Liturgy Newsletter — Reviews
- Celebration Hymnal for Everyone - Supplement
- A Lenten Journey - The Stories and Scriptures of Lent in Song - Bob Hurd
Available as: Full Music, People’s edition, Melody/guitar, also the text has been included with the full people’s edition.
McCrimmons Publishing Company
If you use Celebration Hymnal for Everyone you may well find this a useful supplement. It adds items that were missing from the last edition such as ‘Gifts of bread and wine’; songs written since then — ‘Christ be our light’; songs that I guess have been requested — ‘Nearer my God to thee’; some songs intended for children; some ‘choruses’. Over half the book is given over service music, psalms and canticles.
For me it begs the question what is a hymnbook? Is it a collection of pieces of music that are good/favourite/pleasing? Is it collection of music to help people participate in the liturgy? Now a hymnbook can obviously be both but they are different starting points. I wonder if the editors could say when every item could be best used in the liturgy.
To flesh this out I am not convinced in the natural place of ‘choruses’ in Catholic liturgy. I am not against ‘choruses’ per se — I have enjoyed singing them as part of ecumenical worship in the past. Choruses are usually in the first person singular and have an emotional register of language (Jesus, I love you). Their repetition is meant to draw the singer deeper into personal communion, unconscious of what and who is around them. This individualistic quality seems to go against our liturgical practice where singing is strongly ecclesial: it is the song of the assembly, the Body, united in the work of the liturgy. Interestingly Ostinato chants, such as Taizé or Iona (of which the only example here is the familiar Kyrie I), seem to draw us more deeply into the liturgical action. Though they share some similar characteristics such as repetition, an ostinato chant is often usually concise and worked out in terms of performance — cantor’s verse, use of instruments etc. I can appreciate the use of choruses in a devotional setting.
There is a strong section of Mass settings which builds on the selection provided in Celebration Hymnal for Everyone. Though much of it has appeared elsewhere it is good to bring it together and whatever the familiarity to some experience tells me that to many communities there will much that is new and useful here. I was surprised however to see ‘Penitential Paraphrase’. Though it would be suitable to use in a Penitential service is inappropriate for Mass (cf. Celebrating the Mass 145).
The section of psalms has many attractive settings. It contains many of the Common Psalms from the Lectionary. It is a shame that it does not contain all of them. There is a continuing need for collections of these psalms suitable for different musical resources. The promised complete list of Common Psalms, presumably including settings from the main hymnal seems not have been included. In the Introduction the editor write that they have noted the draft Core texts for singing and included settings of psalms and canticles in response to this. In the ‘long list’ the choice of psalms is perhaps the most unclear as to criteria. But if the Common Psalms are noted in the draft document as separate and distinct the purpose of the list is to highlight the use of psalms outside the liturgy of the word. The two most obvious examples are Entrance and Communion psalms. I would suggest that, for example, The stone which the builders rejected by Bernadette Farrell was usually more effective as an Entrance song for Eastertide than as a responsorial psalm — it would need an expansive liturgy of the word where it fitted equally rather than as the dominant moment through its length and complexity. A similar problem effects the selection of canticles. It is good to see the texts being made available to people but more thought will be needed as to how these texts would work in the liturgy. That said some of Tony Charlier’s are attractive: in particular Worthy are you.
Some minor niggles. Latin texts should have translations (not necessarily for singing but for intelligibility). Into the family of God is missing its ‘adult’ verse 1. It is invidious to identify what is missing but I would note the absence of All are welcome by Marty Haugen and Litany of the Word by Bernadette Farrell both of which have proved both popular and meaningful in many communities. There are a number of hymns that I am personally surprised to see reappear, such as Rise and shine. I would also note there are few contemporary or recent ‘traditional’ hymns whether this reflects the taste of the editor, the lack of examples to choose from or a judgement about their suitability for use within the liturgy I am not sure
Good things. The design and layout is clear and builds on that developed for the main hymnal. As an aid to participation it is important that hymnbooks are both clearly laid out for ease of use and are worthy editions. The consistency and size of music setting in the people’s book is an improvement. It is good to see music by Mike Stanley and Jo Boyce included in a hymnbook and Let us go forth by Teresa Brown is a welcome addition. As I have suggested above for many communities a hymn is their primary musical resource and though some may recognise, for example, Bernadette Farrell’s O God, you search me and Anne Quigley’s There is a longing as familiar friends to many others they will be welcome additions.
