PBEH: Bring Flowers of the Rarest
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    ...is, I believe, a prime example of horrid pre-Vatican II schmaltz. The first time I heard it I thought, "are you serious? this sounds like something that would have been sung in a nightclub sometime during the first half of the 20th century"
    It's a perfect example of true present-day Traditionalist nostalgia.

    *Does anyone want to claim that this piece has any artistic or musical merit?*

    (Particularly someone who does not actually know the piece-I know of some hard-core traddies who LOVE this piece, but would never be able to admit or even realize it themselves that the only reason they like it is because they have an emotional or nostaligic attachment to it--which is exactly the same accusation that they level at those who love a piece like Eagles Wings!)
    Or perhaps it would be included because the text is ideal to a May Crowning?
    Either way, if it has been decided that, for example, a piece like Amazing Grace will not be included due to artistic merit, then I would certainly propose that this piece should not be included!

    (And is this forum and discussion the appropriate place to bring up such concerns? If not, I apologize in advance.)
  • I believe the Sister Editor of the Summit Choirbook provided a good model for the internal organisation of a hymnal by gathering such folksongs and other popular songs that are not true hymns or psalms into a section at the back of the Summit Choirbook.

    "Bring Flowers of the Rarest" is a sort of popular song that might be put into a section called "Songs and Devotional Music" or something like that. Into such a section could go texts and tunes whose inclusion is motivated by pastoral and other concerns rather than values of musicianship or doctrinal exposition.

    But it seems to me that the PBEH has a very different rationale, and at a later date a separate songbook or collection could be gathered and published with a title like "Parish Book of Devotional Songs".
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    This one is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser for me, along with "O Lord I Am Not Worthy," with its schmaltzy descending sixth. If one of the main points of this collection is to show that most of the hymns people know and sing are not under copyright, perhaps they do belong in it.

    If the collection is musically liberal enough to include hymns of questionable musical merit, though, I would respectfully propose that the same liberality of spirit be applied to solid tunes like A Mighty Fortress and Amazing Grace.
  • It is not a little surprising that anyone would even mention a song like this, let alone discuss it seriously in connection with a publication such as the PBEH (presumably) aspires to be. It may be even worse than Amazing Grace. I would second Vincent's suggestion of a further PBDS, except that even there one would not want to be guilty of the propagation (and implied recommendation) of utterly worthless and junky schmaltz. Songs like these are like illegal substances - they will be found somewhere by those who are bent on having them. They do not need to be catered to by respectable publications. (And, if such a Parish Book of Devotional Songs were indeed contemplated, I would suggest that its purchase be accompanied by a free box of kleenex.)
  • Removed by writer.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,219
    Kinda goes to show that Tin Pan Alley will persevere, eh?
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    I'm not totally sure I understand what you're saying. Is there a place where we are supposed to be rating hymns?
    And, if you are saying what I think you are saying, then by your logic I would say that Amazing Grace should *definitely* be included. If you want to sell hymnals...
  • I thought the object was to create a hymnal whose content of texts and music was impeccable as well as PD.
    Is this going to be yet another book designed to 'sell'?
  • The only way to retire these substandard hymns is not to reprint them. Saying that someone somewhere likes them is not an argument - the same could be said of "Eagle's Wings" and all the rest of the songs that this book is designed to replace.

    I like vincenthunter's suggestion: If they "must" be included, relegate them to an appendix of devotional hymns. BFOTR, for example, is more appropriate for a devotion like a May crowning than it is for mass.

    Otherwise, let them die a natural death.

    Sam Schmitt
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    Part of the job of the music director is to perhaps steer folks away from music deemed substandard. OTH, part of what goes with "tradition" and not certainly the most important part, but an element nonetheless, is the evoking of memories, fond ones especially, and if this song and some others like it fit the bill, and as long as they are not over used and not really employed in the liturgy itself, well, what is the harm? A hymnal is usually a large enough cross section that it can still work well with a good two thirds of the selections avoided.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    Part of editing a hymnal is also selection.

    People are right to think that the negative judgment is a serious responsibility. Hymnals are historic documents: both inclusion and exclusion matter. The table of contents of the PBEH will be mentioned in dissertations and scholarly papers as indicative of what serious Catholic musicians, intent upon restoring faithful Catholic liturgy, were thinking at the beginning of the 21st century. Hopefully we weren't thinking that we had to keep Amazing Grace.

