Tuesday, 23 October 2007

More on the "voice" in hymnody

My first commandment for choosing songs for singing at Mass is "Is it focused on God?". After all, the first commandment in the bible and catechism is “I am the LORD your God—you shall have no other gods before me.”

The protestant reformer John Calvin wrote at least one true thing: The human heart is a factory for idols. And the greatest idol in the modern age is the self. The Achilles Heel of the vernacular liturgy which arose from the post-Vatican II reforms (celebrated by a priest facing his “audience”, and even sometimes with the people facing one another around a central “table”) is this: it is frightfully easy (and almost irresistibly tempting) to transform it into an event that is “about us” or which “celebrates our community” rather than which is “about God” and which “celebrates our Maker and Redeemer”.

The rite of the Mass itself (when followed faithfully) is fairly resistant to this temptation. But parishes have been given virtually free reign to chose whatever songs they wish to sing during the liturgy, and these songs often undermine the true focus and intention of the Christian worship.

Therefore we ask of any song we intend to sing: Is it a song about or addressed to God (rather than a song about or addressed to ourselves)?

Two types of song focusing on God:

a) Songs of prayer: are songs addressed to God which may express adoration, petition or thanksgiving. One should be able to use such a hymn as a prayer when the text is taken without the music. Gather is not highly endowed with good examples of such hymns in the Eucharistic department.
Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy (GA 73)
Lord, to whom shall we go (GA 189)

b) Songs of praise: are songs addressed to “others” (the assembled congregation? the world?) proclaiming the attributes, words and actions of God (sometimes in the form of a story) and calling them to join in our worship (sometimes as an exhortation).
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord (GA 33)
Let all mortal flesh keep silence (GA 190),
An upper Room Did Our Lord Prepare (GA 187),
Gift of finest Wheat (GA 191)
Christians, let us love one another (GA 206)

On the other hand there are songs that focus upon ourselves rather than God. These songs are very unhealthy spiritually and liturgically, because they are a type of idolatry.
Song of the Body of Christ (GA 200)
Bring forth the Kingdom (Marty Haugen, GA 478)

Some songs, though addressed to God, are almost entirely about who we are and what we are doing—telling God what marvellous folk we are, rather than praising him for his salvation.
Gather us in (GA 526)

Worst of all are songs that put God’s/Christ’s words to us in our mouths to be sung as songs to him. Such songs are liturgically dysfunctional. We sing to God/Christ, pretending to be God/Christ singing to us. These are likely to have resulted from the fact that the Council encouraged new compositions to be written based on the Scriptures. The biblical passages which are most appealing are those in which God/Christ addresses his people with words of promise. The problem is that the composers have failed to internalise and represent these passages as songs of praise or prayer as our response to God for these gracious promises.
Our Supper Invitation (GA 202)
I am the Bread of Life (GA 204)
Take and Eat (GA 198)
Take and Eat (GA 201)
Eat this Bread (Taize, GA 205)

Some of these songs could be easily be converted into prayers by addressing them to God or into praise by addressing them to others.

eg. I am the bread of life could be

You are the bread of life
whoever comes to you shall not hunger,
all who believe in you,
they shall live forever,
they shall live forever.


He is the bread of life
whoever comes to him shall not hunger
if you believe in him
you shall live forever,
you shall live forever.

eg. Eat this bread could be:

Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to him and never be hungry.
Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to him and you shall not thirst.

If the chorus addresses God, but the verses are written in the ‘voice’ of God rather than the people, it may be preferable to have the people sing the chorus only and a cantor or soloist to sing the verse, thus acting as God addressing the assembly.
eg. Taste and See God’s Love (GA 203).

Note that some songs (especially psalms) in Gather Australia have been altered to fit the demands of so-called “non-sexist” language. In extreme cases, this means avoiding the masculine pronoun for God. Since this is difficult to do in songs of praise which speak to others about God, many have been altered from songs of praise addressed to others to songs of prayer addressed to God. This changes the function of the song.
The Magnificat (GA 15)

We do sometimes use songs that are addressed as prayers to Mary and the Saints. This is acceptable—but such songs are not “worship” or “adoration”, but acts of veneration.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Asperges (Sprinkling) Hymn

I wrote this while I was music director at Our Lady's in Ringwood. I can't really claim to be the composer or writer, as the music is one of my favourites (which I have used before) and the words are straight from the missal. But the final thing works quite well.

To be sung to THAXTED by Gustav Holst

R. Like a deer for running waters I long for you, my God.
My heart and soul are thirsting for God, the living God.

V. I saw water flowing eastwards from God’s holy sanctuary,
flowing down through the desert in a river to the sea.
It gave healing and salvation to everyone who came
and with shouts of “Alleluia”, God’s praises were proclaimed.

R. Like a deer for running waters I long for you, my God.
My heart and soul are thirsting for God, the living God.

V. You will sprinkle me with hyssop, O Lord, and make me clean,
you will wash me with water and I’ll be white as snow.

R. Like a deer for running waters I long for you, my God.
My heart and soul are thirsting for God, the living God.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Changes at the Cathedral

Well, we have a new dean at St Patrick's Cathedral, Fr Gerard Johnson. With the changes in the Presbytery, come changes to the usual "Friday Lunchtime Sung Mass". Dr Cox, the Cathedral Capelmeister, has appointed yours truly as a "Reserve Cantor" for the Cathedral, and has also determined that rather than having regular Friday sung masses, we will, from now on, observe this custom on weekdays which are Solemnities or Feasts.

A new program has been established, which brings the settings for the ordo and the psalmody into line with what is used on Sundays. Most of it is new to me as a Cantor, although I am familiar with it as a mass-goer-in-the-pew. I was as nervous as all get out last Friday for "The Triumph of the Cross", cantoring (unaccompanied) with Gregorian tones before a new dean and with the Capelmeister in the pews checking out how well it all went.

As an idea of what we do, we are using Proulx's responsive English version of the Missa de Angelis Gloria, and the Latin Agnus Dei from Mass XVIII. The psalm settings are Dr Cox's--and utilize the NRSV rather than the Grail.

No hymns at this stage...

Next Lunchtime Missa Cantata will be for the Feast of St Matthew, this Friday at 1pm.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Lutheran Worship Resources

Over a number of years toward the end of my ministry in the Lutheran Church of Australia, I worked as manager of the "Lutheran Worship Resources" project. All these resources are now available on-liine on the LCA website. They are useful in all kinds of ways, but are an excellent source of hymn suggestions for each Sunday. They use the Revised Common Lectionary, which is not always the same as the Roman one.

