Part 1 of 2 • Brief Overview
Hymnals are listed chronologically.
1952 • New Westminster Hymnal (Index)
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IMPRIMATUR (1939) by Arthur Cardinal Hinsley, (Roman Catholic) Archbishop of Westminster • Preface by Most Rev. David James Mathew, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster • Full Title: The Westminster Hymnal, New and Revised Edition, Authorised by the Hierarchy of England and Wales for Use in All Churches and Oratories • Editors: Sir Richard Runciman Terry (he was involved with the “very early stages of revision” until his death in 1938); Father William Stacey Bainbridge (organist and master of music at Westminster Cathedral); Dom A. Gregory Murray (d. 1992); Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (d. 1957) • Pew Edition is 452 pages +
1964 • Peoples Mass Book (Index)
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IMPRIMATUR (1964) by the Most Rev. Paul Francis Leibold, Archbishop of Cincinnati • Published by World Library of Sacred Music (Cincinnati, Ohio) • Edited by Omer Westendorf (using the fake name of “J. Clifford Evers”) • Notable musical contributors include: Marinus De Jong (d. 1984); Hendrik Andriessen (d. 1981); Jan Vermulst (d. 1994); Noël Goemanne (d. 2010); Albert de Klerk (d. 1998); Flor Peeters (d. 1986) • Organ Accompaniment: 289 pages • Pew Edition: 356 pages +
1981 • Hymns in the Public Domain (Index)
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Full Title: ICEL resource Collection; 250 Hymns in the Public Domain • The prefatory material includes a long list of people who contributed, and many created their own hymnals, such as: Father Percy Jones; Omer Westendorf; Father James Quinn; Dr. Erik Routley; Father Ralph Wright; and Dr. Theodore Marier • Approximately 400 pages (this book lacks page numbers) +
1983 • Summit Choirbook (Index)
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Published by Nuns at the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary, located in Summit, NJ • The layout is extremely confusing, explained by a note on page 10: “Our original plan was to publish this hymnal in two volumes. The final decision, however, was to combine both volumes into one book, divided into Part I and Part II.”—as a consequence, one must search *doubly* whenever using the index • I have corresponded with the nuns, who seem extremely devout and holy; for this reason, it’s surprising that their publication has a 1975 Preface by Dr. Erik Routley (d. 1982), a Protestant Minister who worked at Westminster Choir College, located about an hour’s drive from Summit, NJ • The first verse is repeated for each hymn, which many will find confusing, but this was most likely done to facilitate alternate tunes for the same text • From what I can tell, the book is about 550 pages, and contains harmonies on a different page than the words +
1983 • Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles (Index)
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1983 Foreword by Father John Patrick Boles (d. 2014), who was later consecrated auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston • Full Title: Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles; A Parish Music Manual; Compiled, Edited, and Arranged by Theodore Marier; Assisted by the staff of the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School at St. Paul Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts • The front page says “Pew Edition © 1972, and Organ-Choir Edition © 1974, by Theodore Marier”—but my understanding is the “prime time” edition was printed in 1983 • Dr. Marier uses a “double” numbering system, which I find confusing; I have indicated this on the Index with red arrows (e.g. the same page has two numbers: 612 and 626) • The Pew Edition (unison only) has 628 pages; the Organ-Choir Edition (with harmonies) contains 1,068 pages +
1990 • Collegeville Hymnal (Index)
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IMPRIMATUR (1990) by Most Rev. Jerome Hanus, who served as Conception Abbey’s Abbot before being consecrated a bishop • Thomas Day, the author of “Why Catholics Can’t Sing,” declared that this hymnal was one of the top three available (thirty years ago) • The book’s editor was Father Edward J. McKenna (d. 2019) a composer, violinist, and choirmaster (McKenna Ensemble in Chicago) who served as presenter for a Sacred Music Conference along with such luminaries as: Monsignor Charles Meter, Father Lawrence Heiman, Father Robert Skeris, Father Columba Kelly, Father Eduard Perrone, Father Frank Phillips, and Monsignor Richard Schuler • Some will react strongly to the book’s 1989 Foreword by Joseph Cardinal Bernadin • The Pew Edition, which contains harmonies for some hymns, is approximately 700 pages +
1998 • Catholic Hymn Book (London Oratory) (Index)
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Full Title: The Catholic Hymn Book; Harmony Edition; Compiled and edited at The London Oratory • Published by Gracewing, with a Foreword by Basil Cardinal Hume (d. 1999), Archbishop of Westminster • I have not been able to obtain a Pew Edition, which seems to have appeared in 1996 according to Tom Longford’s statement: “The company’s largest projects for 1996 will be the Catholic Hymn Book, a comprehensive hymnal to be published in cased melody edition for the pew and full harmony edition for choir and organist. Traditional words and music will provide all parish needs in one volume, with congregational settings for the Mass texts in Latin and English, Benediction, Marian Devotions, and so on.” • The harmony edition is 575 pages +
2000 • Traditional Roman Hymnal (SSPX) (Index)
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SSPX stands for “Society of Saint Pius X” • Edited by Michael McGowan (formerly an SSPX seminarian) • Foreword by Bishop Richard Williamson, formerly an SSPX bishop; since 2012, Williamson leads the “SSPX Resistance” • Published by the SSPX in Manitoba, Canada • The title seems inappropriate, since this book’s three elements (hymn sources, accompaniments, and voice arrangements) are not traditional and the SSPX bishops aren’t in union with Rome (i.e. they don’t follow orders from the Pope) • There is no accompaniment volume, but some pages tell the user where he can go to find accompaniments for some of the pieces, such as the Pope Pius X Hymnal (1953), although this done in quite an inconsistent manner (cf. page 176) • The Pew Edition is 341 pages +
2005 • Introit Hymns for the Church Year (Index)
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The company called World Library Publications (publisher of this book) was recently purchased by GIA Publications; the book editor was Dr. Christoph Tietze, a student of Jean Langlais, who serves as choirmaster for St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, California • The book contains 51 hymn tunes: a different hymn text (“Introit”) created for each Sunday and major feast, with harmonies printed directly in the book • There are many metrical psalters available, and most Introits come from psalms; but as far as I can tell, Tietze has either modified all texts or taken them from Christopher L. Webber • The book is approximately 100 pages long +
2011 • Worship IV Hymnal (GIA) (Index)
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Creators: Kelly Dobbs-Mickus (Assistant Organist, St. John of the Cross in Western Springs, Illinois); Father Ronald F. Krisman (Diocese of Orlando, Florida); Father James J. Chepponis (Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania); Charles Gardner; J. Robert Batastini • This is the 4th edition of GIA’s Worship Hymnal • Contains many song texts with troubling lyrics • The red cover is quite slippery and difficult to hold • I don’t own the choir edition, but I would assume they have printed harmonies and removed all the readings • The Pew Edition has no page numbers, so it is sometimes necessary to turn several pages before any number can be found; it lacks harmonies (unison only); it seems to contain approximately 1,400 pages +
2011 • Adoremus Hymnal (Index)
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The original edition, published in 1997 by Ignatius Press, had the following editorial team: Dr. Kurt Poterack, Dr. Susan Treacy, and Calvert Shenk (d. 2005) • The revised edition (2011) was overseen by Helen Hull Hitchcock (d. 2014) • The 2011 edition has three versions: CHOIR (now called “Standard”); PEW (now called “Melody”); and ORGAN • The 2011 standard edition is approximately 500 pages long, but it’s difficult to ascertain since their numbering has “gaps” with many numbers missing; for example, 484-485-500-510-511-512, and 520-521-522-523-530, and 560-561-562-563-570, and so forth • Dr. Poterack recently explained the gaps: “Ultimately, there were to be two hymnals: a big and a small one. That is the reason for the gaps in the numbering of hymns. The hymnal that we put out first was to be the small hymnal. The bigger hymnal was to add more hymns in the gaps. This way, the hymns that were shared in common between the two books would have the same identifying numbers. The big hymnal was never published, so these gaps in the hymn numbers continue to puzzle people to the present day.” +
2011 • St. Michael Hymnal (Index)
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The fourth edition was published in 2011, edited by Linda Powell Schafer and Brother Michael O’Connor, OP • As far as I can tell, the St. Michael Hymnal provides a Pew Edition (melody only), “Organ and Choir” (hardcover in one volume), and “Organ and Choir” (softcover in two volumes with spiral binding) • The “Organ and Choir” book is incredibly heavy and bulky; it’s difficult for me to imagine singers being able to hold it • The softcover version could easily be placed on an organ rack, whereas I don’t see how the hardcover could be placed on an organ stand without great difficulties • The “Organ and Choir” book is approximately 900 pages long +
2014 • Hymnal for the Hours (Index)
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Published in 2014 by the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship (Menlo Park, CA) • Edited by Father Samuel Weber • On page xxxi, the editor extends gratitude to Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, Fr. Zachary Edgar, Fr. James Netusil, Fr. Henry Purcell, Fr. Edward Richard, Fr. Dylan Schrader, Fr. Brian Van Hove, Fr. David Voss, Sister Jane Fleishner, Dr. Daniel Van Slyke, Timothy R. Busch, Don Ferguson, Richard Grablin, and Robert F. Quinn • The book is unison only; there is no accompaniment book • Because this book is incredibly bulky and heavy, it seems ill-suited for church use; hundreds of pages contain blank, wasted space; this would be more suitable as a reference book • Softcover, 694 pages +
2014 • Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal
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The chief foundress of Stanbrook Abbey was Saint Thomas More’s great-great-granddaughter; this was in Cambrai (North France, extremely close to Belgium and England); during the French Revolution, Stanbrook Abbey moved to England • Benedictine nuns are called “Dame,” just as Benedictine monks are called “Dom” • The Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal was first published in 1971, but research indicates that this edition (published in the summer of 2014) has very little in common with the 1971 version • The nuns say: “The appearance of this edition owes much to the generosity of many friends who have given technical advice with admirable patience.” • No information whatsoever is provided as to where the melodies come from, but several were taken from the 1982 LIBER HYMNARIUS: e.g. Hymn #52 (“The Mighty Word Of God Came Forth”), which uses the same melody as Veni Redemptor Gentium • The words are printed separately from the music, which is usually syllabic plainsong • There is no accompaniment volume; there is no Table of Contents; there is no index • The book is approximately 99 pages +
2018 • The Saint Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal (Index)
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Produced by the John Paul II Institute for Liturgical Renewal, notable musical contributors include: Richard J. Clark, choirmaster at Boston Cathedral; Dr. Alfred Calabrese, choirmaster at Saint Rita’s Catholic Church; and Kevin Allen, whose motets have been sung throughout the world, including at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome • Hymn texts and translations came from Monsignor Ronald Knox, Father Dominic Popplewell, Saint Philip Howard, Saint Robert Southwell, Father John Fitzpatrick, Father Christopher Phillips, Father Dylan Schrader, Prior James Aylward, Father Adrian Fortescue, and Saint Thomas More • Three separate editions make up the Saint Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal collection: (a) The Pew Book, a hardcover 932 pages long; (b) The Choral Supplement, a hardcover 1,192 pages long; (c) The Organ Accompaniment, in three volumes, spiral-bound 1,292 pages long • The pew book is printed on daffodil paper (light yellow) including twenty-four color plates illustrating the history of Roman Catholic vernacular hymnody • The basic layout is in four sections: (1) Ancient hymns in Latin and English, alphabetized; (2) Color plates and indices; (3) Additional hymns organized by season; (4) Stations of the Cross in a trio of three complete versions: Josef Cardinal Ratzinger; Saint Alphonsus Liguori; and Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen • A YouTube video explains what they call “common tunes” • The website for this hymnal is quite easy to use and includes hundreds of Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bass rehearsal videos • Each verse is written out in the Choral Supplement and Organ Accompaniment: a useful innovation +
Part 2 of 2 • Commentary & Photos
Hymnals are listed in order of their importance.
