is completely sui generis. The guides for Advent and Lent will be especially marvelous, and Catholic choirmasters will welcome these.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the smartest Catholic priests alive. He had purchased a copy of the Brébeuf but wanted to know more. We talked for an hour yet barely scratched the surface, in terms of all the wonderful things about the hymnal. Afterward, the priest said: “I’m so glad you explained all this because I had been puzzled by certain features of this book.” If someone as brilliant as this priest—and he’s literally a genius—was struggling to understand, that means we need to provide a whole lot more materials to explain what this book is all about. And we will do so…after the harmony edition is released.
Just the other day, I was reflecting on how difficult it is to direct a choir. The choirmaster must always be thinking about the future! We must constantly plan ahead: for rehearsal, for the liturgical seasons, for “major” liturgies, and so on. Moreover, what is the level of difficulty for a piece? Does it require organ? What arrangement is best? What key? How can we obtain enough scores? Can it be used for an entire season or just one Mass? Will all the “right” singers be present to make sure it can be done? Will it be in English or Latin? And on and on. And that’s where the Brébeuf comes in: its contents are truly staggering…but it can’t help people if they’re confused!
THE CHALLENGES AND OBSTACLES for those who direct choirs often seem too great to overcome. But there are consolations! One such consolation happened for me the other day. I had finished directing a long and rigorous rehearsal—and once it ended, I went into a room only to discover our choir members could not get enough singing! So they launched into their favorite pieces from memory, and I pulled out my iPhone:
Click here to download the piece in the video—a breathtaking SATB SANCTUS by J.S. Bach.