Herzlich Lieb: "Lord Jesus, let your angels come"

Here is a song that I wish to be sung at the Committal at my funeral. It is the third verse from Martin Schalling's hymn "Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, O Herr" (LH 385), as reworked by the LCA's Hymnody Dept. I sang it at my grandmother's funeral.

Lord Jesus, let your angels come,
when I must die, to bear me home,
my soul to heaven taking.
My resting body safely keep
secure in gentle painless sleep,
till earth's last great awaking.
Then raise me, Lord, that I may be
with you in joy, and always see,
O Son of God, your glorious face,
my Saviour, and my fount of grace.
Lord Jesus Christ,
O grant to me, grant this to me,
I'll sing your praise eternally.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Baptismal version of Liebster Jesu (Dearest Jesus)

Catholics are generally familiar with the German hymn "Blessed Jesus, at Thy Word". It is a hymn for the beginning of worship (an "Entrance Hymn" -- or, as some would call it today "a Gathering Song" -- uuh) by Tobias Clausnitzer (d. 1684), and translated by the great Catherine Winkworth.

Not so well known to Catholics, but well known to Lutherans (because of the general custom to have baptisms during the Divine Service) is the longer, baptismal version of the same hymn, also written by Clausnitzer, and also translated by Catherine Winkworth.

Interestingly, in the German, both hymns begin the same way: "Liebster Jesu, wir sind heir", so I don't know why Catherine decided to translate them differently. Perhaps she didn't. Maybe it was hymnal editors that made "Dearest" (which is the best translatin of Liebster) into "Blessed).

I give the version of this baptismal hymn that is in the Australian Lutheran Hymnal here, because it includes a verse (verse 4) that clearly teaches baptismal regeneration in infants. Another version (see here) appears to be more common in America and was included in the Lutheran Book of Worship (187) and in Together in Song (480).

Interestingly I came across this eucharistic version of the hymn, attributed to Clausnitzer, but said to be "adapt­ed by George R. Wood­ward. George obviously did a fair bit of "adapting", because I can find no German original in my old hymnbooks to match it. Quite nice though.

Any way, here is the Australian Lutheran version of Clausnitzer's baptismal hymn:

1. Dearest Jesus, we are here,
Gladly Thy command obeying;
With this child we now draw near
In accord with Thine own saying
That to Thee it shall be given
As a child and heir of heaven.

2. Yea, Thy word is clear and plain,
And we would obey it duly:
"He who is not born again,
Heart and life renewing truly,
Born of water and the Spirit,
Can My kingdom not inherit."

3. Therefore hasten we to Thee,
In our arms this infant bearing;
Let us here Thy glory see
Let this child, Thy mercy sharing,
In Thine arms be shielded ever,
Thine on earth and Thine forever.

4. Wash it, Jesus, in Thy blood
from the sin-stain of its nature;
Let it rise from out this flood
clothed in Thee a new-born creature;
may it, washed as Thou has bidden,
in Thine innocence be hidden.

5. Now unto Thy throne we send
prayers that from our heart proceeded.
Let them unto heaven ascend,
let our warm desires be heeded!
Write the name we now have given,
Write it in the book of heaven.

Interestingly, while the Entrance Hymn version is three verses (plus doxology) in both the original and the English, the original baptismal version has (in good German Lutheran style) SEVEN verses -- in which verse 4 given above is an accurate translation of the original verse 4, and verse 5 is actually verse 7. Here are the other verses and my rough translations. Metrical versions might follow:

5. Mache Licht aus finsterniß
setz es aus dem Zorn zur Gnade,
Heil den tiefen Schlangenbiß
durch die Kraft im Wunder-Bade,
laß hier einen Jordan rinnen,
so vergeht der Aussatz drinnen.

Make light shine in darkness,
set it out of (your) wrath into your grace,
heal the deep serpent-bite,
through the might of the wonder-bath,
let here a Jordan flow,
thus the [Aussatz (Leper?!)] passes inside.

6. Hirte, nimm dein Schäflein an,
Haupt, mach es zu deinem Gliede,
Himmels-Weg, zeig ihm die Bahn,
Friede-Fürst, schenk ihm den Friede,
Weinstock, hilf, daß diese Rebe
auch im Glauben dich umgebe.

Shepherd, take your little lamb,
Head, make it to your member,
Heaven's Way, show it the road,
Prince of Peace, give it peace,
Vine-Stock, help, that this vine
also in faith to embrace you.

This is the one often appearing as Verse 4 in American versions of the hymn. That verse is there given as:
Gracious Head, Thy member own;
Shepherd, take Thy lamb and feed it;
Prince of Peace, make here Thy throne;
Way of Life, to heaven lead it;
Precious Vine, let nothing sever
From Thy side this branch forever.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Music at Perth CYM (Catholic Youth Ministry)

A friend wrote in to report what is happening in Perth with regard to the Wednesday night Holy Hours. Here's what he had to say:

Always interesting to read your blog(s)! Thought you might be interested in what I have a supporting role in - a friend of mine over here is the choir master for St John's Pro-Cathedral, Perth's Latin Mass HQ (where yours truly "executes" the chant as part of the schola cantorum - we try and do the full Gregorian propers), but furthermore he does stretch as far as providing music for the some of the Wed. 6.30 Holy Hours for Perth CYM... I get roped in to sing alongside him.

Since we have Adoration, obviously we sing the "O salutaris" at the moment of Exposition, "Tantum ergo" before the Benediction, and at Reposition "Adoremus" & Ps 116 as per usual. But my friend is adventurous - we began with a favourite hymn of his, "Be still my soul" (with the tune by Sibelius), which we've now used several times, and people seem to like it (I just checked and found it's an old Lutheran hymn, so I guess you know it), and later on sang a plainchant setting of the Litany of the Sacred Heart (another time, we did the Litany of Loreto). We use a data projector to (not perhaps exactly tastefully) throw the (English) words on the chapel wall, for the benefit of those present. We finished with "Hail Holy Queen" (sometimes we do the Salve instead), after Benediction and Reposition.

Very pleasantly, and unexpectedly, during a lull in proceedings, one of the CYM guys, sang a solo - "Into your hands", "Save us Lord" and the Nunc dimittis from Compline. Just as most "progressives" would be horrified to know, the many obviously rapt and prayerful young people - and how unusual for Catholics, as many men as women, if not slightly more of the former! - seem to really like such Latin and sacral English fare. How good, too, that we have Fr John Reilly, a Perth priest officially long retired - he's nearly 80 - but who is a gifted confessor and spiritual director, who exposes the Bl Sacrament, gives Benediction, yet spends most of the adoration time in hearing confessions of the young. As usual, the old and young are (a) glad to be together, (b) glad not to have Baby Boomers around - oops, sorry, David, I guess you're honorary Gen X! [No, I'm the real McCoy--born in 1966]

If I can persuade him, I think "Lord enthroned in heavenly splendour" would make a fine hymn for Eucharistic Adoration; I prefer to sing it to "St Helen".

