PrayTell gives the inside scoop on coming hymnals from GIA Publications in conjunction with the new missal. Our conversation partner is Bob Batastini, longtime GIA senior editor. (Other publishers will be appearing in this space in an ongoing series.)
PRAY TELL: Bob, you’ve been a leader in Catholic liturgical music since the early days of the reformed liturgy. How are things turning out differently than you expected? How have your hopes been realized, or not?
BOB BATASTINI: All in all, my appraisal is positive. I think that some of the well-intentioned, but often over-zealous liturgical and musical practices of the first decades after Vatican II, have settled down. We’re maturing. Yet, a great dichotomy still exists between parishes that just plod along from week to week, and those which have made a commitment to striving for good musical liturgy.
PRAY TELL: GIA is a leader in Catholic hymnals. All hymnal publishing has been putting on hold for several years now as we wait for the new missal translation. How bad a hit has this been for GIA?
BOB BATASTINI: It’s been significant. Hymnal sales for GIA, not unlike subscription sales for other publishers, are a large source of revenue. While subscription sales haven’t skipped a beat, hymnal sales went through the floor about four or five years ago when word of the forthcoming changes circulated. In my forty-two years with GIA, this past year was the first time ever that we had to cut our staff, and cut the hours of the staff that remains.
PRAY TELL: Worship 4th edition will be about 80% organ-based, 20% contemporary, correct? Why no GIA hymnal 100% organ-based like Worship 3rd edition?
BOB BATASTINI: Two perspectives: As a pastoral musician, I perceive that the use of piano and organ within the same liturgy is common practice. To put it another way, “organ” masses and “piano (guitar)” masses, per se, are rather passé. The lines between celebrations keyed to specific musical styles and their associated instruments have become significantly blurred. As an editor/publisher we’ve come to realize that a certain number of so-called “folk” or “contemporary” hymn/songs, have mainstreamed within the active repertoire.
PRAY TELL: How much Spanish will be in Worship 4? Is Worship 4 for bilingual assemblies, or for predominantly English-speaking congregations who need a bit of Spanish for particular occasions?
BOB BATASTINI: You hit it on the last one. Given the demographics of the population, especially within large cities, one simply cannot avoid circumstances and occasions where the Anglo community needs to celebrate the presence of Latinos within the assembly. The hymnal will offer the added Spanish text on certain hymns which the editors deem likely to be useful in responding to these needs.
PRAY TELL: Traditionalism is on the rise in the liturgy, and some people are talking about more chant, fewer hymns, more proper antiphons, and the like. Will Worship 4 bend to meet any of these new needs?
BOB BATASTINI: Like Worship 3, there will be a fair amount of chant, but certainly not enough for those who desire to move heavily in that direction.
Regarding the hymn versus introit matter, though “some people are talking,” by far, the common practice in American parishes is, and for almost fifty years has been, to begin the liturgy with a hymn. Worship 4 is being designed to give those parishes the best collection of hymns published since Vatican II. In an effort to merge hymn singing with the intent of the introit antiphons, Worship 4 will include the most developed hymn of the day compilation ever assembled. The work of fine contemporary hymn writers is being wedded to well-known tunes from throughout the hymnic tradition, offering a hymn closely tied to each Sunday of the three-year Lectionary.
PRAY TELL: Worship 2 had traditional hymnal language, but Worship 3 revised the texts to eliminate most of the “thees” and “thous.” Will Worship 4 continue this policy?
BOB BATASTINI: In some cases, yes, and in others, no. One only hopes that we learn from what we do well and learn from what we do less well. We are re-thinking every text to be included in the new edition. Unlike past hymnals, which took on text editing as part of the overall process, we have assembled a sophisticated text committee for this hymnal, which is carefully analyzing every text going into the book. We are striving to create a superb collection of texts which are theologically, grammatically, and inspirationally sound, and yet, speak to 21st Century Catholics.
PRAY TELL: I’m guessing the hymn texts will continue to be broadly ecumenical. Any new poets?
BOB BATASTINI: Indeed! For those who oppose texts by other than Catholic writers, I say, they should then strip “Joy to the World,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” et al, from their Christmas repertoire. But, I digress.
Vatican II produced the three-year Lectionary. It was adopted by major Protestant bodies, and the trend continues to this day among congregation in the less liturgically structured denominations. The Lectionary also sparked the “hymn explosion” manifested by the emergence of dozens of new hymn writers, inspired by the liturgy’s new practice of a greatly expanded proclaiming of biblical texts. Worship 4 is seriously tapping into this wealth of riches. Many of the hymn writers—Catholic and Protestant— will be new to those who do not stay in touch with the activity in the field, while almost none will be new to those who do.
PRAY TELL: How will Gather Comprehensive be revised, any new directions there?