Is Bob Hurd the thinking man’s liturgical composer? This is not intended as a flippant question. His previous collection Holy is the Temple— Celebrating the mystery was a collection built around music written for the dedication of a church. A slightly limited, one-off focus you might think but apart from providing music for the rite (useful in itself) it also recognises that the rite is about the Church as revealed in a group of people in a particular place. For ritual music to work it needs to make connections between the rite and those who celebrate — to open the mysteries to them.
A Lenten Journey is a book that makes connections. For those that wished to do everything in the collection it could provide a complete repertoire for Lent with the exception of Mass setting. Now I doubt that was the intention but the collection does ask serious questions about how we link what we hear with what we do in the liturgy and how that enables our daily living, in this case our Lenten journey. The collection offers a Gathering Song, Now is the acceptable time, and a song for the preparation of gifts, Turn our hearts. Both of these songs are by Barbara Bridge. Notes to the songs offer alternative uses through the season. They are rooted in the images of Ash Wednesday and are a reminder of the ‘twin themes of conversion and transformation that span the whole season’. It is suggested that Turn our hearts could be first used for the Distribution of Ashes. It is in the form of an ostinato refrain over which verses can be sung so that the song can be adapted to the liturgical moment.
A Lenten Journey provides settings of the 3 common psalms for Lent: 50 (51) Lord, be merciful; 90 (91) Be with me, Lord; 129 (130) With the Lord there is mercy.
The heart of the collection is a series of Communion Songs for the Sundays of Lent for each of three year cycle. This is a substantial and ambitious contribution to the Lenten repertoire. The purpose of the songs is to ‘echo the day’s Scriptures, especially the Gospel’. In the words of the preface, ‘As we receive the Lord in Communion, we are invited to meet him terms of the day’s story.’
On the Third Sunday of Lent, year A, ‘We stand with the woman at the well who was offered a drink of life-giving water.’ So as people process to communion they sing ‘The water I shall give will become within you an everflowing spring to give eternal life’ echoing the Gospel. The first two verses pick up images from the Gospel; the third verse then links the psalm to the Gospel — ‘Transform our hardened hearts that we may hear your voice as you lead us to the Life-giving water’. Verses 4—6 link the gift of Communion with images from the narrative. As we approach to receive Christ in his Body and Blood we make our own, through song, the Christ we have heard proclaimed in the scriptures so that nourished we can give ‘witness to the Lord’. This is a complex liturgical dynamic which is implicit in every celebration of Mass but made explicit here through song.
For each song there is a one page commentary on that Sunday’s scriptures. I would suggest that these notes have a value even if you chose not to sing the songs. They make deft connections between the readings showing how the first and second readings, and psalm lead to the Gospel as the communion song leads from it. I found particularly illuminating the connections between Psalm 22 (23) and the Gospel of the man born blind (4th Sunday of Lent). The image of the Good Shepherd provides the cover of the collection: ‘Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, an apt image for his whole ministry as he journeys toward death in Jerusalem’. For this Sunday two songs are provided. The first, The Good Shepherd, a Gospel style processional links the image of the psalm with John’s Gospel. The second, Song of the Man born blind, is a haunting ballad which approaches the story from the perspective of the former blind man.
The collection offers 17 pieces in total, 12 of which are communion songs. Common songs are provided for the first two Sundays which share the stories of the temptation in the desert and the Transfiguration. Having lived with the collection for a number of months some songs obviously stand out. When listening to the recording the following always capture my ear (in addition to those already mentioned): I am the resurrection and the life (5th Sunday, Year A); When I am lifted up (4th Sunday, Year B) Whoever is in Christ (4th Sunday, Year C); Remember not the things of the past (5th Sunday, Year C). The songs for Years B and C recognise the complexity of the Lectionary for these Sundays where it can be the whole which provides the message rather than being Gospel-led. For 5th Sunday in Year C it is the first reading that provides the refrain: ‘Remember not the things of the past; now I do something new, do you not see it? Now I do something new, says the Lord’. This becomes a way of interpreting and understanding the Gospel story of Jesus and the adulterous woman.
The Lenten journey ends with the 5th Sunday of Lent so perhaps we need to wait to see if Bob Hurd will continue the journey through the Triduum and into the Easter season.
The thinking man’s liturgical composer? Well this is not a collection of great musical sophistication (but neither is it banal, simplistic, sentimental or vulgar). But this a collection rather than a selected group of songs; it is structured around a theme, one might call it a project. Like his previous collection Ubi Caritas it does address what is ritual music. It asks how can music assist people to participate in liturgy not only accompanying ritual action, the communion procession, but by enabling participation. A participation which is more than physical. A participation which is first an ‘interior encounter with Christ’ and then enables us to be accompanied him on our Lenten Journey.