BTW, this month at the "Pro" we've been concluding all Sunday Masses with that beaut hymn "Crown him with many crowns", which has proved unexpectedly popular with the congregation. it's such a nice hymn I'm going to presume to quote it to you, since doubtless you're humming the tune already!

Who would not be moved in that very holy evangelical way at such true exclamations as:

"Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee, / And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity." ...

"All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou hast died for me; / Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity."

Not to forget a good Catholic focus, Incarnation and Marian:

"Crown Him the virgin’s Son, the God incarnate born, Whose arm those crimson trophies won which now His brow adorn; Fruit of the mystic rose, as of that rose the stem; The root whence mercy ever flows, the Babe of Bethlehem."

But perhaps most moving is the image of Christ's all-gloious wounds, outshining the sun, at whose dazzling effulgence the highest seraphim do veil their eyes:

"Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side, Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified. No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight, But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright."

Trusting that you enjoy the odd email,

In Christ, etc.

Here are my comments:

"Be still my soul" (with the tune Finlandia by Sibelius) is an excellent hymn and an excellent tune. There is a paraphrase of the Nunc Dimittis by Rae E. Whitney in Together In Song (733) to this which you might be interested in using on these occasions--very appropriate for that time of day:

Lord God, you now have set your servant free,
to go in peace as promised in your word;
my eyes have seen the Saviour, Christ the Lord,
prepared by you for all the world to see,
to shine on nations trapped in darkest night,
the glory of your people, and their light.

"That beaut hymn", "Crown him with many crowns" should be known much better by Catholics. It is a great Ascension hymn! Often I hear "Protestant Hymns" poo-pooed by Catholic traditionalists. If only they knew... Orthodox Protestant hymnody can sometimes be far more Catholic than the stuff that masquerades as "Catholic liturgical song" these days.

Please feel welcome to write to me with your musical experiences and advertising where good music can be found.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Singing in the Cathedral

Well, we had another sing-song at Mass today at 1pm in St Patrick's Cathedral. I used a setting for Psalm 116 that had been written by my good friend David Goedecke for my daughter's baptism many moons ago. Here it is (click on the image for larger picture):

I think it went down okay--but I do finally seem to have attracted the attention of the Cathedral Capellmeister. Rather than call for an end to this impromptu singing, he suggested (very politely) that since he is in charge of the music in the Cathedral he should determine what psalm settings are used. His suggestion? His own Gregorian settings. That way, he said, there will be some uniformity as to the settings used for the psalms in the Cathedral.

I am more than happy to comply, for two reasons: First, as he says, he is in charge of Cathedral music, and second, his settings are very good. There is a third reason: it will save me time searching for a setting to use each Friday morning. And a fourth reason ("no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition") is that I am glad he didn't just say "quit it".

However, his settings use the NRSV rather than the Grail. I agree with him that the Grail is horribly inaccurate (it amuses me that the Holy See disapproves of the NRSV for inaccuracies when the Grail is more of a paraphrase than a translation). He calls the Grail a "Humpty dumpty sat on a wall" translation--refering to the "dumpty dumpity dumpty dump" rhythm.

And some of the settings of the responses--though beautiful--are a little tricky to learn and repeat after only one hearing, especially if you don't have the music in front of you.

Nevertheless, I take his intervention as an endorsement for continuing the tradition of 1pm lunchtime sung masses on Fridays in Melbourne at St Patrick's Cathedral. Come and have a sing-a-long with us!

World Youth Day Song: "Receive the Power"

Sorry that it has been so long since I posted on this blog. I guess no-one reads it anyway, so you probably didn't miss me.

Anyway, while I was on holiday, the text of the World Youth Day song "Receive the Power" was finally revealed, and your correspondent was, well, frankly, under-whelmed.

You can see a video-clip and hear the song on the World Youth Day page and download the text and the music from here. Here's the text:

1. Every nation, every tribe,
come together to worship You.
In Your presence we delight,
we will follow to the ends of the earth.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Receive the Power, from the Holy Spirit!
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Receive the Power to be a light unto the world!

2. As Your Spirit calls to rise
we will answer and do Your Will.
We’ll forever testify
of Your mercy and unfailing love.


Lamb of God, we worship You,
Holy One, we worship You,
Bread of Life, we worship You,
Emmanuel, we worship You.
Lamb of God, we worship You,
Holy One, we worship You,
Bread of Life, we worship You,
Emmanuel, we will sing forever.


Now before I go any further, I should point out that I don't particularly want to cross swords with my one time catechist and cherished friend, Bishop Anthony Fisher, who has written a masterful "theological reflection" on the song. But I will say that I wish that the song he describes in this reflection had been written rather than the one with which we are actually faced. I will get to Bishop Anthony's reflection in a minute. Let's look at the text.

Those of you who have visited this blog before have seen my "criteria" for assessing the value of a Catholic liturgical song or hymn (if not, click here and read them). Let's run the WYD song through some of these criteria:

1) Is it focused on God?Is it a song about or addressed to God rather than a song about or addressed to ourselves?

Yes, there is a strong focus on God. The song borrows heavily from the style common in evangelical/pentecostal circles, and hence is strong on "adoration" (which is worship addressed in the second person to God, as opposed to "praise" which is when we address others about the great things God has done, speaking about God in the third person). There is some lack of clarity ast to which person of the Holy Trinity we are addressing--something which only becomes clear in the "bridge" (we are addressing the Son, Jesus Christ), but at least it is a song about God addressed to God rather than about ourselves.

At least, this is the case in the VERSES. Catholic readers of this blog will be very familiar with that schizophrenic scourge of Catholic liturgical song: the song in which we pretend to be God singing to us (for an example, see the text of "Come as you are"). A slight variation is the song in which the verses are God singing to us and the chorus is us singing to God (eg. "Here I am, Lord"). "Receive the Power" falls into the latter trap. The verses are addressed to Christ, but the chorus is Christ addressing us. Bishop Anthony seems to think this is a good thing: He says:

In the chorus the Risen Christ addresses the young people of the world ...In the verses the young people respond

Only the Risen Christ isn't singing the chorus to us--we are singing it to ourselves. The old schizophrenia enters by the back doors...