BOB BATASTINI: Of the four hymnals to be published by GIA in conjunction with the revised Mass texts, Gather Comprehensive—Second Edition, revised, is not an entirely new hymnal, but rather an updating of an existing work. Gather Comprehensive—Second Edition (the burgundy one) was published just about the time the forthcoming revision was announced. Consequently, many parishes put off their purchase awaiting the text revision (even though those green books were getting pretty old!). Since GC II is still a relatively recent hymnal, and since no parish can have effectively plumbed the depths of its resources in such a relatively brief time, the only changes will focus on the service music section, encompassing hymnal numbers 134 – 322. Presuming that the recognitio for the Revised Grail Psalms has come (a recognitio which has already been granted to another episcopal conference)—many of the psalms found within numbers 1–84 will also be changed. This will essentially give those parishes which have purchased GC II—and there are many whose books are still in very good condition—the option of retaining their assembly hymnals while merely replacing their choir and accompaniment editions. For anyone who has purchased a GIA hymnal in the seven years leading up to the implementation date of the new texts, GIA will provide a free assembly supplement. For GC II, the contents of the service music section will include a combination of revisions of current mass settings as well as several entirely new settings.
PRAY TELL: Everyone is curious about Mass settings in the revision. Will there be many new settings in your hymnals? Which composers? How many revisions of current settings, and will favorites like Mass of Creation and Community Mass be there?
BOB BATASTINI: To begin with the last question first, both Mass of Creation and A Community Mass will be there in revisions, as will a number of other widely-used settings. We are making every attempt to enable parishes to utilize their current repertoire in accessible revisions, while beginning the long journey of exploring the new. Frankly, that’s about all I can say at this moment, because that part of the project is still in the development stage. The editorial committee (Kelly Dobbs Mickus, chair, Fr. Ronald Krisman, Fr. James Chepponis, Charles Gardner and myself) have been working on the 500+ hymns, and the issue of which specific Mass settings to include has not yet been fully settled.
PRAY TELL: How soon will GIA make available the new and revised settings, once we have the recognitio from the Holy See and the implementation date of the new missal? When can musicians start learning the new settings?
BOB BATASTINI: Just as soon as the Committee for Divine Worship gives the go-ahead. Incidentally, in conjunction with the two hymnal projects which we haven’t mentioned—Oramos Cantanto, the multicultural Anglo / Latino hymnal, and Lead Me, Guide Me II, we also have some wonderful new bilingual and African American Mass settings in the works.
PRAY TELL: GIA naturally wants to maintain its market branding, and every publisher has to guard its profit margin. But restrictive copyright policies work against building up common repertoire. Neighboring Catholic parishes don’t know the same Mass settings because they use hymnals of different publishers. Is there better way forward? Is there a way to develop common repertoire while not cutting into publishers’ profits? Is it possible for GIA to share its music more with other publishers?
BOB BATASTINI: Those are perennial issues which are constantly being re-thought and renegotiated. If there were an easy answer, it would already be implemented. It’s a whole lot more than protecting one’s profit margin; frankly, it’s more a matter of staying in business.
However, a huge majority of American parishes use either a GIA hymnal, or an OCP, WLP or LitPress subscription product. These, combined with those who print weekly liturgy bulletins, account for upwards of 90% of American parishes. Some of the limitation you cite rests in the decisions of a each publisher about what to include in their publications. Another tool addressing this concern is the copyright license which has become a rather universal tool of the parish music ministry.
That said, two publishers serve a significant majority of parishes in America with their subscription products. In the case of each, different circumstances prevail, based on separate agreements between each possible combination of publishers. While GIA has opted to utilize its full quota of OCP copyrights in its hymnals, for example, OCP falls significantly short of their quota when it comes to utilizing GIA titles. The agreement between GIA and WLP is renegotiated in good faith by both parties almost annually.
But to gain perspective and understand why I refer to the matter of staying in business, let me quote some numbers I gathered for the year 2005. For that year, of the combined income from GIA hymnals sales, and OCP and WLP subscription missal sales, GIA’s share of the market was approximately 10% of the dollar amount.
You are kind enough to call GIA “a leader in Catholic hymnals.” Well, we believe in what we do. We maintain our commitment to hardbound books, and continually strive to live up to that reputation.
PRAY TELL: The GIA “house style” for chant layout has had white notes for the old system of dots and episemas, and evened-out spacing of the note heads. ICEL is giving missal publishers revised chant notation with all black notes and text-based note spacing. Will GIA be revising the chant notation in its upcoming congregational hymnals?
BOB BATASTINI: Ahh, the question I’ve expected you to ask! (N.B., it is hardly a GIA exclusive, but is rather common in the industry). To respond directly to your question, the answer is no. The text based spacing works for unaccompanied chant, but I can see no acceptable way of notating that on a three stave system with voice above two staves of accompaniment. Since most of the chant we publish is for accompanied assembly singing, we will retain the system we have been using.
PRAY TELL: What has been your biggest joy working for the Church?
BOB BATASTINI: Celebrating the liturgy. Everything that I’ve done at GIA over the years has been informed by my parish experience. which explains why in retirement I am now the “assistant director” in my parish; probably until they carry (or throw) me out!
PRAY TELL: Any predictions for the future? Any hopes for the future?
BOB BATASTINI: In the words of Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal.” While I often loose patience with the institutional church, I revel in song of the gathered community at Sunday Eucharist, and know that it can’t possibly go anywhere but up!