The CMAA page of English Hymns in the Commons has some interesting work. Please have a look and tell us all what you think of the texts. Jeffrey touted it on his latest post on his new blog asking why Catholics keep singing poor music. I’ve visited this page before, but took a closer look this morning.
It fascinates me that the movement that touts the sung propers to the near-exclusion of everything else (unlike the GIRM) would gravitate to the hymn form instead of the antiphon-plus-verses structure. It might look more like the St Louis Jesuits and most contemporary fare, but let’s all concede that structurally, contemporary music is much closer to the stated ideal for the Eucharist than hymnody.
At the very least, I would think reform2 hymn writers would use an antiphon from the propers, then offer a metrical version of a psalm text. That could be developed into a repertoire that would overtake the dominance of hymnody in non-contemporary circles.
So I looked at a promising title like Vincent Uher’s “Bright Torches in the Darkest Night,” but was way disappointed:
Bright torches in the darkest night,
The saints of God as lights yet shine.
Lord let our witness rise with theirs,
And through their prayers give grace divine.
A dimly burning wick were we,
But now our faith fills with thy fire.
For thou art all consuming love
Thy perfect will our hearts desire.
Unite thy saints through every age,
And cleansed from sin lift us above.
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
One God in glory, one in love
A nice thought: saints are torches, but we are dim candles. I don’t know that light rises as much as it spreads, but I would have hoped that the image continued at the end of the first verse instead of that questionable phrase suggesting the saints as a source of grace.
Second verse distraction: the singular wick and the plural “we.” Third verse distraction: “cleanse,” a water image, instead of keeping the fire burning. I would have liked to see the thread of this hymn developed a bit more: four or five verses and the incorporation of something of the title’s metaphor in the final doxology.
Kathy Pluth has a catechetical hymn that starts:
O taste and you will see
the goodness of the Lord:
the Body and the Blood.
I’ve never liked the “preachy” texts, be they “The Mass Is Ended” or “Anthem.” At the very least, the assembly could be singing first person plural. Oh, wait. That would make the words about “us.” I see why this text is sung from the point of view of the cantor or choir.
And later on:
To those who would be filled,
this food is life indeed.
To give it Life Himself was killed,
and we from death are freed.
Some concern about what gets capitalized and what doesn’t. I’m more concerned about the texts being pretty heavy with “small” words. Could we “show” instead of “tell”?
This material is decent enough, but not up to the standards of today’s published hymn texts, work by people like Genevieve Glen or Ralph Wright or other post-conciliar folks. The tunes are probably a little better than texts at CMAA, but overall, you’ll get what you pay for. The CMAA material is free. And you have to probe to find a questionable theological expression. And with four-part harmonizations, it doesn’t look like Gather or Spirit & Song. And maybe that says what it’s supposed to say.
Commentariat, please look over the texts and let’s see what you think. My intent here is not to pile on Mr Uher or Ms Pluth. Will crowding out the publishers and their editorial committees give us a larger body of mediocrity? Or does the cream have the chance to rise to the top? Do you see any cream in the CMAA Commons?