2) Is it true? Does it express the Catholic faith? Is what it says about God true? Is what it says about us (and others) true? Does it name God truthfully? Does what it says agree with the Catholic faith?

Well, it's true enough. There are nice phrases in the bridge, reminiscent of the Gloria in Excelsis. But there isn't much here tht you could really build a theology on, is there? There's a lot of hints, but rather than explicitly conveying a particular theology, you really have to have your theology well formed beforehand (as Bishop Anthony certainly does) to be able to read into it all the "depths of meaning" to which it may hint (as Bishop Anthony certainly does in his reflection).

3) Is it singable?Can it be sung without accompaniment? Does it avoid difficult timing? (eg. strange or inconsistent rhythms, notes tied over bars etc.) Does it have a memorable melody?

Um. No. My guess: everyone will have completely forgotten this song by the time the next WYD comes around. Moreover, I predict that it will never, ever, ever be included in any Catholic hymnal or collection of liturgical songs. Ever. It is too slow, too "quiet", nowhere near rousing enough for a "anthem". No strong beat or rhythm. Lots of "oohs" and "oh yeahs" that have no place at all. It's a soloist's song--which is, I guess, why they have Guy Sebastian singing it. It isn't a congregation song. God knows how a crowd of 500,000 or so are going to sing it. What they will get is 500,000 people watching Guy Sebastian sing it and cheering and clapping--but as if for a performance rather than joining in. And can you really imagine Papa Benny joining in singing this one??????????

4) If the text is not a scriptural or liturgical text, does it have dignity as poetry apart from the music?
Does is avoid trite or clichéd language, bad English, inverted word order? If the text is liturgical or scriptural, does it accurately represent the original text?

Well, Bishop Anthony thinks one of its strong points is that it is "scriptural". But there is a lot more to a song being truly "scriptural" than simply cutting and pasting phrases from scripture and setting them to music. Christian Hymnody in the past--Catholic and Protestant and Orthodox--has always been "scriptural", but has been the result of meditation upon scripture, of the author of the song internalising scripture and then returning it God as adoration or praise.

5) Does the song have lasting merit? Does it show every indication that it will continue to be used? Will teaching the song be a lasting investment? ie. will it be of use for their future spiritual/communal worship lives? Indicator: is the song often included in independently edited hymnbooks and collections of songs?

I have already indicated that I think the answer to all these questions is a resounding "NO".

As I said above, I wish the song that was written was the song that Bishop Anthony describes in his "theological reflection". I think he is being incredibly charitable to this piece of music. It isn't awful. It's passable. But that's just the point. It's here today, but tomorrow it will have passed. Surely Australia could have come up with something better?

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Music Program for Ascension Sunday

At my local parish, I am leading music this Sunday. Here is my intended program. Keep in mind that I have no accompaniment (volunteers will be gladly accepted!).

Entrance Song: Clap your hands all you peoples (John Bell, TIS 29, Wild Goose Publications)

Psalm 47 (46): God mounts his throne to shouts of joy, to shouts of joy (Text: Grail, Tune: Christopher Wilcock, Source: Psalms For Feasts and Seasons (Collins Dove)

Gospel Acclamation: (using the same music as the antiphon for the psalm) Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Go and teach all people my gospel.
I am with you always, until the end of the world.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Offertory: Recorder Music (my voice on its own can get a bit monotonous after a while--so I am told, anyway...)

Eucharistic Prayer: Glastonbury Mass (an “echo” Mass setting) (Setting: Christopher Walker)

Communion: Alleluia, Sing to Jesus (Text: W. C. Dix, Tune: Hyfrydol, Source: Together in Song 517; no copyright) In my opinion, you can't have Ascension without this hymn.

Recession: Hail Redeemer, King divine (Text: Patrick Brennan) The single best known Catholic hymn in Australia (discounting "Come as you are"). Again, they might not like traditional hymns in my parish, but be blowed if our kids should grow up not knowing this old classic.

John Bell's Songs

Over on my usual blog (Sentire Cum Ecclesia) there is a discussion of John Bell's theology/ideology and his songs. Some commentators felt a little less positive than me about the merits of his songs and have given several caveats--especially about "Will you come and follow me" and "Sing Hey for the Carpenter).

Yes, all these caveats I share. Nevertheless his songs are not universally awful and and his poetry is regularly brilliant even if you don't agree with his sentiments. Especially clever is the way in which he uses traditional folk tunes that are very singable (compared to your average Haugen or Haas composition anyway).

I like (and I give Together in Song references):

+ "In you, O Lord, I found refuge" TIS 19 (A version of Psalm 31, and one of the only tunes I know to which the Hail Mary can be sung)

+ "Just as a lost and thirsty deer" TIS 26 (a version of Psalm 42, and a brilliantly plaintive tune)

+ "Clap your hands all you nations" TIS 29 (a good one for Ascension, a version of Psalm 47)

+ "Sing to God with joy and gladness" TIS 92 (a version of psalm 147)

+ "No wind at the window" TIS 287 (An annunciation hymn to a traditional irish tune)

+ "Christmas is coming" TIS 289 (An Advent Wreath lighting song--great for the kids)

+ "Who is the baby an hour or two old?" TIS 325 (a good Christmas carol)

+ "Pull back the viel" TIS 326 (A Christmas/Easter song that is a little bit daring, but not heretical, and has a terrific tune)

+ "Funny kind of night" TIS 329 (I don't recommend the words, which are a bit "funny", but the tune is tops and I have arranged the proper words of the Gloria in Excelsis to it -- email me if you want the full score -- for Christmas eve which works a treat)

+ "God beyond glory" TIS 678 (quite a good wedding hymn)

Then, of course, there are those that I wouldn't go near with a 40 foot barge pole, such as "She sits like a bird" TIS 418, a Pentecost Hymn that images the Holy Spirit in feminine form. Just too heterodox for words (It's a great tune, though.)

Interestingly, Together in Song has neither "Will you come and follow me" nor "Sing Hey for the Carpenter".

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Music programme for 2nd Sunday after Easter

The readings for the 2nd Sunday after Easter ("Low Sunday") are always the same: focusing on our Lord's appearance to St Thomas. Over the past few years I have settled on a the following programme for this day which works well in your average parish:

Entrance (and Recessional) Song: Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the Risen Lord (Donald Fishel © Word of God)

Gloria: Taize setting. Taize doesn't have a full setting of the Gloria, but I use the ostinato response "Gloria I" with verses I have set to music for "Miserere Mei" from Psalm 24(25). (See Music from Taize Vol. I).

