[quote="LoyalViews, post:8, topic:326996"]
Thanks everyone! Keep the suggestions coming, but I am not a fan of and my parish is also not a fan of the "contemporary, folky" hymns. We want substance, true devotion, God-adoring.
And so far your suggestions have been wonderful. I'm writing them down, it's just that we are in a hardspot using the same hymns over and over again!
Wish I could tell you the title of our hymnal. It has some of the worst hymns ever written in it, but also some of the best. I'll try to find out the title.
If, as one poster said, you're in Australia, i don't know enough about the cultural background there to predict what people might want to sing. But if you get a copy of a hymnal that has both old and 1970s/80s stuff in it and "tried and true" hymns, you can go through, test them out and make choices.
Here's how I see this in large part. Anything that has survived for centuries is almost automatically good, precisely because it has stood the test of time. Time discards a lot of stuff. Why do we still read Shakespeare 500 years later? Because it's incredibly good. How many of his contemporary writers have been long forgotten? Most of the forgotten ones are deservedly forgotten. Someday the 1970s and 1980s songs will not even be a footnote, with very, very few exceptions. Mozart will still be in the hymnbooks 300 years from now.
The skill of the writers can be readily seen in various ways:
1. Is it easily sung for a range of voices? A lot of contemporary stuff is written for sopranos and (second) tenors, but most men are baritones and basses, and most women are altos. People won't sing what they can't sing.
Is the prose good? Is it memorable? Is it the kind of thing you would feel almost a thrill upon reading? Does it touch your soul, or is it glib or abstruse? Think for a second. Compare the prose of "Nearer my God to Thee" with "City of God". The first really touches the person. It's a heartfelt plea; the sort of thing we would pray in extremis or simply at the end of the day in the presence of a beautiful sunset. The second says "...may our tears be turned into dancing..." Now what male of western European extraction ever turns his tears into dancing? I think Australian males are, indeed, mainly of European extraction, and "...may our tears be turned into dancing..." is just alien and weird.
Related to #2, was the prose crafted artfully so that the sentence endings, carried notes and points of emphasis are broad vowels that a person can sing with throat fully open, or is the singer obliged to squinch his throat at crucial moments? Singing technique can cure some of that if one is trained, but most people aren't.
Does the melody have any chance of sticking in your head? Can you hum it after hearing it twice, and do you want to?
In summary, it's craftsmanship of the author you want to be looking for and, for the most part, the best craftsmanship is found in those hymns that have survived for a very long time.
And yes, it varies with nationalities. I have gone to Hispanic Masses, and some of those hymns touch the soul, but one almost has to think in their terms for it to do so. In Australia, as in the U.S., most Catholics are European and have European expectations.
A quick story. Two years ago, I suggested to our music director that she have the choir sing a very touching Polish hymn entitled "Lulajze Jezuniu" (Sleep, baby Jesus) at Christmas. Lots of the parishioners are third or so generation Polish. The choir found the Polish really difficult, so the director got another volunteer to learn it with her. They sang it at Christmas as a duet, and alternated verses in Polish with verses in English. Look it up. The words are really touching, very peasant, very loving in the simple way that anyone can relate to. It's the foremost Christmas hymn in Poland and even Chopin worked it into one of his works.
After they started the hymn, you could hear, here and there in the congregation "I'ts Polish! It's Polish!", undoubtedly from people who couldn't really speak Polish but who had heard a few phrases from a grandparent or great-grandparent and knew the sound or perhaps just a word. The priest (who is from Poland and knew Pope John Paul II) thanked them profusely for it. Lots of parishioners did too, including me.
So, one is not limited to the western European "tried and true". "Lulazje Jezuniu" is centuries old, and eastern European. I would like someday to persuade the choir director to attempt "Gospodi Pomilui", which is the "kyrie" in Slavonic. My grandkids picked it up with ease, but they're kids, and they learn easily. Here's a version I particularly like:youtube.com/watch?v=L3wmveVjxzo
Seems complicated, and it's in Russian. But "Gospodi Pomilui" is simply "Lord have mercy". The chorus is singing in harmony, but not polyphony. Not hard. The solo singer (later joined by another in a duet) is simply singing the "Confiteor". Not hard. Could all be done in English.
I like this one too. Very traditional Ruthenian. Not complicated and while this is in harmony, it could be sung in unison.
While it doesn't sound like it very clearly, they're singing in English. The music can be gotten through the Diocese of Pittsburg, Pa. Lots of Ruthenians in Pittsburg, I guess.