Sneak Peak: Fourth Edition of GIA’s Worship

I give you the table of contents for Worship IV – the premier offering from the famed Catholic music publisher GIA. I’m trying hard not to criticize as much as point to a brighter future, but, even so, this table of contents deserves commentary.

I’ll limit myself to four points.

By way of review, consider first that Catholic music for Mass consists in the following: ordinary chants, proper chants, and dialogues, along with some seasonal sequences and procession chants. All Catholic music essential for Mass should fall into one of these categories. Everything else is either a) a substitute, or b) a supplement. With that in mind, let’s have a look.

First, look at the table of contents. The first thing is the best thing: the chants from the Roman Missal. Why are they called “ICEL chants” here? Why are they not called the “Missal chants.” Perhaps the publisher does not want to somehow privilege them by implying that they carry a more normative status than the alternatives to which GIA hold copyright? Noting them as ICEL chants strikes me as oddly off-putting, since not one in one thousand Catholics has any idea what ICEL is. This really must be changed, and it seems obvious to me that the USCCB or ICEL or someone should insist on it.

Second, there is not a single Mass proper in this book. That is a striking fact. The propers of the Mass are the very thing that links the development of Catholic music from the origin of the Missal itself all the way up to the present day. No matter what period of history you are looking at, you find sung propers. And yet they are missing completely, so far as I can tell.

Third, notice that the dialogues with the priest seem to be conflated with the ordinary chants, so that we are back to this habit over 40 years of singing little tuneful 7-second songs with Father, songs that are based on a theme established by the Gloria. It ends up as broadway-style banter between the celebrant and the cantor. It has never worked. This practice ought to be completely abandoned.

Fourth, note that the overwhelming bulk of this book consists of hymns. Hymns, hymns, hymns, hundreds of hymns bursting forth on page after page after page. Know this much about hymns: when you are singing hymns, you are not singing the Mass. You are singing someone else’s poetry to someone else’s tune. And yet it is perfectly obvious that GIA’s conception of music at Mass consists in hymns, hymns, hymns.

I’m going to stop there.

20 Replies to “Sneak Peak: Fourth Edition of GIA’s Worship”

  1. Jeffrey: one small point. You mention all the 'hymns' — but in reality, a significant number are actually 'songs.'

  2. The be fair, Worship is a hymnal, not a gradual. Why shouldn't it have lots of hymns and no propers? If you wanted propers and not hymns, wouldn't you be shopping for a gradual?

  3. Hymnals are historical documents that both express and shape the self-understanding of a worshipping group. I think the question is, what should a Catholic hymnal be at this point in time?

  4. Someone needs to publish a Liturgy Book, rather than a Hymnal, which would include settings of the Ordinary (in Latin and English) and useful congregational settings of the Propers in English. This should be the bulk of the book. Some hymns could also be included, for use at Mass and at devotions. I'd use this book in a heartbeat!

  5. Ahh, to be in synchronicity with my sis, Kathy.
    Her point cuts to the heart of macro-corporate, coherent RC worship "aid" publications: A horse is a horse, a zebra a zebra.
    Neither name nor animal suffices to bring the "offices" and orders of worshippers to even a philosophical concurrence of purpose, much less practical.
    This is going to be "our" problem as well as we transition the RotR with our disparate efforts. But I think because we're already "outlaws," we might just fare better than the profiteers. YMMV.

  6. I have yet to hear a thorough and convincing argument why suitable hymns when sung alongside and supplementing the propers do not facilitate an even greater thing. Succinctly, I believe in doing both will frequently be the successful path to RotR's goal to reintroduce the singing of propers. Further, when sung alongside the propers the quality of the hymn choices becomes all too apparent – hopefully producing better choices as time marches on.

    So in regards to a hymnal, it still comes down to how it is being used as a tool which only reflects the quality of musical leadership we have developed in our priests and directors.

  7. Shawn, I'm not sure what you meant by "alongside". Given that a hymn is not part of the Mass, there would appear to be only two possibilities:

    (1) The people sing a hymn while the liturgy of the Mass continues at the altar, thereby diverting their participation in it.

    (2) The liturgy is interrupted for the people to sing a hymn, and then is resumed when the hymn is finished.

    Which did you intend?

  8. According to GIRM 86 and 88, a hymn of praise is a part of the Communion rite, although optional, following the Communion chant.

  9. "Many recognizable and beloved hymn tunes in this list of contents employ new, modern texts written by many of today’s most respected text writers."

    This sentence strikes fear into the very core of my soul.

    Instead of elaborating, I will simply await the final results, with a cautious hope that every one of the dozen or so red flags I see in that solitary sentence prove to be false alarms.

  10. I think that such criticism of a book from the GREGORIAN INSTITUTE is more than justified. Of the Big Three, they should be expected to be leading the way.

    The issue of calling the Chant Mass setting the "ICEL chants" is most definitely a political ploy, intending to tie them to the New Translation exclusively, rather than present them as an organic development away from the commercially produced "Mass Settings".