Psalm 118 (117): Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love is everlasting! (Setting by Howard L. Hughes, ©1984 WLP, published in Psalms and Ritual Music: Music for the Liturgy of the Word, Year C)

Gospel Acclamation (to the tune: O Filii et Filiae):
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
How blest are they who have not seen,
and yet whose faith has constant been,
for they eternal life shall win. Alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Offertory: Now the Green Blade rises

Communion: O Sons and Daughters

Friday, 30 March 2007

Psalm 18 (17) : In my distress I called to the Lord, and he heard my voice (Friday in 5th Week of Lent)

Here is my setting of the response for the Psalm for today, which I will be leading in St Patrick's Cathedral here in Melbourne.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Singing at Mass on 4th Sunday in Lent Year C

I'm on the roster again this week in my local parish. All inspired by Sacramentum Caritatis, imagining Gregorian Chant and music fitting for the great mystery of the Mass, I now have to come down a notch or two to the real world.

So, here's what I've chosen for Mass on Sunday and why:

1) Opening Song: Hosea (Gather Australia 213, by Gregory Norbet).

Yep, I know that chosing this one breaks just about all my own personal rules for chosing a parish repertoire--especially the rule about not using songs that have Us pretending to be God singing to Us. So why have I chosen it? It's well known, it was used by the group on the roster last week, it fits with the readings.

2) Psalm: Psalm 34 (33) "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord" (setting by Fr Chris Willcock SJ).

This one is an Australian classic. It is a very dignified, simple and noble settiing.

3) Gospel acclamation: Bernadette Farrell's "Praise to you, O Christ our Saviour", chorus and verse.

4) Offertory song: "Lord, to whom shall we go?" by Michael Herry (As One Voice Vol 1, no. 6)

I like Herry's stuff. It is as good as Taize. Again, simple and dignified. This one is Eucharistic and picks up the themes in both the Old Testament reading and the Gospel.

5) Eucharistic Setting: Christopher Walker's Glastonbury Mass (Published in Music for the Mass, vol. 1 by Geoffrey Chapman)

This is a simple responsive setting, which works well given that I have no accompaniment. By the way, our new priest has decided that we should really have only three parish mass settings at the most. I tend to agree. Just which three will he chose and on whose advice though? It would be a good exercise to see what three readers of this blog would choose. If I had my own way? I would see to it that the parish knew at least one simple Gregorian setting (similar to that which is printed in our missals). Then probably the Jubilee Mass or Mass Shalom, since these are just about universal in Australia. And then it would be by popular vote which came next.

6) Communion Hymn: "Taste and See God's Love for us" (Deidre Browne and Kevin Lenehan, Gather Australia 203)

This is a Eucharistic repeating refrain with verses sung over the top. I agree with those who believe that the communion hymn should be simple for folk to be able to sing as they are processing to receive communion.

7) Amazing Grace.

Yes, go ahead, groan. Its not my favourite hymn either, but it is a favourite of lots of folk, and (get this) we NEVER sing classical style hymns at my local parish. So I am sneeking this one in at the end just for the sake of singing something that's more than 40 years old. I am sure that Pope Benedict did not have this hymn in mind when he was talking about the 2000 year old patrimony of the Church's music, but it's there anyway. And it fits with the story of the prodigal son. By the way, we change the second line from "a wretch like me" to "and set me free".

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Psalm 81 (80): I am the Lord your God; Hear my voice

Here is the antiphon I have prepared for Mass this Friday (3rd Week in Lent) in the Cathedral.

Sacramentum Caritatis for singers!

There is joy for the musical in the Holy Father's latest apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis". Here it is:

42. In the ars celebrandi, liturgical song has a pre-eminent place. (126) Saint Augustine rightly says in a famous sermon that "the new man sings a new song. Singing is an expression of joy and, if we consider the matter, an expression of love" (127). The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration (128). Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons (129). Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (131).

62. None of the above observations should cast doubt upon the importance of such large-scale liturgies. I am thinking here particularly of celebrations at international gatherings, which nowadays are held with greater frequency. The most should be made of these occasions. In order to express more clearly the unity and universality of the Church, I wish to endorse the proposal made by the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the directives of the Second Vatican Council, (182) that, with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, such liturgies could be celebrated in Latin. Similarly, the better-known prayers (183) of the Church's tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung. Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant. (184)

There is also little note about the Post-Communion Hymn which supports the general gist of Elizabeth Harrington's advice, and yet corrects her to a certain degree also:

Furthermore, the precious time of thanksgiving after communion should not be neglected: besides the singing of an appropriate hymn, it can also be most helpful to remain recollected in silence. (152)

Friday, 9 March 2007

Psalm 105 (104) - Remember the Marvels the Lord has Done

Here is an antiphon for Psalm 105 (104). It is set down for today, the Friday in the Second Week of Lent. I will use it in the Cathedral today at 1pm mass after the Stations of the Cross.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Psalm 130 - If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, who could endure it?

Here is the psalm setting for Psalm 130 (Psalm 129 in the old money) which I prepared for singing in the Cathedral today. It is based on Martin Luther's Chorale "Aus Tiefer Not", which is, I think, one of the most poignant renditions of this psalm in the Church's history.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

What to do when you are complimented

I find it really difficult when people come up to me and say "You sang really well", or "Thank you for singing at mass today". It is as my singing has become the focus of their attention instead of their singing to God. I feel a little defeated by this, because in that case I feel that I have failed in my objective.

This week, I led the singing of Willcock's setting of Psalm 51 at mass twice in the Cathedral. Each time it got responses. I said "Well, Chris Willcock has written a very beautiful setting" or, on another occasion, I led the discussion into what the psalm was about.

Sometimes, when complimented, I just have to say "Thank you".

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Singing at St Bernadette's for 1st Sunday in Lent Yr C

I'm leading the singing this Sunday (1st Sunday in Lent, Year C) in my local parish. Here's the program I propose to use:

Opening: A Trusting Psalm (Kevin Bates, As One Voice I:115)
Psalm: Marty Haugen's "Be with me, Lord" (Psalm 91) (Gather Australia 53)
Offertory: Give us hearts renewed (Michael Herry, "Song of the Pilgrim")
Communion: Gregory Norbet's "Heal me, O God" (As One Voice Vol II:52) - just the chorus I think.
Closing: On Eagle's Wings (Michael Joncas, TIS 48 / Gather Australia 452)

The setting for the liturgy I use is a responsorial one (the people sing after me), Christopher Walker's Glastonbury Mass (taken from Music for the Mass edited by Geoffrey Boulton Smith).

