5 August 2016

Something for Everyone?

I received a note in my mailbox the other day.  Attached was an article about the new hymnal, CBW IV.  It fills me with dread.  I'll make a few comments in blue, and talk a bit more at the end.

But, before I begin, let me point out the obvious: this is a hymnal, it will not have the propers.  For those who are unfamiliar, the Roman Rite has rocommendations for  the kind of music that is to be sung at various points of the Mass. The options are, in order of preference:

1. The proper antiphon of the day.
2. The seasonal antiphon.
3.  A psalm
4. Some other suitable hymn.

This is a hymnal. They are aiming straight for option four.  Now on to the article.

Catholic Book of Worship to get some fine tuning
By Michael Swan
The Catholic Register
TORONTO (CCN) — What you sing and how you sing it on Sunday mornings is about to get a little more fine tuning. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a search for hymns, songs, chants and mass settings to include in a new national hymnal.
The CCCB plans to replace the Catholic Book of Worship III some time in 2018. Composers have until Nov. 30 to get their hymns, psalms and mass settings into the National Liturgy Office in Ottawa.
The thick green CBW III is now more than 20 years old, having first hit the presses in 1994. It has been made obsolete by two separate changes to the liturgy in English-speaking Canada.
Shortly after CBW III was published, Canadian parishes began using the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible for all the liturgical readings, including the Psalms. This change had been approved in Rome by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 1992, but in 1994 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith objected. The conflict over Roman approvals was only finally resolved in 2007.
The result has been that all the psalm settings in CBW III are a different translation from the psalms as translated in the Canadian lectionary.
The second change was the new translation of the Roman Missal into English ordered by Rome and put into practice the first Sunday of Advent, 2011. This change rendered all the CBW III mass settings, including acclamations and responses, obsolete.
All this is true. This is the justification for a new hymnal, and I have no issue with it. The article then goes on to explain why we will be getting this particular hymnal.
New hymnals are always controversial and the committee selecting music for the new book has already noticed some grumbling.

I'll bet they have.  A year or so ago, the committee sent out a questionnaire to people involved with their parish music program, asking if we thought we needed a new  hymnal, and if so, what should be done with the new hymnal.  My answer was, in short: 'no need for a new hymnal, the old one is bad enough.'  My wife made an even more tart response, which I won't repeat here.

“When we said a new hymnal, they who is this they? erroneously thought we’re just throwing all traditions out the window and we’re just going all brand-spanking new,” said P.E.I. diocesan music director Leo Marchildon who chairs the hymnal selection committee. “I’ve always believed myself in a blended liturgy — bringing some of the best of the old as well as looking forward to the new.”
As for thinking they were going to toss everything out the window: shortly after the promulgation of the new translation,  the CCCB released an addendum to the CBW III entitled Celebrate in Song, which contained a few Mass settings and a hymn section.  Almost none of the hymns were from before 1980, and one of those very few, Dona Nobis Pacem, often attributed to Mozart himself, was rewritten and butchered by Haugen, so that belief was not entirely unfounded.  As for this guy's qualifications: My wife looked this guy up. He's a theatre music director and composer- broadway type, mostly- as well as PEI diocesan music director.  He says we're keeping some old and some new.  Let's see where he goes with that.
Marchildon’s selection committee is aiming to please the whole range of congregations and choirs with everything from plainchant to guitar-based hymns.
Oh, really? First thing: per the Vatican documents on music, guitars are not to be used in the Roman rite, and the music most suited for the Roman Rite, stated again and again and again, is plainchant. So, from the get go, he is announcing they will be ignoring very plain, very clear directives on music and putting that which has been banned on an equal footing with that which is held up as the ideal.  Furthermore, I doubt this will be an equal footing.  The CBW III had about a dozen plainchants. Some of which were seasonal, others which were Sequences which were to only be used once a year, and other chants which were also very specific in their usage.  In other words, it is virtually impossible to do an entire Mass in chant using the CBWIII.  But you could do an endless number of guitar masses. They seemed to think that was fair enough then. There  may be more chant this time around.  We'll see, but I am betting there will not be parity between the two.
“What’s great about this is my youth group can use a subsection of the book for the songs that pertain to them, and the traditional choir has all the traditional stuff and I mix and match,” he said. “I want the book to be very useful for all, regardless of what your musical forces are in your parish.”
"Traditional stuff"?  Oh brother. Actually, 'brother' is about to come up again.
The St. Michael’s Choir School graduate is aware that, 22 years after first published, there are still some unhappy with CBW III.

That's putting it mildly, but fair enough.

