Cloud Hymnal — a New, Digital Worship Resource and Music Tool

I want to draw your attention to a wonderful, new, and free worship resource and music tool called Cloud Hymnal. Cloud Hymnal is provided by St Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale (full disclosure: I belong), and is the brainchild of the Chapel’s Director of Music, Richard Gard. We have been using Cloud Hymnal in the choir for some weeks now, and I have become a believer.

Cloud Hymnal is a multifaceted worship resource that includes, for example, an ever-growing library of new and old sacred music. Some music is newly composed by the Center for Music and Liturgy at St Thomas More, and some music is newly contributed by other members of the Cloud Hymnal. Additionally, there are 25,000 public domain sacred works offered. The music is easily searched and then shared online or printed.

Moreover, Cloud Hymnal is also a Scripture resource, including Lectionary readings, with Mass Propers and Scripture found by date. The readings can be shared online or printed.

Finally, Cloud Hymnal is an ever-expanding community, since anyone can create a community of people, any number of people, even just 1 or 2 people. Communities are able to add their favorite music or prayers, then create Liturgy Lists to share the worship they have planned.

Cloud Hymnal can be used in a multitude of ways. You can, for example, create a Sunday Mass, a bereavement liturgy, a prayer service, or vocal warm-up exercises, simply by adding elements to a Liturgy List. Elements can come from the Cloud Hymnal itself, e.g., sacred music, lectionary readings, or any item (in PDF) you choose to upload. The Liturgy List you create will appear on your Community’s home page. Members of your community have access to it immediately. Liturgy Lists are easily printed, complete with a cover and content table formatted as a personalized booklet. Moreover, members of your community can read, sing, practice, hear, or print the liturgy before the actual meeting time, form anywhere, anytime. Members can use a smart phone, tablet, or printed copy during the actual worship service or meeting. Last not least, members can “favorite” elements of the liturgy and revisit any song, text, or prayer after the meeting.

Everything is shared in Cloud Hymnal, including the liturgy lists, music, or prayers that any member uses. A liturgy you are planning may already be created and ready to use, or you might create a liturgy or share a song that is enjoyed by thousands of other worshippers.

Cloud Hymnal offers a Practice Room where you can learn individual choral parts, hear the accompaniment and sing along, change the tempo, or focus on one harmony. The Practice Room includes the ability to hear you sing and guide you, note by note, to learn any song or harmony.

Give it a try. And if you want to join the St Thomas More Chapel community — “all are welcome” — the Join Code is STM016.

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9 comments

  1. I think it sounds fabulous, and I will check it out. Teresa, does the Yale community (presumably more tech-savvy than an average parish) use their smartphones to sing the hymns during worship? It would save a lot of trees, not to mention a lot of office staff and photocopier time every week.

    1. @Jim Pauwels:
      Jim, the community is INVITED to use their smartphones, if they want to follow the liturgy on Cloud Hymnal, but there are also other ways, e.g. via the old paper hymnals in the pews.
      And yes of course, sustainability is a wonderful (crucial?) consequence of Cloud Hymnal.
      For what it’s worth, singing in the choir, I found that a small tablet is more helpful, for my sense of singing in choir, than my smartphone.

  2. Teresa,
    Thanks for sharing, I did check it out and it is very ambitious, and a nice resource. I will definitely consider use of the practice room if our selections line up with the database contained there.

  3. Difficult to know exactly how useful this would be, since the tour is generic and vague. The only way of seeing proper details seems to be to sign up, and I am reluctant to sign up for something (and then receive emails for ever after) when I don’t know if I really want it. I think a much more comprehensive tour would be really useful, showing us how it actually works in practice. At the very least, show us the 25,000 public domain items that are incorporated.

  4. @ Paul Inwood – I appreciate your suggestions.
    1. Cloud Hymnal (CH) does not include email tools – no one can be spammed from CH. I reckon anyone who joins a community is known to the other members there, and so can communicate outside of CH or via the announcements on each Community Page. For this reason the Community Page includes fields for pictures, church logo, YouTube links, and messages which ANY member of the community can edit. The design is like a wikipedia but without classes of membership.

    Anyone can create a Community and invite others, but the only way to join someone else’s community is with their Join Code. Join Codes are shared with invited community members outside of CH.