Yes, I know that none of this is classical Catholic. Quite the opposite. But each piece has the following benefits:
1) They are easy to sing (well, Eagle's Wings can be tricky if you follow Joncas' suggested timing, but easy if you don't!) and fairly familiar to our crowd
2) The passages are fairly scriptural, and all are focused on God
3) there is a good link up with the scripture readings for the day and with the beginning of Lent
4) none of these contain any heresy.

Ash Wednesday at St Patrick's Cathedral

There will be singing at St Pat's at the 1pm mass tomorrow. I am just planning it out at the moment.

The Psalm is the easy bit. Chris Willcock SJ's Psalm 51 is mandatory (cf. Psalms for Feasts and Seasons or TIS 32.)

We will use the entrance antiphon as it is in the missal, set to "Make me a channel of your peace", with the people using "You are the Lord our God" as a refrain.

During the signing with the ashes, I think I will use Michael Herry's "Give us hearts renewed" (from "Song of the Pilgrim"), which is short and repetitive. I have been looking at the "antiphons" that are suggested in the missal for singing during the signing, but I have no idea (at this point) how to sing them. Some work and research needed there. There is also a "responsory" listed, but again, no suggestion of how to use it. Mons Elliot, in his Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, simply says that "during the imposition the antiphons or appropriate penitential hymns are sung."

I think we will use "O Lord throughout these forty days" as the communion hymn. It is possible that you do not know this hymn. It is probably more current among Lutherans than among Catholics, but there is no reason why Catholics should not sing it. And it has a common metre so it can be sung to a whole range of tunes. Lutherans use "Caithness", but you could use "Amazing Grace" or "Crimond"--though probably not advisable. Better would be "Belair" or "Tallis' Ordinal". In fact, I think I will use the latter (TIS 397). Here is the text based on an original by Claudia F. Hernaman (d. 1898) and Gilbert E. Doan.

1. O Lord, throughout these forty days
You prayed and kept the fast;
Inspire repentance for our sin,
And free us from our past.

2. You strove with Satan, and you won;
Your faithfulness endured;
give us your strength, your skill and trust
In God's eternal Word.

3. Though parched and hungry, yet you prayed
And fixed your mind above;
So teach us to deny ourselves
Since we have known God's love.

4. Be with us through this season, Lord,
And all our earthly days,
That when the final Easter dawns,
We join in heaven's praise.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Psalm 93 (92) - The Lord is King: He is Robed in Majesty

As I have mentioned before, I sometimes cantor in St Patrick's Cathedral at the 1pm Mass (regularly on Fridays, but other times on occasion). This afternoon we had Psalm 93 (or Psalm 92 in the old money), with the refrain "The Lord is King; He is robed in majesty". It isn't always easy to find a setting for the week day psalms, and when I do, I don't always like them. So I often make one up.

When making up music for the antiphon, it has to be catchy enough for the crowd to catch on one hearing (especially where there is no accompaniment). I believe that the best rule for this is if the music imitates the rhythm and pitch at which the spoken voice would speak the line. Saying the antiphon over and over to yourself you can usually hear the "tune" behind it.

Here is the way I sang this psalm this afternoon. You will get what I mean.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

I need an Accompanist for Mass at The Basin

I know its pretty pointless putting this on my blog, since very few people actually read it, but I need an accomapanist for when I cantor/lead singing at mass at St Bernadette's in The Basin. I sing there on the last Sunday of the month, and at the moment do it unaccompanied. I had a great guitarist, Warren, who played for me for years, here and at Our Lady's at Ringwood, but he has, literally, gotten himself a wife and there are other priorities in his life now.

So if you can help me out or know someone who can... Just drop me a line.

Stations of the Cross in the Cathedral During Lent

I have already blogged that we sing the liturgy on Fridays at 1pm Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral. Now, during Lent, there will be an added attraction: Stations of the Cross each Friday before mass at 12:30pm. With Adoration after Mass, this means Melbourne based Catholics can really make Friday's a focus of their Lenten devotion.

Yesterday, at our little "sung Mass", we had a marriage blessing. The elderly Italian couple had been married in the Cathedral 50 years ago to the day. More remarkably, they have been living back in Italy for the last 41 years, and came out to Australia again specifically so that they could go to Mass at St Patrick's and have their marriage blessed again. It was sooo cute. So was Monsignor Baron's rather Ocker Italian!

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

My 10 Commandments for Forming A Parish Repertoire

I always say that everyone is entitled to my own opinion. So here it is. How to form a truly Catholic parish repertoire. Just the ten rules for now to wet your appetite. I will elaborate later on.

First: Four rules for judging a good Catholic liturgical hymn or song

1) Is it focused on God?
Is it a song about or addressed to God rather than a song about or addressed to ourselves?

2) Is it true?
Does it express the Catholic faith? Is what it says about God true? Is what it says about us (and others) true? Does it name God truthfully? Does what it says agree with the Catholic faith?

3) Is it singable?
Can it be sung without accompaniment? Does it avoid difficult timing? (eg. strange or inconsistent rhythms, notes tied over bars etc.) Does it have a memorable melody?

4) If the text is not a scriptural or liturgical text, does it have dignity as poetry apart from the music?
Does is avoid trite or clichéd language, bad English, inverted word order? If the text is liturgical or scriptural, does it accurately represent the original text?

Second: Four Aims for building a good Parish repertoire

5) Aim to build up a broad range of theological / liturgical / ritual / seasonal themes suitable for all occasions.
Especially: Advent/Christmas/Epiphany, Lent/Passion/Easter, Pentecost/Confirmation, Eucharist/First Communion, Penance/First Confession, Saints Days, Graduation, School festivals, Entrance, Offertory, Eucharist, Sending out, Asperges, etc.

6) Aim to build up a repertoire of song that represents examples from every stage of the historical heritage of the Church.
Eg. Gregorian/plainchant, Latin hymnody, German chorales, Victorian hymns, Twentieth Century song, Carols, etc.

7) Aim to build up a repertoire of song that represents broad geographical/cultural origins, but reflective of and faithful to our own cultural heritage.
Eg. English, Celtic, European, Local Australian material (if it meets the criteria for a good song); African, Latin, Asian, American, Islander depending on the local community. (nb. Can be a bit false to impose songs of a foreign culture or heritage.)

8) Aim to build up a repertoire of song that represents a broad range of styles
Eg. Chants, Responsorial, Hymns, Songs, Choruses, Rounds, Echos, etc.

