Hymns and all that!

I need your suggestions for good, ordinary-time hymns. They need not be limited to any hymnal, or certain book, though if they’re only available in a certain book please let me know where I can get one.

Hymns to Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and to the Saints.

Such as Praise my Soul the King of Heaven, and Immaculate Mary, and Holy God, we Praise thy Name.

Veni Creator
Jesu Dulcis Memoria
Ubi Caritas
Salve Regina
Adoro Te Devote
Te Deum
Ave Verun Corpus

From your blog you are from Australia. So a useful resource is Recommended Hymns and Songs Approved by the ACBC (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference) at catholic.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1653&Itemid=385 .

As it has there, they used the following hymn books that are widely used in Australia:
“Catholic Worship Book,
Gather Australia,
As One Voice, (Volumes 1 & 2)
Together in Song,
New Living Parish Hymnal.
From these 5 Australian hymn resource collections, there are 1967 titles which have been evaluated. (excludes lectionary music and ritual music).
The National Liturgical Music Board examined and discussed the music reviewed by each of the subcommittees and accepted 1027 titles for inclusion into the Liturgical Music List.”

From this list I know that four of these books have Praise My Soul the King of Heaven and the hymn number: AOV1-078, CWB789, GOZ392, TiS 134.

Also “Immaculate Mary, We Praise God in You”: CWB723, GOZ549, NLP111

And: “Holy God, we praise your name”: AOV2-129, CWB710, GOZ411, NLP95, TiS 127.

I know that you cannot purchase new copies of Catholic Worship Book (CWB) and Gather Australia (GOZ). You can purchase new copies of As One Voice and Together in Song. I doubt you can purchase new copies of New Living Parish Hymnal.

God We Praise You
O God Beyond All Praising
Crown Him with Many Crowns
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Be Joyful Mary

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

One of my favorite hymns from the St. Michael Hymnal (4th Ed.) is “Firmly I Believe and Truly,” which was written by John Henry Newman and is set (in this hymnal) to the tune of Nashotah House, carrying an awesome Latin refrain not found in other hymnals.

  1. Firmly I believe and truly
    God is three, and God is One;
    And I next acknowledge duly
    Manhood taken by the Son.

Ref.: Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
de profundis oro te,
Miserere, judex meus,
parce mihi Domine.

  1. And I trust and hope most fully
    In that Manhood crucified;
    And each thought and deed unruly
    Do to death, as He has died.

  2. Simply to His grace and wholly
    Light and life and strength belong,
    And I love, supremely, solely,
    Him the holy, Him the strong.

  3. And I hold in veneration,
    For the love of Him alone,
    Holy Church, as His creation,
    And her teachings as His own.

  4. Adoration ay be given,
    With and through the angelic host,
    To the God of earth and heaven,
    Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

I’m no expert and I have my prejudices.

I have no idea what hymn books are available to you.

Nevertheless, this is my experience.

  1. Most of the old protestant hymns are singable, well-written and people seem to like them. I grew up in the Bible Belt, and they were as familiar to me growing up as the Mass of the Angels. Possibly this prejudice of mine is regional.

  2. Almost anything written a long time ago is likely to be good, because they have stood the test of time. If you look at the source in the hymnal, absolutely anything by Mozart will be good, singable, with a good melody one readily remembers, and people will like it. Old “folk hymns”, particularly Irish or Scottish, will be good for the same reasons. Almost anything put to “Ode to Joy” unless the lyrics are clumsy or cornball.

  3. The old Catholic standbys like “Holy God We Praise Thy Name”.

  4. I like almost none of the “faux folk” hymns written in the 1970s and early 1980s. Often hard to sing; often the language limps, often leave the singer struggling to hold a note with consonants where there should be broad vowels.

Mine is a rural parish, and people will sing 1,2 and 3, often with gusto and will bother themselves to learn to sing them. Some of the #4 are too, but most of those leave the music director singing solo after solo. I’m often embarrassed for her, but she chooses them, perhaps in hope that if she puts them on the agenda enough, people will eventually sing them. Poor lady. I probably should have a heart-to-heart with her, but that would be embarrassing too. I have sometimes wondered whether music directors obtain recordings of those #4 songs sung by professionals and think “oh, that sounds good”. But when a parish tries to sing them, they crash and burn and the director doesn’t know why.

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!

Saints (General):

All hail the power of Jesus’ name (E Pertronet)
Captains of the saintly band (JB de Santeuil)
Christ is our cornerstone (from 9th century Latin)
For all the saints (WW How)
For all thy saints (R Mant)
From glory to glory advancing (Liturgy of St James)
Glory to thee, O God (HCA Gaunt)
Hark! the sound of Holy Voices (C Wordsworth)
Jerusalem the golden (from St Bernard of Cluny)
Light’s abode, celestial Salem (attrib Thomas a Kempis)
Thy hand, O God has guided (EH Plumptre)
Who are these like stars appearing (HH Schenck)
Ye holy angels bright (R Baxter)
Ye watchers and ye holy ones (A Riley)

The Blessed Virgin Mary:

For Mary, mother of our Lord (JR Peacey)
Hail, O Star that pointest (trans A Riley)
Her Virgin eyes saw God incarnate born (T Ken)
Shall we not love thee, Mother dear (HW Baker)
Sing we of the blessed Mother (GB Timms) (My favourite Marian hymn)
Tell out my soul (Based on Magnificat, T Dudley-Smith)

General Hymns:

Christ is made the sure foundation (from 7th century Latin)
City of God, how broad and far (S Johnson)
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God almighty (R Heber)
Immortal, invisible, God only wise (WC Smith)
Let all the world in every corner sing (G Herbert)
Love divine, all loves excelling (C Wesley)
O praise ye the Lord (HW Baker)
O worship the King (R Grant)
O Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (JSB Monsell)
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven (HF Lyte)
Praise the Lord, ye heavens, adore him
Praise to the Holiest in the height (JH Newman)
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation (J Neander)
Rejoice the Lord is King (C Wesley)
Stand up and bless the Lord (J Montgomery)
We have a Gospel to proclaim (EJ Burns)
Ye servants of God, you master proclaim (C Wesley)

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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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