AKE A MOMENT and search your heart—then see whether you agree with the following statement. When we make a bad decision or choose the lazy way, our brains won’t let us have peace. A little voice keeps quietly repeating: “You were lazy; there’s a better way, which you should have chosen.” On the other hand, when we make a good decision, it feels correct. Our minds will be at peace. That’s how we can be certain of its excellence.
One of my favorite hymn tunes is called REGENT SQUARE. The Brébeuf hymnal chose a superlative harmonization for it, which would make a fabulous Recessional Hymn for the Feast of Corpus Christi (in some dioceses: “Corpus Christi Sunday”):
Rehearsal videos for each individual voice await you at #370.
I predict this smooth harmonization will go down in history—it fits the voice perfectly.
(If you dislike this tune, the Brébeuf hymnal provides a whole slew of additional melodies and translations.)
Dr. Aaron James is the Director of Music at the Toronto Oratory of St Philip Neri. He holds a double doctorate from Eastman (a famous school of music). He recently published a BOOK REVIEW of the Saint Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal, and was skeptical of how that book provides multiple melodies for the more important hymns, saying:
“In this digital age, anyone who wishes can underlay any text to any tune and produce a typeset version of near-professional quality for their choir; this reduces the practical value of printing alternate tunes, as anyone who is unhappy with the hymnal’s chosen tune can substitute another with minimal effort.”
When I graduated from the Conservatory, I agreed with that statement. However, now that I have directed choirs for many years, I recognize such a notion is indefensible. For example, I have fifty singers in my choirs and am responsible for numerous Masses each week. Even if I can find the time to type out hymn texts, hyphenate them, and arrange them as Dr. James suggests, how will the choir get them? Xerox copies quickly lead to difficulties and frustrations.
Other Catholic editors have seen the advantages of the Brébeuf strategy. For example, consider The Roman Hymnal: a complete manual of English hymns & Latin chants for the use of congregations, schools, colleges and choirs edited by Father John Young (a Jesuit priest). It bears an 1884 IMPRIMATUR by the Archbishop of New York. This book contains multiple melodies—sometimes as many as ten for a single text! Here are two different settings (ORIEL and WESTMINSTER ABBEY) of Tantum Ergo:
Father Aloysius Knauff published “The Christ the King Hymnal” (with a 1954 IMPRIMATUR) and it sometimes contains thirteen settings of the same hymn! A very important English hymn book (“Arundel Catholic Hymns”) published fin de siècle with an Introductory Letter by Pope Leo XIII contains as many as fourteen melodies for the same text:
We remember that Dr. Aaron James has two doctorates from one of America’s top music schools. Therefore, he must understand that what can be done “with minimal effort” by him cannot necessarily be done “with minimal effort” by every music director. This proves the wisdom of the Brébeuf editors.
Another outstanding aspect of the Brébeuf hymnal is the way it provides literal translations in addition to poetic translations for the hymns. Very few hymnals—if any—did this before Brébeuf; yet serious liturgical books of the past provided literal translations. For example, here’s a literal English translation by Abbot Prosper Guéranger for the “Pange Lingua” by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Feel free to compare Guéranger’s to the superb translation on page 347 of the Brébeuf pew edition.
The Brébeuf organ accompaniments use special notation:
Each verse is written out! Truly marvelous!
When I go to church, I know that I can flawlessly play and sing hundreds of hymns from the Brébeuf hymnal because each verse is written out. Why did nobody think of this before now?