    However, my understanding is that the online resources are going to be much less selective than the hymnal.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 675
    If it's the tune you don't like, you should sing it to "Flowers of the Forest" instead. I've always thought that was the original tune. :)

    People are always going to like some schmaltz, and frankly, they have a right to like what they like. Excellence in music is not supposed to be about making people eat their spinach and then checking their mouth to make sure they swallowed. But if you're going to discourage such songs at Mass (which is fair), that doesn't mean you have to try to totally kill it off. That kind of crazy draconianism is a waste of time. Schmaltz is just as much a part of the true folk spirit as the most gorgeous masterpiece of devotional music is.

    A book of devotional songs could be very nice. It would also show people what the CMAA thinks is a song for Mass, and what is not.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    I have never heard this hymn anywhere except a May crowning. The school children sing it once a year, and no one hears it again until the following May. It seems to be a "single use" hymn.
  • "Schmaltz is just as much a part of the true folk spirit as the most gorgeous masterpiece of devotional music is."

    Of course schmaltz has its place - I'm all for "Roll Out the Barrel" or "Auld Lang Syne" at the appropriate moments; even some Christmas carols are "schmaltzy." (Actually, I would argue that folk music is never sentimental - notice how none of the examples above are true folk music, but that's an argument for another day.) I just think that sentimentality and devotion are really two different things. It's not a matter of forcing only somber music down people's throats or some sort of draconian church music police. It is about what Vatican II stated: ". . . let the faithful remember that true devotion does not consist in sterile and superficial sentiment . . ."

    I'm not in favor of banning hymns or grabbing music from the hands of the faithful, but I hope everyone would agree that a hymnal is supposed to uphold *some* standards, and that this extends beyond the basic level of the orthodoxy of its texts.

    Sam Schmitt
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Does ANYONE under 80 want to sing this junker? As some are fond of saying, the "biological solution" will remove any need to have this thing (I refuse to dignify it as music) in print.
  • Ok, people. There is good schmaltz and bad schmaltz. BFOR is BAD shmaltz and has no place in the hymnal proposed on this site.

  • It's the May Crowning Hymn! :<)
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    Decisions like this cannot be based on custom.

    Otherwise we'll have to cater to the rising majority that truly believes that On Eagles Wings is the traditional entrance hymn for the funeral Mass.
  • G
    Posts: 1,397
    I encountered this song about 20 years ago for the first time and I LOVED it - but that was because it was in a musical comedy, it was a good moment for me, and I didn't realize that it was a real song.

    I was shocked when i discovered that it was not a joke/novelty song created for the musical, and that people would actually consider using it.

    But I have to admit, I have since played worse, (Good night Sweet Jesus, anyone?)

    I'm not positive what the intent of this hymnal is.

    I do know every decision will have good effects and unfortunate effects; some people will be happy, some unhappy; hopefully the most people will be sanctified and edified by the music that is selected.

    I think the editors of this hymnal would do more good by leaving this son, ultimately, out than they would by including it.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,176
    Because the text is bad devotional poetry, and because the tune sounds like a music-hall song, the CMAA should not include it in a book published under the CMAA name.

    However, if Noel or anyone wants to publish "The Book of Catholic Devotional Songs", it would be very appropriate to include BFOTR.

    And despite its artistic imperfections, we should sing it at May crownings.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    Except for the phrase "Queen of the angels," there is not a stitch of theological content anywhere in this hymn. Hymns should not be about us and our feelings. There is no reason devotional hymns can't have theological content. Benediction hymns do; why can't Marian hymns?
  • Kathy has made some excellent points about the historic importance of the PBEH.

    In presenting these resources on line it is important to present what is in the PBEH separately and then followed by whatever else is included online.

    I have a couple of Victorian books with Benediction hymns that are echt schmaltz. The CMAA has a wonderful opportunity to point the way forward with theologically sound, well-crafted texts and tunes of great merit.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    There are 52 Sundays in a year--one of which will be May Crowning Sunday in most places--and 250 hymns in the PBEH. I think there's plenty of room for some May Crowning hymns. There's nothing in the title of the PBEH to indicate that it contains only music for Mass, in fact hymns are not proper to Mass anyway.

