By continuing a review of GIA’s newest edition of the Gather hymnal, I wanted to offer a peek at songs listed by liturgical season. Numbered pieces 444 through 626 would be huge for a single post. So a little bit at a time, perhaps. Let’s start with the eleven entries listed for today, Holy Thursday.
Tom Colvin’s adaptation of a Ghanaian folk song “Jesu, Jesu” is widely touted in publishing circles. An original from Hope Publishing, it’s a nice enough song that leads off numbers 538-548. I’ve used it in two or three parishes over the years, but it seems to have little appeal to either Masses with children (where it’s often placed) or the mainstream Sunday assembly. Small sample size, definitely. So I’m not ready to give up on it. Maybe it needs a more stylized African accompaniment. The 6/8 meter too easily devolves into sing-song.
Two Taize pieces fill up the next page, citing Jesus’ “Stay” when he’s in the garden.
At 541, Tony Alonso has adapted Pange Lingua for a piece titled “Called to the Supper.” Alan Hommerding adds a text for an antiphon, rendering this a good processional piece for Communion. The chant-like verses have a contemporary accompaniment and the arrangement for instruments is pleasing. I think the “modern” arrangements of traditional music has a place–this is better than most.
Songs to accompany the washing of the feet can be problematic. The more literal they are, the more limited their use. I almost prefer a setting of “Ubi Caritas,” something in my parish’s repertoire I can use almost anytime. Marty Haugen’s “So You Must Do” is pleasant at #542. If you know his music, you would recognize it. Herman Stuempfle’s dialogue text “Prepare a Room for Me” is another specialty hymn (543), suggested as a call and response between Jesus (a cantor) and his disciples (congregation) set to the hymn tune Southwell. The music could be better. The third offering specific to the day (546) is Chrysogonus Waddell’s sturdy and singable “Jesus Took a Towel.”*
Two adaptations of the entrance antiphon are here–Steven Janco’s “Glory in the Cross” at #544 and a Jim Chepponis text set to the well-known Ich Glaub An Gott (545). For the former, think triumphant organ, choir, brass, and tympani. Cathedral fare, in other words. The latter has the second most well-known melody in this section, so if that makes it useful for entrance on this day in a parish, there’s that. My main complaint with traditional hymnody in contemporary hymnals is not their inclusion. I think many traditional melodies, even German ones, can be adapted to contemporary ensemble instrumentation–piano with guitars and instruments and choral harmonies adjusted accordingly. At least as an option, as many hymnals offer “low key” arrangements as alternatives.
Chris de Silva completes this section at 547-548. He is one of the younger composers in the GIA stable, and his material is new to me. These responsorial songs are adaptable outside of Holy Thursday. “This Is How” cites John 13:35 and expands the thought to the charity expressed in Matthew 25. My new parish has his “Ubi Caritas” in its mainstream repertoire, and we are certainly using it at preparation tonight. It’s a fine setting with good vocal writing and a nice instrument part. It’s modestly challenging to get right. Also close to the top of the post-conciliar settings of the text. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it has grown on me, especially now that I can hear the full arrangement with my people, and done well.
Gather IV has other songs useful for Holy Thursday scattered elsewhere in the book. And it does have a small handful of Ubi Caritas settings embedded in the theme of “Love” in the 770s. They’ve dropped Fran O’Brien’s “This Is My Example,” which, while not stupendous, is better than a few songs in 538-548.
I’m sure GIA has a careful limit on other publishers’ offerings, but not including Bob Hurd’s setting of Ubi Caritas is a big miss, and probably Pedro Rubalcava’s “Donde Hay Amor” too. The latter is the best Spanish-language original I’ve heard in the past few decades. It’s one thing to hire a translator to adapt English lyrics to Spanish and self-congratulate, “There! We are multicultural.” It’s another to seek out what’s being written outside of the English language and exploring how such pieces can be utilized for mainstream parishes in the First World.
I give GIA a B-minus here. There’s a wide variety among contemporary male composers in mainstream genres. A few omissions. Some modest creativity with the texts. Tony Alonso and Chris de Silva songs are highlights. Eleven mostly specialized songs gives most any parish a reasonable repertoire if they’re hymnal-bound.
* Parodied here and there as “Jesus took a towel from the Holiday Inn”