HE BLOG of the Church Music Association of America said of the Brébeuf hymnal: “It is such a fantastic hymnal that it deserves to be in the pews of every Catholic church.” That same article also declared it to be “…hands down, the best Catholic hymnal ever published.” Of course there are many reasons why this is so, but something you might not realize is that the book contains many new melodies written specifically for this publication. A partial list would include: CAMCOLT, ROGERS PARK, MANKATO, HEUSTIS, RUNNELLS, SILLERY, FORTESCUE, RAYMBAULT, CLERMONT, ST RITA, and FIORILLO.
Almost without exception, these melodies are modal. In my humble opinion, they remind one of Gustav Theodore Holst’s “fresh and beutiful” hymn tune called THAXTED. Perhaps an expert like Charles Weaver could explain the modality of this tune. Due to its frequent plagal cadences, it strikes me as “semi-modal.”
The Brébeuf hymnal uses THAXTED for three different texts, and here’s one of them:
Rehearsal videos for each individual voice await you at #865.
The hymn melody THAXTED was originally set to a secular melody: I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above. Believe it or not, “sharing” often occurs between secular and sacred melodies. For instance, the melody for “America the Beautiful” was originally a hymn tune. There is not a “correct” text for this hymn—and the Brébeuf choices are quite clever. However, other hymnals have attempted similar pairings. An example would be Number 539 in The Collegeville Hymnal, published by Father Edward J. McKenna in 1990. The Brébeuf example above is a paraphrase of Psalm 71. You can decide for yourself how closely the poet matched the text:
The hymn THAXTED is usually sung unison:
…but as you can see, the Brébeuf hymnal provided harmonies. I am not aware of any other hymnals—except for the Brébeuf—which provide a 4-part (SATB) setting for THAXTED.