Saint Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal
HE Church Music Association of America’s blog (June 2019) described the Brébeuf Hymnal as “…hands down, the best Catholic hymnal ever published.” The article went on to say: “It is such a fantastic hymnal that it deserves to be in the pews of every Catholic church.” The ultimate reason is twofold: (1) It was conceived from first to last as an unabashedly Roman Catholic production; (2) the editors let nothing stand in their way, pioneering solutions rather than adopting a “just get it done” attitude. The hymn melodies are nothing short of sublime. Here we find “old favorites” (ROCKINGHAM, REGENT SQUARE, ORIENTIS PARTIBUS, LLANFAIR, SALZBURG, GROSSER GOTT, ST FLAVIAN, ST ANNE, RUSTINGTON, etc.); tunes composed specifically for the Brébeuf Hymnal (ROGERS PARK, RUNNELLS, CAMCOLT, ST RITA, CLERMONT, FORTESCUE, MANKATO, etc.); and a truly brilliant use of “common tunes” (GONFALON ROYAL, EISENACH, AGINCOURT, ALTONA, BRESSANI, DUGUET, HILDERSTONE, KEMPEN, MELCOMBE, WHITEHALL, WINCHESTER NEW, etc.) which will prevent grumbling from your congregation. The color pages in the center of the book contain snippets of authentic hymnody through the ages, and the editors seemingly spent hours choosing just the right samples; to say nothing of the mesmerizing plates of a Roman Catholic Primer from 1599AD which explicitly declares: “Notwithstanding the difficulty, these hymns have been so turned into English meter that they may be sung unto the same tunes in English that they bear in Latin.” Also to be found in the color pages is a superb explanation of why Father Brébeuf was chosen as patron for their project, and why all of North America ought to venerate this holy saint of the Catholic Church. The Brébeuf footnotes are a true delight; each one provides tidbits about the composer, translator, melodic history, and so on. Most importantly, they give examples of Catholic hymnals of the past which included that same hymn; this is crucial. It demonstrates that the Brébeuf Hymnal doesn’t include random melodies “for the sake of variety.” Rather, its editors selected dignified, worthy tunes which have a history of being sung by Catholics. Their source material was seemingly limitless: the Saint Andrew Hymnal (1964), the Pope Pius XII Hymnal (1959), the Leeds Catholic Hymnal (1957), the Mediator Dei Hymnal (1955), Father Aloysius Knauff’s Christ The King Hymnal (1955), and many more.
The ancient hymns of the Church form roughly the first half of the book: A Solis Ortus Cardine, Hostis Herodes Impie, Ad Cenam Agni Providi, Ad Preces Nostras Deitatis, Adoro Te Devote, Agnoscat Omne Sæculum, Auctor Beate Sæculi, Audi Benigne Conditor, Ave Maris Stella, Ave Vivens Hostia, Christe Redemptor Omnium, Conditor Alme Siderum, Die Parente Temporum, Ex More Docti Mystico, Hoste Dum Victo Triumphans, Jam Christe Sol Justitiæ, and so forth—all through the alphabet, ending with Victis Sibi Cognomina. Multiple melodies and sundry translations are given for the more important hymns. This first section begins wonderfully with an abecedarian hymn by Coelius Sedulius, a Catholic poet who wrote during the 5th century. The vast majority of the Brébeuf translations were done by Catholic priests and bishops. Some of the priests—such as Monsignor Ronald Knox, Father John Fitzpatrick, Father Adrian Fortescue, Father Dylan Schrader, and Father Dominic Popplewell—are contemporary or more recent. Other translators—such as Cardinal Newman, Father Caswall, Archbishop Bagshawe, Father Hopkins, Father Wallace, Father Husenbeth, and Father Potter—lived in the 19th century. The second half of the book consists of hymns which are “more popular” (for want of a better term) such as Hymn #759: To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King.
Numerous melodies and texts were commissioned by great artists specifically for the Brébeuf Hymnal. One piece in particular, Solemn Hymn to the Son of God by Father Popplewell, ought to be sung across the globe and included in every hymnal: it’s beyond marvelous. Often, multiple tunes are given for the same text, to parallel their “common tune” technique. The texts are often printed text only in addition to underneath the notes, allowing multiple tunes to be used according to the judgment of the choirmaster or organist. This justifies the Brébeuf advertisements, which declare: “A brilliant new strategy of common melodies allow a congregation to get through the entire liturgical year even when they know just a few excellent tunes.” In addition to multiple rhyming translations provided for the most important hymns, literal translations are also provided so congregations can enter more deeply into these prayers. The resources provided on the Brébeuf website are phenomenal, especially the SATB rehearsal videos. Such resources are especially vital for amateur choirs, which are the majority of parish choirs. The organ accompaniments are spiral bound (in three volumes) and write out each verse, in case the organist cantors while playing the organ. The Choral Supplement (Smyth-Sewn hardcover, 7.44×9.69, 1,192 pages) is nothing short of sensational, as it writes out every verse in SATB: so helpful to singers! The voice-leading is first-rate and great attention was paid to detail (especially keeping voice ranges comfortable). Many of the traditional melodies they have dug up, such as FREUEN WIR UNS ALL IN EIN—are spellbinding. The selection of Eucharistic hymns is particularly commendable.
A sample of each of the editions: Pew, Choral, and Organist:
As a young man in my twenties, I deeply appreciate their indefatigable efforts to include only lyrics which will be accepted by Catholics living today (not 100 years ago). Certain words which are found in almost every 19th-century hymn—such as “breast” and “gay”—evoke giggles when sung today. The editors had a professional poet discreetly alter those verses—a task routinely done by serious hymnal editors (although the New Saint Basil Hymnal was overzealous in this regard). Of course, purists will never accept such things—so purists will never sing “Hark! The herald-angels sing,” because the original version was “Hark how all the Welkin rings.” Purists will never sing “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” because the original version was “Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel.” But the Brébeuf committee demonstrated spectacular wisdom by meticulously guarding against extremely archaic language, although they do include—for historical purposes only—fascinating examples of ancient Roman Catholic Primers which have never appeared elsewhere. According to page 567, by spending hours making sure the lyrics were just right the editors were attempting to imitate Father Brébeuf, who spent hours adapting theological concepts to the Huron language. (For example, the Huron language had no word for “God”—so the missionaries had to invent circumlocutions such as “He Who made all” or “He Who knows all.”) Page 566 contains captivating examples for those interested in this subject.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: While many of the hymns are “standards” from the core repertoire familiar to Catholics (e.g. All Glory, Laud, and Honor, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above), the Brébeuf Hymnal also introduces quite a number of less familiar tunes (e.g. FORTESCUE, ALTONA, NOTRE DAME). I would like to see more done to help musicians utilize these; it should be remembered that a great many Catholics have never received proper instruction in the liturgy. Could not Brébeuf hymn tables be created and distributed? Also, I would encourage the John Paul II Institute to reveal the names of the Brébeuf committee members. The names of contributing artists have been released, but not the editorial committee itself. I understand a desire to imitate other books, such as the New Westminster Hymnal (which never revealed its editorial committee). Nonetheless, I feel the hymnal’s status would be enhanced if a more transparent approach were adopted. In January, several minor additions seem to have been added to the Organ Accompaniment volumes.
Hymns, Psalms, & Spiritual Canticles
HEODORE Marier is not easy to place “in a box.” Perhaps the best way to describe him would be to say he was a Church music hero in the United States with great practical experience. In 1963, Marier founded St. Paul’s Choir School which he directed until 1986. Marier had been involved in the music publishing business for many years before he published Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles in 1972— for example, he contributed to the Saint Pius X Hymnal (1953) and edited Cantus Populi (1954). It is said that Dr. Marier took out a reverse mortgage on his house in order to print Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles, and that rumor seems in keeping with the man’s character. In 2001, Dr. Kurt Poterack of Christendom College wrote: “My first experience of Ted Marier was of a vital man full of energy. This impression was confirmed in the years to come as I got to know him better. Of course I did not get to know him anywhere nearly as well as others did, but his love of (and devotion to) Gregorian chant inspired me greatly. Although I was greatly impressed by his knowledge of authentic Gregorian chant, I was—in a sense—even more impressed by the English chant he had composed for Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles. The beauty and deftness of his compositional skill actually hides and transforms, to some degree, the deficiencies of the ICEL English translation.”
