A new hymnal
  • davido
    Posts: 873
    I have long been engraving a collection of traditional English hymn scores with the idea of eventually turning it into a physical hymnal. Coronavirus may be giving me the free time to finally complete this project.

    1. What are the shortcomings of current traditional hymnals that you would like to see corrected in a new hymnal?
    2. what could a new traditional hymnal do for you that the current ones do not do? (St Michael, Lumen Christi, St Jean de Brebeuf, Adoremus, [Worship VI])
  • Davido,

    St Michael included far too much of the "folk" repertoire in its first edition. I haven't seen any updates (because I've been out of the loop). Since so much of the "folk" repertoire is, it seems to me, completely unfit for the worship of God in the context of Mass, this content should be extirpated from any hymnal which calls itself Catholic and intends to serve as any kind of basis for music at Mass.

    Now, a new hymnal could do something that only one hymnal I'm aware of, and it's English, does. It could include a much larger selection of two things: devotional hymns for saints' feasts, and (no one does this one, so far as I know) music for the Office.
    Thanked by 1SteveOttomanyi
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 890
    Take a closer look at the hymnals you mention.

    Each edition of the Saint Michael Hymnal weeds out more and more of the folk stuff. We have the 4th edition and there is very little: a few Taize things and On Eagles Wings and Be Not Afraid. There are many great hymns to choose from and I have never needed to resort to these items. Compare that to Breaking Bread which has over 1000 choices and I am stuck trying to select the lesser of two evils week after week. A fifth edition of SMH is in the works, but I do not know what the plans are for the new edition. Hopefully it will be completely free of all the bad stuff.

    Half of the Lumen Christi Hymnal is devoted to Office Hymns. Lumen Christi, however is also embarking on a new project.

    There are several threads on this forum that discuss the pros and cons of the Brebeuf hymnal.

    If I were embarking on a hymnal project I would first determine my intended audience and scope. Is this primarily for a choir or congregation? A seminary, religious community, or an average parish, etc. Will it be used primarily for Mass, the Office, devotions? Sure you can have a sampling of all these things, but one book can't be all things for all people and all situations.

    My biggest critique of the mainstream hymnals (OCP, GIA) is that they claim to have it all and while they have a lot of pages, they are missing what I would consider essential items. They have few hymns suitable for the the Blessed Mother, the Saints and especially the martyrs. Heck, few of the hymns even praise or mention God and resort to singing about gathering together and other "social concerns". Few of the hymns affirm traditional Catholic teachings of Sacrifice amd sanctity, etc.

    While the other hymnals you cite do much better at this, they are often dismissed by pastors because they don't include the readings, or a complete psalter or complete Kyriale, etc. etc. well what is the book supposed to be? a Missal, a psalter or a hymnal? It can't possibly do all these things well without being too large to be put to practical use.

  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,499
    For me, in Canada, a hymnal that has much Spanish in it would not get be approved in my parish.
    I like a hymnal with at least a few Mass settings from the Kyriale.
    Most hymnals need more good communion hymns.
    An American hymnal without a psalter could be used in Canada, but probably would not be purchased here if it contained a psalter because the translations are different.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen cesarfranck
  • All plainchant should be in chant notation, not round note heads and certainly not quavers. (The English Hymnal of 1906, edited by RVW, is the only major hymnal that I am aware of which employs chant notation. It is past time to follow this precedent.)

    There should be at least three hymns for every solemnity (most solemnities seem to get short shrift in nearly all hymnals). The three hymns should be one with a processional air, one of theological substance for the offertory (if no anthem is sung), and one for the dismissal.

    Hymn tunes should be avoided that lack a certain dignity, e.g., Moscow, etc. There should be a bare minimum of contrafacta, and any contrafacta that appears should be rigidly scrutinised to see that text and tune really do compleiment one another. One sees in too many other hymnals (such as Worship IV) numerous examples of very poorly matched texts and tunes, whether contrafacta or not.
  • davido
    Posts: 873
    Why the square notes?
    - The 1940, 1982, and Roman Missal all put the chant in modern notation.
    - The accompaniment is going to be in modern notation anyway

    There are lots of tradition and Catholic culture reasons to use square notes, but in your opinion, what musical benefit do square notes offer?
    Thanked by 2CharlesW hilluminar
  • Davido,