  11. I would love to find out what kind of 'inspections' a new hymn go through to be published in an 'approved hymnal', and exactly by whom? Even though the those hymnal covers say 'approved by a diocese,' many people, including conscious priests know there are hymns that shouldn't be thrown in there.

  12. On the third point, could you please clarify: do you mean you want the dialogues spoken rather than sung? Because that's how it's reading to me, and it's not what I'd expect here….

  13. Liam, no, I mean that they should be sung as chant from the Missal, and not sung according to a thematic tune established in the commercially published settings of the Kyrie or Gloria. That effort to turn the Mass into a musical suite is so strained and it sometimes plunges straight into absurdity. That "great Amen" and the Memorial Acclamation do not have to be sung to the same tuneful ditty that defined the Gloria and Sanctus. It's just aesthetically bad and cheesy.

  14. @Henry,

    The introit and the offertory are really the only places where timing is at question. In my experience there is plenty of time to chant the proper and sing a full hymn while the altar party and sacred ministers enter from the sacristy, reverence and cense the altar. GIRM anticipates the potential for the priest to wait for the Introit (or its counterpart) to finish so there isn't a disruption to the mass nor a distraction to the people. Similarly, there is time enough during the offertory actions to chant the proper, sing a hymn with the people and/or a modest motet by the choir.

    At the Gradual, Alleluia/Tract (and Sequence) let it be sung properly by the choir. I see no reason why the people cannot sing the repeated Alleluias from the Graduale (and have seen places do it successfully – yes, I do mean the full/not simple tones). There aren't that many tones and none of them are out of reach of the average congregation (after proper incorporation into the praxis of a parish).

    As @Kathy mentioned, GIRM anticipates a significant space at the Communion which is appropriately (most especially at principal Sunday celebrations) filled with music. Primary place is given to the Communion chant as it has right to do. Additional music can be offered in accord with the guidelines and we know widely is given – preferably in terms of a choir motet. The post-communion hymn of praise (perhaps more appropriately understand as a hymn in thanksgiving and awe) can be added once the ablutions commence. Again, in my experience, proper choices by the director and priest avoid any clashes of timing in these things and simply fill the space and fulfill requirements graciously and as artfully as possible.

    I'll leave the question of a departing hymn to other people. As it is outside of mass, I see no reason not to use some musical transition, such as a hymn, to allow for a tasteful exit by the altar party and to discourage (as supported by pastoral leadership) gabbiness and glad-handing as if it were not still sacred space in the presence (let's hope) of the Blessed Sacrament reposed in the tabernacle.

  15. I will add just this one more comment and be done.

    The praxis I envision is a folding together of the TLM propers-only and the OF (as largely encountered) hymn stack into a more complete whole, reflecting not a new rupture to a prior state but, in a spirit of continuity, one that improves on what we have and infuses it with the authentic historical tradition.

  16. Please don't expect that people want to sing more hymns than listening to beautiful Propers, the Word of God, after they fulfill singing dialogues and Ordinaries. If Propers are restored first, singing a couple of hymns, such as after the Coummunion or Recession will be more edifying. We have a tendency of disrupting the order that God has created, due to mainly our sin, pride and ignorance, whimps.

  17. Jeffrey, Your observations and commentary are all fair. The unfortunate situation with Catholic hymnals is the over-abundance of them. Unfortunately, they are the result of very clever marketing on the part of their publishers. The result is both good and bad for the purchaser. The terminology most annoying to me, and this is very much a personal comment, is the use of the word "song" for unison hymns that may or may not have a refrain. The word "song" to my mind has strong secular overtones while hymn suggests sacred text. The strong, what I call "English Public School" hymns, are in unison and sometimes have a refrain; but, I certainly would not refer to them as songs.

  18. Jeffrey

    OK. Thanks for the clarification. I agree on that point.

    I am, however, not terribly surprised that any hymnal would omit propers as a general matter (though, if there is section of the hymnal with proper readings, antiphons and responsorial psalm, I would encourage the *additional* inclusion of the respective selections from the gradual, et cet.)

    On the taxonomy of the ICEL chants: I am wondering if, because Rome has been extraordinarily odd about the issue of including pointing of the chants that don't mirror the pointing in the Latin missal, whether that has carried over into characterizing the source of the vernacular chants. Given the very odd way things have proceeded since 2008, this would not shock me. But it is merely speculation on my part.

  19. The distinction between hymn and "song" is more one of music. Hymns are in a metrical form, accompanied by four-part harmony, and usually set to melodies that are familiar. "Songs" are in recognizable popular styles, such as broadway musicals, Kingston Trio pieces, pseudo folk-music (I know this all dates me), and innumerable styles familiar to those who follow popular music. The difference is that hymns are in a recognizably sacred style, while "songs" are in a recognizably popular secular style.

    As for the suitability of hymns at Mass, if the choir sings real
    Gregorian propers in the Ordinary Form, there is little additional time for a hymn at the introit or the offertory. Moreover, if the people sing the ordinary, they have their proper participation–in those parts of the liturgy which are the principal acts of worship at the moment.

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