A Review of Worship–Fourth Edition

by James E. Frazier

Since its publication in 1986, Worship–Third Edition [W3] has sold three-quarters of a million copies, according to Alec Harris, the president and chief operating officer of its publisher, GIA Publications. The company is not sure how many parishes are still using the book, but after a quarter of a century most hymnals need a review. Not only has the composition of new hymn texts and tunes exploded during that time, but the demographics of the American church have evolved, and a new translation of the Roman Missal has just been introduced. The time was right for Worship–Fourth Edition [W4].

The preface for W4 sets forth the rationale for a hymnal that seeks theological substance, ritual integrity and poetic justice, while acknowledging the pastoral realities of twenty-first-century congregations genuinely searching for the music that will best nourish, comfort and challenge their lives in community. What more can we expect from a first-rate hymnal? But are Catholics ready for it?

It is risky to make generalizations, of course, but to paraphrase Thomas Day’s angry screed Why Catholics Can’t Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste (1990), the general consensus seems to be that fifty years after the start of the Second Vatican Council, Catholics still can’t sing. Or won’t. A colleague of mine recently dropped by the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, in Los Angeles, and said the congregation didn’t sing at the Mass she attended, despite the wonderful new organ.

Thomas Day barked about the bad people-music (remember Glory and Praise?), the de-ritualization of the liturgy (“Good morning, everyone”), the ego of the priest, the new triumphalism and the overwhelming microphones, among other things. And much of this is still with us.

The Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life, a comprehensive survey of Roman Catholic parishes in the U.S., conducted between 1984 and 1989, concluded that

Today, the “liturgical system” in a large number of Roman Catholic parishes and chapels does not work properly, at least not with the same confidence and assurance found in the majority of Orthodox and Protestant churches. ‘The people’ sense this; that is, their instincts tell them that something has gone wrong. Maybe some Catholics express their anxiety about this by not singing.

There is probably still enough truth in this that the kindest thing we can say about the current situation is that it is “uneven.” In those places where the singing is good there was probably some felicitous moment in time when a respected priest, a professional musician, a decent choir and a competent organist came together around a good hymnal and successfully turned a motley assembly into a singing congregation. Some of the finest examples of this are the cathedrals, such as the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City and St. James Cathedral in Seattle. But the middling majority of assemblies still sit dazed before sincere songleaders muddling their way through the material over a microphone.

GIA Publications has contributed to the success of many of the congregations that do sing. The company has provided a more or less stable repertoire in sturdy, attractive hardcover books that make music look like the important thing that it is, in a way that missalettes never will. Indeed, the company takes its congregations seriously, more so than the missalette companies do, or the publishers of strictly “contemporary” songs. GIA believes that Catholics are worthy of decent texts and tunes and that they really can think as well as Protestants do, given the rare opportunity.

The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (the group we usually mean when we say “Lutherans”) have house publishers that produce the official hymnals and service materials that are used throughout their denominations, making life fairly simple. Roman Catholics do not. Instead, any savvy entrepreneur can publish anything that will sell to Catholics, as long as it uses the official mass texts. Like its competitors, OCP and WLP, therefore, GIA is market driven.

Of its various hymnal series, especially Worship, Gather and RitualSong, the latter two are more market driven than is Worship. GIA’s Alec Harris believes the Catholic Church is smart to let the free market serve as an engine for innovation, given the fact that it is so diverse that one publisher could not serve the entire market. That is certainly true, but the reason the American church is so musically diverse is that there was never an official publisher of a single hymnal to begin with, and that a slew of entrepreneurs filled the vacuum, each with its favored house composers. The question then is this: Do we have diversity, or is it division?

In any case, GIA gave the editors of W4 a freer hand to collect the finest cutting-edge hymn texts and tunes currently available, aware that the market for such material is smaller than the market for its other hymnals. The company is to be commended for taking a risk like this—a prophetic risk, it is—and a worthy and deliberate attempt to drive the quality of Catholic singing to a higher plane. Most professional musicians would not hesitate to declare GIA’s Worship series the best hymnals available to the American church. At the same time, the company’s decision to publish blended hymnals, having a mix of so-called contemporary and classical hymnody, while certainly market driven, also has the altruistic goal of bringing some semblance of unity to the song of American congregations.

Because worship is incarnational, it should express and form the culture of those who worship. This is easier said than done, of course. But for whom is W4 intended? For the generations of Caucasian immigrants from Europe who settled North America? Yes and no. The American church is culturally more diverse, and particularly more Hispanic, than it was in the 80s when W3 came out. Moreover, North Americans are increasingly familiar with what is today called “world music,” largely because children are learning it in the schools (“Siyahamba,” for example) and because we often hear it on TV. So it makes more sense now for whites to sing the music of Africans and African-Americans, such as “Lead Me, Guide Me” and “Soon and Very Soon,” from the American tradition. Neither song was in W3, but both are in W4. Numerous genres from that broad tradition—especially gospel—have made their way into the majority culture and influenced pop music.

It is a telling reflection of the evolving church that W3 didn’t have a single Spanish title in its hymn index, while W4 has many texts in Spanish and still more in Spanish and English combined—making a significant contribution to bilingual communities. GIA has successfully assessed its market, at least in terms of the ethnic make-up of the U.S. church. W4 will be useful in mixed Anglo-Hispanic congregations, but it will not suffice a totally Hispanic congregation. The company is in the process, however, of compiling a totally bilingual hymnal; everything in English will appear also in Spanish.

Besides Spanish, W4 has snippets of Croatian, Czech, Gaelic, French, German, Italian, Korean (in its graphic characters), Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Shona (a language native to the Shona people of Zimbabwe), Swati (spoken in Swaziland and South Africa), Tagalog, Vietnamese, Xhosa (spoken in south-east South Africa) and Zulu. You won’t need these at the grocery store, but you get the point.

