AVE YOU HEARD of Sophia Institute Press? It’s a Catholic publishing house founded in 1983, and the only place you can purchase the Brébeuf hymnal. As a contributor, I am kept informed of the questions they receive—and there seems to be plentiful interest. The decision has been made to start Question & Answer Box, where this correspondence can be archived. You can see it if you visit the Brébeuf hymnal website and scroll until you see something that looks like this. We hope to add to it frequently.
What Does “Switchable” Mean? Many people are curious about the “switchable” texts. These are Brébeuf hymns with text only. What’s that all about? The switchable texts give the choirmaster freedom to pair any tune with a text. The possibilities are limitless! Some wonder why all the planning must be done from the Pew Edition: this is partially to help you take advantage of the switchable texts. Suppose you love a particular text—let’s say “Ad Cenam Agni Providi”—but you want to sing it with a particular tune. (It also works if you’re tired of always using the same tune with a particular text.) The Brébeuf switchable texts allow you to do that!
An Example: Let me give you an example from last Sunday at our parish. We wanted to sing “Ad Cenam Agni Providi” with the DUGUET melody. Therefore, I had my singers turn to page 24, which has the Latin text alongside a literal English translation. Then, I used the organ accompaniment edition to play DUGUET. (This took about 27 seconds total.) And the result was magnificent . Let me be very clear: There are thousands of possible combinations. And it’s all thanks to the flexibility of the Brébeuf Pew Edition.
Adding Harmonies: Sometimes, choirmasters want to add that “extra depth” to a hymn. That’s where the Choral Supplement comes in; all 1,192 pages of it! At my parish, we frequently utilize this book—although the Soprano section always has the option to sing directly from the Pew Edition, while the Altos, Tenors, and Basses add the harmonies. The following is a live recording of a piece we tried to sightread a few days ago (Brébeuf Hymn #39).
It will improve as we continue to rehearse it:
A Versatile Melody: That tune is called ORIENTIS PARTIBUS, a 13th century song about a donkey. But the tune doesn’t have to be used for songs about donkeys—it can be used for many texts.
1998 • In the “New Catholic Hymn Book,” they use the melody with Christ ist erstanden, which is not a song about a donkey.
1990 • In the “Collegeville Hymnal,” they use the melody with Christian Do You Hear The Lord, which is not a song about a donkey.
1986 • In the “New English Hymnal,” they use the melody with Pugnáti Christi Mílites, which is not a song about a donkey.
1958 • In the “New Saint Basil,” they use the melody with Concórdi Laetítia, which is not a song about a donkey.
1955 • In the “Mediator Dei Hymnal,” Cyr de Brant uses that melody with Maiden Mother Meek And Mild, which is not a song about a donkey. (The same pairing is used in the “American Catholic Hymnal” published in 1913 by the Marist Brothers.)
1940 • In the “1940 Episcopalian Hymnal,” they use the melody with Victis Sibi Cognómina, which is not a song about a donkey.
1939 • In the “New Westminster Hymnal,” Dom Gregory Murray’s harmonization is used with Vrgin Wholly Marvellous by Saint Ephrem the Syrian. (The text is not a song about a donkey.)
1910 • In “Songs of Syon,” they use the melody with Praise To God, Immortal Praise, which is not a song about a donkey.