Wednesday, 24 February 2010

More About Hymns

I've had some response from my last note about hymns. It's always nice to receive feedback, proof it seems that I have more readers than I thought! Let me just quote from one which came via Facebook.

"while I do think the 19th century Hymns by Faber, Wiseman etc gave us a rich devotional heritage it is far more Liturgical to sing Mass"

My response to this may come as a surprise considering what I wrote previously as I'm not as 'anti-hymn' as I appear to be. Believe it or not, but I actually like hymns too, and generally from the same era as Matt who posted the above comment. A recording I made in the early 1990's with a group of singers called the 'St Anne's Singers of Leeds' of wonderful hymns purloined from the Leeds Catholic Hymnal, the St Andrew Hymnal, [where can I get full music editions of these?], and the Parish Hymn Book is partly responsible for sowing the seeds which later bore fruit in the Rudgate Singers.

I'm going to quote something else now, from the forward to the great Parish Hymn Book which, in my opinion, was the last of the great Catholic hymnals before the publication of the Catholic Hymn Book some 30+ years later.

"We may never again see those crowded congregations at evening service - rosary, sermon and Benediction - but we shall still have crowded churches. There is nevertheless regret among the clergy and all who loved congregational singing that the day of popular devotions seems to be gone...

... Mass has become the popular devotion...

...The new Parish Hymn Book is welcome because it will halt the decline of congregational singing. Soon we shall have vernacular versions of the Mass in new musical settings but we shall not have completely satisfactory words and music for the Mass until after a long period of experiment. Meanwhile the English tradition of hymn-singing will be preserved by singing at Mass and at the new type of Service."

These words were written by Cardinal Heenan back in May 1966. How times have changed! It seems to me though that the use of hymns (good, bad, ancient, modern) has now taken over so much that in most parishes up and down the country, the '4 hymn sandwich' has become the staple musical diet within the Latin Rite Catholic Liturgy. I'll leave you to dwell upon the level of congregational singing & musical settings for the Mass, should you actually have the latter in your Parish! The Eastern Liturgy, for those of you lucky enough to experience it, is a different ball game entirely. By mentioning the classic hymn sandwich, I think I've come more or less back to my original point made in the previous posting. More thoughts would be welcome!


Joseph Shaw said...

Interesting that extra-liturgical devotions had already begun to disapear in 1966.

I've been looking at old Catholic hymns for the procession at my annual LMS Pilgrimage. Perhaps they are best heard like brass bands - 'outside, and about a mile away' - can't remember who said that! But like you I'm finding it hard to lay my hands on the music.

A friend of mine has a copy of the musical Westminster Hymnal from the 1920s, however, which is a good start.

Mike4b said...

The Westminster Hymnal has some excellent hymns, as well as others which I find totally obscure - musically at least. It is though, one of the three books I consult with regard to the hymns for Low Mass in York.

This hymnal used to be in virtually *every* church. I can remember using it in the very early 70's at English Martyrs, and the Parish Hymn Book at the parish primary school, just a few years further on into that decade.

Both of these would have disappeared in a skip along with many other items I'm sure, because the next time I sang there in 1978 to mark the Diocesan Centenary, the Celebration Hymnal was all the rage, and that's where the rot set in!

I have *rescued* 3 full-music Westminster Hymnals from second-hand bookshops in York & Co. Durham, and did get my hands on a Parish Hymn Book from the then Catholic shop in Leeds opposite the cathedral back in 1979 I think, just at it was being phased out. I must have got one of the last editions!