Brief Book Review: Voices – Pew edition

Voices – Pew Edition

I have been looking forward to the release of WLP’s Voices hymnal since I first heard rumblings about its conception at the 2017 NPM Convention in Cincinnati. Continuing the legacy of the original Voices As One volumes 1 and 2 and More Voices As One volumes 1, 2 and 3, Voices is described as “a treasury of contemporary songs that are faithful, theologically sound, and ideal for use in liturgies, prayer services, retreats, and any time two or three have gathered” (from the Preface). Building a new hymnal is certainly not an easy feat, especially a particularly niche one that is grounded in contemporary Catholic music. Regardless of ideology, however, the editorial team of Voices rose to the challenge and assembled a book that should be commended for a number of reasons.

First, in an era when so much contemporary music is only available as a downloadable product or in annual missal form, the decision to create a bound hymnal seems rather visionary. The book itself is easy to hold and boasts a sleek and modern cover and engraving that will look at home next to any existing pew resource. It should also be noted that the keyboard accompaniments are quite practical, providing solid arrangements that support congregational song, which is not always the case with arrangements of contemporary music. Alphabetical organization makes individual songs easy to find and intentional blank pages in both the pew and accompaniment book facilitate easy page turns. Complete topical and scriptural indices are sure to assist in liturgical formation and preparation.

I very much appreciate the diverse selection of music included in this new edition of Voices, including more than 315 songs, psalms and acclamations with three Mass settings (Mass for the Healing of the World by Trevor Thomson, Mass of Rejoicing by John Angotti and Mass of Saint Ann by Ed Bolduc.) I was happily surprised by the number of psalm settings included – 48, according to my count. Perhaps most exciting, though, was the inclusion of music from a variety of publishers. I was thrilled to see Curtis Stephan’s Bread of Angels and Trevor Thomson’s Christ in Me Arise published by OCP, among others, included in this collection. Fresh arrangements of a number of traditional and time-honored hymns are also included.

I am also glad that a number of songs found in the original Voices As One volumes are included here, including pieces by Donna Peña, Denise Pyles, Danielle Rose, and Steven C. Warner. The original Voices As One remains one of my favorite contemporary supplements and I have used it with great success in parish, school and retreat settings. I was disappointed, however, that a number of Warner’s songs from the original two volumes were not included here, as his work with the University of Notre Dame Folk Choir offered another type of contemporary Catholic music. Songs like All Will Be Well, Be Still and Know that I Am God, Come to the Living Stone and Song of Judith are notably absent. While I will certainly miss these titles, it was wonderful to see new works by composers like Craig Colson and Lorraine Hess included in the mix. There is also an increased diversity of composers and artists included, which is important and commendable.

Not all communities are looking to utilize a contemporary hymnal. Those that are, however, should seriously consider Voices. With the most recent edition of Spirit and Song being nearly ten years old now, Voices is a welcome new addition. At the very least, every choir director and accompanist should have a copy of Voices in their office, for it reminds us that the church is full of multiple musical gifts and traditions and that the Spirit moves in varied ways.

Voices is published by World Library Publications, a division of GIA Publications, Inc. Copyright © 2020.

REVIEWER: John T. Kyler

John T. Kyler serves as Liturgy and Music Editor at Liturgical Press in Collegeville, Minnesota. An instructor in the Emmaus Institute for Ministry Formation and a regular contributor to GIA Quarterly, John holds a Master of Education from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Theological Studies from Saint John’s University.

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