Seeking a tune to text: "O Mother Of Perpetual Help"
  • The parish I serve prays devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Help every Tuesday evening. The prayers begin with a hymn, "O Mother of Perpetual Help", and they currently sing it a cappella although they at one time had an organist who played for it. I've searched the usual sources for the tune, but couldn't find a hymn with that first line in any of the books they had. (The text is included in the published devotions booklet they use, along with about a half dozen other Marian hymns).

    ***Note*** I've found a website via Google that has a tune in a midi file, but it's not the one I'm looking for.

    If anyone may have a clue as to where the tune for this hymn could be found, please respond.

    Thank you!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,701
    can you give me the notes and the meter?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,176
    Is the text this?

    "O Mother of Perpetual Help
    To thee we come imploring help
    Behold us here from far and near
    To ask of thee our help to be"
  • Look in The Westminster Hymnal (c. 1952), #3 in the appendix. Well, it's from a hymnbook published in 1964, so I'll take a chance that it's PD by now. The tune was used for "Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All".
  • Thanks, Steve. I gave it a quick play-through, and unfortunately it's not the tune they were singing last night.

    BTW, the other odd tune they were using came from the New St. Basil Hymnal, an odd tune for "O Salutaris" (in Latin) that I'd never heard before.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    DA, how about this tune?
    The previous pastor (retired Jun 2004) of my parish led it from memory every Saturday morning.
    Way back then, after lots of fruitless hunting around, I finally asked him where he had learned it.
    He said he learned it while living in Oregon many years before.
    In a spare moment that week I thought it wise to get it written down,
    and the attachment is as far as I got (Soprano hymn melody complete, Alto invented, Tenor missing, Bass missing).
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    if they use those big white cards that have the prayers and hymn texts on them, I called the company that makes those and they sent me a couple pages that had several different hymn tunes with accompaniments for those and a few other marian hymns. If that doesn't work, then email me and I can see how to get you a copy of mine.
  • Thank you to all for your help. I've checked with someone familiar with what the parish sings, and indeed this hymn was the alternate tune (Corpus Christi) from the Westminster Hymnal.

    Here's an interesting observation, and comments on this would be welcomed. I think I've stumbled upon an "anthro-musicological" anomoly with this. My predecessor did not regularly play for the devotions, and he arrived about 7 months after the death of the organist who had been there and played for the devotions for many (15 or so) years. So, the congregation had been singing the hymns for the devotions completely unaccompanied after his death until I played for the first time last night. I think what has happened is that the tune took on some minor modifications over the months and became slightly varied through natural mistakes made in the singing of certain intervals. Basically the tune they knew and the tune they were singing recently were related, but changed slightly. I should think (and hope!) that when they hear it accompanied once again they'll revert back to the tune as it was intended.

    Anyone else have this type of experience?
  • francis
    Posts: 10,701
    O yes, definitely!

    There is no controlling organic growth!
  • I am familiar with this hymn, words cited by chonak (above), but the pdf by eft 94530 does not match the melody. It was sung, years ago, at a weekly novena at the Catholic college chapel at Michigan State. I haven't the faintest idea where you might find the melody in print- - and it was not a particularly good melody.
  • The hymn that we sing evey Tuesday begins:

    Quarter notes do-mi-re-mi-fa-mi-re-do
  • "O Mother of Perpetual Help
    To thee we come imploring help
    Behold us here from far and near
    To ask of thee our help to be"

    This is a Long Meter text.

    Tallis's canon ("All praise to thee, my God, this night") would fit it very well. It is certainly a better tune than the one from the Westminster Hymnal. Furthermore, it is much easier to sing.

    A high percentage of the office hymns are in Long Meter. If the people know Conditor (Creator) alme siderum, they could also sing this text to its tune.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,176
    Change the tune? Horrors!

    Nobody goes to a novena looking for music that's in good taste.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    Re: "anthro-musicological" anomaly

    Here's another example of noticeable hymn drift. If you squint, you can make out the differences with the currently received version. And note that the original poem was also altered over the years.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 675
    Now, this is a genuine difference of POV between musician communities.

    In the folk music communities, this sort of thing is usually called "the folk process". In general, it's regarded as being either just organic growth or stuff that happens, or as something positive. And frankly, if the group singing a song changes the melody persistently, a lot of times it's because there was something lacking in the original composition. Unless the folk process is being carried out by the tone-deaf, it's usually very logical.