The hymns are the greatest asset of W4. It contains perhaps the largest and best collection of the finest of modern hymn texts of any hymnal produced by any American publisher in recent memory. The list includes Mary Louise Bringle, Carl P. Daw, Jr., Ruth Duck, Timothy Dudley-Smith, Delores Dufner, OSB, Sylvia G. Dunstan, Fred Pratt Green, Sally Ann Morris, Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr., and Thomas H. Troeger, among others. Many of these texts are more singable and less didactic than some of their writers’ earlier efforts.

There are several excellent texts that highlight the role of women in the history of salvation, including “For All the Faithful Women” which features particular stanzas for Miriam, Hannah, Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of Jesus.

As for metered paraphrases of psalms, W4 provides a very generous sampling of about 157 hymns whose texts are at least partially derived from the psalter. In many instances these texts feature only one or two verses of a given psalm, but many others are exclusively paraphrases—a commendable feature of this hymnal.

Unlike W4, the new volume also contains a selection of now-classic offerings from the contemporary realm, including Be Not Afraid (Dufford), City of God (Haas), Eye Has Not Seen (Haugen), On Eagle’s Wings (Joncas), Here I Am, Lord (Schutte), and even One Bread, One Body (Foley)—veritable icons of American Catholicism. W4 even revives Keep in Mind by Lucien Deiss, CSSp (Remember the People’s Mass Book?).

W4’s hymn tunes vary in quality, but a high percentage of them are newly composed melodies, authentic folk songs (Irish, English and French, for instance), and new tunes that “feel” like folk song, along with a solid body of classic melodies, including lots of harmonizations by Bach. Taizé chants abound, along with a plethora of Latin-texted and English-texted plainsong, some of which were not in W4.

But why should Catholics sing hymns to begin with? One of today’s most well-regarded composers of “contemporary” music once said that four-square hymns are not appropriate for Catholic worship. I still wonder at the myopia of this statement. It implies that authentic reform in the West must follow a set of rules different from inculturation everywhere else in the world. Hymns, he would have us believe, are for Protestants, not for Catholics, even though sixteenth-century Anglicans and Lutherans were working with essentially the same Roman liturgy in their day that we are today. Why was hymnody OK for them but not for us?

Anyway, W4 retains a fairly strong ecumenical thrust, to its credit, as did W3, in the multiplicity of hymns that come from the Episcopal tradition. This was to be expected in W3 because its editor, Richard Proulx, had an affinity for the Episcopal church. Though known primarily for his work at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, he served as a consultant for the current Episcopal hymnal, was employed at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Medina, Washington, for ten years, and was received into that communion prior to his death. He is interred at St. Thomas. Proulx, as a matter of fact, represented in his person the North American success of ecumenism through music, by his faithfulness to the liturgical dreams of Vatican II. It is a tribute to him that this ecumenical feature of W3 has been retained in W4.

One of the most satisfying features of W4 is its continued commitment to The Hymn of the Day. More successfully than in W3, the index provides texts that are directly inspired by the gospel pericopes for particular days. The hymn “My Elder Son, Go Work Today!” is a fine example. Two others are “O Christ, Who Shared Our Mortal Life,” which provides alternative stanzas about the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son and Lazarus, and “The Scheming Elders Challenged Christ.” There are others. If we recall that the purpose of the Gregorian propers is to give musical flesh to the lectionary and the liturgical season, any hymnal inspired by that legacy of Catholic liturgical song will have a healthy smattering of texts so gospel-related. W4 takes a bold step in this direction. And to make it more practical to use, many of the texts that roll around only once every three years are paired with tunes that appear elsewhere in the hymnal.

The main problem with the hymns, oddly enough, is that there are so many new ones. W4 introduces approximately 356 new texts out of a total of 614. That’s an astonishing number. This means that roughly 58% of the texts in W4 are brand new, and that 258 texts were retained from W3 (152 were dumped). That’s a lot of hymns to rob from a congregation’s repertoire. It would be interesting to know the relevant percentages of new and old hymns in the new Lutheran hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Every wise publisher knows that a new hymnal builds on a tradition; it doesn’t start from scratch. [Editor’s note: the figures in this paragraph are corrected based on comment #4 of Ron Krisman below, which refers to Frazier’s “fine” review.]

This raises the question as to the intent of GIA. Does the company hope that W3 congregations have a loyalty to Worship such that they will buy W4, even after discovering that in many ways they will have to start all over again to build a musical repertoire? In effect, W4 will cause a blip in their community memory.

Adding to this unfortunate circumstance is the fact that the Mass settings that have dominated the American landscape for several decades are now rendered archaic by the new translation of the Missal. W3 provided three more-or-less complete mass settings, namely, the Community Mass of Richard Proulx, Alexander Peloquin’s Mass of the Bells, and David Hurd’s New Plainsong. Proulx’s Mass played a pivotal role in the evolution of congregational singing in North America and was the lingua franca for the American church for several decades. Marty Haugen’s Mass of Creation subsequently succeeded Proulx’s setting in popularity. Peloquin’s Mass was dated at the outset and the sing-song quality of its Gloria, though popular here and there, had no chance of longevity. David Hurd’s chant setting had the ecumenical advantage of having appeared also in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982, but alas, ecumenical advantage or no, chant Masses simply lack sex appeal. Thanks to the new translations in the Missal, none of W3’s Mass settings can be used any more in their entirety.

The setting that appears with the Order of Mass in W4 is taken from the Missal (ICEL 2010), as we should expect, but whether it ever takes off is anybody’s guess. I, for one, would not enjoy singing that repetitiously descending A-G-E that so drags down the Gloria. Other parts of the setting are more congenial, some of them adaptations of Latin Gregorian chant, such as the Sanctus from the Mass Deus Genitor alme (which some baby boomers will subconsciously remember from their Catholic school days). The Order of Mass in W4 is easy to find, thanks to the red edging of its pages. Hurray, editors.