When I spoke of the Brébeuf Hymnal, I said its editors avoided a “just get it done” attitude; rather, they sought to solve difficulties and add something fresh. Dr. Marier does this as well, although he was working in difficult circumstances: no internet, no Sibelius, no Finale, and no Gregorio. Because he was a practical musician, Marier’s arrangements are not sloppy—they were tested in real time! That means he thought carefully about voice-leading, voice ranges, harmonic rhythm, page turns, and many other factors. Marier attempted to add something new by using contemporary hymn texts, although it must be admitted that the texts he chose (by John Dunn and Father James Quinn) compare unfavorably to the texts commissioned for the Brébeuf Hymnal inasmuch as they tend to favor extremely predictable rhymes. Nonetheless, certain efforts are praiseworthy, e.g. Hymn #329 uses an awesome melody (RENDEZ À DIEU) married to a decent text by John Dunn. Other examples would be Hymn #277 (text by Dunn) and Hymn #355 (text by Quinn). Often, Marier displays great skill in joining “general” hymn texts to splendid tunes, demonstrating that he understood how difficult it is to fill up ORDINARY TIME with interesting hymnody; Hymn #204 would be an example. From what I can tell, a great many hymns were “touched up” by John Dunn—adding a doxology here (to help the hymn match the length of the liturgical action) or changing a few expressions there. Marier seems to be in “spiritual union” with the Brébeuf Hymnal when it comes to first-rate, sturdy tunes. The strategy appears to be: (1) highlight the finest melodies; and (2) find every possible way to include them. In the case of Marier, some of his favorite tunes seem to be: ANDERNACH, GAUDEAMUS PARITER, HYFRYDOL, THE KING’S MAJESTY, HYMN TO JOY, RUSTINGTON, and REX GLORIAE. The primary fault of Marier’s tome is an excessive reliance upon Protestant texts. By way of comparison, consider a few of the hymns which the Brébeuf Hymnal placed emphasis on (in English and Latin): Veni Creator Spiritus, Urbs Jerusalem Beata, Stabat Mater Dolorosa, Veni Redemptor Gentium, Verbum Supernum Prodiens, A Solis Ortus Cardine, Ad Cenam Agni Providi, Agnoscat Omne Saeculum, Audi Benigne Conditor, Ave Maris Stella, Ave Vivens Hostia, Christe Redemptor Omnium, Conditor Alme Siderum, Ex More Docti Mystico, Hoste Dum Victo Triumphans, Jam Desinant Suspiria, Mundus Effusis Redemptus, Non Abluunt Lymphae Deum, O Sola Magnarum Urbium, Rebus Creatis Nil Egens, Rex Sempiterne Domine, Salve Caput Cruentatum, Sancti Venite, Victis Sibi Cognomina, and Pange Lingua Gloriosi. These should be the core of any Catholic hymnal, especially when we consider the subtitle of Dr. Marier’s book: “A Parish Music Manual.” It is true the Brébeuf Hymnal commissioned many translations, yet plenty of Catholic translations were around in the 1970s.
It’s difficult to understand why more parishes did not follow Dr. Marier’s lead when it comes to singing the Responsorial Psalm. The antiphons are very nice, the organ accompaniments are excellent, and on certain verses the choir sings falsobordone in SATB; his method doesn’t exclude the congregation, but also allows for gorgeous choral singing. Here is an example, page 726-727. Dr. William Mahrt of Stanford has pointed out that the Meinrad tones (such as we find in the Mundelein Psalter or the Lumen Christi Missal) generally descend (somewhat “depressing”), whereas the traditional Gregorian psalm tones tend to ascend, and Marier was correct to adapt the Responsorial Psalm to the traditional psalm tones. Speaking of falsobordone, Marier composed a groovy little organ interlude for a melody composed by Dom Jean-Hébert Desroquettes (d. 1974), leading to a higher key for SATB singing; again, we cannot turn the pages of this book without being reminded that Dr. Marier was a practical musician who knew how to make choirs sound good, unlike like some hymnal editors who seem ignorant of proper choral tessitura.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: The book is not currently in print, but in 2020 there are many possible ways around that problem. For twenty years, people spoke of reprinting this hymnal; instead, it seems St. Paul’s created a different hymnal, whose creation team included: Dr. Jonathan Wessler, Mr. John Robinson, Father Michael Drea, Msgr. Andrew R. Wadsworth, Father Jonathan M. Gaspar, Chalon S. Murray, Edmund G. Murray, Dr. Susan Treacy, and Richard J. Clark. Because of this new project, it’s possible the owners of the Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles copyright would not be extremely rigid if someone attempted a small reprint run. However, certain things should be left out, such as #522 (Saint Luke’s Passion) because the current Lectionary no longer uses that translation. The translations of the Responsorial Psalms, however, can still be used because any approved translation of the Responsorial Psalms can be used at Mass provided it is sung. In spite of Dr. Marier’s talent, it would be wrong to place his every creation on a pedestal; for example, his harmonization of the Lord’s Prayer (#497) is uninspired.
New Westminster Hymnal
T GOES without saying that any assessment of Catholic hymnals will involve subjective assertions. Nonetheless, I posit that certain hymnals give the impression of being conceived from first to last as Roman Catholic, specifically: the Brébeuf Hymnal, New Saint Basil Hymnal, and New Westminster Hymnal. To a slightly lesser extent, the following also display this Catholic aura: Dr. Marier’s hymnal, the 1955 Christ the King Hymnal, and the 1942 Laudate Hymnal. I realize some will object: “How can you say Father Carlo Rossini’s hymnal is not Catholic? How can you say the Saint Rose Hymnal is not Catholic?” I can only respond that assembling a bunch of Catholic songs is one thing—whereas organic production of a Catholic hymnal conceived “from first to last” as a liturgical book is something else entirely.
More than sixty years ago, one of America’s most famous church musicians—Monsignor Francis P. Schmitt of Boys Town—declared the New Westminster Hymnal to be the very best hymnal available at that time. Did the editors realize the monumental task they were undertaking? It seems they did. Evelyn Waugh (d. 1966) has described the huge role played by Monsignor Ronald Knox (d. 1957), who had met Father Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923) at Saint Edmund’s College, which is just north of London. Knox admired Fortescue, and could not have been ignorant of Father Fortescue’s strong complaints about Catholic hymnody. However, they had to carefully avoid disparagement of the “popular” hymns, and the Preface to the New Westminster Hymnal is hilariously subtle, saying: “Exigencies of space have forbidden the present compilers to make a wider selection from Fr. Faber and Fr. Caswall…” Out of 109 Latin hymns, Knox himself produced 47 translations: a stupefying achievement. As if that task failed to tax his abilities, Knox secretly mixed ideas from the original (“pre-Urbanite”) hymns into his translations of the official (“post-Urbanite” a.k.a. “corrupted”) Breviary hymns. One can assume Monsignor Knox would have been thrilled to learn that the Second Vatican Council restored, to a large extent, the pre-Urbanite versions; but Knox died about a decade before Vatican II. Indeed, Father Fortescue ardently desired the pre-Urbanite versions back in 1916. Knox is a powerhouse that will not be stopped; he even translated both versions of Verbum Supernum Prodiens—the one by Saint Thomas Aquinas and the 10th century hymn for Advent.
The musical editor was Dom Andrew Gregory Murray (d. 1992), a monk of Downside Abbey, located approximately halfway between London and Wales. Dom Murray had sung in the choir of Sir Richard Terry at Westminster Cathedral. (It will be remembered that Dr. Terry began work on the New Westminster Hymnal but died while it was still very much incomplete.) Generally speaking, the musical expertise displayed by Dom Murray is dazzling. For undisclosed reasons, Dom Murray felt the need to create a new harmonization for every hymn, though frequently his version differed only slightly from the standard harmonization. (Edward C. Currie would do something similar twenty years later with the New Saint Basil Hymnal, except Currie seemed to value “change for the sake of change” whereas Murray’s alterations are purposeful.) While most of Murray’s work was harmonizing, he did write several tunes; e.g. #191 he wrote a melody for “Lead, kindly Light” by Cardinal Newman.
To summarize: Breviary translations created specifically for the hymnal by a contemporary priest; a book flowing directly from the Catholic treasury of hymns; a careful move away from saccharine “popular” hymns, while still keeping the finest; careful and thoughtful harmonizations that work with real choirs; this is hardly rocket science! Yet, the New Westminster Hymnal never achieved the prominence it should have—possibly due to World War II or the Second Vatican Council. It would be eighty years until another team of editors created The Saint Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal, which seems the “spiritual descendant” of the New Westminster Hymnal.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: Difficulties would present themselves if a congregation in the year 2020 were to choose the New Westminster Hymnal. For one thing, the words are in a separate place than the music—something quite common in England but not in these United States—so congregations would have to get used to that; although this system makes “exchanging” tunes simple! Moreover, the English language is not the same as it was eighty years ago. Consider the fourth verse of Hymn #165, the fifth verse of Hymn #190, or the first verse of #18; it’s difficult for me to imagine a congregation singing those. The frequent use of enjambment by Monsignor Knox would also be unpalatable to some congregations. This hymnal did an excellent job of mixing popular tunes with fresh tunes, but it appeared in 1940. Practically speaking, most American congregations would not recognize the vast majority of these hymn tunes, and that’s a tough sell. Finally, the New Westminster Hymnal is not untarnished when it comes to poor “text-tune” pairings. Hymn #192 and Hymn #31 awkwardly emphasize the wrong syllable of the word “Jesus.” Hymn #168 is an absolutely terrible “text-tune” match, and sounds comical when sung. By the way, that same hymn—#168—is actually an English translation of Christe qui lux es et dies by Professor Walter Hayward Shewring (d. 1990), who converted to the Catholic Faith and contributed many translations to the New Westminster Hymnal. Corpus Christi Watershed uploaded a scanned copy in 2016, and the book was previously sold by “Roman Catholic Books” (Fort Collins, Colorado), but their glue binding was appallingly cheap and fragile; I wish somebody would reprint this hymnal with a proper hard cover.