    Bring Flowers is fine for extra-liturgical use. There is more theological content to this hymn than often supposed: "rarest" = best sacrifices, "Queen of the Angels", "Loveliest Flower of the Vale", "full hearts", "glad voices", "their mistress", "for Mary herself is the cause of our mirth". If there is a better May Crowning hymn, let that also be included in the PBEH, with text indicating a strong preference--using the biggest of words possible. The TRH (SSPX) has Holy Mary, Now We Crown Thee (Farrell) and This is the Image of the Queen (Caswall). I doubt the faithful know either of them, but everyone knows Bring Flowers. I suspect some SSPX chapel choirmasters, with the permission of their priest, will be downloading Bring Flowers from the CMAA site.
    Thanked by 1Don9of11
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    Better May crowning hymns include Hail, Holy Queen, Salve Regina, and the Regina Caeli.
  • "Inclusiveness" has become a bad thing these days - mostly because, in it's faux political correctness, it actually "excludes" more than it includes! Why not demonstrate what it is like to include as much as possible of our Catholic tradition. I use BFOR one Sunday every year, and NOT always as the final hymn at Mass, but totally outside Mass. And we usually use "Lourdes" for the procession, and "Salve Regina" at the end of the May Crowning devotion.

    As to 'buzzards wings' and the like; 1) they're songs, not hymns, and 2) they're recently composed and highly protected by copyright, so there is not reason for any of them to be under consideration.

    If the 'powers that be' want to leave certain devotional hymns out of the printed edition, since it would be mostly used at Mass (or maybe the Offices, if we American Catholics can ever wrap our minds around worship without the promise of Holy Communion), fine. Just make the whole lot available for PDF download.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    Kathy, we will usually have a May Procession after Mass to the statue with lots of Marian songs. When we get to the statue, we'll sing Bring Flowers (or other crowning hymn), then the Blessing of the Crown and the Crowning (silence), and then Salve Regina / Hail Holy Queen / Regina Coeli - which will get Father back to the sacristy.
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    I don't like BFOR either but I was railroaded into using it for the May Crowning for the schoolchildren where I taught last year. Holding my tongue, I pass out the music, recite the words, play through it while they sing, all the while expecting these 4th-grade students (who had just finished learning Tantum Ergo AND Parce Domine AND a Tallis anthem) to say "That's not very good; sounds cheesy/dumb/like my grandma's music". Imagine my horror when those little girls screeched with delight "Oh, that's wonderful! Are we going to sing this for May Crowning? Can we do it again?"

    There's no accounting for taste, hmmmm?
  • I can, indeed, imagine your horror - and your dismay. Being forced to teach little children such rubish should fall into the category of corrupting youth, if not child (or mental) molestation. One does not, even yet, cease to be dumbfounded at what people will listen to, and perform (and force upon others), with a straight face - without so much as a smirk. (One would like to entertain the possibility that your girls had their tongues in their cheeks when they said 'O, that's wonderful... can we do it again?')
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    The version of the lyrics for vv 2-3 found here, and attributed "as sung by Fr. Sydney MacEwan", are IMO superior to those found in the PBEH version, which appears to have been taken directly from St. Basil's (1918). According to a quick Google search, Fr. MacEwan was a Scottish singing priest who sang during the 1930's-1950's.
  • I just spent the morning listening to the 3rd-rate junk pushed by the "folk" music movement of the 1960s. I've never heard this early music of the modern pop movement before this morning. Bad doesn't describe it. It is jaw dropping in its shoddiness. One almost can't believe it. I'm not sure that this Flowers song is bad by modern standards, at least not in the same way. If you are unfamiliar with what I mean, I strongly encourage you to listen to Ken Canedo's podcasts. There is very interesting, if deeply painful, history here. And he is talking about the roots of what is mainstream in the missalettes today. I don't know how anyone could read this book and not feel deeply deeply embarrassed that this ever happened to the Catholic Church.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 675
    I once read an essay about the mysterious power of music and literature, which likened things like flamenco to a sort of Spanish goblin magic.

