The third of the NALR series was published in 1982. We find a higher percentage of Scripture-based songs, 74 out of 102, than either previous volume, a reversal of the unfortunate trend of volume 2. It is possibly one of the highest Scripture-based percentages of any modern hymnal.
We also have some economic decisions, including the entire 1981 releases of the St Louis Jesuits and the Dameans, plus a good amount of Lucien Deiss, recently picked up by NALR. It almost seems as if some NALR negotiator nailed down Weston Priory after everything went to press. How else to explain the Gregory Norbet appendix tacked on the end? I wonder if NALR knew that a good representation of WP was heading into GIA’s answer to G&P, Gather to Remember?
From the Jesuits, Roc O’Connor’s “Jesus The Lord” may stand the test of time. It’s a tough song to get right, and that may yet sink it. It usually does when I encounter lesser groups attempting it. When I lived in Rochester, we used it frequently in diocesan settings for Tuesday evening prayer. My favorite time of it was when we had a small ensemble of organ, cello, and cantor. I played guitar on the piece, adding my own arrangement of harmonics on the verses. Foley’s “May We Praise You” is another favorite, but I don’t see it catching on like other offerings in the Lord of Light collection.
The Dameans’ material is a quantum leap forward from their early days and even a good bit ahead of their 1978 collection of psalmody, Remember Your Love. Their 1981 release, Path of Life, was one of the very first collections of music devoted to RCIA. If you pressed me on a standout piece, I would say “I Long For You,” which is a serviceable setting of Psalm 63 designed for the Rite of Acceptance into the Catechumenate. It’s tough to put the words of the inquirers into the mouths of worshippers, though. Unlike early Dameans’ offerings in the G&P 2 volume, this music is decently serviceable for liturgy. The only problem is that by now, just about everybody has improved on every attempt here to compose for RCIA.
I confess being less familiar with the Lucien Deiss material–and there’s a lot of it here. Much of it seems well-crafted, but none of these pieces of his have latched on in any significant way in American parishes. Maybe his timing with getting published was to blame: NALR went out of business just a few years later. Like the St Louis Jesuits and Dameans, Deiss had spanking new recordings to assist the sales of both this hymnal and their own music books.
The Weston Priory material has largely passed from mainstream use. “Hosea” still gets a lot of play in parishes, but just about everything else of Norbet’s in this volume is better. The link between plainsong and Norbet (especially on Alleluias) is clear. Both WP and Deiss utilize the antiphon-plus-verses format of Roman tradition. Once you throw in the Dameans and the SLJ’s, just about everything here has left behind the hymn format. It was not a selling point among organists in the 80′s, let me tell you.
Norbet is an obvious romantic and even his Scripture paraphrases tend to be a little too saccharine. But he aims high, and with a piece like “Something Which Is Known,” if he doesn’t have a long-lasting song, he does have a standout. At least in my estimation. For a self-trained musician and composer, he did develop a nice feel for arranging voices and instruments.
Glory & Praise vol 3, despite being an obvious sell-job, does aim high liturgically. Except for two or three bits, it lacks for Mass ordinaries. But it does contain music useful for sacramental rites. It signals the beginning of contemporary music expanding beyond the concerns of service music, psalms, and four-hymn sandwich.
There’s probably about five to eight very good songs here. My guess is that “Here I Am Lord” and “City of God” and maybe “Hosea” will last another generation or three. I don’t include those in the “five to eight.”
My sense is that the NALR portion of the Glory & Praise series jumped the shark after this. But maybe your opinion differs. If so, let us have it.