Catholic Hymn Book (Oratory)
HE London Oratory is run by priests of the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri (Cong. Orat.), a religious order known for excellent liturgies. Sometimes people call it “Brompton Oratory,” because Brompton Road is close by. The London Oratory was founded by Frederick William Faber (d. 1863), while the Birmingham Oratory was founded by Saint John Henry Newman (d. 1890), who was named a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII even though he was not a bishop. Patrick Russill was appointed Organist of the London Oratory in 1977 (at the age of 23), and became Director of Music in 1999. Russill is an internationally known musician who holds several important positions in addition to his work at the Oratory. Russill seems to have been the prime mover behind the London Oratory’s Catholic Hymn Book; page x calls him the “Musical Editor.” The book is supremely professional, and obviously created by a team of people who knew what they were doing. The words are printed separately from the music—an English tradition—which would allow multiple tunes to work for the same text. On the other hand, most Americans will not understand how to take advantage of this unless the tunes are written out, as the Brébeuf Hymnal does. (Some Protestant hymnals do, in fact, write out each alternative melody; cf. the New English Hymnal #105, which uses ORIENTIS PARTIBUS and WÜRTEMBURG for the same text.) The binding is durable, the cover is handsome, and the attributions are excellent. Some of the harmonizations by Mr. Russill are nothing short of exquisite. The final section of the book contains harmonized plainsong—the simpler, more popular chants such as Te Lucis Ante Terminum, Victimæ Paschali Laudes, Vexilla Regis, Pange Lingua, Ave Verum Corpus, Ave Maria, Ave Verum Corpus, Alme Redemptoris Mater, and Salve Regina—including several Gregorian Masses (e.g. XVIII) in both Latin and English (the English version having been adapted by Mr. Russill). Several translations from Latin appear by excellent Catholic translators, such as Monsignor Ronald Knox and Walter Hayward Shewring. The tunes are, generally speaking, first rate: quite sturdy and chosen with skill. Generally speaking, they avoided excessively gushy and saccharine language. At the same time, the book’s language is heavily 19th century, which some will object to on the grounds that we no longer live during the 19th century. (This is not to deny that any good hymnal will necessarily contain a healthy quantity of 19th century texts.)
The major flaw with the book is that it resembles a collection of religious songs, many of them Protestant. I am not suggesting that a Catholic hymn book cannot contain a single Protestant hymn, but an excessive amount is bad. As I have said before, the Brébeuf Hymnal, New Saint Basil Hymnal, and New Westminster Hymnal give the impression of being conceived from first to last as Roman Catholic liturgical books. This book by the London Oratory does not; they should have included less Protestant hymnody and more English translations of Catholic hymns such as: Quem Terra Pontus Aethera, Placare Christe Servulis, Quicumque Christum Quaeritis, Rex Sempiterne Caelitum, Salutis Humanae Sator, Te Saeculorum Principem, Verbum Supernum Prodiens, and so forth. This is our Catholic heritage, and they should have been aware of this in England both from Protestant publications (such as Hymns Ancient and Modern, Songs of Syon, and John David Chambers’ Seven Ordinary Hours Of Prayer) and Catholic sources (such as McDougall’s Pange Lingua, Orby Shipley’s Annus Sanctus, and Father Fortescue’s Saint Hugh Hymnal).
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: A major difficulty of this book is how the lyrics are not printed underneath the melody. I initially thought the motivation was to encourage congregational SATB singing—but the pew book does not contain SATB settings, so their choice was probably made due to “force of habit” from the English tradition. This book was out of print for a long time, but that appears to have changed; however, I suspect it would cost a fortune to obtain enough copies for an American congregation, so those interested should contact Gracewing and see whether special arrangements can be made. “Amazing Grace” (Hymn #203) seems quite out of place in this collection.
Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal
REALLY like this little book of hymns. It contains ninety-nine hymns, usually with simple plainsong melodies. Someone out there should harmonize these melodies and create YouTube videos; resources like that would really help people discover this collection. The hymn lyrics (i.e. the poetry) are contemporary, but not banal. Moreover, all ninety-nine hymns use this same style: commendable! The book itself is quite simple, yet attractive. As far as I can tell, some of the melodies come from Gregorian chant. Hymn #52 (“The Mighty Word Of God Came Forth”) uses the same melody as Veni Redemptor Gentium (Solesmes Liber Hymnarius, page 11). Hymn #34 (“When Christ was born, God sent a star”) as well as Hymn #35 (“When Jesus comes to be baptized”) use the same melody as Vexilla Christus Inclyta (Solesmes Liber Usualis, page 1,706). I have no idea where any of the texts come from, but there is a tiny note on Hymn #28 saying it comes from the 5th century. The Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal fulfills many of my “criteria” for a good Catholic hymnal: (1) it is not based heavily on Protestant models; (2) it adds something fresh (indeed, the entire hymnal is fresh!); (3) every page is stylistically unified; (4) the modal melodies are neither trite nor ephemeral; (5) it covers the major liturgical seasons, including the “hard ones,” such as the Baptism of the Lord. There is a sense of “monastic tranquility” about this book.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: No parish would be satisfied with this book, since it has less than a hundred hymns and no accompaniment. Nevertheless, a strong argument could be made that this hymnal would be better for a congregation in 2020 than, say, the Adoremus Hymnal or the Lumen Christi Hymnal for reasons we will discuss below.
HIS book first appeared when I was eight years old. The revised edition of the Adoremus Hymnal appeared in 2011. The person responsible for this edition, Helen Hull Hitchcock—a devout Catholic—died three years later. It must be said that the release of the 2011 edition did a disservice to what had formerly been a groundbreaking collection during the 1990s. But I would rather not speak of the book’s flaws; I would like to highlight its importance as well as its limitations. It is absolutely crucial to remember that this project began around 1994, and was finally published in 1997. Call to mind those days, if you can. The internet was in its infancy. YouTube would not come into existence for another ten years. “MR3” (the new English translation of the Roman Missal) was fourteen years away. The Traditional Latin Mass was hardly available in the United States, whereas today there are approximately 800 “Extraordinary Form” Masses each Sunday in the United States (although nobody knows the exact number), and hundreds of bishops have offered the usus antiquior. When the Adoremus Hymnal appeared, it was basically the only hymnal available containing no “sacro-pop,” and we must never forget this.
With the benefit of hindsight, however, the approach of the Adoremus Hymnal is somewhat questionable. We’ve mentioned hymnals (New Westminster, Saint John Brébeuf, and New Saint Basil) which were conceived from first to last with the Roman Catholic hymn patrimony in mind. Other hymnals (Dr. Marier’s hymnal, the Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal, and even the Summit Choirbook) missed the mark in certain ways, yet unquestionably added something fresh. The Adoremus Hymnal took an entirely different route: they went to the Protestant “core” of hymnody, and simply deleted all the hymns they didn’t like, leaving approximately fifty. The residue of such efforts might be called the “ADOREMUS-50.” This residue is exactly what one might expect from such an editorial process: (1) it’s uneven, especially when it’s applied to the Catholic liturgy; (2) its language is almost exclusively 19th-century; (3) rather than drawing from a variety of sources, such as modern composers or the beautiful modal system of the eight church modes, it all sounds circa 1850AD without any variety; (4) rather than a “Catholic sensibility,” the hymns strongly evoke Protestantism, even though none of them is formally heretical. I’m reminded of certain people who give to the poor items they no longer have any use for: “Here’s something I don’t want, so you can have it.” Can’t we do better than ‘leftovers’ from Protestantism?
I’m not saying it would be categorically wrong to ever include hymns from the “ADOREMUS-50” at a Catholic Mass; I’m saying their approach seems flawed and somewhat lazy. They basically ignored the Catholic translators: Monsignor Ronald Knox, Father Dominic Aylward; Father John Fitzpatrick; Denis Florence MacCarthy; Athanasius Diedrich Wackerbarth; Aubrey Thomas de Vere; Daniel Donahoe; Monsignor Hugh Henry, to say nothing of the collections by Orby Shipley. They also, generally speaking, ignored the Catholic hymn tradition: Arundel Hymns (1905), Tozer’s Catholic Church Hymnal (1906), the Saint Mark Catholic Hymnal (1910), the Crown Hymnal (1911), the De La Salle Hymnal (1913), the Saint Gregory Hymnal (1920), Father Carlo Rossini’s collection (1936), the Saint Cecilia Hymnal (1937), the Mount Mary Hymnal (1937), the Saint Rose Hymnal (1938), the Cantate Omnes Hymnal (1952), Father John Selner’s hymnal (1954), the Christ the King Hymnal (1955), Achille P. Bragers’ Monastery Hymnal (1954) and so many others. Am I suggesting those traditional Catholic hymnals contained excellent melodies and texts? Certainly not. But the 1997 Preface claims their hymns were drawn from “the historic patrimony of the Church,” that they reflect the cantus popularis religiosus (cf. “Sacrosanctum Concilium” §118), and that they were “chosen on the basis” of “Catholic tradition.” Their claims cannot be maintained. To recap, they ignored the authentic core of Catholic hymnody (the ancient Latin hymns), they ignored the Catholic translators, and they ignored the Catholic hymnal tradition.
The “ADOREMUS-50” had a massive ripple effect. This Protestant “residue” approach then took on a life of its own. Consider this chart:
* PDF Chart • Comparison for “ADOREMUS-50”
—Lumen Christi Hymnal, Pope Francis Hymnal, St Paul Hymnal, Ignatius Press Missal, and St Michael Hymnal.