    One other thing. Everything musically in the book should point to God, and be beautiful. The editors should make a conscious effort to avoid anthropocentric worship and ugliness. (They're not always the same thing, but sometimes they coincide.)
  • davido
    Posts: 873
    The hymnal I want (would like to create) has:

    1. A lot of hymns (600+?)
    2. Hymns for the proper of time (including Morning and Evening prayer proper hymns)
    3. Hymns for the proper of saints
    4. Hymns for the sacraments (mostly communion hymns)
    5. A lot of general hymns
    6. Service music for proper masses (Triduum, candlemass, sequences, etc)
    7. A few settings of the ordinary (3?)

    Contemporary hymnals are often bloated by things not universally used: Ad hoc orders for LOTH, entrance antiphons, tons of mass ordinary settings to name a few.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW tomjaw
  • I will echo Chris - avoid anthropocentricity at all costs.
    Thanked by 2Ken of Sarum tomjaw
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,767
    Hymn tunes should be avoided that lack a certain dignity, e.g., Moscow, etc.
    I admire this wording, which can be construed according to anyone's opinion of that tune ;-)
    Thanked by 2irishtenor tomjaw
  • bangerman
    Posts: 45
    A few four-part selections would be nice for inclusion, perhaps for those hymns attached to solemnities, or for the most well-known tunes.
  • Honestly, truly -- compile a hymnal for your real, concrete needs at your particular place of worship. Solve the commonest problems that you experience with the resources you have.

    Chances are you aren't alone. That's your audience.

    Then run an early draft by a person who uses GIA weekly (and is either indifferent or favorable to it), one who uses OCP, one who uses St Michael, CCW, and maybe one or two more. You'll get pros and cons from each based on what they have experienced with those resources. See where they align most and change those things.

    Then, run with it. It will never be perfect. It will never be what everyone needs or can use. But your audience and advantages will be real.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,157
    There are lots of tradition and Catholic culture reasons to use square notes, but in your opinion, what musical benefit do square notes offer?

    A five-line staff gives the accidental impression that the chant is intended to be sung at the absolute pitches indicated on the score, and that can make transposition harder for singers. Square notation is clearly a relative-pitch system.

    In addition, the shapes of neumes convey gestures that are not as clear in round notation.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    Hymn tunes should be avoided that lack a certain dignity, e.g., Moscow, etc.

    That sounds a lot like a personal preference, not something to base a hymnal on.

    It can't possibly do all these things well without being too large to be put to practical use.

    Yep and that is one complaint we get about Ritual Song. Hymns (too few for most occasions except Christmas when the number of carols outnumbers the time to sing them), psalms (mostly paraphrased and too much Haugen/Haas). One lady told us that it was impossible to hold that hymnal and a child at the same time. Heavy enough that it might be good for knocking out an intruder...

    Why the square notes?
    - The 1940, 1982, and Roman Missal all put the chant in modern notation.
    - The accompaniment is going to be in modern notation anyway

    Agreed. I would never give square notes to a congregation. They get confused enough from familiar notation. Of course you could get square notes, a tracker, and replace the lighting with candles....

    St. Michael: I haven't seen one of those in years since every parish that has bought it has had the next pastor throw it out. Our new pastor is recommending it so I need to take a look at it.

    There are lots of tradition and Catholic culture reasons to use square notes, but in your opinion, what musical benefit do square notes offer?

    No musical benefit I can tell. Again, like the tracker, it may make one feel enlightened, anointed, and special. Oh yeah, the sopranos can wobble better using square notes.

    Thanked by 1mattebery
  • Chant notation reveals far more information than what note to sing, it informs how to sing the chant, it informs nuance, vocal inflexion, and rhythm that note heads don't. As for 'the people' being unable to read chant notation, I've been witness to too many instances in which 'the people' do quite well reading 'square notes' to swallow such twaddle. At work here may be that old inclination to blame the people's supposed inability when a more positive approach would yield surprising results.

    I have yet to see an example of note heads that conveys the characteristic nuance and rhythm of chant that is communicated by chant notation, and I have seen and tried singing quite a few examples. Using note heads is to suggest that chant is only a matter of singing the right pitch and that all notes are equal. This is not chant. To my mind, any hymnal that would be taken seriously will present chant notation.

