Review of the VATICAN II HYMNAL Review Copy
  • JMO and MusicaSacra board,

    I just received my Vatican II Hymnal review copy. I wanted to start a discussion by offering my two-cents on a few matters.

    First impression: This is a beautiful piece of art. As I've stated before, beauty is essential. Pope Benedict XVI says it well: "Beauty is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God Himself and His revelation."

    I love all of the options, the attempt at making chant accessible. My associate pastor loves the propers (as do I, of couse). I love the Chabanel Psalms and the works done by Mr. Esguerra.

    I do have a few suggestions, psychological and practical.

    1.) It will be difficult, as stated by my pastor (before receiving this edition - he's out of the office today) to have the Latin next to the English, as it is done here in the Novus Ordo 'Order of Mass'. I strongly agree in having it included, but would suggest, especially in light of the new translation of the Mass, to have the English all in one spot. This A.) helps the congregation learn the new English translation without too much page flipping and B.) Keeps the people who are vigilantly anti-Latin (some of the 55+ crowd) from having to see it.

    2.) If the Latin is kept side-by-side, the Order of Mass has the English on the left and the Latin on the right. But starting on page 20 with Eucharistic Prayer No. 1, the Latin is on the left and the English is on the right. It might be a good idea to keep this consistent, though again, I would refer to my first point above.

    3.) The Exsultet might be hard to follow (see page 465). The Latin on top in bold seems a little much; it is (whether desired or not) typically sung in English; it seems to me that if the interplay of the Latin and English is desired, having a side-by-side format or at the least a font style that makes the English stand out against the Latin might be more helpful. I found, in my examining it, that I was having some trouble jumping down to the next section. Again, with all of these things, I can live with them and I am not boiling in anger. Just trying to help out...

    4.) While it might have been helpful for the First Sunday of Advent, (and perhaps all of Advent), I think it is redundant, excessive and not in the experience of my parishioners ever to NEED to see next to EVERY Gospel Acclamation section the instructions 'for melodies, please see front of book'. Why? A.) Most of the time, the parishioners don't turn to a page to find the Gospel Acclamtion melody. It is typically an easy melody that is repeated after hearing a cantor or choir sing it first. B.) The congregation doesn't literally have the time to find it. C.) They don't usually have time to find the page, even if the page number was included, which it isn't. The instructions just say "front of the book". Then that begs the question, which one of the numerous will they do? It is better if they listen to it and repeat. D.) Like any ritual, we get trained in what to do and when. So even if the people WILL turn to find the Gospel Acclamation, they won't need to be told that EVERY week, just as they don't need to be told to make the sign of the cross at the beginning of the Mass. It's habitual. E.) If you are trying to help folks out and really want to add it, include it through the Advent and Christmas season, mentioning a specific page. Maybe bring it out again for Easter Sunday for the Catholics who haven't been here since Christmas. :)

    5.) This may be technical, but I believe the 'tri-fold' Alleluia is proper to the Easter season. 10 of the 11 Garnier Alleluia acclamations are tri-fold. Are there some more bi-fold options?

    6.) Pages 708 and 709 feature the Benediction hymns, except in the wrong order. This wouldn't be a big deal, if the 'Divine Praises' weren't directly underneath the 'O Salutaris', when they should be under the 'Tantum Ergo'.

    That's all I have for now. What do you all think?

    I am really, really happy and am very excited to share this with my pastor tomorrow. This is a landmark work for Catholicism in the English speaking world.

    God love you,
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    I can hardly wait for my copy to arrive!
  • Roger that, Chuck!
    (That sounded weird, huh?)
  • I received my copy on the Solemnity of the Assumption. How fitting, as this hymnal represents nothing short of a total elevation of the musical level of Catholic worship in a way the English-speaking world has never seen -- before OR after the Council. Instead of sappy, sentimental stuff (as in too many preconciliar low Mass hymnals), it offers an excellent selection of poetically and theologically robust hymns. And refreshingly, unlike most postconciliar hymnals, there are no self-referential pop-song imitations. The rest of the hymnal is filled out with a diversity of highly useful material. What blows me away particularly is the inclusion of the entire Lectionary for Sundays and Feastdays. In one fell swoop, this hymnal obviates the need to pay big bucks to throw-away hymnal manufacturers (and, incidentally, fill dumpsters with environmental waste each year as the copyright runs out). All the readings are there; good responsorial psalms settings are there; the texts of the propers are there; the order of Mass. In short, this hymnal is a masterpiece as far as content goes.

