Gather IV Review: Ascension and Pentecost

Last time in this series, we looked at music for Easter and its season. Continuing today with a look at the end of the season in GIA’s newest edition of the Gather hymnal.

Let’s start with a survey of 24 items:

  • traditional hymns, 7
  • contemporary songs, 6
  • gospel, 2
  • Taize and music in that style, 5
  • plainchant, 2
  • contemporary Christian, 1
  • world music, 1

Some comments, more or less specific:

  • The traditional hymn harmonizations cited don’t really fit the contemporary vibe. A piece like #584, “Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise” works better with Tony Alonso’s fine contemporary arrangement. I have yet to see the accompaniment editions for this hymnal, but given the jump in cost over previous versions of Gather, I’d hope that the publisher isn’t limited to just offering one setting per item.
  • Chris de Silva is well-represented here, numbers 585 and 594. I didn’t include “Go Out to the World” as world music, but that’s more the style of the recording. His Pentecost offering, “Holy Spirit” is another competent setting, but the recording is way slow for my tastes. I find this to be true of many of the recordings of contemporary music, especially those in this section. I don’t see the conclusion of the Easter season to be a time for hushed and stately arrangements. 
  • James Moore, has two compositions here with 587, “I Will Be with You,” a contemporary classic, and 598 “Spirit of God” a more recent composition I enjoyed that has something of a show choir vibe.
  • I’m less a fan of retreading tunes like O Filii et Filiae for Pentecost, or Thaxted for Delores Dufner’s otherwise fine text “O Spirit All-Embracing.” Lasst Uns Erfreuen is a great tune, but two appearances in this section? With an editorial decision like that, I’d hope for at least one of the arrangements to be a contemporary piano-driven one, not the organ setting by Vaughn-Williams.
  • OCP’s Ricky Manalo is represented in this section with “By the Waking of our Hearts,” an underrated piece, and one of the better of the almost countless settings of the Pentecost sequence. A possible miss for this hymnal was not including Kevin Keil’s “One Spirit, One Church.”

24 songs are enough to program for Ascension, Pentecost, and a possible Sunday in between. I’d hope good music directors wouldn’t limit themselves to just these offerings. More importantly, the items that offer a wider prayer for the Church, settings of the Great Commission–the “Go out to the world” theme–really could be programmed more often for the Sunday assembly.

A last general comment on Holy Spirit songs: these are overlooked as options to accompany the Communion procession. I know I’ve missed the opportunity for years. I don’t have a problem with Eucharistic songs (41 designated as such in this hymnal), and observers here also know of my fondness for programming psalms and especially the Magnificat. I think a fine piece like “By the Waking of our Hearts” is a good fit for Communion, but perhaps rarely programmed.

Bottom line on items 583 through 606? Overall, somewhere between meh and pretty good. Maybe songwriters struggle as the Church often does to get a better handle on what Ascension and Pentecost mean for the life and conversion of the average Sunday Massgoer.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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