Apart from this setting, there are eight others, many of them disappointing. Mass for a Servant Church, by Michel Guimont, the Director of Music at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, is the principal exception as it demonstrates the composer’s well-known gift for natural and inspired melody, with fresh harmonies that stretch the boring diatonic norm. This setting is the best of the lot, and none of its parts are in 6/8 or 3/4. With true technical skill, this composer has written a sophisticated and artistic setting that is worthy of the average congregation. There’s a good reason that this setting is printed the first of the eight.

The second setting, Missa Pacem, by L. Randolph Babin, of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Beaumont, Texas, is fairly workaday, with little to recommend it.

The Unity Mass of Norah Duncan IV, an associate professor at Wayne State University and formerly associate director of the Office of Worship of the Archdiocese of Detroit, is described as stylistically eclectic—calypso, early American, lyrical—supposedly to appeal to a variety of musical tastes, though as a result it lacks musical unity. The calypso-style Gloria, set responsorially, is so over-syncopated that the melody suffers. It has a repeat of the opening sentence and even an inner repeat of “people of good will.” The Gloria thus becomes a big production. The Sanctus has a good melody (in 6/8), but the Agnus Dei is set to a descending walking figure that lacks grace and is awkward to sing.

In the Storrington Mass of GIA’s “master composer” Marty Haugen, commissioned by Our Lady of England Parish in Storrington, England, we find a well-structured arrangement of the Penitential Act, where the three addresses to God by the presider are set at successively higher pitches, lending a progressive sense to the whole, much like the traditional three-step chant for the Sursum corda. The Gloria is another responsorial arrangement, but at least the refrain is sung only once at the beginning and is not a big production. The Alleluias in the Gospel Acclamation are sung twice through, with the obligatory deceptive cadence. The beginning of the Sanctus is suspiciously similar to the opening of the Sanctus in the composer’s Mass of Creation. The Agnus Dei has a good melody despite the descending leap of a seventh at “the sins.” But the entire Mass is in 6/8, except for the Lenten Gospel Acclamation and the Agnus Dei. GIA calls it “lilting”; others will call it sing-song.

The Black Mountain Liturgy of Sally Ann Morris, who is Director of Music at Parkway Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, appeared in GIA’s Gather Comprehensive–Second Edition but was first introduced at the Montreat Conference Center, beloved of Presbyterians, near the state’s Black Mountains. As GIA’s Special Projects Editor, Kelly Dobbs-Mickus, has said, it received “some good customer feedback”—deservedly so—and serves as “a good ‘cross-over’ setting” that would “work well both with ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ forces.” Indeed. The Kyrie smartly presents each phrase a third above the one before it, giving it a good shape. Except for a few awkward moments, the Gloria is well written and has more harmonic interest than most of the settings in W4. Unfortunately the entire setting is in either 6/8 or 3/4, excepting only the Agnus Dei, but somehow the work survives as one of the best of the eight.

Misa Una Santa Fe, by the Rev. Ronald Krisman, GIA’s Editor for Bilingual Resources, one-time executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Liturgy Secretariat and one of the editors of W4, is a completely bilingual Mass. It can be sung in English or Spanish, or in both together. The Penitential Act has a welcome solemnity to it, like the Prayer of the Faithful. But the Gloria is in 6/8. The foot-stomping Sanctus successfully alternates between 6/8 and 3/4, providing metrical interest and welcome relief from sing-song, but there is too much repetition of text.

The Mass for the People of God, by the Rev. James J. Chepponis, formerly the director for music ministry for the Pittsburgh Diocese, currently the music director at St. Paul’s Cathedral in that diocese, and one of the editors of W4, suffers from the over-use of 6/8 meters, the tedious lullaby rocking between D and Am chords, and the too-frequent repetitions of melodic motives, making for musical stasis. The two best parts of the Mass, the Penitential Act and the Agnus Dei, are saved by their common meter. Everything else in this setting is in 6/8. The Gloria is treated responsorially, and the text of its refrain, sung twice at the beginning, has annoying inner repetitions. This Mass is probably the least successful of the eight.

So the Mass settings are the weakest part of W4. Considering their overall importance to the liturgy, this is to be regretted. One of their frequent faults is the needless repetition of text, caused by the composers’ inability to control their material. Among the goals of the liturgical reforms of Vatican Council II, we remember, and of Tra le sollecitudini (1903) before it, was to banish undue repetition. The complaint was originally brought against choral music—Renaissance motets and the Masses of Haydn, Mozart and Schubert—but modern composers of psalm refrains and congregational masses are just as guilty.

Why do composers so often give the Gloria a responsorial setting? The text does not call for it, as it has no refrain. Technically a psalmus idioticus (an imitation psalm), the Gloria is best presented in through-composed fashion. Lutherans and Episcopalians sing the text straight through. So should Catholics.

But the greatest fault of the Mass settings lies in the predominance of sing-song, facilitated in many cases by the slavish use of 6/8 and 3/4 meters, often with cloying sixths and thirds.

There is a critical difference between “joyful” and “happy.” A good beat and a swing are “happy,” as in “Happy Birthday,” but are they “joyful”? Christian joy, after all, is far more profound than a beat or a swing. It is in no way trivial or clichéd. Rather it is borne of the paschal mystery, and the music that expresses it best has a weightiness to it, a gravitas that is capable of bearing that rich mix of death and life, of darkness and light, that we recognize as the fullness of life in Christ. Apart from the Guimont setting, where is the melody that soars like an eagle, the harmony that lets in a transcendent light, the meter that frees us from a tyrannical beat? Instead we find tunes, harmonies and meters mostly geared to the “feel good” school of liturgy.

GIA is to be commended for its continued effort to make the Liturgy of the Hours, with its psalms and its canticles, a staple for average congregations. But Roman Catholics, by and large, have yet to discover that the Mass is not the only form of liturgical worship. Moreover, it is the rare church that has a dedicated space suited to the office.

For the Hours and for Eucharist, W4 usually provides freely chanted verses of the psalms, as did W3, in responsorial settings that require a cantor or choir. We should recall that Lutheran and Episcopal congregations are privileged to sing the psalm verses directly, without cantors or choirs, using chant formulas.