Two footnotes before deciding to introduce or encourage the use of a song

9) Does the song have lasting merit?
Has it been in continual use and does it show every indication that it will continue to be used? Will teaching the song be a lasting investment? ie. will it be of use for their future spiritual/communal worship lives? Indicator: is the song often included in independently edited hymnbooks and collections of songs?

10) Is the song widely known?
Widely = in Catholic circles, ecumenically, nationally or internationally. Will teaching the song equip the people for worshipping elsewhere other than in our local Parish and School? Will it bind them in unity with other Catholics/Christians? Indicator is same as above: Is the song often included hymnbooks and collections of songs of other dioceses, denominations and countries?

"When the Spear of Sin and Pride": A hymn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

This is one of the few hymns I have written since becoming Catholic. I used it first at Our Lady's Church in Ringwood where I was music coordinator for several years under the admirable Fr Gregory Pritchard (now in charge of the charred St Joseph's at Chelsea).

The tune is a simple folksong ("Parsley sage rosemary and thyme"--made famous by Simon and Garfunkel). John Bell of the Iona Community is really good at doing this sort of thing. It works well, because the tune is dignified and familiar, but is also fresh in that it hasn't been used for a spiritual song before as far as I know.

I wrote a much longer version of this hymn, which draws on the tradition of the seven sacraments flowing from the side of Christ (Catechism 766, 1225), but I never quite got it right. I will post it when I do.

Tune: Scarborough Fair (Hymns Old and New 485)

1. When the spear of sin and pride
forced a wound in Jesus' side,
John saw blood and water flow
from his heart to earth below.

2. Living water, fount of life,
Welling up from deep inside,
Streaming from the throne of the Lamb
Healing every race and land.

3. From his heart flows precious blood,
Filled with life, a saving flood,
Flowing in baptismal streams
Where we wash our garments clean.

© David Schütz

Commentary/Biblical references:
Verse 1: John 19:34 Blood and water from his side, pierced by the spear, wounded by the sin of the world (They shall look upon him whom they have pierced)
Verse 2. Fount of life (John 7:38), Living water, the river of life (Ezekiel 47, Revelation 22:1) flowing from the temple, the city of God, the throne of the lamb, for the healing of the nations.
Verse 3: The elect wash their robes in the blood of Christ and make themselves clean (Rev 7:14) (Rock of Ages: "Foul, I too the fountain fly; wash, me Saviour, or I die.")

Monday, 12 February 2007

Elizabeth Harrington on the Timing of the Communion Hymn

I generally find Elizabeth Harrington's column "Liturgy Lines", on the website of The Liturgical Commission to be a good read. Her notes are generally balanced. Nevertheless there is occasionally something to be picky about, and her current column "The Timing of The Communion Hymn" is a case in point.

Her basic argument is that all the other songs in the liturgy (excluding the singing of the responsorial Psalm which is a separate category) a company a liturgical action from the beginning to the end of that action. And so, she says, it should be with the Communion hymn: "According to the liturgy documents [GIRM #86], the communion song begins while the priest is receiving the Sacrament, and continues for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful." She then raises the question of why this is not the practice in most parishes. "Delaying the song," she asserts, "encourages people to adopt an attitude of individual quiet reflection at this point rather than the union of spirit and joy of heart appropriate to this rite." The place for silence is after communion, when the people "pray to God in their hearts" [GIRM # 45].

Things are awfully confused with regard to GIRM at the moment. Bishop Kevin Manning has been doing a series on the National Council of Priests website on the newly promulgated 2000 GIRM, but as he notes we are awaiting upon the American ICEL translation being accepted before the Australian adaptions can be made. The fact that the 2003 ICEL translation wasn't accepted has been holding up the works.

Nevertheless, as far as I can gather, it is to this version that Elizabeth is referring in her quotations. There we read:
45. Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times. ...After Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.

86. While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the “communitarian” nature of the procession to receive Communion. The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.
But we continue to read:
If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner. Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease.

So what to make of this?

There is some confusion in the practice of the church between the singing of the Communion "chant" in the singing of the Communion hymn. Paragraphs 86 seems to bear out that there is a distinction to be made. (Latin: Si tamen hymnus post Communionem habetur, cantus ad Communionem tempestive claudatur.)

In our missals we can all see something called a "communion antiphon". From my understanding this is the response or antiphon to what should be a Communion psalm. It is similar to the "entrance antiphon", and to the response in the responsorial Psalm. This is what I believe is referred to in GIRM 86 as the Communion chant. Unfortunately it is hardly ever sung, mainly because we have never been given any way of singing at as a congregation. Because we do not sing the antiphon, we tend to replace it with a hymn. Then it becomes confused with what in paragraph 86 is called "a hymn after Communion".

Contrary to what Elizabeth writes, GIRM is therefore quite happy for there to be a hymn after communion instead of the period of silence. This is one way in which people can " praise and pray to God" not only in their hearts but also with their voices.

So to answer the question why we do not always begin the Communion hymn at the moment of the priest's communion, we can give the number of decent and respectable answers:

1) Most practically, because often the musicians commune first before beginning a lengthy song. The new GIRM permits this when it says "Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease". They could indeed commune at the end of the Communion, but this would necessitate the Communion singing to end before the procession had ended--which is also contrary to paragraph 86 if you want to read it strictly.

2) Elizabeth quite rightly identifies the other main reason for not having a Communion hymn start right at the beginning of the Communion procession: the fact that it is difficult for people to both sing and move at the same time if they required the words of the song in front of them. Her suggestions of singing a well-known hymn or a song with an easily memorised response are sensible. But it does seem to me that GIRM does not insist on singing to take place at Communion (cf our weekday masses), and the same time to allow singing to take place after everybody has completed communion.

May be the happiest solution to all of this is that we simply find an easy way of singing the communion antiphon. Here I have some suggestions:

1) Just about every antiphon can be sung to the tune of "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace". I know it sounds silly but try it actually works. We do this occasionally in the Cathedral. The Cantor sings it through once at the priests communion, the people then repeat it. They can usually do this before getting out of their seats to get into the Communion procession. This can be done unaccompanied.

2) The musicians can then be the first in the line for communion, and be back at their places to lead the singing of the Communion hymn as the communion procession gets going. The Communion hymn could be a simple psalm with the response, or a Taize chant, or even one of the many simple chants by Michael Herry, or Iona Community, or what not.

3) on the other hand, once the antiphon has been sung, the Communion could take place in silence and a more substantial eucharistic him to be sung at the end of communion.

