Monday, June 27, 2016

Reviewing Hymnals, One Version

There has been much discussion in various internet forums of late regarding aspects of the publication and efficacy of many hymnals, notably the St. Michael Hymnal and GIA’ Worship (4th edition.) One CMAA Forum thread examined editorial issues involving both Worship and the (outmoded) RitualSong hymnals.advertisement.

I’ve long held some reservations concerning the ratio of
content to value while comparing “products”. I would like to share a revised review of the first edition of the Adoremus hymnal mindful of that ratio.
  In that much of the English-language hymnody of Adoremus  was already found in existing volumes by OCP, GIA and presumably many other  significant hymnal publishers, would its differences (increased Latin-language content, Masses and other service music) in editorial offerings warrant serious consideration of the Adoremus  product?
  For this review I’ll be using the Choir Edition only. I decided to keep informal notes  (using Ben Franklin's old model of Pluses/Minuses) as I went through the book.
  First of all, I have no personal interest vested in this or any other hymnal.
I would approach critical analysis of any catholic hymnal from its
practicality, its artistic and textual merit, its preparation and attention to
detail and, of course, the "3 factors" of appropriate worthiness
outlined in “Music in Catholic Worship,” since revised in SttL. On the plus side:

+ The Order of Mass (pp.12-93) is given a thorough and dignified
presentation with Latin/English facing pages. I particularly appreciate the
detail given to ritual actions. This inclusion puts into the hands of all the
faithful clear descriptions and instructions regarding all aspects of the
rites. Such "up-front" liturgical catecheses is woefully missed in most other
products, hardbound or subscription-based. I also appreciate the direct
correlation of Latin to English that can only benefit my personal
understanding of our ritual language heritage.
+ The overall engraving of the hymnal is satisfactory. A great effort to
make text and music font size uniform for the most part is successful.
+ The Psalm-Tone Mass of Kurt Poterack provides a welcomed option for smaller
congregations without great choral or accompanimental resources. Its motifs
are reminiscent of the recent mass booklet settings by A. Gouzes (GIA.)
+ Portions of C. Shenk's setting, Mass of St. Theresa, demonstrate a careful
balance of melodic motives to textual intent without venturing into "word
painting" or some such other techniques                                                                         + Welcomed "re-inclusions" include: Austria, St. Patrick's Breastplate,
National hymn,
+ The volume of Latin chants, hymns, service music

On the minus side:

- Gregorian neumes used for the responses in the Ordo should prove
manageable for many congregants. However, requiring our choristers/cantors to
navigate the rules of interpretation is a daunting enterprise, not to mention
the herculean implications of teaching the workings of the Porrectus, Quilisma
and markings such as episema to our diverse congregants. Yet, this is the only
notational option provided for the interpretation of the Latin Ordinaries.
  The great care taken to outline the rubrics of the rites in the Order of Mass
is not mirrored anywhere in the pages of the choir edition. It would seem that
the citation of the booklet "Jubilate Deo" and the preface remarks regarding
giving Gregorian chant "pride of place in liturgical services" is then
abrogated by the omission of any user-friendly instructions. Would it have posed too much of an endeavor to bridge the experience gap of most post conciliar musicians by providing a similar facing page model of Gregorian to conventional notation as was given in the Order? I'm aware that modern notation cannot completely accommodate the nuances of chant interpretation. But do the editors want us to take a helpful first step in recovery or not? This caveat reverberated within me when I turned the page and encountered the "relief" of the modern notation of T. Marier's "English Chant Mass.". Does providing such a musical "translation" de-construct the purity of the performance? Help us get  our “feet wet,” and the likelihood we will bring our assemblies with us increases as well.

- Nearly fifty pages of the Order of Mass is given to the Eucharistic
Prayers of the Roman Canon. This factor combined with that of the next item  seems unwieldy and perhaps at the editorial expense of additional hymn or
service music repertoire.

- The redundant duplication of common settings for various Latin/English or
English/English texts: much wasted page space. In many instances, additional
texts could have their corresponding translations printed on the opposite or
following pages as often found in British hymnals.

- Useless inclusion of accompaniments for many chants and strophic hymns.
Unless there is some compelling legal reason to include accompaniments that
are useless in choral applications in the Choir Edition, this decision again
takes significant page space at what expense? There are at least 38 examples
of such titles. Some, such as #307 and #577 use five or six full pages

- There is no statement concerning the key signatures chosen for hymnody.
Again, without consulting the accompaniment I am unaware if recommendations
are given to relieve tessitura constraints in certain hymns such as "Wachet
auf" that could have simply been made prior to publication.

- Apparently the "Sing-Song Syndrome" as described by J. Swain in the
Feb. 1998 issue of “Pastoral Musician” is clearly not confined to post- conciliar
hymns/service music, as evidenced by certain melodic constructs within the
aforementioned "Mass of St. Theresa" and pedestrian tunes such as "Sleep Holy
Babe (337)."

- Curious editorial choices such as the use of quarter notes instead of
eighth notes as the principle rhythmic value for "O filli et filliae(412) and
halves instead of quarters in "Victory” (413). Such choices don't advance an
understanding of phrase and rhythmic movement as noted.

- Though the specific festive texts for hymns such as "Salve Feste Dies" can
be given their specific prominence under certain titles, is it absolutely
necessary to repeat their complete settings in three distinct locations in
order to accommodate their seasonal assignments? In this particular case it
seems to have escaped the editors that the arrangement provided is unsuitable
for choral performance (another accompaniment) and thus should have been
reduced to a melody only version in the subsequent repetitions, or text only?

-Why weren't perfectly good choral (SATB) arrangements
printed instead of the accompaniment versions for hymns such as "Crucifer
(606)?" Also, was no consideration given to the inclusion of descant
arrangements, in that a great preponderance of the English hymnody is of
Anglican origin? This would have been stylistically authentic and artistically
desirable. global

- The signatories of the editorial and executive committees directly state
in the preface (p.8) that the English-language hymns "come from a variety of
traditional sources." They include "translated German hymns," "beloved English
Catholic Hymns,” and "...Catholic hymns  little known in America." I would be interested in hearing from them how this self-description constitutes a "variety." In fact, outside of the obvious Roman sources, the English and German sources and a smattering of about four or five French tunes and a non-Roman, yet Italian tune (Moscow), evidently nothing from the rest of European Catholic hymn traditions (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Baltic, Balkan, Scandinavian, Flemish was included. Neither is there to be found source material from non-
European sources, even from the vast body of Spanish Colonial-era
repertoire of native and imported composers in Mexico and other Latino-American  geographies. Does this honestly satisfy the stated goal to contribute to "authentic implementation of the liturgical reforms" and "contribute to this effort by providing an essential treasury of liturgical texts, chant and hymns drawn
from the historic patrimony of the Church for ordinary parish celebrations of
the Mass.  (A personal note: a recent posting seemed to compare this narrow
cultural milieu of Adoremus  to targeting a market audience such as was
presumably done with GIA's Lead Me, Guide Me. Obviously the author of that
post failed to mention that Lead Me, Guide Me is an exemplary effort that
demonstrates the historical diversity that African-American Catholics have
embraced within their "targeted" constituencies. I have often stated
personally that, up until recently, it was the most culturally comprehensive
of all major hymnals.)

In conclusion, I reluctantly conclude that The Adoremus Hymnal  is yet an
unfinished work in progress, and if editorially improved so as to expand
either its "treasury" within its chosen domains or more historically accurate
and inclusive, it will still be best realized as a companion volume next to
more catholic compendiums.

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