W4 provides two options for the psalms for the Hours: the time-honored Gelineau tones and the tones from Conception Abbey, the men’s Benedictine Abbey in northwest Missouri. Both have survived the test of time. (Instead of the Conception Abbey tones, W3 provided medieval tones and tones composed by modern composers. Conception Abbey is new in W4.)

In the Hours, the psalm texts are interlined only with the Gelineau tones, for the greatest convenience, but they are also pointed for optional use with the Conception Abbey tones, in which case the latter tones must be memorized, or else the eye of the singer has to dart back and forth between the tone on one page and the text on another. While this is initially irksome, regular use—which is the point, after all—will accommodate the Conception Abbey tones.

The most bothersome feature of both Gelineau and Conception Abbey, however, is the occasional requirement to eliminate various parts of, let’s say, a sexpartite chant to accommodate fewer than six sections of text. This is necessary because in most cases the originally bipartite psalm verses, historically requiring only two halves of a chant formula, have been reorganized into three, four, five or even six sections of text, making the chant more difficult to learn and memorize. Such an organization of text also renders useless the standard numbering of the psalm verses.

It hardly needs repeating that irregular, unmetered psalm texts sung to a chant formula always present challenges to singers. It takes work, plain and simple. But cantors and choirs across the country have generally succeeded at singing the non-metrical psalter on Sundays, which is itself a major accomplishment in the long history of church music.

The frequency of antiphons whose texts are presented twice raises the whole question of the appropriateness of diatonic language for shorter liturgical texts and suggests the need for a harmonic vocabulary that stretches the diatonic strictures, such as the modal harmonies of some of the chant formulas in W4. Western harmony begs for development, but there is simply no time for the development of an eight-word text of a simple refrain.

Too often the result is the four-fold repetition of the text—twice by the cantor and twice by the congregation—before we reach the first verse of the psalm. There are about ten such settings in W4’s lectionary for Sunday Eucharist, but many more of them repeat smaller phrases of the text, as here: “I will sing, I will sing, I will sing, I will sing, I will sing of your salvation.” Please. Double-length antiphons have been kept to a happy minimum in the present volume.

GIA has successfully kept in touch with the evolution of liturgical music since Vatican II, monitored the changing temper of the musical times, and in its latest volume, despite its faults, the company’s W4 presents a mature proposal for a liturgical music that is worthy of the church and its future.

The sturdy red cover and binding, and the handsome typography and layout of W4 are virtually identical to those of W3, though the text underlay is larger in W4, making the hymns and service music easier to read. The editors have blessedly spared the congregation from having to turn pages during any of the hymns. It’s not an easy accomplishment, though it is damnably impossible to avoid in the accompaniment editions, especially for the sprawling through-composed contemporary pieces.

The hymnal is already available—or soon will be—in many versions: the pew edition with readings, the pew edition without readings, the choral edition, the keyboard landscape, the keyboard spiral, and the guitar spiral version, not to mention the lectionary psalms for cantor, the lectionary psalms for keyboard, and versions for B-flat and C instruments.

All things considered, W4 merits jubilant acclaim as the hymnal of choice for the twenty-first-century American church. The editors succeeded in what they call the “single most defining feature” of the hymnal, namely, its high-quality hymn texts. They correctly write that “the result is a body of hymns that are theologically sound, poetically substantive, and attuned to the needs of the rites and liturgical calendar.” The church deserves nothing less. Bravo!


  1. Thank you, James Frazier, for this thoughtful and balanced review. I hoped something like this would appear – especially at PT, which usually gives us more than one “side” of an issue. And I was intrigued seeing your name as the author, as I have enjoyed your work on Durufle.

    Over the past year, I was shocked by the frank disrespect shown to the Worship series in other Web discussions. This is unjust because the series was largely driven by the philosophies of a fellow worker in the vineyard, Richard Proulx, whose contributions to the actual practice of American Catholic hymnody are legion. Although W3 is his signature volume, he is a “lurker” in so many other hymnals, bringing forward a fresh harmonization, a clever link of text and tune, or a succinctly apropos psalm refrain. This continues in W4.

    I want to put aside the “style wars” and look at this from the perspective of a working parish musician who, like RP (and like yourself, I believe), has worked in both Catholic and Episcopal settings. RP’s affinity and eventual homecoming to the Episcopal Church seemed to give him a sense of what could truly work in English-language worship, and what congregations would actually attempt to sing. His work fulfilled GIA’s stated goal for the earlier volumes in the Worship series, which was to bring American Catholics into the “mainstream” of Christian hymnody. GIA was not so arrogant as to claim that Catholics had a monopoly on the genre or, God help us, that hymns are antithetical to the Mass. Now, thirty years on, we know that “mainstream” can include Taize, bilingual offerings, and the likes of “Be Not Afraid,” and so the Worship series continues to accurately reflect that. There was a touching article posted here at PT in tribute to Proulx (by Michael Silhavy) that told the story of RP programming “On Eagle’s Wings” at his brother’s funeral, due to his mother’s request and Proulx’s own respect for Joncas (a respect which was fully returned). Let’s give thanks for Richard and the Worship hymnals!

  2. Today, the “liturgical system” in a large number of Roman Catholic parishes and chapels does not work properly, at least not with the same confidence and assurance found in the majority of Orthodox and Protestant churches. ‘The people’ sense this; that is, their instincts tell them that something has gone wrong. Maybe some Catholics express their anxiety about this by not singing.

    The ND study showed overwhelming acceptance of the basic liturgical reforms of Vatican II and their implementation in the USA

    Our respondents, however, gave an overwhelming endorsement to both the readings and prayers: across the 36 parishes, only 2.5% consider the readings unsatisfactory; 2.6% felt this way about the prayers. Just over 14% think the prayers — or the way they are prayed — could be improved. But almost 85% of the respondents are well satisfied with what they experience. Ritual fared about as well: 4% consider it unsatisfactory, 14% hope for improvement, but 82% are content.