Notice the chart does not show all the letter “A” hymns, but only those shared with the “ADOREMUS-50.” If you examine the full indices of each book, you will notice that some hymnals have significantly more, such as St. Paul’s Hymnal (PDF index). Perhaps someone could create a full analysis; I don’t have time for that. However, I maintain that the core of those books—THE INSPIRATION—was the “ADOREMUS-50” (even if some of the hymnals on that chart added or subtracted a few). In that sense, we can say that the Adoremus Hymnal did great harm, although its editors had good intentions. Put bluntly, many of these hymnals speak of “renewal”—but how can our churches be renewed by hymnals which contain nothing but stale Protestant hymnody with tonality exclusively from the 19th century? We’ve seen other collections (e.g. the Brébeuf Hymnal, Dr. Marier’s hymnal, the Stanbrook Hymnal) which do a much better job taking into consideration what century we live in. Careless readers will probably suggest I oppose 19th century hymnody; I don’t. What I’m suggesting is that “renewal” will not come from a lazy approach based mainly on Protestant hymnody.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: Just as in the previous edition of the Adoremus Hymnal, almost every hymn in the book requires a page turn: (Page 334) • (Page 335). Imagine trying to sing from such a book—constantly turning back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in the middle of each verse! Page turns are required even for nine notes. Indeed, the typesetting is atrocious, as you can see: blank space and disproportionate. Something about their Gregorian notation seems inelegant. The usage of bold fonts for lyrics was a poor choice. The book’s hymnody is extremely limited in terms of the number of hymns, and massive lacunae exist. From an artistic standpoint, it’s incredible that they omitted so many beautiful hymn tunes, such as GONFALON ROYAL, ALTONA, ALL SAINTS, and RUSTINGTON. The Adoremus Hymnal mixes in a whole bunch of disparate pieces which don’t belong (e.g. #633, #593, #577, #572, #549, #548, #465); these were taken from other liturgical books in a most haphazard and unsatisfying way, and this will be discussed below with regard to the SSPX hymnal. Briefly stated, different liturgical books exist for various reasons—the Graduale, the Antiphonale, the Processionale, the Lectionary, the Sacramentary, the Rituale Romanum, the Liber Hymnarius, and so forth—and taking bits and pieces from such books is injudicious and unsatisfying. (In military terms, it’s called “mission creep.”)
Saint Michael Hymnal
Y ANALYSIS of the St. Michael Hymnal might infuriate some musicians, and for that I apologize. This hymnal could be called the “check the box collection”—and hopefully my reasoning will become clear. On the one hand, I realize some would consider the “check the box” attitude a virtue, since the editors basically collected hymns and songs commonly sung in many places; and they did this perhaps better than anyone. The result is “contemporary” (e.g. Hymn #698) placed alongside “traditional” (e.g. Hymn #727) placed alongside “schmaltzy 19th century” (e.g. Hymn #462). They maintain their approach is all about being responsive to a “realistic assessment of the present state of liturgical music.” While their collection of traditional hymns is more extensive than the “ADOREMUS-50” of which I’ve spoken, it is heavily Protestant—check the box. They toss in a little Spanish here and there—check the box. They sprinkle in a few goofy tunes, such Hymn #639, Hymn #405, Hymn #406, Hymn #724, Hymn #404, Hymn #726, Hymn #430, and Hymn #626—check the box. The alphabetical listing of all hymns is a disgrace for many reasons; e.g. it hides lacunae of seasonal pieces and (in the case of translations of Latin hymns) places the same text in different sections—O Salutaris Hostia, for example, seemingly has no relationship to “O Saving Victim” or Verbum Supernum Prodiens. Yet, the alphabetical system is something easy to comprehend—check the box. The “Organ and Choir” edition is so heavy and bulky it cannot be held by choir members, but it’s conveniently in one volume—check the box. The Mass settings sound “churchy” but are generally speaking drab and uninspired—check the box. A quick survey of the book suggests that little attention was paid to harmonizations, since the Bass line often descends to uncomfortable pitches (e.g. Hymn #670 goes to a low E-Natural)—which is not to suggest there is a “quick fix” for range considerations. Perhaps #816 is emblematic of the “check the box” approach: it is Victimae Paschali Laudes, which is placed in the hymn section (even though it’s a Sequence), cannot be found by the English title (“Christians to the Paschal victim”) owing to the shabby alphabetical system, and bowdlerizes the original language (e.g. “redeemeth” and “reconcileth”) in a way that does violence to the melody, yet fails to eliminate all the “archaic” language—check the box. Does it not stand to reason that a hymnal committee should attempt fill in lacunae during the liturgical year by, for example, commissioning new texts and tunes? As far as I know, since this book appeared (in 1998) not a single serious text or tune has been commissioned for the St. Michael Hymnal—yet the book’s Preface speaks about “renewal of the Church’s liturgical life.” I would suggest that anyone who seriously examines this hymnal will discover it’s basically just a collection of Catholic songs and hymns, not a bold attempt to “renew” the Church’s liturgical life, although what the 4th edition did with Richard Rice’s entrance antiphons seems a positive step.
Regarding my “check the box” assertions, I would posit that a good hymnal committee attempts to add something fresh and new. The New Westminster Hymnal certainly did. The New Saint Basil certainly did. The Saint Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal certainly did. The Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal certainly did. Even Worship IV Hymnal (GIA Publications) tried to add something new and fresh, although I don’t agree with their approach. In terms of adding something new, I would have liked to have seen more efforts by the St. Michael Hymnal like what they did for Hymn #549 and Hymn #752. On the positive side, many of the tunes are truly excellent. The typesetting is quite professional, although the slurs in Hymn #809 and the first bar of Hymn #428 suggest it’s not absolutely flawless. The physical copies of the St. Michael Hymnal are quite handsome and attractive. In particular, the Ordo Missae was typeset in a thoughtful way. Moreover, this 4th edition of the St. Michael Hymnal seems to have removed some really goofy songs that had appeared in previous editions, such as “Song to the Lamb” (Hymn #530)—for which they should be commended—yet they have inexplicably eliminated some excellent hymns, such as Hymn #531 (“Sole Hope Of All The World”) which was Summi Largitor Praemii translated into English by Alan G. McDougall. Furthermore, they seem to have begun restoring some of the verses they omitted in earlier editions (e.g. Hymn #469), although some would argue they should have taken the Brébeuf/Westminster approach, where verses are not deleted willy-nilly. Their hymnal has a praiseworthy online presence, as you can see by this and this.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: From what I can tell, certain hymns were omitted from the index (e.g. “O Saving Victim Opening Wide”); the index fails to distinguish between multiple versions of the same hymn (e.g. “Christus Vincit”); as far as I can tell, there is no Table of Contents at the front of the book, meaning users have no idea that Missa Verbum Caro is #169—it’s unbelievable there’s no place I can look up the page numbers for the Mass settings (I’ve looked multiple times). Speaking of Missa Verbum Caro, the website description (“a beautiful polyphonic-style Mass by James McGregor”) is wrong, because this Mass setting is homophonic not polyphonic. The “stacking” of verses (e.g. Hymn #603) in the St. Michael Hymnal strikes me as ridiculous, especially when #604—the very next page!—contains a completely blank page. Their footnotes seem not unmarred by error (e.g. Hymn #753 erroneously attributes words to John D. Chambers). The first page of Mass of the Great Prophet by Brother Michael O’Connor is riddled with parallel octaves, parallel fifths, and 2nd inversion chords. The graphics included throughout the book strike me as inappropriate (“On Eagle’s Wings” juxtaposed with 19th century artwork) and cropped in a slipshod and inartistic way; i.e. many of those graphics were designed to fill the whole page, and shrinking them does violence to their integrity.
250 Public Domain Hymns (ICEL)
ERE is what Jeffrey Tucker wrote on 28 August 2009 about this book, posted on the weblog of the Church Music Association of America: “People often ask what is the best Catholic hymnal in print with English hymns. Without meaning to slight other products out there, my answer is one from 1981, a book I had never heard of until about two weeks ago. In fact, I seriously doubt that many people know about it. I’m not sure I understand its origin or purpose or why it is not more famous. In its current state, it is not usable for parishes and it is not clear that it was ever intended to be. You can buy it but you have to look hard to find it, even though it is in print. The cover is nothing special and it has a strange name. Lots of work went into it but it is not marketed to any great extent, if at all. My answer is the ICEL Resource Collection. It is sold by GIA. You can’t find it among their hymnal listings. You have to do a search of the site to turn up the product. There is no picture. The description is as bare as it can possibly be: 250 Hymns in the Public Domain. 106 settings of music for the Rites of the Church. The contents are fantastic in every way. The text is intact. The melodies are great, the best that hymnody has to offer. As suggested in the description, all 250 English-language hymns are in the public domain. That took some research to discover. Public domain means that the text and melodies are part of the commons of the faith. There is no restriction at all on performing them or marketing them or printing them or arranging them. And look at the time in which the book came out: 1981. That was right in the thick of one of the biggest crisis in the history of Church music. In the Catholic Church, this hymnal might have sparred us much pain and suffering. At a time when nearly everything coming out of the publishing houses was…well, I won’t characterize it. Let’s just leave it that this collection, widely distributed, would have put matters on sound track. The public domain aspect of it would have saved millions in royalty payments. What a gift to the faith! But wait: there is more to the strangeness of this product. The front matter says that the hymns are public domain, but still restricts their printing. How so? Well, it is an interesting thing. The texts are part of the common. The hymn tunes are part of the commons. But ICEL came up with an interesting little proviso: they claimed copyright to the typography! That means that you couldn’t so much as slap a page on a copy machine without breaking the law—even though the content is public domain. I don’t understand why ICEL/GIA would have done this, or maybe I do. One can’t be sure. In any case, the proviso left this book to suffer alone and unused. One wonders why they bothered to put it out at all. I’m imagining a conjectural history in which someone at ICEL had the very good impulse of saving parishes money and getting great hymns out to the public. Then at the last minute, some powerful person swung in to defeat the whole purpose of the thing by adding one sentence to the front matter.”
Mr. Tucker was spot on, except where he wrote: “The contents are fantastic in every way. […] The melodies are great, the best that hymnody has to offer.” In reality, the hymns in this book are quite similar to the “ADOREMUS-50”—and there’s no need to repeat what was said regarding the tremendous flaws and shortcomings of the “ADOREMUS-50.” (Incidentally, the Adoremus Hymnal harmonizations are often better.) I would be extremely interested to know whether Dr. Susan Treacy, Calvert Shenk, and Dr. Kurt Poterack were aware of this book when they started working on the Adoremus Hymnal (circa 1995); that would have been fourteen years after this book was published.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: It’s difficult to criticize this book, since it seems not to have been designed for parish use. (See above.) Nevertheless, if a time machine could transport us back forty years, this book would have been quite a nice option in 1981, although not so fine as the New Westminster Hymnal or Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles.