“I believe some of the hymns within CBW III were not met uniformly with appreciation,” Marchildon said. “Some of the stuff didn’t catch on. There was some stuff in CBW II that was dropped and shouldn’t have been — just for a few words here or there, inclusive language for instance.”
Some didn't catch on because it was too bad even for the guitar bands.  But now he raises the spectre of inclusive language.  Watch how it goes...
The L’Arche Hymn (Lord Jesus, You Shall be My Song), translated from French by Toronto’s Rev. Stephen Somerville in 1970, was dropped because of a reference to “brothers.”
“It’s a beautiful hymn, but just because it talks about brothers,” said Marchildon. “Well, there’s no need to talk about brothers. You just have ‘our neighbours’ and change it and you get that wonderful hymn back.”
...straight down the rabbit hole.  Two things, the second of which I will discuss at the end.  But for now, there's this: either we have the archaic meanings of the words, or we don't.  It's one or the other, and not one when you want it and the other when you don't.  He is rejecting the old meaning of 'brothers' for it is not inclusive enough, so he replaces it with the bland 'neighbours'. Brothers meant we were, all of us, family.  Neighbours, on the other hand, means the people we happen to live next door to.  You may argue that Christ spoke of neighbours (even as you ignore the fact that he also spoke of brothers), but that is the old sense of the word, which you rejected when you rejected the word 'brother'.  Don't try and play that game now.
As long as we're on this particular hymn, a later line states "For You alone are man's joy and his peace, etc" Inclusivity demands the male possessives be dropped, and about the only word that can replace it would be 'our', which would mean we would have the absurdity of singing 'are our.'  One more, and we're all a bunch of pirates.  But continuing.
In a digital age and despite the fact many parishes project lyrics onto a screen during mass, hymnals are still relevant, said Marchildon.
“We’ve already become a very screen-dependent generation. We’re stuck to our laptops, to our iMacs, to our phones, to our iPads,” he said. “This is supposed to be a time when we’re actually interacting organically with live people. The fear of having everything up on the screen, it might make us more passive — like a television audience.”
I actually think this is a good point.
The CCCB hopes for something uniquely Canadian.
They should be more concerned about making something that is good and pleasing to God.

“Regarding Canadian content, this is always desirable,” Msgr. Murray Kroetsch, consultant to the National Liturgy Office on the new hymnal, wrote in an email.
“However, when it comes to the composition of liturgical music, Canada has not produced a large body of hymnody. . . . All of the responsorial psalms will be Canadian. The collection of Canadian settings of the NRSV psalms (as in the Lectionary for Canada) has been completed and will be included. Several of the mass settings will likely be by Canadian composers and, hopefully, many of the acclamations.”
As I said: they should be more concerned about being Catholic and pleasing to God.

Back to what was said about the L'Arche hymn and inclusive language, and the project as a whole. They begin by saying it will be a blend of the old and new, but, as we saw in the example of the L'Arche hymn, they have no compunction about changing the words of the old.  Which means they are no longer old. Which means the claim to be making something for everyone is a farce.

It goes like this: you have two groups, X and Y.  X likes the new, Y likes the old, things as they were.  You put in the new to please X, then you put in some of the old, but change its words in order to also please, or at least not offend, X. Can you not see, then, that the project is either slanted heavily or entirely aimed at pleasing X and not Y?  Can you not see that the old hymns are no longer old, no longer as they were?  Can you not see that your claim that you desire to give something to please Y is a lie?  And don't get me started on the dubious theology and the absolutely muddled (and frequently nonsensical) language that results from meddling with the words of the old hymns, or even the almost universally inferior quality of new hymns.   I'll let Anthony Esolen explain all that, here and here and here 

Who knows? I may be  wrong. They may do something decent despite themselves.  They may even include Holy! Holy! Holy!, even though will be tough to rewrite the line "Though the eye of sinful man/ Thy Glory  may not see." They might.  But I am not holding my breath. Whatever they may claim to the contrary. this  hymnal is not aimed at me.  It is, judging from this article, aimed at those who want the new, despite their claims otherwise.  Not the good, but the new.  That is the chief virtue of this new music: its newness. But new is not a theological virtue.  It isn't even a virtue at all, except to advertisers.  And, even if it were accepted as a virtue, it is not a virtue known for its longevity.


Peter said...

Thoughtful and well put, Sean! Thanks for this.
The devil makes work for idle hands.
Laundering and mucking about with poetic hymn texts
which speak to us from a specific time and place will only
serve to further distance us from that time and place-
and from a more meaningful appreciation
of our own Christian heritage.

Patience said...

Haven't been anywhere using CBW for years... At HF we have Adoremus but only sing a recessional hymn during the year at the English Mass. It works. Haven't heard a word about inclusive language since we started here.

Finny said...

This sounds awful.
By the by, do you know of anywhere I can find the CBW III's song list online?
My Mother-in-Law has found herself in a position to influence the music at her rural church in Ontario (though only using the books already available), and she has asked me to help her divide the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.
A few of your posts have been helpful on this score, but having a full song list would be extremely helpful.

Thank you.

Bear said...

Here's an index of the CBWIII.