    With the major exception of music

    The findings from the parishioners’ questionnaire underscore the importance of music: across the parishes 63% are satisfied with the music in their own parish and just under 60% regard the quality of singing as generally satisfactory. Yet 37% and 40%, respectively, are dissatisfied with the quality of music and singing. Compared with the figures on the readings, prayers, and ritual, it is obvious that there is room for improvement .

    They approve of congregational singing they are just unhappy with the music in their parish

    Some might argue that American Catholics do not like the emphasis on singing at Mass. The data for parish-connected Catholics suggest otherwise. Parishioners are critical of the musical fare they experience at Mass, but they seem to want something better. Only 4% would really prefer to have no congregational singing; 67% are happy that there is singing and another 26% said they do not mind. So, while parishioners are generally happy to sing, a sizable proportion of them are unhappy with the music used in their parish. They also believe that congregations could sing better.

  3. Editor’s comment: the figures quoted in this comment have been corrected in the original post. The comment is allowed to stand as posted.
    W4 introduces a whopping 440 new texts out of a total of 613. That’s an astonishing number. This means that roughly 72% of the texts in W4 are brand new, and that only 173 were retained from W3 (236 were dumped). That’s a lot of hymns to rob from a congregation’s repertoire.

    IF W4 were based upon a national study that identified the 613 texts that people knew and liked the most in their parishes, it would probably help to solve the dissatisfaction problem which is likely still there.

    IF the 440 new texts are not well know and liked around the country, abundant research theory and evidence says that people will only come to like them slowly if ever.

    Before buying this or any hymnal I think parishes should give people a list of the hymns in the book. Ask them to circle each one that they know, and put a check mark or maybe a series of check marks (like a five star rating) after the ones that also like. Unless parishes begin to do this the “music” problem in the parish is not likely to be solved.

    1. Editor’s comment: the original post has been corrected based on the figures in this comment.

      @Jack Rakosky – comment #3:

      Jack, when I read the statement in James E. Frazier’s fine review of Worship-Fourth Edition that only 173 of the 410 hymns in Worship-Third Edition were retained in W4, I thought that he could very well be right, but that his figure sure seemed low to me. And so, I did a quick paging through of W3. I came up with a number somewhere around 258 of W3 hymns that reappear in W4, and 152 which do not.

      Many of the 152 W3 hymns which were not retained in W4 are “Hymns of the Day” related to particular Sunday gospel periscopes for which the editors of W4 believe they have discovered better selections. Also, quite a number of those hymns had uncommon metrical schemes, which necessitated the texts being wed to more contemporary hymn tunes, tunes which never much caught on with the users of W3 during the past 25 years. The W4 editors decided that, for the most part, “Hymns of the Day” in W4 should not have uncommon meters and should be paired with tunes already known by many or most users of the hymnal.

      Users of W4 should be able to sing most of the “Hymns of the Day” (HOD) in the hymnal since they are set to more familiar hymn tunes than were the corresponding “HOD’s” in W3.

      That still leaves a few more than 200 hymns in W4 which are not “HOD’s” and which were not in W3.

      1. @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #4:
        I appreciate this information, Ron. The thought that a great majority of the hymns of Worship Third Edition had ended on the scrap heap, and songs that only rarely may be used (let’s face it) in Korean and Croatian and so forth had been added… Well, I found it puzzling to say the least. As these decisions are not made lightly, I had to conclude that research must have been done which showed that people were NOT singing those hundreds of songs which were omitted in the revision. Your explanation, however, makes perfect sense and relieves my concern.

  4. Every hymnal I know of includes a vast selection of compositions knowing full well the significant differences in regions, dioceses, parishes, priests, nd music directors. The parishioners in the parish I have pastored for the last 15 years sing a wide repertoire of music but there are hundreds of more in two different hymnals that most of us have never even heard. There are no doubt a host of jewels among them, but what we sing we sing well. We are already learning the third set of new or revised settings of the ordinary. Our goal is to know four or five people will sing well. There’s just a limit. The various publishers give parishes lots of good music to choose from, including GIA and W4.

  5. Upon the first reading of James Frazier’s review I was particularly struck by the paragraphs dealing with Mass settings. I noticed the perfunctory disinterest over the neo-Jubilate Deo ICEL setting typified by a perceived boredom with the adapted Mass XI Glory melodic motifs. Devoting so much attention and word count to other issues such as multiculturalism, relevant new hymn texts and the ensconced late 20c sacro song, it seems somewhat arrogant to treat the ICEL as crafted by our bloghost as if it were some melodically equivalent of a gnat or paramecium. Well all I can say is that when my parochial school students chant ICEL XI Glory by memory with fluidity and precision, the effect is hardly perfunctory. But then, upon second reading I noticed this little gem, “chant Masses simply lack sex appeal. commenting upon the lack of enthusiasm for D. Hurd’s Plainsong Mass staple. Did Mr. Frazier even consider that such a quip would escape notice? Or did he just assume that such irresponsible, cavalier colloquial cuteness would elicit only a chorus of “yeahs” from some “Amen Corner” of PTB elite? Well, I won’t dwell on that further at this moment.
    I do, however, wish to point out what should be obvious about the balance of reviews of most of the W4 settings that remain. At the end of what I’d describe as a lukewarm reception of the litany of settings both revised and new, that a great amount of attention was provided the time signatures and metered affects of many settings and certain movements within them. Only Michael Guimont’s setting was given a hearty thumbs up, presumably for the decision not to employ triple meter signatures. And then the reviewer reminds us that triple meter is popularly presumed to indicate a joyful state, which he reminds us is erroneous. Yes, and major is not “happy” and minor is not “sad.” I can even hear Homer Simpson burping “Doh!” over that keen insight. But that is not even where my point is going. Whether a setting uses a pedestrian common meter as does Proulx’s Community “Holy” or the cliché’d 6/8 of the cliché Peloquin “Bells,” the issue of metered settings as being problematic in and of themselves isn’t even considered. It’s simply reduced to A. chant not sexy, boring; B. metered versions workable gebrauchsmusik but less filling, and less satisfying.
    What the review cannot say as it’s not in the hymnal is the problem of how to integrate artistic inspiration and worthiness into the realistic constraints and disciplines that liturgically informed Mass settings must observe. It is a difficult task to “talk about” musical affect, but Frazier could have worked into the equation the exhortation to seek inspiration from chant and polyphony, rather than from the strains of bluegrass and the Sacred Harp. I was gratified that he did lament the reality that GIA perhaps did not scour the hinterlands for more worthy settings that would have added substantial artistic merit to rival the proportionate amount of new hymn texts. And he did, by extension, gently remind us all that the singing of the Ordinary is of higher consequence in MS than of even the Propers, so more attention might have been given to composers beyond Guimont and Haugen during the compilation. Alas. This is a real issue facing composers in the post MR3 era, but W4 is a done deal. And, for the record, chant Ordinaries are far from “sexy,” they’re transcendent, ethereal, and, uh, enchanting.