    What hangs about "Flowers" is the exact opposite kind of mysterious magic -- the kind that makes My Little Pony continue to be a cash enterprise, year after year. And there is always going to be a lot of it around, and it is always going to be persistent. Maybe you didn't sign up for this, but the Muses did. What, did you expect them not to be cruel and capricious? :)

    Fine, don't put it out under CMAA; I agree that musical excellence is what is important for CMAA. But somebody should put out a book of such songs, because people do love them and miss them; and because it will probably make money. I seriously doubt that schmaltzy songs ruin taste for music. People who only like schmaltz were never going to like any other kind of music; and people who like more than schmaltz are just omnivorous for music, which isn't bad.
  • G
    Posts: 1,397
    I seriously doubt that schmaltzy songs ruin taste for music. People who only like schmaltz were never going to like any other kind of music;

    No, but what happens is bad music becomes associated with a good experience, and so even people who know better end up "liking" some piece of rubbish, and they perpetuate it.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • francis
    Posts: 10,701
    This whole argument about taste is bogus. The church does not cater to one's taste. In fact, it is not in the catering business at all. BFOTR is EXACTLY the same kind of sentimental kitsch that Eagles Wings represents. CMAA needs to get it's bearings and stick with the best of the best. Setting a standard is not easy but entirely possible. It takes a little backbone. Do we have it? We should not try to be inclusive of what everyone wants but of what is objectively the best.

    Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art belong in the same category.

    (inflammatory comment removed by author)

    Jeez people. If you must use these things in your parish, go find them in some other source (you won't even find this one in OCP!) and run them off for your "special occasion". CMAA should not condone them in any way.
  • Songs such as this are to genuine hymnody and spiritual song what the paintings of Thomas Kinkade are to the art of Michaelangelo or Rembrandt; what camp songs are to Bach or Tallis. Maureen is right: people will sniff stuff like this out if they must have it - let them not find it here. And G is also right: never ever should bad music or text be in any way associated with what otherwise would be a good experience. It is intellectually disorienting and spiritually demeaning.
  • As this discussion has developed, it seems abundantly clear that PBEH should be about providing the Church with the very best, full stop. What we need are some new good hymns regarding Our Lady's Coronation in Heaven as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Then let those be employed for such things as May Crownings or the enthronement of a particular Marian statue in church or cathedral. Personally, I would love to see what sort of hymn re Our Lady's Coronation that Kathy would write. Also, it would be an excellent idea to call for such texts to be written, perhaps even personally inviting some of our hymn-writing priests (like Fr. Phillips in San Antonio) to participate.
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159

    Sounds like a young child's song to her mother, ala, 'Mother, I bring you these flower today.' This is a fine song, endearing, given this context, sung as a devotional, especially amongst children. My crank-o-meter has been working a little better than my schmaltzoid detector today. I would think we could make room for such a hymn, given the relative paucity of Marian devotionals that are truly well known. Short list, oddly enough.

    I am just really amazed at the amount of dogmatism levied here, when hymns themselves are not the approved music for the liturgy, although allowed, of course. Maybe I should say, not the "preferred" music. In either case, I have not heard one hymn in my Byzantine church. I know, the hymn is preferred to the (Catholic) mod song, which is worse. But I just don't get all the hand wringing about this guileless, if musically unsatisfying (for some) piece. In judging music, as in people, I generally trust younger kids instincts, kids and dogs.
  • Francis, settle down for goodness sake. There is no book and I can't see that Noel or Jonathan (who are actually doing the WORK) have said anything about this hymn.

    Please tone down the rhetoric all.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    Hymns are supposed to be somewhat sentimental. I really don't understand the neuralgic response to Bring Flowers. It encourages piety by children. For a song that's sung once a year, it's remarkable how many people remember it and sing it well. As I mentioned earlier, there are other PD hymns that have more theological meat to them, and none of them have caught on, despite the best efforts of hymnal editors. That's not to exclude the possibility of something new, and vincentuher's idea is a good one.

    As far as the comparison with Eagles Wings, I've never actually heard people humming or singing it outside of Mass--it has a lot of sixths and sevenths, even octaves, and an overly broad range (low A-high D). Is it designed for percussive accompaniment? The lyrics are fine and worthy of inclusion in any hymnal--just not for Funeral Masses as they have nothing to do with encouraging piety for the dead: it is a Psalm for the living. As St. Augustine says, "This Psalm is that from which the Devil dared to tempt our Lord Jesus Christ: let us therefore attend to it, that thus armed, we may be enabled to resist the tempter, not presuming in ourselves, but in Him who before us was tempted, that we might not be overcome when tempted." In the context of the funeral Mass, it seems to hint at a message of universal salvation. The appropriate place for this text in the Church's liturgy is the First Sunday of Lent, when the Gospel of the Temptation is read--we throw the Psalm back at Satan as we bravely start our fast.