    You knew that such a glowing paragraph had to be followed by a few minor criticisms, didn't you? Basically I agree with Jacob on most points. The parallel Latin-English Order of Mass threw me off. It won't be a deal-breaker by any means, but let's face it: the crowd that wants and cares about the Latin text of the Novus Ordo is NOT the crowd that needs this hymnal. We want to win over a world of Catholics who are, for better or for worse, totally stepped in Anglophonic worship, with nary a hint of Latin. An all-English Ordo -- especially now that the translation is mostly accurate -- would be more serviceable in this regard. I also noticed that the line-by-line Latin-English texts for certain sequences and the praeconium were hard to follow, but as for the Exultet, most people won't be following the hymnal at that point, particularly if the church is darkened, as it's supposed to be. Lastly, it did strike me as unhelpful to say in connection with every Alleluia "for melodies, please see front of book."

    Still, I want to repeat that this hymnal is light-years ahead of the rest of them, and I hope it enjoys a much-deserved monumental success. Jeffrey says in his Editor's Preface: "I also expect that as the Hymnal undergoes future editions, improvements will continue to be made." I know he's out there jotting down our suggestions, but what's most important is to offer our congratulations on an achievement that is very nearly miraculous.
  • Looking forward to seeing my if only Adoremus and St. Michaels would get theirs about cutting it close. I know it isn't their fault (it's their printer).....but I'm getting nervous!
  • Heath
    Posts: 891
    Got mine the other day . . . wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Just a few nit-picky things:

    --p. 109: "entoned"

    --p. 139 and 200: 2 adaptations of Agnus Dei, ad lib II seems to be one too many, no? Both nice, but could be confusing . .

    --p. 134: Kyrie III . . . is that an error on the last note of "mercy" in the first "Kyrie"? It's different from the 2 melodies that come after.

    --Finally, I'm sure hoping that it's going to be on thinner paper, as you said . . . you could knock someone out with this hymnal! Plus, it's difficult to keep open, and therefore to see notes/words closer to the binding.

    JMO, great job!
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    I am very, very grateful for these thoughtful comments and kind words.
  • Heath
    Posts: 891
    A few more, JMO, after just some random skipping around through the hymn section:

    p. 248: I don't see a third verse . . .

    p. 270: Lovely melody . . . an attribution, please? (even if it's only "anonymous, 14th cent.")

    No Jesu Dulcis?!? Please?!?

    I haven't gone through many of the hymnal accompaniments on line, but I'd sure like to see as many of the traditional, public domain, familiar accompaniments that we find in most hymnals. I looked at "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus", and I have four areas of concern with the arrangement: 1) not the usual one that most know, 2) often puts the tenor part on the top clef, leaving only the bass line on the lower clef, 3) has some instances of parallel fifths, and will occasionally reduce the texture to three parts, when it was not necessary to do so.

    And I'm sure you've mentioned it before, but . . . I presume there will be a choral version of the hymnal? Can you keep it under 15 pounds? : )
  • Heath
    Posts: 891
    Jeff, how about trying to round up some volunteers to take, say, 25 pages (or hymns) each and read through them with a eye for error? There are few things worse than permanent hymnals with glaring errors or omissions . . . I know I'd be willing to take on a section for you.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592

    A few thoughts:

    1. Remember that I will be posting numerous other harmonizations, because different people have different tastes. Some hate incomplete chords on the final chord, some like closed vs. open position, some can only play easy arrangements well, etc.

    This is the reason why I will be adding numerous alternate harmonizations, and folks are helping with this. I am very grateful.

    That being said, I am sure each one will have different opinions about these hundreds of accompaniments I have already posted.


    2. Regarding ERRORS and TYPO's, I hope there will not be any "glaring errors" —

    For instance, believe it or not, all the errors mentioned above (for instance, the missing third verse) were already found and corrected before this thread was started.

    That being said, I really hope and pray people will continue to let me know if they spot errors. This is my prayer.


    3. I should also let you know I did at one point have a "team" of folks who were helping me proofread. In the end, this turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, because the folks wanted to only talk about font choices or favorite hymns, etc.

    This made me sad, because I was looking for ERRORS or TYPOS . . . not choices they would have made about fonts, etc.

    I still do have some folks who are helping, and they have saved me NUMEROUS embarrassments. They are AMAZING.


    4. In terms of whether there might STILL be a typo somewhere, we are trusting in the Providence of God.

    Even if there is a typo, we hope that the book will still help some people.

    My understanding from Jeff Tucker is that he had a team of people to help with Simple English Propers (in addition to Adam, who, of course, composed all the melodies: which is truly amazing!).

    Yet, on page 272 of Simple English Propers, the word "possession" is spelt "posseession," and there are other errors I have found.