  6. I appreciate Mr. Culbreth’s comment, but he seems to have brought some underlying gripes to the review which led to a misreading of some of my observations. Regarding Mass XI, the quality of the setting has nothing to do with how well his school kids sing it. I happen to value chant masses very much (partly because they are unmetered), but my quip about their lacking sex appeal was meant sarcastically, as I thought readers would understand. (Most with-it congregations would not tolerate a chant mass.) A blog is conversational, after all. Finally, I actually thought I had given too much attention to the eight mass settings. To each his own.

  7. To the contrary, Mr. Frazier, no gripes or axes were in my kit bag in advance. But your response to a respectful commentary continues to have a dismissive tone along with that presumption. There has been quite a lot of substantial discussion about the use of Gloria XI (which also has nothing to do with my students) that explored dimensions well beyond its tessitura and sequence of motifs. So, one might expect a bit more attention than E-G-A as a critique. The quip, yes it was taken as sacrcasm. What I tried to avoid saying directly was: is that an appropriate tactic to make a point in a serious review? Or does it call into question how seriously the reviewer has regarded the task at hand. Finally, you seem disinclined to engage furthering the conversation regarding the challenges composers face when trying to set the Ordinary in a worthy manner that meets some pretty daunting criteria such as aesthetic, accessibility, duration and style.

  8. Interesting analysis. I will look forward to reviewing this volume, though it’s unlikely my parish will use it when it’s time to update our books in 2015-ish.

    Two comments on music …

    1. Maybe this wasn’t the best time to include that handful of un-tried settings. Communities eventually (should) sing a Mass setting from memory. Better music could have taken up that “wasted” space, and if eight or more settings are really needed, there’s always the option of putting them in Worship 4.2 or 5. Even the St Louis Jesuits knew the virtue of congregation-tested music before it went to the publisher. GIA could adopt that principle and we would be no more impoverished.

    In fact, a possible publishing thought would be to offer a set number of Masses (on cards) to W4 purchasers, if they desired. Let the singing assemblies and their music leaders sort out the best new Mass settings. Editorial boards don’t know everything.

    2. About the sing-song comments … That’s largely dependent on the playing abilities of the organist or ensemble. We don’t need to be slaves to pounding out those downbeats, or even playing it the way Richard Proulx arranged it (gasp!). Congregational music is all too-often bypassed by many fine musicians (and many lesser ones) without much thought on making the accompaniment interesting.

    I was thinking of how I heard “City of God” treated this past Sunday when I was visiting a parish with a fine organist/music director. The harmonies on the antiphon were judiciously altered and the tempo was healthy enough that I got a floating sense of the song being played in a slowish 2, or a speedy three. Nothing sing-song at all about it.

  9. I agree with Todd in # 10 that putting eight settings of the Ordinary was perhaps a waste of space. I like his idea of offering a set number of settings on cards to those who buy W4. It’ll be a while before we have the sensus fidelium on the plethora of new settings.

    We’ll be in the market for a new hymnal in a few years too, and W4 will certainly be in the running. We have RitualSong now. (nterestingly, even before RM3, about half of the Ordinary settings we used were from OCP.)

  10. How exciting that we got a copy of W4 at GIA’s showcase at NPM today. I am looking forward to checking out a lot of those hymns for the day.

  11. My impression, based on the review, is revised to guardedly favourable. I do, though, share in Charles Culbreth’s concerns.

  12. This is certainly a fine review, and one which puts W4′s best foot forward. While I share to a degree the concerns and observations of Charles Culbreth, I am enough moved that any doubts I had as to my need for a reference copy have been allayed.

    One of the most profound and disappointing weaknesses of Catholic settings of the ordinary is their trite, ‘sing-songy’, dance-metred quality, which is both inapt and inept for liturgical, ritual song (and, one might offer here the observation that never was a book so cruelly, fiendishly mis-labeled and mis-represented as that one called ‘Ritual Song’). It doesn’t seem that the ordinaries in W4 have too successfully rectified this glaring deficit. Catholics are not born with any less musical aptitude than Anglicans and Lutherans, but one would never know it by looking at the music they are asked to sing with a straight face. If generations of Anglicans can sing the likes of Willan’s Gloria, Catholics can very well be better served than they have been.

    The presence of a specific hymn of the day for at least every Sunday and Solemnity is an admirable achievement. Also, the inclusion of hymns in an interesting variety of languages other than English is an admirable feature: one that should be of interest and enrichment to us all. Did I miss mention of plainchant hymns in both English and Latin? I should hope that such are well represented. There is a great body of excellent hymnody from the divine office which should be familiar to all Catholics, a repertory that is not at all appropriately represented in our hymnals, and which would be suitable at mass (both in English and Latin) as well as the office.

    I have heard it from others that there is an over-use of ‘familiar’ tunes with multiple texts. One can figure out why this is done, and considers it insulting. Many text-tune marriages, such as LAUDA ANIMA-’Praise, my soul’ are as revered as ADESTE FIDELES-”O come, all ye faithful’. Not respecting this is a cultural loss. It is so very…

  13. I would join Mr Osborn in a wish for a good representation of plainsong hymnody. My recollection of W3 is that it’s there, but could be better.

