Monday, July 18, 2011

What is the BIG PICTURE for the BIG HYMNAL?

The following is a brief response to a review over at PRAY TELL BLOG written by GIA artist Chris Angel that comments upon GIA's release of the third edition of GATHER.

The little ear wig that causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble….is the very future and viability of “hymnals” per se. My concern over hymnals and worship books in general remains the same whether one is considering the efficacy of GATHER III, ADOREMUS II, BY FLOWING WATERS II, or the SIMPLE ENGLISH PROPERS; in other words, the problem I portend remains the same no matter from which side of the musical spectrum comes one’s perspective. In the vibrant economy of the post-conciliar musical palette, there is no single comprehensive volume that has culled the best of both past and contemporaneous composition intended for congregational, choral and schola(stic) use at worship. The only acknowledged “universal” volume(s) remain the Latin books, GR, GM, LU, GT, AR etc. And that just isn’t in the cards for universal acceptance, as ideal a solution that more and more voices argue for.

I used to cite that one of the more efficient hymnal compilations a couple of decades ago was the ARMED FORCES HYMNAL (USA). Perhaps I felt that way because its editors seemed to cover enough ecumenical bases, and that its intent was purposefully broad by necessity. But we don’t enjoy that same luxury of having another political entitity commission, compile, edit and mandate the usage of a hymnal for parish and cathedral use in regular society. I don’t think the CBW would qualify as a shining example of cumulative success. On the other hand, folks that offer up the Brompton Oratory hymnal as a standard really don’t come down from the gallery often enough, IMO.
So, if not the BIG HYMNAL model, what else? The homegrown HULA Hymnal on demand tailored for one or two generations of a specific parish or diocese? Dunno.
But the notion of the USCCB/BCL not tabling agenda items such as the “white list” regarding texts, the exhortation towards including propers among hymns, polyphony, chant and sacred song, and other types of guidance seems to me an urgent necessity.