NLM Guest article by Jeff Ostrowski
1. Sacred Hymnody
2. Mass Propers & Mass Ordinaries
3. Religious Artwork & Illuminated Letters
4. Manuscripts of Gregorian Chant & the Roman Canon
5. The Solemn & Low Mass in Pictures
6. Rare Hymns written by the English Martyrs
The website for the Campion book (referred to many times below) is: ccwatershed.org/Campion
The subject of the following article ("Part 1") is Hymnody in the Campion book. More information regarding this topic is given at the website, but I will here attempt to provide an "overview" which I hope will be of interest to the reader.
The process of choosing hymns for the Campion book required careful reflection and considerable research. My choices profited greatly from assistance by several Catholic organists whose knowledge of hymns might best be described as "encyclopedic." It was also necessary for me to consult about thirty-five (35) different hymnals, and many of these were published in the early 20th century. Looking through these publications, I found myself very much in agreement with Fr. Adrian Fortescue, who wrote in 1916:
In nothing are English Catholics so poor as in vernacular hymns. The real badness of most of our popular hymns, endeared, unfortunately, to the people by association, surpasses anything that could otherwise be imagined. When our people have the courage to break resolutely with a bad tradition, there are unworked mines of religious poetry in the old hymns that we can use in translations. If we do, there will be an end of the present odd anomaly, that, whereas our liturgical hymns are the finest in the world, our popular ones are easily the worst.
I also found myself very much in agreement with the Preface to the New St. Basil Hymnal (1958):
The majority [of popular Catholic hymns] reflect the sentimental, individualistic piety of the late Victorian period. Too frequently their melodies are poor copies of the secular music of that era, while their texts unduly emphasize the human nature of the Savior, tending to bring God to a purely human level rather than to lift man’s thoughts to God. Such hymns are more than dated; they are positively harmful in that they attempt to express a religious emotion which is exaggerated, over-familiar and, eventually, false—since they teach the singer to pray badly. In the present collection, then, they have yielded place to better, and in some cases older hymns of genuine piety and dignity.
Since I am quoting wise admonitions, I should also include words written by Monsignor Richard J. Schuler in 1984:
How many hymns does a parish need? Certainly not the vast number crowded into so many modern hymnbooks. If a parish has twenty-five good hymns, it can develop a great enthusiasm for singing. The people don't mind repetition of good music; in fact, the more they sing the great hymns the more they love them. It is the junk that they don't sing and don't want to hear. With care for the seasons of the church year, with selection based on the parts of the Mass, with some hymns for the Blessed Virgin and for the Holy Eucharist, a parish hymnal can be a modest volume and useful throughout, not limited to a piece here and there as so often is the case with the books now on the market.
As the reader may have already deduced from these quotes, I felt that my job as editor was to meticulously comb through the various Catholic hymnals, choosing only the most excellent texts and melodies. That being said, it was also necessary to make absolutely sure a good number of the hymns would be familiar to Traditional Catholic communities, because a hymn book containing only tunes and texts nobody knows would not be welcomed (and rightly so).
When all was said and done, I ended up including 150 hymns which, in my view, are elegant, dignified, and sturdy (musicians will understand what it means for a melody to be "sturdy"). Needless to say, this number (150) does not include the congregational Latin chants (such as the Regina Caeli), nor the complete Gregorian Kyriale (all eighteen Masses), as those comprise different sections of the book. I am pleased to announce that our book avoided a pitfall which is very common in many Catholic hymnals, namely, an excessive amount of hymns for certain seasons (usually Advent and Christmas) yet a lack of hymns for important feasts (Sacred Heart, Holy Cross, Most Precious Blood, and so forth). Our book has a balanced collection of hymns.
Contained in the book's 992 pages are hundreds of translations for the ancient Latin prayers and poems of the Roman Liturgy. Literal translations are used, to allow the faithful to fully grasp the meaning. Through the centuries, however, many Catholics have created metrical translations of Latin hymns. For example, St. Robert Southwell (†1595) created a metrical English version of the Lauda Sion Sequence. Many of these "poetic yet faithful" translations into English can be found in the Campion book, and the reader might be surprised to learn just how many of our hymns are actually ancient Latin texts. Click here [pdf] to see a chart.
One of the hymnals I found most useful was Arundel Hymns, a Catholic hymnal published in 1898 with the blessing of Pope Leo XIII. Between this book and St. Edmund Campion's martyrdom there is a special connection, which I cannot go into for want of space, but which will be explained later on the website. Arundel Hymns used texts exclusively by Catholics, and I adopted this principle for the Campion book. However, I did allow exceptions to this rule, for instance, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, which was not written by a Catholic. Some metrical translations by Dr. John Neale (†1866) were also admitted, though he was not Catholic. Fr. Fortescue said in 1913: "After Dr. Neale’s beautiful poetic translations of nearly all our hymns it seems vain for anyone else to try to rival them." I am so pleased that the Campion book includes settings of outstanding texts by luminaries such as Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (†1890), Oratorian Father Edward Caswall (†1878), Alan McDougall (†1965), and others. Many of these glorious texts have never before been set to music. To remedy this, I paired these texts with sublime hymns tunes from tradition, or (in some cases) the tunes were written by today's leading composer of Sacred music, Kevin Allen.
I doubtless echo the sentiments of many readers when I say: "Oh, how glorious is the singing of hymns, when they consist of truly noble texts and tunes!" I feel so very blessed to have been given an opportunity to help supply Catholic congregations with worthy texts and melodies, which (I pray) will be sung for generations to come. Furthermore, I believe that congregations will absolutely fall in love with many of these tunes, which are not known by Catholics to the degree they ought to be: breathtaking gems like RUSTINGTON, ALL SAINTS, THAXTED, and REGENT SQUARE.
To see an example of the layout chosen for the hymns, please click here [pdf].
To hear an example of a traditional hymn tune which ought to be done more often, please click here [video].
To listen to a newly-composed setting by Kevin Allen, please click here [video].
Some may ask: "Why are we talking about using vernacular hymns for the Latin Mass? Is such a thing even allowed?"
It would be impossible to give a complete answer to these questions without writing a mini-dissertation. However, let us understand a few basic points. Each traditional community must decide for itself the precise way vernacular hymnody will be used. This can only be done after studying Church legislation, and a good starting point would be §14b, De musica sacra et sacra liturgia, Sacred Congregation of Rites (3 September 1958). Traditionally, vernacular hymnody has played a larger role at Low Mass than at Solemn Mass. Different countries also have different customs regarding vernacular hymns. However, in general, I believe the history of vernacular hymns at the Latin Mass is not generally known, and will surprise those who research it. For instance, surely I am not the only one shocked to read paragraphs like this:
During a Low Mass there is usually time for four hymns — one from the beginning of Mass up to or through the Gospel, but certainly to be finished by or before the end of the Gospel, so as not to interfere with or delay the making of announcements or the preaching of the sermon. A second hymn can be started at the Credo; another after the Elevation, and the last one during Communion, to end with the last Gospel for the prayers after Mass. — Caecilia Magazine of Catholic Church Music, 64: 4 (1937)
Finally, the Campion book uses remarkable hymn texts by the English Martyrs of the Renaissance: St. Thomas More (†1535), St. Robert Southwell (†1595), and St. Philip Howard (†1595). These texts are exceedingly rare, and many have never been set to music before. However, discussion of these texts will come as "Part 6" of this series of articles.