Y PURPOSE in writing is to introduce you to a ‘diamond in the rough’ I discovered recently: a stunning brand new Catholic hymnal published by the Sophia Press Institute. I found it by means of Corpus Christi Watershed, which I consider a highly reliable and authentic source for Sacred Music. After purchasing my own copy and reading about its treasures, I’ve become convinced you will be delighted by it because of your predilection for traditional hymnody (which we all witness every Sunday).
Our Great Need • I know you have a great love for hymnody, as we all do in the TLM SCHOLA, and I think we could safely say that the state of our congregation vis-à-vis the singing of Sunday hymns has been rather sad as of late. Of course, we do not even use the [………] hymnals which are in the pews, since we typically sing the more rare and unique Catholic hymns. Thus, the congregation has no way to join the singing, unless they know the hymn by heart—which rarely happens nowadays with the more rare and uncommon hymns…
A Neat Feature • But this hymnal, called the Saint John Brébeuf Hymnal has been compiled by priests and musicians, who—like yourself—are authentically Catholic. It contains over 900 pages of rare Catholic hymns as well as the ‘common’ traditional ones for the entire liturgical year, and it most likely has all of the hymns our congregation sings, and more. This book prides itself on the beauty of the pew version for congregations, which has beautiful engravings and Latin-English translations on many pages. The choral and organ accompaniments have the full score, with each verse written out separately for ease in singing. This feature is a really neat one, making it astoundingly easy for choirs to sing one verse with melody only, and then the next verse with harmony, as we often do in both choirs (our traditional SCHOLA as well as our larger choir) during Mass.
Nova Et Vetera • No effort seems to have been spared in an effort to provide what is both familiar and also hymns that might be called aspirational—that is to say, music and texts of great depth which will inspire congregations decade after decade without becoming ‘stale.’ For example, they include the version Quem terra pontus sidera familiar to most congregations:
But There’s More! • Yet, they also include numerous other versions of this ancient and important Marian hymn. You can learn more on pages 374-399 of the pew edition. In addition to the ‘common’ translation (by Dr. Neale), the Brébeuf provides:
(1) Excellent translations by Catholic clerics like Prior Aylward (Dominican), Father John Fitzpatrick (Oblate of Mary), and Father Caswall (Oratorian). By giving various translations of the same hymn, we can come to a more full understanding. Besides, the ‘common’ translation omits a verse because it was created by Protestants!
(2) An exposition of the Catholic doctrine regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, written by Dr. Leslie Rumble of Radio Replies on page 398.
(3) A literal translation of the hymn (for those who struggle with Latin poetry) on page 374, including tiny footnotes explaining the theology of this hymn.
(4) A ‘text only’ version on page 381, meaning individual choirmasters can select melodies they like, or which their congregation already knows.
(5) A mixture: sturdy common tunes such as ROCKINGHAM, DUGUET, and EISENACH, as well as notated versions of more rare yet powerful melodies such as SAXONY, WHITEHALL, and KEMPEN.
(6) Merry Christmas! They even provide a “version suitable for Christmas” of Quem terra pontus sidera which comes from 1867. The music they chose (IRBY) on page 389 is quite a clever pairing, since IRBY is a Yuletide song.
(7) Something rare: For history buffs, we see on page 390-391 two captivating versions (of the Urbanite and pre-Urbanite) which come from Roman Catholic hymnals stretching back to 1599AD and 1651AD. This is nothing short of remarkable!
Got An Example? • Okay, so how exactly does this work in real life? Well, consider their setting of Prior Aylward’s translation of Quem terra pontus sidera, which they pair with KEMPEN (by Flor Peeters, a famous modern composer). This is available for those who want variety, or who wish to come to a deeper understanding of this ancient Catholic poem:
When You Really Like A Tune • Notice how rehearsal videos are provided for each singer’s part … free of charge! That means, once our choir knows the SATB harmonies for EISENACH, we can easily sing all the other Brébeuf hymns that share EISENACH. Here’s an English translation of Vexilla Regis prodeunt also set to EISENACH:
M Rehearsal videos for each individual voice await you at #541.
My Own Sense Of Art • I have purchased (for myself) a copy of the Brébeuf Choral Supplement book, because I want to acquaint myself with genuinely Catholic hymns. Please check it out yourself! I guarantee you will be edified by the glowing description and history behind this hymnal. I truly don’t know if there has been anything like it produced in our times. I am someone who is very sensitive to aesthetics, and along these lines I would like to include a sample of my original artwork, by which I try to honor the three hearts of the Holy Family: JESUS, MARY, and JOSEPH.