    People can read chant notation. True, they are not expected to read the likes of Pascha nostrum (the alleluya verse for Easter Day which is challenging even to a chant virtuoso), but they can read, and read very well in chant notation their responses and ordinaries, and hymns. And yes, I am aware that the 1940 and the 1982 do not employ chant notation and regard this as one of their shortcomings.

    Give the people this opportunity. I have heard from numerous folk that they find chant notation easier to read than modern notation.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    Jackson, I can read chant notation as well as most. I still don't like it. My singers think the sun rises and sets in Solesmes where there is little or no rhythm or nuance. It is more trouble than it is worth. The only times I have used it have been for simple things the congregation could probably listen to and easily repeat.

    And I don't need insults from stuffy Episcopalian refugees who dabble in Catholicism.

    Interesting thing on Solesmes. Some of my folks went to an early Colloquium, came back singing the praises of Solesmes, and I have never been able to get them off it. Oh well.
  • My boys find the chant notation easier to read than modern notation.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    I could see that if they started with it initially. Our folks have pretty good school music educations and they know standard notation fairly well. They are not so agreeable to change. For any practical purposes the parts they would sing are so simplistic they don't need chant notation.
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 1,063
    I agree with the sentiments above that, given the lack of any intrinsic rhythmic variety in the individual neumes, square notation provides a more obvious picture of the melodic gesture that is easier to grasp at a glance.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    I should mention that I have been forbidden to give square notes to the congregation.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 539
    To me, a good hymnal

    1) has the hymns printed in four parts in the standard pew edition. Where there is a unique keyboard harmonization not consistently in four parts (e.g. Engelberg), print that too. I would not be an organist had I not spent hours in my elementary-school years playing through my family’s evangelical hymnals, for my own enjoyment and sometimes to accompany their singing.

    This is what makes the singing in many Protestant churches so good – that for the bulk of the verses, everyone is singing in the register where their voices function best, and a nice, rich sound is produced, even without clever organ accompaniment. Obviously, there’s maybe 5 parishes outside the Ordinariate who could sing thus today, but none will ever learn to do so if they don’t have the music printed. There’s nothing to lose; those who don’t read won’t mind having extra notes, and those who do will be glad to sing something more interesting by the 10th verse of Stabat Mater. Then, also, families can play and sing them in their homes, as my family still does regularly. (It would also be a blessing for my choirs, so they don’t have to be reading Xeroxes, or toting giant spiral-bound accompaniments with them.)

    2. Doesn’t cut verses. Leave that to the people actually using the book. Seriously, you have no idea whether I’m going to use Hymn X at an ordination with 500 people in procession, or at a tiny funeral. If you try to guess for me, you’ll be wrong.

    3. Doesn’t change an author’s words. If you’re going to do the legwork yourself and translate a hymn from Latin or some other language, I don’t care if your language is modern or archaic, but don’t vandalize other people’s works. If you think a hymn is too dated, be intellectually honest and leave it out, instead of tinkering with it. Unless you make your living lecturing on 17th-century English poetry, your changes will stand out and seem risibly inferior. In an age when people can instantly google words they don’t recognize, it is unbelievable to me that people still want to sacrifice beautiful poetry for instant comprehension by kindergarteners.

    4. Wasn’t designed by monkeys using Word 3.0. The printed matter is beautiful to behold. Text is logically arranged; music is cleanly engraved. Compare LBW/1982/Presbyterian ‘91, heck, even ELW, to any Catholic book, and don’t do it like the Catholic ones.

    5. Isn’t burdened with the editor‘s/committee’s/publishing houses’ babies. Seriously, all the Catholic books today are like the current White House: full of unqualified people and their shoddy work because they’re friends with the guy who signs the checks. If I wanted to use your Lenten Penitential Propers for Cantor, Assembly, Handbells, Brass, and Keyboard, I would’ve already bought them from your website; don’t waste paper printing them for people who don’t want them.
  • people still want to sacrifice beautiful poetry for instant comprehension by kindergarteners.


    Remember that the same people who pitched a fit over long words (anywhere) and long sentences (in St. Paul) insisted on Reconciliation instead of Confession or Penance. The fact that this made them look hypocritcal didn't bother them, because they were interested in results, not impressions.