    I would argue that, in the grand scheme of things, little errors like these are not "game changers."

    Another way to put this would be, in spite of small errors, the Simple English Propers is still a magnificent and powerful thing.

    I hope the same ends up being true about the Vatican II Hymnal. Only time will tell.

    Oh, and by the way, in 40 years, NONE of the major publishers have ever produced a single book that is near as powerful or awesome as the SEP, and they have ENTIRE TEAMS of people working for them. They also have numerous typos in their books.

    (Also, myself, Fr. Felix Just, and others can testify, there are numerous embarrassing errors in the official English Lectionary and other official books.)


    5. Again, I hope and PRAY people will continue to let me know if they spot any errors.

    But at the same time, it is not impossible that we might miss one.


    6. BY THE WAY, in case anyone is not aware:

    To create a Hymnal is a guaranteed way to get 50 million E-mails from folks who all want their hymnals to be "this way," and all the ideas conflict !

    It took me . . . a little while to adjust to this phenomenon. It seems like EVERYONE has an opinion about Hymnals.

    And sometimes, one starts to doubt one's self, as well. For instance, someone had mentioned that an Index cannot be how I had it. I started asking myself why I did such a thing? Only to find out that I followed the exact way they did it in the NOH !


    7. As I said in the Preface: in the end, choices had to be made. I am praying in my holy hours that this book ends up helping people to adore our Lord.
  • Heath
    Posts: 891
    JMO, an excellent response. I know that all of us on the forum and beyond are grateful for your many efforts. Please know that any comments we have are only to strengthen an already incredible resource so it may reach the widest possible audience. I know that they can seem mostly negative, but I know that most of think that this hymnal is 98 percent excellent, and the other 2 percent are what we're hoping to help out with.

    Many thanks and blessings to you for all your hardwork with CCW!
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Thanks, Heath.

    I thought it was appropriate to share those thoughts, but I usually hesitate to do this.


    Because I don't want people to think, "Oh, I found a typo, but I won't notify him, because others can do that..."

    Again, thanks for all you do ! I hope more typos will be noted.

    This helps me greatly.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Heath, I was wrong.

    We had NOT caught the error with Fr. Samuel Weber's Mass (neither I nor his Reverence).

    Thank you so much!

    You have a sharp eye!

    In this case, sharper than both the editor and composer !
  • I have not yet received my copy. :( I got really excited when my dad told me that my "book" had come. It turns out that it wound up being the GIA catalogue. :( At least it gave me an idea of what they were going to inflict us with for Advent.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Mine came today! Bravo, bravo, Jeffrey!

    The kudos (and other thoughts) that I would offer are virtually identical to what others have already said here. I'll just add a few things — first, to say that the book really is a beautiful work! The Scribd excerpts that Jeffrey kindly shared with us in advance isn't quite the same as actually seeing it in-hand. This ought to come in editions with ribbon bookmarks and gilded pages!

    I'm reluctant to offer "criticisms" here… just seems it would amount to little more than armchair quarterbacking. I know Jeffrey made many editorial decisions with regards to content, layout, notation, artwork, cover, and numerous other things. Like he mentions in the preface, these were decisions with several possible good choices — and even if some of the choices he did make weren't the ones I would have made, I can understand his rationale in doing so.

    The book certainly doesn't suffer from a lack of content — my gosh, just about everything is in here, plus the kitchen sink! Every accent, every translation, every explanation and alternative ending and twenty-plus different Mass settings and references to online resources and even the (8), in parentheses, underneath the treble clefs in the Kyriale… whew! Very thorough! (I certainly "get it"… but might this be a bit overwhelming for a book intended for congregational use? Again, though, I know that this was YOUR editorial choice, too!)

    That said, two small (tiny, really) things I would have like to see included: First, a mention that the use of modern notation for the Gregorian chant Masses does not suggest that these are fixed pitches, and second, perhaps a mention that Mass I (Lux et origo) is often associated with Paschaltide, that Mass IX (Cum jubilo) is often associated with Marian feasts, etc.

    I'll leave it at that. Jeffrey, once again — bravo! And I will be sharing this with my pastor for his consideration!
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    My copy came day before yesterday, and I'm having fun going through it!
  • I share with all a portion of a conversation I had with JT yesterday-
    It is beyond comprehension how our young lions (of both genders) have virtually, single-handedly revolutionized the editorial process of compiling worthy hymnals and propers collections.
    Now imagine if all of the personnel resources of the major RCC publishers, top to bottom, had that vision, perseverence and initiative to put such worthy collections into worshippers' hands...
    I rec'd my copy Wednesday and will pour through it today, not looking for errata, but to know the joy of it.