What does the “typical” Roman Catholic parish in the United States of America sing? GIA Publications believes – not without reason – that many parishes in the United States of America heavily use post-Vatican II “contemporary”-styled pieces for Mass while retaining many so-called “classic” hymns and songs of the Roman Catholic tradition. To appeal to this demographic, they have released Gather, Third Edition – really, a comprehensive hymnal, though it takes the name Gather – a valiant attempt to be all things to many people.
The strongest part of this hymnal is the hymnody/song portion, which is strikingly diverse. There is what I would term a chant starter kit – from “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” to “Parce Domine” to “Ubi Caritas” to “Salve Regina.” I was pleasantly surprised at the number of recently-written hymns. There are a number of strong texts by Sylvia Dunstan, Ruth Duck, Delores Dufner, and Brian Wren, as well as other living hymnwriters of note. A large number of well-known contemporary songs whose copyrights are held by OCP and WLP are included, such as Bernadette Farrell’s “O God, You Search Me” and Steve Warner’s setting of Julian of Norwich’s text, “All Will Be Well.”
Four decades have now passed of largely-vernacular liturgy in the USA, with multiple waves of musical styles and repertories. Some representatives of each era are included. As a church musician who has spent much of his career serving in parishes that use much of this contemporary repertoire, looking through the hymnal was a little bit like going to a high school reunion. Wow, when was the last time we sang “We Are The Light of the World”? Wasn’t it fun to sing Bob Dufford’s “All the Ends of the Earth”? And remember the first time we sang “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High”? While I haven’t used any of these pieces recently, I’m sure there are congregations which have.
Two things in particular struck me:
- The increased use of non-English languages. Although this hymnal is designed for English-speaking congregations, it includes many translations. I would not have thought of a Spanish language version of “Sing with All the Saints in Glory,” or David Haas’ “You Are Mine,” but I can see the usefulness. Many Taizé refrains now include, say, Lithuanian or Polish texts. The hymnal includes Duy Thiên’s “Tình Chúa Cao Vòi,” translated by Rufino Zaragoza as “Boundless Love,” one of the Vietnamese songs that Br. Rufino has worked to make known to English-speaking congregations. The inclusion of these texts and translations is a recognition of congregational life in the 21st century, when most congregations have significant numbers of at least one group of people who prays and sings in a non-English language.
- Multiple options for ritual needs. Congregations that use “contemporary” music span a wide range. Many, I suspect, would insist on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” during Advent. For those that don’t, there are settings of the O antiphons by Marty Haugen and Fr. Francis O’Brien. Passion Sunday isn’t Passion Sunday without “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” for some, but this hymnal also includes Scott Soper’s “Hosanna,” and Rory Cooney’s “Palm Sunday Processional.” And yes, for those who would like to sing a Hail Mary, the chant “Ave Maria” is included, along with Carey Landry’s “Hail Mary / Gentle Woman,” and Dan Kantor’s English “Ave Maria.”
GIA has used this opportunity to rethink and re-edit the hymns as well. They have maintained their policy towards inclusive language (which will disappoint fans of Frederick Faber’s text “Faith of Our Fathers,” of which only one stanza appears here) but have revisited other hymns. I was especially happy to see a more original version of the sixth stanza of “The First Noel,” which now concludes by praising the Lord “who made the heavens and earth of naught / And with his blood our life has bought.” Instead of a meek doxology, this stanza restores the text’s connection between the Incarnation and the Passion. “I Receive the Living God” now has nine stanzas, making this hymn much more useful for lengthy Communion processions. “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” now includes a fourth stanza.
My largest concern with this hymnal would be the Mass settings, a whopping twelve in all, plus many other individual pieces of service music. It is hard to fault GIA for this when every other publisher is acting similarly. My sense is that few people really have a sense of what will be the next popular Mass setting; publishers seem to be providing many alternatives in the hopes of either striking gold or at least claiming their piece of the royalties pie. Gather, Third Edition includes the retrofitted Mass of Creation, along with chunks of the revised Mass of Light, Community Mass, and others. Other musicians have voiced the challenges of using these familiar melodies with new words, and I share their concerns. There are two chant settings – the ICEL chants, and a Cantus Missae – plus a bilingual setting (English/Spanish), a setting by Liam Lawton with a Celtic flavor, a setting in the African-American style, and several more new or newly-revised offerings from familiar GIA composers such as Haugen, Haas, Alonso, Morris, and others. None of the newly-composed settings really caught my ear, although all seem workable. I’ll be watching with interest to see which of these settings become popular in the years ahead.
Gather, Third Edition has much to offer. It is a hymnal of such size and scope that every congregation will likely find plenty of new music for the congregations to learn. While I’m sure everyone can find that one more song or hymn that they wish were included, this hymnal does a fine job of collecting many frequently-used, much-loved, and useful repertoire.
Disclaimer: Chris Ángel has works published by GIA Publications, though none appear in Gather, Third Edition.