    I don't usually agree with your take on things as completely as I do this time.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Don't forget all the wonderful stuff in the old Westminster Hymnal by R. R. Terry. I also personally like the old Songs of Praise hymnal created by Percy Dearmer and R. Vaughan Williams and the Songs of Syon hymnal by Rev. G. R. Woodward (very rare).

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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    Seriously, all the Catholic books today are like the current White House: full of unqualified people and their shoddy work because they’re friends with the guy who signs the checks.

    All administrations are like that. It takes a huge organization to get elected and the winners bring those folks with them when they get in office. The last administration had some real ringers, too. Some might have been even skirting the edge of criminality. It never changes.

    With Catholic publications, it is all about what will sell. Ask WLP what happens to publishers who can't sell their works.
    Thanked by 3irishtenor MarkB Elmar
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,371
    Yep, governments! as Belloc wrote:
    The accursed power which stands on privilege -
    (and goes with women, champagne and bridge)
    Broke - and democracy resumed her reign!
    (which goes with bridge and women and champagne).

    We don't need hymnbooks, Holy Mother Church provides Graduals.
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 1,063
    Do we want a hymnal specifically or are we looking for something akin to the Graduale with a Kyriale and psalter included as well?
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen tomjaw
  • davido
    Posts: 873
    Thank you to those who have addressed the questions posed in the OP. Some great ideas here.

    I think the tangent about square notes is a worthwhile discussion, however no one said anything that I haven’t already heard.

    Discussions about Graduale vs hymnals are not pertinent to the OP.

    I would still appreciate continued feedback on the two questions posed in the OP.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    Question 2 first - the first shall be last as you may have heard. I would like a new hymnal that actually has enough content for the liturgical seasons and feast days during the year. Some hymnals have content, it just isn't good enough quality that I want to use it.

    Question 1 - Shortcomings - akin to the streaker who showed his shortcomings to the world. PC words that replace the original texts. Printed so that hymns requiring more than one page are not on facing pages but require page turns. That's annoying to congregations and to accompanists. Keys that are equal opportunity keys - no one can sing comfortably in them.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,464
    Hymn tunes should be avoided that lack a certain dignity, e.g., Moscow, etc.

    Jackson: LOL I KNOW you don't like Moscow!
    Hard to see that any hymnal could top the CCW offerings.
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 1,063
    That any hymnal could top Vatican IIBrebeuf?

    1940, 1982, EH1906, New Westminster, the Gracewing hymnal, and even HA&M 1950 are far better, more usable, and less idiosyncratic books. Even from the local ROTR "community" Adoremus is a superior publication.

    I believe my question earlier was warranted - I'm coming to the opinion that an all-in-one book, though tempting, is simply unfeasible for congregational use as something that will see wide circulation. I won't be happy with any book that doesn't have the entire Kyriale reprinted, personally, and a one-size-fits-all psalter is near-impossible as well. Then does one have different editions of the same book for the pew and the choir? Does one include readings as well? (All further complicated in Canada by the copyright status of the not-quite-NRSV Lectionary that seems to be rather difficult to actually license.)

    500 hymns would be a quite sizeable number to allow for reasonable variation in personal taste, I'd think. One could then augment that with whichever Kyriale, psalter, pew missal (of which there is plenty of good choice in the US and precious little in Canada), and so on (or print some of it in the bulletin), and the book would be manageable enough in size to allow printing of harmony throughout, standardizing on one layout.

    The other benefit of this idea is that hymnody changes far less frequently than other musical contributions to the Mass. Most directors of music will want to wean their choirs off sacro-pop Ordinaries and psalters as soon as possible, and this becomes much more difficult once it's "in the book", so to speak. The gold standard - the complete Kyriale and through-composed neumatic psalmody in English - has never been included in a congregational hymnal to my knowledge, and the inclusion of lesser fare in their books makes that transition far less palatable to many parishes. Contrast that with the amount of usable material in a resource as asinine as Breaking Bread, some of which is quite usable.