The Summit Choirbook
HAVE been aware of the Summit Choirbook for years, but only recently did I realize that it might be a play on the word “summit,” defined as: the highest attainable level of achievement. Summit is also a town in New Jersey, where this gorgeous monastery is located. While their book is quite unsuitable for congregations—and is therefore not the “summit” of traditional Catholic hymnals—the effort required to produce this book was nothing short of monumental. Moreover, it really is unfair to consider this book as a “pew edition,” since it was clearly conceived as the choir book of a particular monastery; so let me be clear about this point. The printing and layout is quite professional. This book was published by the Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey, fourteen years before the Adoremus Hymnal appeared. Its format is strictly a hymnal, with no Ordo Missæ, Kyriale, readings, prayers, or propers. There are over 500 hymns, and almost all include organ notation or four-part harmony. Many of the hymns are not very usual or familiar, and several were written by the nuns themselves. Many of the harmonies were also composed by the nuns. Sometimes, the nuns added a descant (e.g. Hymn #466 for Alleluia! Sing to Jesus, which they call a Eucharistic hymn); from a musical perspective, some of their descants are quite poor. In general, this is a decent collection of traditional Latin hymns and solid English hymns (e.g. Christe Redemptor Omnium, Ave Maris Stella, Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones, and so on). Many of the hymns are written in an older, more reverent style of English. There are tons of hymns which appear in no other hymnal I am aware of. The treatment of the liturgical year is also very thorough; there are five hymns for epiphany, six for the dedication of a church, and even a large section of hymns for specific saints. Although it does not have the Mass texts or readings, which may limit its use in the pews, this is a solid hymnal church musicians will want on their shelf.
In 2012, I published the following about the Summit Choirbook:
The format of the hymns may not be helpful to a congregation. The first verse is usually printed under notes, but the others are all separated from the notes, like they do in the New English Hymnal. The advantage to the way the Summit treats the verses (without notes) is that the poetry is better preserved, and alternate tunes can be easily used. There is a great variety of songs, chants, and hymns which some will hate and others will love. For instance, they carefully printed the traditional Gregorian hymns, but also included pieces not suited for the liturgy like #157 (“The King of glory comes, the nation rejoices” by Willard Jabusch). However, the vast majority of the contents are “traditional hymns.” Only the first 160 hymns are labeled for the different seasons of the liturgical year, the other 340 hymns being devoted to the Divine Office (usually for the different saints: St. Patrick, St. Margaret, etc.). I was very surprised that there were absolutely no hymns assigned to Ordinary Time, while there were plenty for Advent, Christmas, Easter, and the other “common” seasons. What is the organist or choirmaster supposed to do during Ordinary Time (the longest season of the Church year)? Regarding the hymns for the Divine office, the contents are, to be frank, 360 hymns I’ve never heard before. Some musicians will be excited by this fact, yearning to search for potential “hidden treasures”—and I think there definitely are a few in there. However, from a pastoral point of view, it strikes me that the vast majority of these hymns would be greeted with a certain degree of hostility by a “typical” Catholic parish, because neither the tunes nor the texts are even remotely familiar.
I received this beautiful communication from one of the sisters (whose name I will not reveal) on 20 September 2012:
Dear Daniel, Pax Christi! I thought you would want to pray for Sr. Maria of the Cross, OP, who just went home to the Lord today, September 20th. Please pray for her eternal rest and joy with her Beloved! She never saw your review but she would have enjoyed it! As we use the choirbook daily, I can assure you it can easily be used for ordinary time! It was primarily created for use at the Office, as you probably figured out. There are some hymns in there I really don’t like but she did at the time! We use it for Mass as well, the organist finding hymns/verses appropriate for the day. The layout was a deliberate choice as Sr. Maria, not understanding that most of us are not musical geniuses, wanted the text to be there so that one could just read the text for reflection and meditation at other times besides singing. The Dominican order never accepted the hymn translations of Pope Urban VIII, and used the older versions. Most new sisters know about 2 hymns in the whole book when they enter! But before the year is over they know about half and before you know it, you not only know them all, but you can sing many by heart! The harmonies are great, many of them Sr. Maria wrote to avoid copyright fees. God bless you!
Notice all the exclamation points! Nuns like her are such happy, holy, beautiful people. I feel happy just reading her note.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: A lot of the tunes (and many of the original hymns) in the Summit Choirbook will not be familiar to most people. Also, some of the language is older English, which may sometimes seem a bit “quaint” or unusual. I appreciate how the nuns attempted to add something fresh and new, yet I think many of the melodies do not display excellence—but let’s not forget this book came out 37 years ago!
The Collegeville Hymnal
OR the sake of full disclosure, I am a person who accepts all the teachings of the Catholic Church. I am, therefore, not a fan of what has become of the Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota; the path of heterodoxy they’ve chosen would surely have broken the heart of Abbot Alcuin Deutsch (d. 1951). I bring this up because I would not be inclined to speak kindly of the Collegeville Hymnal, yet feel—in strict justice and honesty—it should be included because it has much to recommend it. Indeed, Father Robert Skeris (formerly Prefetto della casa at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome) wrote in 1996:
[A good pastor] will provide for his flock suitable aids for musical participation. Chief among these is a good parish hymnal. These hymnals do, in fact, still exist! Thomas Day’s 1990 autopsy on the triumph of bad taste in Catholic culture “Why Catholics Can’t Sing” proffered some good advice in this respect. A goodly number of reliable experts would agree with Day that among the best hymnals available today are Worship III, for example, or the Collegeville Hymnal.
The reality is, this hymnal contains a good number of excellent hymns (although much of the poetry is poor). Latin and Gregorian chant is also included. In terms of the hymn melodies, consider the following: #349 #353 #357 #338 #333 #321 #322 #320 #309 #279 #213. All are examples of fabulous tunes which are either not extremely familiar or used in an altogether clever and praiseworthy way. Futhermore, this hymnal demonstrates great wisdom in making sure some hymns are sung in unison (e.g. Hymn #336, Hymn #328, Hymn #330, and Hymn #305) instead of SATB. It is not easy to understand why this hymnal was not better known in traditional circles. It belongs on the shelf of any Catholic interested in hymnody. The major obstacles to its use in a parish would be: (1) its unfortunate association with disreputable people, such as those who run the Collegeville weblog; (2) disproportionately large noteheads in relation to the size of the fonts; (3) drab poetry; (4) an apparent willingness—for ideological reasons—to exclude verses or lyrics perceived as too strongly Roman Catholic, although I cannot claim to know for certain what was in the hearts of the editorial team. (The fourth obstacle was just my perception, but I don’t wish to commit character assassination; perhaps an orthodox theologian could examine the book and find concrete examples.)
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: With a few exceptions (e.g. Hymn #476 and Hymn #469) this hymnal has very few verses for each hymn; that’s a big problem because having the full number of verses can help musicians match perfectly the liturgical action. Publications like the Brébeuf Hymnal, the Summit Choirbook, and the New Westminster Hymnal include all the verses for each hymn—which is also important from a theological and poetic point of view. The Collegeville Hymnal does include goofy melodies not suitable for Holy Mass, such as Hymn #348, Hymn #217, and Hymn #350; such melodies are highly syncopated and impossible for a congregation to sing well. Speaking of congregational singing, several of the hymns seem incredibly low, stretching all the way to a low A-Natural (e.g. Hymn #300). For this hymnal, the editors made numerous adaptations of Plainsong into English—and the way it’s printed comes across as incredibly pedestrian and boring, so I guess that means the way music is presented on the page makes a difference.
Hymnal For The Hours
NE of the jobs of any book reviewer is to attempt to understand the purpose for which a book is being sold. Immediately with the Hymnal for the Hours by the Benedict XVI Institute (Archdiocese of San Francisco), we are presented with a problem: this book cannot be used in liturgical worship because it’s extremely heavy, extremely bulky, and has a flimsy cover. The next logical question is: “Can this book be used as a reference book?” Certainly those interested in hymnody would want a book like this, yet even in this role its deficiencies are fairly significant. It has absolutely no footnotes, explaining where the melodies and texts come from! Technically, the index does give some indication of the textual sources, but it’s incredibly difficult to use, because all the numbers are listed willy-nilly. Unless I am mistaken, the book’s editor, Father Samuel Weber, has made slight changes here and there; e.g. the first line of O Lux Beata Caelitum (Hymn #29) seems to have been altered. Why on earth were footnotes omitted from the bottom of each hymn? Perhaps there was a desire on the part of the editor to have a streamlined appearance, but that seems unattainable because the style of translation varies considerably, especially since some translations are quite archaic (Thee, Thine, Thou, etc.) while others are much more colloquial.