    (Of course, this can be carried out to excess. I learned a song once from hearing it sung by people I didn't know from another part of the country. It sounded to me like they were really... um... monotone. But underneath, it was a good song. I'm reasonably used to hearing people sing who aren't good at it, and I figured out what the melody must really be from the guitar chords. The song was good, so I learned it and sang it for several years, spreading it around as much as I could, and always asking around after it. Finally, I found out who the original songwriter was, and ordered his CD. All those years, I had been doing an injustice to the people I'd learned it from. The guy was a good musician and lyricist, but he had a very narrow singing range. So he had indeed written the song with that dead melody. It was horrifying. It also explained why it hadn't spread very far before I started singing it. *faceplant* But it's not something I really worry about. If I was likely to run into the guy socially or he played gigs anywhere around here, I might, because the implications would be a lot more annoying to the guy. But given how many times I've heard people play songs to entirely different tunes (often for deep folk reasons like "I don't know how to play that tune, so I'm playing it to one I do know"), I'm fairly sure no harm was done. It's not like I'm going to record it or sing it for money, so he has no particular reason to care. But I did lay off singing my version, because I didn't have the heart for it anymore.)

    In the church music community, people worry about this. Even if the original song is badly written, or if the composer has changed his mind about syncopation six times since 1981, choir directors insist on teaching the choir the exact version as written, in the latest version. It sounds really horrible if the congregation knows one version of the song and the choir insists on singing another, but seldom is this seen as a problem. (And the congregation doesn't ever seem to be briefed that the choir is singing a different sheet music version. Yet another thing to stop people singing.) I wonder if this is the lawsuit/music publishing influence, or the classical training.

    Sure, sometimes the written version is better, and the congregation is dragging or the previous musicians taught them badly. But sometimes they're not. They may be adding ethnic musical features, or otherwise displaying long parish tradition.

    (I wish the supposed "Catholic folk musicians" had gotten into collecting, cataloguing, and explaining stuff like variant hymn tunes and indigenous parish devotional songs, instead of what they did do. It would have been a lot more useful and interesting, and we probably would have been singing those pretty Lithuanian hymns in the seventies instead of guitar folk. But noooo.)
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    I want to clarify my statement by saying that I believe that the modifications to the tune were the result of an organic process born out of the weekly singing of this tune unaccompanied. Certain intervals could have "drifted" or been altered from mistakes made in singing without the guidance of a fixed-pitch instrument, and not due to any perceived aesthetic flaws in the tune itself.

    Also, it's been my experience that there are several hymns in the tradition that have variants that may or may not be reflected in any one particular edition of the tune in print. The classic example is the second half of "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name". If I'm playing from a hymnal that lacks the "extra" notes but the congregation sings them, then I go ahead and sneak them in so that the congregation is supported. When I was a much younger organist, I would play the hymn exactly as written and insist that the choir learn it and sing it that way, which only built mistrust and resentment. If there was a microphone in front of me at the organ, I would literally sing the correct melody as loudly as possible to ensure that the corrected melody was heard and sung. What I tyrant I was!
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    OK, here we go. I have the solfege of the tune. Unfortunately, they've been singing it unaccompanied for so long that the rhythm is all screwed up. Much like the way they sing "Tantum Ergo" to the tune of "St. Thomas" with the deadly long note at the end of every second measure (I'll never get that, ever. Would someone kindly explain that to me?), they seem to shift from 4/4 to 3/4 and back again with the greatest of ease.

    I'll indicate what I think is eighth-note motion by placing a hyphen between the syllables and elipsis (. . .) after syllables that seem to be held longer. Otherwise, it's all quarter notes. Here we go:

    do mi re mi fa mi re do . . . do-mi sol fa sol mi fa mi re / do mi re mi fa mi re do . . . do-mi sol fa sol mi mi fi sol . . . sol do ti la sol la . . . sol mi / mi fi sol do ti . . . la / (at this point I forget the rest)

    Any clues?
  • I think you are on the right track. My pastor just asked me a couple of weeks ago about music. I'm new here and the parish has been singing this a capella.
    Here is what I came up with.
    3/4 time; quarter notes; 2 spaces between notes = indicate measures; ..after a note = indicate 2 beats; - between notes = eighth notes;

    do me re mi fa mi re sol..fa sol..mi fa mi re mi re mi fa mi re sol..fa sol..mi re mi fi sol..sol do ti la sol..mi sol fa mi mi..fa fa mi re do..

    any other clues or suggestions.
  • It sure sounds like a popular "O salutaris" melody, with confused phrases from elsewhere - easy to happen when a group has only enough knowledge of hymnody so as to be "dangerous! Look at #71 in The Westminster Hymnal (it's the only hymnal I have with me at the moment).
  • This is the hymn we sing, I hope it will attach!
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    CAPA20 WINS!!!!! Bless you, bless you, bless you!!!

    And, as it turns out the dumb thing IS in two different time signatures! Wow!

    Thanks to all for playing along.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    (oooh that was a fun game! "name that tune..." we should try that again!) :-P
  • francis
    Posts: 10,701
    i was stumped on that one. however, i know another hymn tune that begins with the same first line, just can't remember what it is. I am thinking maybe O Salutaris?

    g-|a-g-e-f-|g-(f-e)-d       =(two eight notes)
  • Yes. That is the tune I mentioned above. I think it is also in Worship III paired with St. Thomas as the Benediction hymns.
  • G
    Posts: 1,397

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)