    Creating a boutique hymnal with hymns, psalms, and Ordinaries is perfectly fine, given that you understand what will be used from the book, how it will be used, and what kind of legacy you want to leave. For a mass-market hymnal, the pedagogy of transitioning to proper fare and eventually the ideal needs to be "baked" into the book itself in a way that typically makes it too long. (The St. Michael approach to everything, essentially.) Especially if the idea of congregational Propers is floated. The Parish Book of Chant approach of an extremely focused, pared-down resource with no real weak points is what hymnals should aspire to. (This is how we evaluate the Anglican/Episcopalian hymnals, after all, since their service music is basically useless to us.)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,767
    wean[ing] becomes much more difficult once it's "in the book", so to speak.
    'Baking' is a potentially dangerous way to go: I've had to demonstrate once that Breaking Bread doesn't have anything much that isn't already in the GIA pew hymnal. If one isn't already in charge of selecting from what's in the book one likely won't be able to resist replacement of the book either.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • An approach to content not dissimilar to that of the Lumen Christi Hymnal would commend itself to consideration in compiling your new hymnal. The Lumen Christi (as most here likely are aware) has a certain number of hymns of the standard SATB variety, and, in a separate section, a very generous number of office hymns in English translation with the original (so far as 'original' in the context of this repertory has any objective meaning) plainchant tunes. I think that an improvement on the Lumen Christi model would be to incorporate these plainchant hymns into the body of the hymnal under the various headings (Christmas, Easter, Advent, saint's day, etc.) appropriate to them. This would assert that the plainchant hymns are of equal status, interest, and appropriateness as the SATB ones, and not a totally separate, sort of arcane repertory, a thing set apart as a specialised genre not thought of as real 'hymns'.

    And, I will assert again that whatever from the plainchant repertory will be found in this new hymnal should be presented in its chant notation. People, especially musicians, but also their people, should stop being afraid of Catholic square notes - they are a problem only for those who wish for them to be.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CHGiffen
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,704
    I should mention that I have been forbidden to give square notes to the congregation.
    Is that because they may like it and then move on to higher things?
    I agree chant should be in Square notes on the 4 line stave, it does not appear to be a problem for anyone open to new things... I suspect Susan and co. would object, but we do not have Susans at our events. Which leads us on to this,
    it is unbelievable to me that people still want to sacrifice beautiful poetry for instant comprehension by kindergarteners.
    Which is insulting to children that seem to cope with square notes and beautiful poetry...

    Q1. We have two Hymnals, the new one "Hymns old and new, 1987"
    This was designed as a hymnal for everything from folk to new rite Latin Mass. The pew edition has no music, I think this is a downside. Also by trying to give something for everyone, it has too much dead wood that does not get used.
    The choir editions are enormous and difficult to hold, and break apart within a couple of years.
    Our Second Hymn book is "The Parish Hymn Book, 1968" this was in use here before the above, we have several sets, the remains of our own plus a neighbouring parish's double set (They had a brand new set that was never used) plus the London Oratory copies).
    This has music in the pew edition, it is easy to hold, and has some nice hymns, sadly it also contains Hymns that no one can remember ever singing. It also has been slightly edited so some hymns are missing familiar verses. The choir copy is easy to hold, and is bound really well.

    The O.F. uses Hymns old and new most Sundays only dragging out the 'Parish' a few times each year. At the EF we don't sing English Hymns so both books are useless. For other services such as May crownings I will put out the Parish with the Hymn numbers, but we are gradually doing away with singing English Hymns at these events... We have a growing number of families and the children have grown up hearing chat to it is more familiar to them.

    Q2. As for what I would like... I think a Kyriale is a must, although I can't see everybody using it, some people have difficultly using the Latin English booklet Missal / UVOC style Propers sheet, having a third thing is really going to be too much. For Vespers etc. it is better to produce a booklet for each event, using a Liber is beyond certain members of the choir!
    I agree it would be good to have a Hymn book with a Temporal and full Sanctoral cycle, but this is an enormous job, and perhaps be an enormous book.
    Of course the Parish Book of Chant is excellent, but our Parish uses to many other pieces not in that book.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    Is that because they may like it and then move on to higher things?

    Hardly. Musicians are employees and typically don't run the parish. It was the pastor's call that for whatever reason, he didn't want square notes given to the congregation. What constitutes "higher things," is highly subjective. When such statements are used, it tends to mean what I like is "higher" and what others like isn't. Most pastors are not interested in what minor or even major musicians elsewhere think about their decisions.

    Thanked by 2CHGiffen mattebery