Will an average singer be able to read the music, based on how it’s printed? It’s difficult to see that happening—except for the first verse or two—unless the singer has the melody memorized. Try to sing, for example, the fourth verse of Hymn #414 or the fifth verse of Hymn #307; many singers would find this impossible. We have seen how the Brébeuf Hymnal carefully wrote out each verse in the Choral Supplement and the Organ Accompaniments—why was something similar not done in this book by Father Samuel Weber? Thinner pages should have been used (like GIA’s Worship IV Hymnal, which is 1,400 pages long but still thinner than Father Weber’s book), the musical notation should have been smaller, and the white space should have been eliminated. The Brébeuf Hymnal is hardly the first book to understand this concept; consider the 2013 Dominican Publication (“Hymnarium” by the Dominican Fathers of the Province of Saint Joseph) which does this:
The Liber Hymnarius (Solesmes Abbey, 1983) uses this same technique, which makes singing a great deal easier. The approach Father Weber has chosen reminds one of a 1932 publication (“A plainsong Hymnbook” by Sydney H. Nicholson) which looks like this:
This primitive typographical approach would seem to reinforce the notion that this book is the work of one man, not an institute. Had its editorial team involved more people, the final product would perhaps have been enhanced. Indeed, Father Weber posted a draft document on the Church Music Association of America website in 2008, and certain clues support the idea that this book was basically created by one person. This hypothesis is also supported by the letter from Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone printed at the front of the book. It is unfortunate to observe a flagrant typo on the very first page of the book, as some would suggest that indicates a lack of seriousness. (Every hymnal contains typos and errors, but one would not expect such a thing on the first four words of a 694-page book.) When speaking about the St. Michael Hymnal, I mentioned a “check the box” approach, which gives precious little consideration to the quality of something. This book seems to have adopted such an attitude when it comes to the hymn translations of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Cecilia in Ryde on the Isle of Wight (just off the south coast of England). These translations absolutely dominate this book, which leads to the question: “Were these translations selected because of their excellence, or because they were the only ones available?” Check the box. However, Father Samuel Weber appears to have made quite a discovery when it comes to the hymns from the Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal. This is not the same as the book I reviewed (see above); that is obvious from the fact that Father Weber lists at least 450 hymns, whereas the current edition only has 99 pages! This must be the “original” Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal which is rarer than hens’ teeth—very few people have seen that book, and my understanding is that Stanbrook Abbey no longer possesses the 1970s printing plates. It would be a wonderful service if this book could be found and scanned.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: This book has no accompaniment, which is a great pity; Gregorian hymns are incomparably beautiful when accompanied by a judicious organ accompaniment, demonstrated by the eighth volume of the Nóva Órgani Harmónia. Also, Father Weber’s Hymnal for the Hours would be greatly enhanced if the Latin were provided right next to the hymns, such as what was done for the Pew Edition of the Brébeuf Hymnal.
Peoples Mass Book
INCE this article is all about traditional Catholic hymnals, it seemed good to review a truly “traditional” hymnal. It seems desirable to know what the music sounded like in the 1960s; and in some ways it is precisely what we might expect. This book has quite a few very nice congregational hymns, which we would expect—yet it is severely limited, perhaps because nobody really knew where Catholic music was headed. There are some interesting compositions (e.g. page 227, by Marinus de Jong), quite a few “traditional” melodies (e.g. page 226 and page 258 from the Geneva Psalter, page 250 by Johann Sebastian Bach, AD PERENNIS on page 140, ORIEL on page 138, and so on), and many attempts at “plainsong-inspired” compositions. Perhaps the biggest flaw is the puerile hymn lyrics by “J. Clifford Evers” (one of the fake names Omer Westendorf used) and his cadre. There is virtually no attempt to mine the ancient Catholic hymn translations by Knox, Fitzpatrick, Aylward, and all the rest. Those who carefully examine this book will notice “clues” which foreshadow bad things to come, such as pages 325-326 of the Pew Edition, which explicitly state that Our Lord Jesus Christ came to earth “to tell us how to achieve happiness and security,” which the Peoples Hymnal calls “the Good News.” It goes on to pray: “Open our minds to the movements going on all around the world…” and talks about solving “world problems.”
Page 261 of the accompaniment book has an Englished “Chant Mass for the Faithful” with accompaniment, and when I searched Google for its author, I stumbled across the CCWatershed obituary of Father Valentine Young, OFM. Correspondence with Jeff Ostrowski, Father Valentine’s student, confirmed that Father John de Deo Oldegeering, OFM, was the same one who contributed to the 1964 Peoples Mass Book. He was also the chant teacher of Father Valentine Young, OFM. Oldegeering had a doctorate in Gregorian chant from Rome and in 1952 published a book called Preces Cantatae with Desclée (Belgium). Evidently Father Valentine spoke of him frequently, and Jeff Ostrowski related to me the following story from Father Valentine, who died in January:
Our Gregorian Chant teacher (Fr. John de Deo Oldegeering, OFM) was a stickler when it came to correct accentuation in Gregorian Chant. He would stop everything if he heard someone singing “Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiri-TÚ-i Sancto.” He would exclaim: “No, you farmer! It is pronounced Spi-RÍ-tui. Get out of here with your TOOEY stuff.”
The original title of this book (1955) was “The Peoples Hymnal,” but Omer Westendorf (d. 1997) changed the title in 1964 to “The Peoples Mass Book.” A newspaper article published on 23 October 1997 contains valuable information about Omer Westendorf and his “revelation” about choral harmonies while on leave in Holland during World War II. His company was first called “World Library of Sacred Music” (Cincinnati, Ohio). In 1971, the company was purchased by J.S. Paluch. In 2020, that same company—now called “WLP”—was purchased by GIA Publications (formerly known as “The Gregorian Institute of America,” founded in 1941 by Clifford Bennett). Westendorf’s most famous hymn texts are: Where Charity and Love Prevail, Sent Forth by God’s Blessing, and Gift of Finest Wheat. Westendorf was an organist and choir director (“Bonaventure Choir”), so we should not be surprised by several clever text/tune pairings and thoughtful harmonizations, e.g. Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens Adore Him (HYFRYDOL) on page 244 as well as Christians, Sound the Name That Saved Us (ALL SAINTS) on Page 70. This book reflects the confusion of the 1960s, and perhaps the different paths of two Sulpician priests—who contributed heavily to this book—could be taken as emblematic: Father Melvin Lloyd Farrell (d. 1986) and Michael Valentine Gannon (d. 2017). Father Farrell died a priest, while Gannon abandoned the priesthood in 1976, got married, and became a historian.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: Because hymnals have improved since 1964, it’s difficult to imagine who would want to use this book, with the possible exception of a congregation led by an elderly priest who grew up singing these hymns: Page 110 Lord, Who at Thy First Eucharist Didst Pray (UNDE ET MEMORES); Page 123 See Us Lord About Thine Altar (DRAKES BOUGHTON); Page 130 Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (PICARDY); Page 134 O Saving Victim, Opening Wide (MELCOMBE); Page 66 Hail, Redeemer, King Divine (ST. GEORGE’S WINDSOR); Page 63 O Sacred Heart All Holy (INNSBRUCK); Page 61 Heart of Christ, We Sing Thy Praises (STUTTGART); Page 59 Let the Earth Rejoice and Sing (LLANFAIR); Page 88 O Holy Lord, by All Adored (MIT FREUDEN ZART); and so forth. While this hymnal has numerous deficiencies, a small “TLM” community might be relatively happy with it. The hymn selections, I repeat, are commendable in many ways.
Introit Hymns for the Church Year
HIS collection has a noble goal: it seeks to allow congregations to join in singing the proper Introit each Sunday. It employs a total of 51 hymn tunes, all of them traditional and beautiful. The Latin incipit is included for each. It covers the Sundays of the entire church year and all major feasts (even those that don’t always occur on Sunday, such as the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist). The typesetting is beautiful and clear. The Pew Edition includes SATB chords, which organists will appreciate. However, something about Dr. Tietze’s endeavor seems forced and infelicitous—and it would seem Dr. László Dobszay (d. 2011) hit the nail on the head on page 97 of a 2003 publication:
Neither can we disregard the form of the texts. The Introit of the Ascension begins thus: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven?” Whom do we hear speaking in this chant? It is the speech of God, of course, and then of the Church—but in the words of the angels. This is a chant of representation. And we have already seen Christ speaking in the Easter Introit, “I am risen and am still with thee…” This, too, is the language of representation. The Introit of the second Sunday in Advent proclaims, “People of Zion, behold the Lord shall come to save the nations…” And who is speaking here? It is the Church as herald of the Good News who begins to speak in this chant. It is a chant of announcement. Or the words of the Introit for the third Sunday in Lent, beginning “Mine eyes are ever looking unto the Lord; for He shall pluck my feet out of the net…” Who is speaking now? God puts these words on the lips of the whole Church and the souls who make up the Church. This is a chant of imploring…
[Here is the crucial section.] All these examples have one thing in common. Someone speaks in them. Now, when we listen to a strophic hymn, this precise effect of locutio directa is diminished, indeed disappears completely. When we sing even the finest hymns, we feel they are the compositions of a poet—it is the poet who speaks in these chants. And that difference is a consequence of the form. There, the flow of thoughts, the length and linkage of phrases, the selection of words is defined and determined by the poetic form, by its rhythmic structure and rhyme. The poem is artefactum, an artificial construct, an artistic opus. And when the result is not of the highest quality in either its theological or poetical dimension, then we sense even more vividly that the necessities of the poem direct the thought, rather than vice versa. One does not need at all to despise sung poetry in hymns—even those of extra-liturgical origin—in order to recognize that hymns can never be such speech-like texts as one finds in free biblical prose.
Since the chants of the Mass proper, with but few exceptions, are based upon biblical texts they are, again with but few exceptions, manifestations of a “spiritual speech” rather than “poems.” Finding their own pleasant articulation, they proceed with the naturalness of speech; the singer can take it on his lips as speech delivered in a special way. This is what Ewald Jammers meant when he affirmed that “Man does not ‘compose’ music to God’s word; instead, he pronounces it. And he does so at worship by speaking not in the language of the everyday, the language of the marketplace, but rather in a solemn singing voice.” Psychologically, the prose form always approximates speech more closely; when pronouncing a text of this kind, we feel more easily that we are praying. This is not to say that prayers in strophic form cannot be uttered with a prayerful mentality. But even then, there always remains something that makes us feel we are speaking “in quotation marks.”
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: I don’t know how it would be possible to accept the amateurish poetry of this collection. The language in many hymns comes across, quite frankly, as infantile and “à la rhyming dictionary”. Consider Tietze’s translation for Deus In Loco Sancto Suo (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time):
Let God arise and scatter those
Who scorn his law, his ways oppose.
As fire melts wax and smoke recedes,
They perish when God’s face they see.
But let the righteous shout with glee,
Let them exult exceedingly.
Let your melodious music ring;
O praise the Lord and dance and sing!
God helps the orphans, widows, lone;
He gives the desolate a home.
Then prisoners are truly free;
He leads them to prosperity.
Such language is anything but inspired—especially the rhymes—and certain phrases are not pleasing: “as fire melts wax” is quite challenging to pronounce; the word “prisoners” does not have three syllables when sung; “let the righteous shout” is a tongue-twister; and so forth. Sometimes, the results of Dr. Tietze’s attempts to match text with tune are shockingly forced.
