Unofficial Discussion on a Hymnal for the Ordinariates

[Thanks to Helen Harrison, of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, for the following thoughts on a hymnal for the Ordinariates. This discussion is in no way official. Indeed, for all I know, an official project to create a hymnal for the Ordinariates is already underway.  But when last I (Br. John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.) inquired—which was about a year ago—there was no official project in the works.  It seems the official focus where music for the Ordinariates is concerned is currently on preparing a gradual or even two versions of the gradual.  So, I’m bold enough to think this might be a good time to air thoughts—again, unofficially—on what an Ordinariates hymnal might look like, contain, etc. 

I “share” this on the Facebook page as well. But I request that comments be written on the blog rather than the Facebook page since it is my impression the former is an easier format to use and has the wider readership.  (But feel free to correct me if this impression is mistaken.)]

Ordinariate musicians, scattered around the world, face problems due to the lack of accessible material for our congregations. While it is not for us to make official decisions, sharing these problems and our ideas in a forum may well lead those in authority to take some actions that will assist us. Br John-Bede Pauley is providing the opportunity here for all of us to have our say.

Perhaps I could begin the discussion on a hymnal from a practical point of view. Later, we may get down to the details of hymn book contents.

In my younger days, I owned a book which included under one cover The Book of Common Prayer and Hymns Ancient and Modern. Later, after the English language Roman Missal appeared, Australian Anglicans used a succession of prayer books and a variety of hymnals. For the “high church” people the hymnal was The English Hymnal while others mostly used Hymns Ancient and Modern, at least until The Australian Hymn Book appeared in 1977.

Recent Catholic hymnals have mostly returned to the one book idea. The hymnal contents usually include the Order of Mass with chants, various other liturgies, sometimes large sections devoted to responsorial psalms, then a collection of hymns. One to break free from this mould is the three-volume Lumen Christi missal, gradual and hymnal.

What should the Ordinariate do? It probably depends on practical issues.

Two major concerns are print runs and copyright laws. Those with experience in the publishing business will be able to shed some more light on these issues. Let’s first consider copyright. The Ordinariate operates across three continents with differing copyright laws. While some parishes are probably using copyright licences, these are peculiar to each country and permit copying of texts and tunes covered by the licence each parish has purchased. Australians who are interested in traditional hymnody look enviously at those in the UK and in North America where the best-known licences cover what we would call material of high quality. In Australia, the most-used licences give access to a lot of “church pop” music but little of what we really need. When it comes to printing hymnals for other than parish use, local parish copyright licences do not apply. Generally, the “seventy-year rule” applies. This means that texts and music enter the public domain on 31 December of the year in which the author has been dead for seventy years. It will be quite a few years before we can freely print the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the plainchant harmonisations of J H Arnold, the music of Healy Willan or even the texts of Ronald Knox. To use copyrighted texts and tunes requires paying the necessary fees for reproducing them. In the UK there are some texts considered owned by the Crown (notably centuries-old Anglican texts). In the USA there is something called renewal of copyright. In Australia things are simpler with only the seventy-year rule applying. Before the Free Trade links with the United States the Australian copyright coverage was for fifty not seventy years and so authors who died before the end of 1955 have their works in the public domain. All of this becomes important if one decides to publish using a print-on-demand service such as Lulu. The rule of this organisation is that the copyright of the country where the book is initially produced, is what applies.

Purchasing copyright permissions and financing the printing of a hymnal are costly. The time and effort needed for print setting is daunting. International postage is getting more and more expensive.

So what does the Ordinariate do? We have our Graduals nearing completion but our concerns now must be for books for the congregation.

Perhaps the wisest move would be to examine hymnals in print, or soon to be released, with a view to adopting one of these and supplementing it with our own “Prayer Book” viz. an order of Mass with the missal chants plus an assortment of other texts and tunes. If this supplementary book could contain material limited to the public domain and texts copyrighted by the Ordinariates then it could be published as a print-on-demand book. This would cut down on overheads and postage costs because such books are printed in the country where the order is made.

Helen Harrison

Australian Ordinariate

One thought on “Unofficial Discussion on a Hymnal for the Ordinariates

  1. Dear Helen,

    I am grateful that you have initiated some discussion regarding a possible hymnal for the ordinariates. You’ve got me thinking and if I may, I’d like to add some of my own not completely settled thoughts.

    At St. John’s in Calgary we use three different hymnals: The Book of Common Praise, The New English Hymnal, New English Praise. In addition, texts that are not found in these hymnals are produced in the bulletin for that Sunday. All of this makes for some very clumsy work for choristers, who in a single mass are tasked to juggle:
    two or three different hymn books,
    the bulletin which is a often a fourth source for hymn texts,
    a binder containing our make due sung propers,
    a seasonal mass booklet since we don’t have a pew missal,
    and then any other special music the choir might sing on that Sunday.

    It’s rather a lot to keep track of and exhausting to keep organized. Plus, our cassock and surpliced choir sings from the front of the church in the quire. The choir is not tucked away unseen and I fear all this juggling is a distraction for themselves and others. Why all this fuss then? So the very best materials can be used to reflect the lectionary in obvious and subtle ways. Is it worth it? Probably. Could it be simpler? Definitely, we’re working on it. Is a one size fits all ordinariate hymnal part of the answer? I doubt it.

    One example. Several years ago the OCSP held a symposium in Houston. It ended with Benediction at the shrine at Our Lady of Walsingham. It came time for the singing of the Tantum Ergo. The tune seemed familiar to the Americans but a few Canadians raised their eye brows in curiosity. “What is this foreign tune to this beloved text?”

    Rome rightly decided what the contents of our shared missal would be. When it comes to hymns and music, I would argue that the local traditions of the various ordinariate communities should be respected and nourished. (A sort of enculturation within the Ordinariate?) It might not be what is sung in England, it might be a different tune in America, it might be an unfamiliar text in Australia but it is known and loved here in Canada amoungst these former Anglicans who were called by the Holy Spirit and encouraged by AC. Hymnody is an intimate and yet communal form of ownership and contribution to the patrimony, a meaningful and real gift from the first generation of Ordinariate converts (who actually lived the best parts of Anglicanism) to succeeding generations. It brings my wife and I great joy to know that our children sing the same texts to the same tunes as their great-grandparents. It was THESE texts, with THESE tunes that nourished aspirations for unity with the Chair of St. Peter in THIS place.

    I am absolutely not against mining the hymn books associated with American and Australian ordinariate communities for their distinctive treasures. I suppose a “one hymn book to rule them all” could potentially be a sort of mutual enrichment within the three ordinariates, but I wouldn’t want to see each of us loose something of our musical distinctiveness. I fear a faux musical patrimony being imposed where a cherished one already exists.

    At the symposium mentioned above, Monsignor Lopes gave an excellent presentation regarding the ongoing work to assemble our missal. At the end of the presentation he took questions. A cradle catholic in the crowd made the point that former anglican congregations sang such beautiful hymns with great conviction (compared to mainstream Novus Ordo parishes) and then asked the Monsignor if they (former Anglicans) could bring this tradition of singing with them, to which Monsignor Lopes gave an exuberant “Yes please!” Little did we know that he would become our bishop!

    Kind Regards,

    Troy Lamoureux
    Director of Music
    St. John the Evangelist


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