HEN YOU PICK UP a book of organ accompaniments for Gregorian Chant, more often then not the composer will begin by apologizing (!) for accompanying Gregorian Chant, loquaciously explaining that Gregorian Chant “really shouldn’t be accompanied.” Yet, the same author has published 300+ pages of Gregorian accompaniments, so he clearly doesn’t believe what he’s saying! 1 Similarly, fin de siècle Catholic hymnals all follow a “hidden rule,” which demands they begin by apologizing for several of the hymns they have printed. To give just one example, Tozer’s Catholic Church Hymnal (1906) contains this supercillious statement: “I have retained several more or less traditional tunes, absolutely valueless and without merit from a musical point of view, but which seem to have become a necessity if a book is to appeal—as I hope this one will—to the varied needs of various churches.”
A less haughty attitude is espoused by Sir Richard Runciman Terry who said that we must not disdain the preferences of the older generation, which grew up with certain hymns. Father Valentine Young used to say: de gustibus non est disputandum!
Here is a hymn which singers absolutely love to sing:
This is #727 the Brébeuf hymnal. It was written by Father Frederick William Faber, Cong. Orat. (d. 1863). Several members of the Brébeuf committee made clear they were not fond of this hymn, which sounded somewhat horse-and-buggy. However, it would be wrong to omit it from any Catholic hymnal because congregations really love singing it. The Brébeuf hymnal has hundreds of magnificent hymns—far more than any other Catholic hymnal—so those who don’t care for this particular song have tons of other choices they can select.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Sometimes, it’s quite puzzling to see what composers before Vatican II provided accompaniments for. An example would be the “Gloria Laus Et Honor” of Palm Sunday; the NOH provides accompaniments for this—but why? Some believe it was for “rehearsal purposes,” whereas others point out there were certain circumstances where that part of the Palm Sunday procession happened inside the Church instead of at the Church porch. There are many such instances, where composers harmonize things which were never allowed to be accompanied before Vatican II.