    Outside of the world of music aficionados, Bring Flowers is actually seen as a symbol of a return to orthopraxis, because it was typically suppressed along with all Marian devotions during the dark era when people were kicked out of churches for praying the Rosary. Many parishes have not held May Crownings in 40 years, despite the fact that even Church authorities started encouraging and formalizing the practice recently. So when a parish decides once again to accept the fact that their Mother is the Queen of the Universe and deserving of devotion in her images, Bring Flowers is brought out of storage and becomes a hymn of victory for those who held fast to Marian devotion over those who chose to prefer the heresies brought in by elitists.
    Thanked by 1Don9of11
  • That's an interesting point. We are not living in a historical vacuum. what happened in the 1960s was one of the most ghastly travesties ever visited upon a Catholic people -- basing this on that book I just read. It was terrifying. songs like this mean nothing to me but I can easily imagine that they would mean something to many people if only as a form of reassurance of some continuity. I can sympathize with that.
  • "The reassurance of continuity" is a very profound point, Jeffrey. Thank you for that.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    Singing the seasonal Marian antiphon regularly at the end of Communion in the Novus Ordo would certainly get the orthopraxis idea across, without habituating yet another generation to a completely empty song.

    What we need is solid food, not the junk food of prior generations. Some customs are intrinsically good and should be revived. This is NOT one of them.
  • Kathy, are you opposed to the crowning of the image of Mary ... or do you mean the custom of singing this song at the May Crowning?
  • Yes, Kathy, I understand. I don't even like that sappy Panis Angelicus song. But we still sing it one or twice per year. The very old people in the parish get tears in their eyes and have some sense that the forms loved in their childhood were not completely wiped out. There's something to say for that. I'm sure you agree.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    My point exactly, Jeffrey. There are plenty of things that "feel" old and provide that sense of continuity, which at the same time are theologically weighty, for example, Panis Anglelicus.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    Not to mention that there is not a single composer alive today who has the stature and ability of Cesar Franck. So are we only going to allow hymns that are "pure" and lifeless enough for our forum neo-Calvinists?
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Jeffrey, I saw people with teary eyes by praise band or Haas' music at Mass also. Should they be also part of this 'reassuarnace of the continuity' for our next generation?
  • Touche', Miacoyne. I think that one of the unspoken themes of this conversation is that tears are not, in and of themselves, signals of genuine spiritual experience, nor of ortho-praxis. And, anything that is calculated to evoke them is specious and dis-honest. Kathy's remarks, also, are pungent.

    Further, Vincent's call for new poetry of substance to honour this event is laudable. And, he himself, as sell as Kathy, could no doubt provide admirable examples.
  • Once we begin to talk about hymns--a musical form that is not intrinsic to the Mass (and yes, of course I'm excluding "hymns" such as the Gloria)--we are cursed by questions of taste.

    If the text is heretical or borderline, a hymn doesn't belong in the PBEH. If the music is clearly secular in form (rather obviously Haas, Haugen, and the like fall into this category as well as everything associated with the "praise band" phenomenon), it doesn't belong.

    But that leaves quite a large gray area, and I suggest we should calmly acknowledge that.

    I'm not wild about Bring Flowers of the Rarest, but I've sung it for May crownings at the request of my former music director, and if it's included in the hymnal, why should I have a fit?

    If I don't want to sing the bloomin' thing, I won't program it. Is the church somehow damaged if someone else sings it? I don't think so.

    I despise Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art. Will I refuse to purchase PBEH if such things are included? No, I simply won't program them.

    There is personal taste involved in these decisions, therefore we will never all be able to agree.

    Can we not accept that each of us will not love every hymn in the book . . . and move on?

    Perhaps I'm a philistine. I simply don't apply this standard to any other collection of music I possess. I doubt anyone else does either.
  • By the way, I've reviewed that amazing book on the folk music movement here. I don't really see a moral equivalence between music that was seeking to dismantle the faith as versus sentimentalism of the past that was too imbued with filiopietistic sentiment.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    I haven't read the book, but I lived through that time. It's true that a handful of people undermined Catholic music. However, our inept and inattentive bishops allowed them to do it.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    The hymnal is going to have 250 hymns, right? Even if we maxed out on Marian hymns at say, 10% of the book, there are way more than 25 hymns that are waaaaaay better than this. They express filial piety AND have concrete references to the content of our faith, which is not merely emotional--not ever. Why not?

    Because it's not. all. about. us.