My final beef with Elizabeth's column is her suggestion that "Songs that focus on adoration or 'me' are not appropriate." I fully agree with her that songs that focus on "me" are never appropriate in the liturgy, but are not quite sure why she wants to cut out songs that are "adoration" (ie. Songs that focus on God!) unless she means more specifically those songs that are more suitable for benediction and eucharistic exposition. The only other alternative would seem to be songs that focus on "US". And this we want to avoid at all costs: we have more than enough songs already in the liturgy that sing about what we are doing rather than what God is doing.

It's about time that we had some really decent Communion songs to sing during the procession, songs that focus not on me or us, but upon the body and blood of the Lord which we are receiving as we sing.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Friday singing in the Cathedral

Today is Friday, so there's singing in St Patrick's Cathedral at lunchtime today (1pm mass). This practice began quite by chance early last year, when I happened to be doing the readings and Dean (Monsignor!) Baron was doing the liturgy. I knew the psalm, so I decided to sing it--and that must have inspired the Dean, because he then led us in singing the rest of the mass. He has a very pleasant chanting voice, and chants very naturally. Since then, we have agreed to have singing at mass on all Fridays (exposition afterwards until 3pm), and on all major festivals when we have a hymn or two also. This is done completely unaccompanied by any musical instrument. The strength of the singing shows that Catholics CAN sing, and that all is needed is a little enthusiasm, the willingness to have a go, and the desire to lift up your voices and not just your hearts to the Lord!

Psalms of David: Psalm 90:1-17

Many years ago when I was parish pastor of the Lutheran Churches in Knox, Frankston and Berwick in Melbourne, I tried to get the folk singing psalms by paraphrasing the psalm for the day into metrical hymns to be sung to well known tunes. There is a long tradition of this in reformed Christianity, but it is fairly unknown in the Catholic Church. (In fact, it is prohibited to replace the responsorial psalm used in the liturgy with a paraphrase.) Over the years, I did a fair few of these, and many of them were published in the Lutheran Worship Resources, and every now and again I hear of one of them being sung about the traps.

Anyway, this following hymn is one of the better examples of the genre. It is a popular metre and can be sung to many tunes, including the ever popular "Ode to Joy", but for the best effect, use the Haugen tune I have suggested. Nb. On no account ever use the words that Haugen wrote for this tune. Pure pantheism which has more in common with American Indian spirituality than Christianity.

PSALM 90:1-17 Tune: Haugen's “Song at the Centre”, Gather Australia 399 or As One Voice, Vol. 2, No. 74; otherwise Hyfrydol TIS 233, Friend LH 426, or Austria TIS 93

1. Lord, throughout all generations,
you have been our dwelling place,
long before the birth of mountains,
long before the world was made,
you were God then, now and ever,
everlasting still the same,
but one word returns us mortals
back to dust from whence we came.

2. For a thousand years of history
are as nothing in your sight,
they’re like yesterday now passing,
like an hour in the night;
they are swept away on waking
like a dream at break of day,
they’re like grass that grows in morning,
and in evening fades away.

3. Lord, your angry indignation
has consumed us all with fear,
for our sin and our transgression
by your light has been made clear.
Lord, your wrath has been our burden,
as our short lives pass away.
All our lives are filled with suff’ring,
and our years end with a sigh.

4. We may live for seven decades--
if we’re strong, then maybe eight--
but their span is grief and sorrow
when they’re gone, we fade away.
Yet before your mighty anger,
should we not all be afraid?
So that we might have true wisdom,
teach us how to count our days.

5. Turn, O Lord, and have compassion!
How long will your people wait?
Fill our hunger in the morning
with your steadfast love and grace,
so that we may rise rejoicing
and be glad through all our days.
For as long as we have suffered,
give us joy and happiness.

6. Let the work of your salvation
be made plain in human sight;
show your people and their children
the great splendour of your might.
Let your blessing and your favour
be on us, O Lord our God:
bless our passing small achievements
with your everlasting word.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

"Rest me in Jesus" (based on Thomas a Kempis)

This is probably the very first hymn that I ever wrote, more than 25 years ago. In many ways, it remains my favourite. It is a paraphrase of a passage from the "Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis (III:21).

To be sung to Monksgate (TIS 561)

1. Above all things my soul
must rest in Jesus.
In everything my soul
must rest in Jesus.
Help me, my loving Lord,
to take you at your word.
Let nothing be preferred
to rest in Jesus.

2. Beyond my body’s health,
rest me in Jesus.
Beyond all earthly wealth,
rest me in Jesus.
Beyond all fame and power,
all honour of the hour,
all passions that devour,
rest me in Jesus.

3. Above all gifts desired,
rest me in Jesus.
Above all hopes inspired,
rest me in Jesus.
Above all promises,
all comforts in distress,
all dreams of happiness,
rest me in Jesus.

4. I cannot be content,
except in Jesus.
Grant me my heart’s intent
to rest in Jesus.
You made us for your will
and we are restless still
in everything until
we rest in Jesus.

© David Schütz

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

"In the Deserts of this Barren World": A wedding hymn based on John 15

I wrote this for a friend's wedding. There should be more wedding hymns which have profound texts and familiar simple tunes that people who never sing can sing when they come to a wedding.

To be sung to THAXTED by Gustav Holst

1 In the deserts of this barren world
where joys are all postponed,
we would seek to bear the fruit of love
we cannot bear alone.
Though the sands of time are shifting,
we would seek a steadfast way
where our hearts may dwell together,
abide, remain and stay.
And when all life-giving springs and streams
lie empty, dry and drained,
we would seek a new commanding word
to give us life again.

2 There was one who said,
"Abide in me, as I abide in you;
as my Father has shown love to me,
so I have loved you too.
Now I give you my commandment,
as my Father gave to me:
give your lives for one another,
and let your love be free.
And whatever you may ask through me,
he'll give you from above,
so your joy will be complete and you
will bear the fruit of love."

© 2003, David Schütz. You have permission to use this hymn, but please acknowledge me as the author and owner of the words.

Welcome to my new blog!

I have long wanted to strike a blow for singing in the Catholic Church: to give my two bobs worth on the matter of congrational/liturgical song--and to have an avenue for publishing my own doggeral and jottings. So welcome to "Sing Lustily and With Good Courage"! The title comes from John Wesley's instructions for singing in Select Hymns, 1761. I first encountered the phrase as the title of Maddy Prior's most excellent collection of 17th, 18th and 19th Century English hymns. Here's the full list of instructions:

I. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV. Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.

V. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing to slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

I dream of the day when Catholics will take a leaf out of the Wesleyan hymnbook and "sing lustily and with good courage".