    I would also hope that we could tone down the elitism connected with triple meters. Poor musicians or inattentive good ones can just as easily turn Conditor Alme Siderum into a dirge or Lauda Anima into a march. From the pews, I hear much more concern about a proper tempo (second-place to where music is pitched) and dispensing from playing traditional organ hymns like they were marches or triumphant anthems.

    There’s nothing wrong with a good dance tune, even in 3, as long as the people can sing it.

  14. TF –
    Not to ‘start something’, but what does ‘elitism’ have to do with the concern over hippety-hop rhythms in settings of the ordinary? My very point was that our people are being assumed to be incapable of music that is of a truly ritual-liturgical nature (ethos) and on a more mature level. This is a false assumption. I don’t see why really good music should be dismissed as elitist: it isn’t: it is for all, and for the good of all. (If I have over-reacted to your choice of words, forgive me…. and, I will grant you that triple metres do not HAVE to be, are not inherently sing-songy and hippety hop-like. The matter objected to by many of us is not necessarily the metre but the inaptness & immaturity of the music intended for sacred, ritual use.)

    (As an aside… I have been trying to ascertain what the rose-coloured art that is featured on your comments is… can you enlighten me?)

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #16:
      Mr Osborn, thanks for the reply. “Elitist” is a poor choice of words on my part. Let me withdraw the term and say I don’t see a problem, as you and Mr Frazier seem to see, with triple meter. I don’t see it as any better or worse than any other metered music, all other things being equal. I think my quibble was less with good music and more with the too-easy dismissal of 3/4 or 6/8 music.

      That said, if W4’s mass settings were more than half in 3 time, that would seem to be a problem with diversity. Where’s Dave Brubeck when we need “Time Out”? Or a simple foxtrot?

      That avatar is my hammered dulcimer imaged on the hardwood floor of my last home. Maybe it’s time for a switch to a moon of Saturn.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #18:
        Foxtrot! Really! Well, it does seem that too many mass settings are some-kind-of-a-trot. Even one (1) is too many. And to think that the chic liturgists among us would have it that Mozart, being (questionably) operatic, is unfit… but they don’t seem upset by the un-holy noise of rock bands or very secularly-inspired musical styles. Cruel irony, isn’t it?

        How clever is your avatar! I had thought is was a piece of surrealist art or some sort of space ship. Do you play the dulcimer?

      2. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #19:
        fwiw, I’d have no problem with singing Mozart at Mass, as long as everybody in the pews got a score. Personally, I prefer older music, like of two centuries prior and earlier.

        I only wish I played the dulcimer more than I do. Thanks for inquiring.

      3. @Todd Flowerday – comment #20:
        I agree! I much prefer Monteverdi or Tallis, et al. (or even Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G)… this is true ritual music. And, why not give everyone a score!

  15. Jackson, I thank you for inquiring as to Todd’s avatar, which I suspect to be some astral object, if not even a flying saucer, as Todd is an avid astronomer. However, since you’ve asked, I must confess to my brother TF that in such proportion it more resembles a collagen lips enhancement gone tragically awry!
    And though I’m wary of re-entering the fray, I actually hold the opposite view of Todd regarding the advancement of new and worthy settings. I would hold an editorial boards’ collective feet to a fire until they’d exhaustively given every submitted new setting a thorough hearing, and what’s more, perhaps even had approached folks like Bancks and Mueller for reprint permission. The only occasion in which such an influential entity such as GIA should opt for the status quo is when there is absolute, provable consensus that a work meets ALL the criteria for worthiness at worship, not only the three old MCW, but the “sacred, universal and beautiful” demands espoused by CMAA and, IMO, the Holy Father among others. I’m not going to state here whether, for example, I regard “Community Mass” as among those or not, but I agree with Mr. Frazier that those included and those notable for their absence reflect a “let’s play it safe” and somewhat tepid demeanor for a flagship product. As Kevin Vogt has suggested, I should perhaps withhold commenting upon the review, and compose an alternate review when I purchase my copy of W4.

  16. The mention of Kevin Vogt reminds me that he has composed a setting of the ordinary, honoring St. Michael, which is stunning. Would that it had appeared in W4 instead of a few of those that did. I might mention, in passing, that his especially fine Gloria is in 3/4, it completely avoids sing-song, and it is through-composed (sans refrains).

  17. This is just a technical question/observation. People are referring to the ICEL chant settings as the Jubilate Deo Mass and mentioning Gloria XI. I believe the ICEL adaptations are: Kyrie from Mass XVI; Gloria from Mass XV (not the Orbis Factor XI), Credo I, Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Mass XVIII (doubled in the Requiem Mass as well). The chant Mass of our Late 1950s youth, on large cardboards from the old Gregorian Institute of America, was Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Mass XVI, Gloria XV and Credo I.

  18. I would like to add my voice to the chorus of thanks to Dr. Frazier for his fine review. (I’d also like to support the recommendation of including Kevin Vogt’s Mass setting in honor of St. Michael in future editions of Worship.)

    I hope that it is not hubris on my part to think that I may be the “[o]ne of today’s most well-regarded composers of “contemporary” music [who] once said that four-square hymns are not appropriate for Catholic worship.” What I remember saying is that the classic form of the Roman Rite Eucharist (as exemplified in the Missale Romanum 1570 [and its successors] or MR 1970 [and its successors] “resists” metrical hymnody. The normative processional chants (introit, offertory, communion) appear in antiphon/psalm verse format rather than as metrical hymns; the MR doesn’t provide for a recessional chant. The normative gradual or responsorial psalm is taken from scripture, not metrical psalmody. The Gloria is defined as a hymn, but it is not metrical in its Latin form. One could make a possible case for the Sequence as a metrical hymn, although in at least some forms the meter shifts, usually in groups of two stanzas. The usual place for metrical hymnody in the classic Roman Rite is the Office.

