T CAN BE SURPRISING to see which PDF files garner downloads. Certain ‘popular’ items—such as the Missa de Angelis organ accompaniments—have been downloaded 80,000 times. The harmonization of “Tantum Ergo” by Flor Peeters has been downloaded more than 40,000 times. The LALEMANT PROPERS (elementary settings for Propria Missæ in the Ordinary Form) have been downloaded more than 47,000 times. On the other hand, some files don’t receive fitting attention; e.g. the rare Münster Hymnal (123 pages), released a few days ago. That book is fascinating—but the download link was placed toward the article’s end. Perhaps readers were reluctant to scroll down.
Helmsley Hymn • I was astonished to observe the high number of downloads on my recent article, which provided an ADVENT TEXT by Father Seraphim set to the “Helmsley” tune. (To hear what HELMSLEY sounds like, click here. You’ll probably recognize it immediately.) Since Father Seraphim’s version caused such a sensation, today I release a Latin text married to the “Helmsley” tune. According to a Catholic tradition—which has been largely forgotten—melodies sung at BENEDICTION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT changed depending upon the season. For example, consider the Chant Service Book (Achille P. Bragers, 1941), which has “seasonal melodies” for the O SALUTARIS HOSTIA. During ADVENT, Bragers uses an Advent melody (Creator Alme Siderum); during CHRISTMASTIDE, Bragers uses a Christmas melody (Jesu Redemptor Omnium); during LENT, Bragers uses a Passiontide melody (Vexilla Regis Prodeunt); and so forth. That allows congregations singing at BENEDICTION to match the liturgical season. The “Arundel Catholic Hymnal” (1899) contained as many as fifteen different tunes (!) for a single text. Here is Tantum Ergo Sacramentum set to an Advent melody:
* PDF Download • TANTUM ERGO (Advent Melody)
—Re: “Seasonal Melodies” cf. Achille P. Bragers Chant Service Book (1941).
My volunteer choir recently sang this splendid piece:
Kenneth’s Broken Promise • In 2004, I attended a conference called “Nadia Boulanger and American Music” held at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I met a participant from England who served as music director for an Anglican church. In this article, I will refer to him as “Kenneth.” When he told me his favorite hymn was HELMSLEY, I immediately exclaimed: “But that’s such a difficult piece for the congregation to sing because of its range!” Kenneth insisted that his entire congregation sang HELMSLEY each year in SATB parts. I found this difficult to believe for a number of reasons. First of all, most people don’t read music. Furthermore, many are incapable of singing: some are tone-deaf; others have throat issues; some are hearing-impaired, and so forth. Finally, even if such a thing were possible, it seemed to me (back in 2004) that having the entire congregation sing HELMSLEY in SATB parts would cause the tempo to drag terribly. But the more I argued, the more Kenneth insisted that none of my objections were valid. Therefore, I begged him to send me a recording of his congregation singing HELMSLEY in parts. He promised he would do so. But each year—when I’d send him a reminder email—Kenneth would give some excuse why he “couldn’t send the recording this year.” He kept promising to complete the task “next year.” I eventually stopped emailing him. It’s my belief he was embarrassed to send the recording because it would have proven my point. The fact is, HELMSLEY is quite difficult for congregations to sing well.1
Hysterical Email • After I released Father Seraphim’s text for HELMSLEY, I received a hysterical email from someone who claimed it constituted a “monstrosity” (his word) and the priest was “guilty of appalling vandalism towards the original hymn text.” My correspondent, however, was unable to explain what was so disturbing to him. That is to say, he never explained what specifically was so awful about Father Seraphim’s version. I suspect this person was familiar with the well-known revision by Charles Wesley, based on John Cennick’s 1752 text. He should learn how to present his opinions more clearly. I think he actually meant to say: “I know a different version than the one by Father Seraphim.” That is, I suspect what he actually meant to type was: “Things I’m unfamiliar with I dislike, regardless of their merits.” Here’s the version that caused my correspondent to go into conniptions:
For The Record • As a matter of fact, there are many other texts written to be sung with HELMSLEY. Consider the following two by Matthew Brydges—the poet who wrote “Crown Him With Many Crowns”—published circa 1850:
1 Some will say: “Oh, just sing it no matter how terrible it sounds.” But I can’t accept such an idea. Someday, I will elaborate on this topic, which I believe to be important.