Worship IV Hymnal (GIA)
IA Publications called their hymnal series “Worship.” That means “Worship II” (1975) was the second edition of Worship. Likewise, “Worship IV” (2011) is the fourth edition of Worship. It turns out that Worship II was quite a nice collection, which perhaps explains the 1996 endorsement by Father Skeris (citing Professor Thomas Day) referred to above. It had a decent amount of Latin (such as Hymn #5 and Hymn #31). This is not to suggest that Worship II was magnificent; it fell into the typical pitfalls, which I described above apropos the “ADOREMUS-50.” And the typesetting, even for 1975, was atrocious; e.g. Hymn #4 and Hymn #93. Yet, it must be said that Worship II had excellent tunes, and its editors (Robert J. Batastini, Robert H. Oldershaw, Richard Proulx, and Daniel G. Reuning) did not vandalize the texts, as their 1975 Preface makes clear:
The authenticity and integrity of the text or translation has been preserved, or in some cases restored for most hymns of earlier periods. It is the firm opinion of the editors, endorsed through considerable consultation with noteworthy musicians and liturgists, that the so-called “translation” of English into English, e.g., “thee” to “you” and “thy” to “your,” is a regrettable practice that upsets the literary integrity of a text, often results in an example of poor grammar, and still fails to yield a “modern” text—to say nothing of the ecumenical implications.
However, this policy—so clearly articulated in Worship II—was later rejected. In Worship IV, the editors were unrestrained in their bowdlerism, yet this translation of English into English (as they described it in 1975) was unwarranted because Catholics use “archaic” language every time they attend Mass; e.g. consider the Lord’s Prayer:
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name,
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy Will be done… (etc.)
This comparison chart (PDF) shows the 2011 vandalism by GIA Publications was not insignificant. There is, however, one thing the 2011 edition has in common with the 1975 edition: the Gregorian chant typesetting is truly deplorable—some of the worst I’ve seen. The typesetting of modern hymns is sometimes laughably hideous, e.g. Hymn #950.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: While it’s true that a few decent hymns are included in the 2011 edition, the major flaw of the 2011 edition is the unbridled inclusion of numerous “trendy songs” with questionable theology. Some of these are well known: Hymn #773 The Summons by John Bell; Hymn #777 Lord of the Dance by Sydney Carter; Hymn #836 Gather us in by Marty Haugen; and so forth. It looks like they didn’t even bother to re-typeset most of these since the 1986 edition (Worship III); for instance, Hymn #818 Help us accept each other by Fred Kaan has not changed. Examples of frivolous songs added since Worship III would be “God has chosen me” by Bernadette Farrell; “Uyai Mose” by Alexander Gondo; and “If you believe and I believe” by Herman Steumpfle. Let’s examine a few of these:
* PDF Download • You Are Called To Tell The Story
—This is Hymn #784 in Worship IV Hymnal (GIA Publications, 2011).
Consider two stanzas:
(2) You are called to teach the rhythm
Of the dance that never ends,
Then to move within the circle,
Hand in hand with strangers, friends.
Christ be known in all our dancing,
Touching all with hands of love,
Touching all with hands of love.
(3) You are called to set the table,
Blessing bread as Jesus blest,
Then to come with thirst and hunger,
Needing care like all the rest.
Christ be known in all our sharing,
Feeding all with signs of love,
Feeding all with signs of love.
This is not the Prorpium Missæ from the Roman Gradual or the Roman Missal. Nor is this an ancient Catholic hymn such as Salve Caput Cruentatum, Victis Sibi Cognomina, or Hoste Dum Victo Triumphans translated into English. This is a song by someone named Ruth Carolyn Duck (b. 1947) who is a Protestant minister for the United Church of Christ. The language strikes me as creepy (“touching all with hands of love”) and approaching heretical, e.g. where it says that the entire congregation blesses bread in the same way as Christ did, and that the Holy Eucharist is nothing but a “sign of love.”
Hymns 676 and 677 are also troubling. In #676, GIA Publications bowdlerized the words to Father Frederick W. Faber’s Faith Of Our Fathers, and it’s unclear how much of the authentic hymn remains. In #677, we are given lyrics by Carl P. Daw, an Episcopalian minister:
O God who calls your people out,
To venture and to dare,
To plumb the bleak abyss of doubt
And find you even there:
When we despair in wandering
Through wastes of empty lies,
Refresh us with the living spring
Of hope that never dies.
What do these lyrics mean? How exactly is God “found” in a bleak abyss of doubt?
The 2011 edition contains so many songs which are musically bizarre (e.g. Hymn #586) or whose lyrics are wacky and embarrassing, such as Hymn #829, whose second verse asks: “Who is this who eats with sinners, calling luckless losers winners?” Perhaps that hymn is emblematic of Worship IV, since it uses a traditional hymn melody wedded to goofy lyrics. Another hymn that marries goofy lyrics to a beautiful tune would be #508. The melody (RENDEZ À DIEU) is wonderful, and serious hymnals often employ it (e.g. Brébeuf Hymnal #804 with a stunning new text by Fr. Dominic Popplewell; Dr. Marier’s hymnal #329 and #156; the London Oratory hymnal #116, the Adoremus Hymnal #515). But GIA Worship IV uses the following lyrics, which it calls an Easter hymn:
This is a day of new beginnings,
Time to remember and move on,
Time to believe what love is bringing,
Laying to rest the pain that’s gone.
What exactly did Brian Wren (a Protestant minister) mean when he wrote “time to remember and move on” in the first stanza? Moving on seems to be an idée fixe with the Worship IV hymnal; e.g. their Palm Sunday rubrics (#1048) also speak of “moving on.” If they are trying to say we must “move on” from penance, fasting, almsgiving, sacrifice, deep prayer, the Divine Office, Holy Mass, and traditional moral teachings, they are incorrect; such things are part of a Christian life.
Hymns 833 and 834 are also troubling. In #833, we repeat over and over “all are welcome in this place”—but is that really true? For instance, would unrepentant racists be welcome? What about unrepentant abortionists or members of the Nazi party? What about people who injure children and have no intention of repenting? The next one, Hymn #834, is also deeply troubling; the second verse says Our Savior “feeds us” through “gifts of bread and wine.” That’s heretical, because we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine.
Traditional Roman Hymnal (SSPX)
ET me begin by listing off some of the positive elements in this hymnal. This hymnal contains no heresy. The volume is small, and exceedingly pleasant to hold. The editor, Michael McGowan, provides seasonal melodies for the “O Salutaris Hostia,” following the practice of Achille P. Bragers. The typesetting is quite stylistically unified, and shows assiduous care. However, this hymnal is listed at the bottom because it’s an epic disappointment on numerous levels. Studying philosophy, we learn that something is “good” when it fulfills the function for which it was made. A wrist watch is “good” if it keeps time. A wrist watch is “bad” if it’s always 30 minutes slow. The SSPX Traditional Roman Hymnal is a bad hymnal, because it fails to accomplish its mission. It is a disorganized compilation which takes bits and pieces from different books, yet leaves no singer satisfied: (1) It takes a few Mass settings from the KYRIALE, but omits a bunch without justification, since they only would have added a few pages; (2) It takes bits and pieces from rare chant books in the most random way, such as Qui Regis Sceptra, a Rouen Sequence sung on the Third Sunday of Advent; (3) It includes tons of “exotic” melodies of a very low quality with difficult ranges (e.g. Hymn #5, Hymn #85, Hymn #93, Hymn #164, Hymn #193) instead of providing more familiar hymns that could be sung by a congregation; (4) It includes polyphonic motets which don’t belong, such as Hymn #10; (5) It provides extremely intricate pieces of plainsong (e.g. #14 and #109) for no apparent reason; (6) It includes bits and pieces from the Divine Office, but not in such a way that one could actually use this book to sing, for example, Vespers. There are also random metrical pieces, such as Hymn #222, which would be more appropriate for a choral edition. Their system of marking the ictus—which seems to imitate the 1960s Peoples Hymnal—is quite ugly:
The SSPX Traditional Roman Hymnal leaves one with the impression that somebody found a slew of liturgical books, xerox-copied bits and pieces, then placed them into a collection without purpose. A good hymnal must have a clearly defined purpose, and its editors must adhere ruthlessly to the criterion.
Flaws and Possible Drawbacks: There is nothing traditional about the part writing; consider O Sacred Head Surrounded, which contains parallel fifths, parallel octaves, and other major errors. The inclusion of English translations is quite random. Some pieces (e.g. Hymn #148 and Hymn #53) have English translations, while the piece on the other side of the spread has no translation! Broadly speaking, page after page goes by without any attempt at English translation. Random pieces, without English translation, are thrown in willy-nilly, in various modes; starting pitches would have been helpful (such as we find in the Père Daniel Kyriale). The melodies chosen—to say nothing of the harmonies provided—for the congregational (i.e. “metrical”) pieces are of an extremely low quality. Many of the “secret codes” employed by this book are wholly unnecessary (“M.A.A.” for Mr. Marcus A. Arreguin of Garland, TX; “St. Bas.” for Saint Basil Hymnal; “West.” for Westminster Hymnal; “A.B.” and “A.P.B.” for Achille P. Bragers; and so forth).
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
* The original opening paragraph (published 7 June 2020):
The Covid-19 crisis has forced many parishes to remove all hymnals from their pews: What a perfect opportunity for change! This article attempts to compare and contrast fifteen traditional Catholic hymnals. I focus on metrical hymns only: not Mass settings, not antiphons, not lectionary readings, not Gregorian hymns, not Responsorial psalms, not propers, so it can be “apples-to-apples.” I would like to thank CCWatershed for scanning so many valuable hymnals, and I’m grateful to Jeff Ostrowski for certain bibliographic information. It has been eight years since I last published with CCWatershed and my life has changed considerably: I graduated (Franciscan University of Steubenville), got a job, got married, and had children. The Holy Faith, however, remains as Saint Augustine told us: “ever ancient, yet ever new.”