    However, I strongly agree with Dr. Frazier that the use of hymns is a wonderful example of inculturation. I strongly support its use in Roman Rite Eucharist in cultures with vernacular hymn-singing traditions. I would raise some questions about where it might appear in Roman Rite Eucharist (e.g., supplementing or replacing processional antiphons?), but I think the Hymn of the Day is a magnificent example of how the OF might be enriched, allowing the congregation to sing its prayer inspired by the readings proclaimed and preached at a particular celebration.

  19. I agree with Fr. Joncas in every detail. I would add that, from the perspective of what is musically normative in the Eucharist, with responsorial forms prescribed in the GR for the processional chants, metrical hymnody is too heavy and too much of a production. This becomes unbearably clear in instances where a big entrance hymn is followed almost immediately by a big-production Gloria. In the context of the GR, there are no big musical productions anywhere. The entire musical fabric is low-level, with no dynamic high points and low points. In the vernacularizing of these GR texts, however, we in the West have been bombarded with a strict and boring adherence to bare-bones diatonicism, which doesn’t wear as well as modal plainsong. In such situations I would generally prefer a well-designed metrical hymn to an uninspired responsorial form.

    (I appreciate the honorific, but I have no doctoral-level degree.)

  20. Mr. Frazier,

    Thank you for your detailed review of Worship, Fourth Edition, and for your many positive comments about the hymnal. I felt honored to serve as one of the editors.

    A slight biographical correction: I am not the current music director at St. Paul Cathedral. I am the director of the office for music ministry of the Pittsburgh diocese, and have been since 1996. From 1999-2003 I was also the music director at St. Paul Cathedral. When I became a parish pastor in 2003, I retained the diocesan position, but Donald Fellows became the cathedral music director at that time.

    Sorry to hear that you don’t particularly care for my “Mass for the People of God.” As a published composer, I am used to having my work reviewed, and try to understand any negative remarks. However, I do wish to offer some thoughts about the composition. Although the setting is not perfect, I do believe that it does have some redeeming qualities not mentioned in your review.

    Part of the rationale for the use of “the tedious lullaby rocking” (?) between D and Am chords is to support the canonic phrases of the choir (and optional brass). But the mass is much more than just D and Am chords. There is some harmonic freshness, and the entire middle section of the Gloria is even in a different key signature (F-major).

    The use of melodic repetition was done for two main reasons: first, to provide a setting of the revised mass texts that would be somewhat easily accessible to the assembly at this time in the life of the church; second, to provide a user-friendly setting that could even be used unaccompanied during daily mass.

    Could I have done a better job? Perhaps. But I do thank you for your comments, as I hope to learn something from any review in order to help me compose better in the future. I guess time will tell whether the “Mass for the People of God” is a worthy contribution to the many available new mass settings or not.

  21. I serve a very large Midwestern suburban parish. We purchased Worship IV back in November and began using it on the First Sunday of Advent. It replaces RitualSong, which was in the pews since the late 90’s. So far, the hymnal has received great reviews.

    I agree with Mr. Frazier’s comments that the new Mass settings are not quite up to par, although I would defend Fr. Chepponis’s setting-I think it is written in a “durable” fashion, and while I probably wouldn’t program it for a major feast day, it would serve well during Ordinary Time. On a side note, our first new Gloria setting with the new texts was his revised setting from the “Jubilation Mass.” This has been HUGELY successful.

    I do happen to like the new setting of Guimont, although I find there is too great a similarity in the style of the Eucharistic Acclamations to Richard Proulx’s “Mass for the City” and, in my humble opinion, the Proulx is just better composed. (I’m glad that much venerable service music, particularly of Proulx, has been revised and appears in Worship IV. At some point, I will probably use the Guimont Gloria with the Proulx Eucharistic Acclamations.)

    The hymn of the day has also been very positive. I know many have raised issues with using so many familiar tunes, however, this allows people to sink right into the text and not worry about learning the tune. I have been teaching new tunes consistently since I arrived at my parish two years ago, but that works far more successfully for general hymns. I certainly don’t want to deprive our parish of the many wonderful texts that may only be sung on occasion simply because the tune is not familiar. I certainly wouldn’t want silence, either!

    I do wish Worship did more with propers, although our choir is using Bartlett’s “Simple English Propers” along with Paul Ford’s “By Flowing Waters.” These have been well-received.

    While there are certainly strengths and weaknesses in this latest offering by GIA, Worship IV is serving our community very well.

  22. I think the answer to “why Catholics don’t sing” might have nothing to do with the choices of hymns.

    In the music industry as a whole, not simply liturgical music but commercial music, wholesale changes have occurred. Many musicians who were able to make a living with music in the 30’s, 40’s even into the 1980’s have been forced to abandon music as a career because their work disappeared, because their customers disappeared. Recorded music replaces live music almost everywhere.

    Why does this matter? Musicians aren’t being adequately trained. Not surprisingly, echoing the changes in the commercial music industry, parishes have been cutting budgets for musicians. Most parishes in my diocese use completely volunteer musicians. Musicians being paid for their service to the church, or for the ive music they produce, is disappearing.

    So the quality of the musicians that are available suffers. And if all the musicians are volunteers, maybe it’s not so easy for a parish music director to decide to get rid of a bad musician. Who will replace them? Which is worse, a bad musician or no musician?

    Couple that reality with the complementary reality that listeners are not used to hearing live performances warts and all; their listening habits gravitate to slick, well-produced commercial music which becomes the impossibly high standard by which all music is judged.

    So where does the 18th/19th century hymns sung or played poorly on an organ fit into all this? it doesn’t. Where does the sappy guitar-based hymn fit into all this? It doesn’t fit either, except there is a slight chance that the musician playing the guitar may have found some time to devote to that guitar becuase they want to be a rock star when they grow up. And the guitar-based music might be closer to what the average listener listens to in the car.

    Why do Catholics not sing? “Lutherans” don’t sing either. Nobody sings, unless truly talented musicians lead the way.

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