    CH will never send bulk emails! The only exception to email contact is: CH alerts me if someone is suffering crashes, log-in failures, or has exposed their email address. I email that individual to offer help.

    Privacy: there is the option to use your FaceBook log in. This is strictly for convenience. CH will never post on FaceBook nor read anything. The majority of CH members use FaceBook log in – one less password to remember. Also you can choose for CH to “remember you” and automatically log in on your personal devices.

    2. Yes, the Tour is short – in testing I found that longer videos were not watched. The short tour seems to offer the most info for the amount of time and effort by the member. CH is simple and intuitive – if you can operate email or Facebook you are already over-qualified to run CH.

    3. CH currently has 245 seasonally pertinent pieces offered, and an additional Seasonal search which links directly to the huge Choral Public Domain Library (www.CPDL.org). The CH library is growing daily (the site only recently opened!) through submissions of unpublished music – there are many talented but unpublished composers in the world!

    CH is evolving and growing, and I welcome input from all. The goal is more people engaged in connected worship – everywhere.

    richard at cloudhymnal dot…

  5. A little info on the music currently housed in the Cloud Hymnal:

    There is a lot of wonderful sacred music already available. There are many beloved songs by well-known composers. The Center for Music and Liturgy doesn’t wish to offset any of these treasures, rather we focus on:
    1) new Masses using the revised English translation;
    2) responsorial psalms for Sundays upcoming;
    3) posting talented but unpublished composers and their work;
    4) refreshing 19th century hymn texts and hymn harmonies;
    5) creating new translations of non-English texts.

    The Cloud Hymnal recognizes that it is risky for commercial publishers to take a chance with new music and new composers, so Cloud Hymnal invites submissions from everyone who has a hymn text or song they’ve created – and hopefully the big publishers might discover another Haugen or Proulx for the 2020 decade appearing in the libraries of Cloud Hymnal.

    Cloud Hymnal is a free-form tool that can be used by anyone to seek out or share new content or ideas, or to organize and display those items.

    Cloud Hymnal is supported by generous individuals who believe that prayer and worship are critically important to all peoples; who believe that music is critical to good liturgy, and who believe that we can focus on bringing good liturgy and music to younger generations using smartphones and the internet.

    I will always go to a specific place (church) and seek to hold a book when I attend Mass, but — young people do not privilege geography this way, they rarely buy or hold a book, they do not join professional or fraternal organizations anymore. Let us meet them where they live – online.

  6. Having been involved in the publication of hymnals containing liturgical texts, I know that there is a process for obtaining proper permission. (It only makes sense that the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship oversee the publication of official liturgical texts.) There is the specific issue of licensing individual texts, but also the overarching issue of receiving permission to publish; and some dioceses require the scrutiny of the hymnal by local censors. I am curious to know how or if this process was implemented for the Cloud Hymnal.

  7. Following up on Kelly’s observation – though I realize that this project is a next-generation evolving of a website like hymnary.org, there is something about naming this a “hymnal” that implies everything within is OK for current ritual/liturgical use at anytime, anywhere.

    As someone who’s reviewed new hymn melodies or song texts that “anyone” has created, I’m aware that while this can be an opportunity for new discoveries, it’s also an opportunity for the dissemination of music/texts that are on a spectrum from awful to textually heretical. Same can be said of older music/texts too.

  8. hi Alan and Kelly – thanks for looking at Cloud Hymnal.

    The music in the Center for Music and Liturgy section is curated – but maybe you wouldn’t agree with our taste. That’s why we host the Shared Library section where anyone can upload their music.

    This may mean the Shared Library becomes like Wikipedia compared to Encyclopedia Brittanica – quality and depth varies but convenience and breadth is excellent – and we are betting that diversity and ease of use will exceed any shortcomings of composers’ technique.

    (Cloud Hymnal welcomes people to post their music, or their hymn and song texts for someone else to set to music.)

    Remember that ICEL and USCCB do not endorse music, only the use of their texts in music. Speaking of which, I want to publicly thank the staff of ICEL and Divine Worship committee who are exceptionally responsive, helpful, and also lovely to work with. We are currently rushing edits through the ICEL and Divine Worship process for a new Easter Proclamation, and because the staff at USCCB are so wonderful it will be ready for the Vigil 2017. There is a draft version on the Cloud Hymnal already – but please wait for the final version soon to be posted. Peace, Richard at Cloud Hymnal

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