Pray Tell’s review of Gather IV

by John T. Kyler

It is easy to tell when someone or something is inauthentic. Often in these cases, words give way to empty promises and inconsequential action, if any. There is dissonance between belief and action. There is conflict between values and lived reality. There is friction between self-knowledge and self-actualization. Even so, authenticity is not about being perfect or necessarily “getting it right.” Rather, authenticity is grounded in humility, solidarity, and community. It is a genuine attempt to hold one’s values, acknowledge realities, and live in relationship with others. This is the beauty and gift of Gather – Fourth Edition.

The realities of our church and world are significantly different than they were in 1988, the year GIA Publications released the first incarnation of the Gather hymnal. If we are honest, the realities are also significantly different than just ten years ago when Gather – Third Edition was published. But rather than ignoring the fact that the Roman Catholic Church looks different today, weathered by years and systems of abuse, clericalism, discrimination, and exodus, Gather – Fourth Edition literally “gathers” these realities and hold them in healthy tension with the rich history, heritage and tradition of our faith.

One of the great strengths of Gather – Fourth Edition is the attention given to ritual and rite. While this hymnal boasts ten full Mass settings, one fewer than its predecessor, the significance lies in the breadth and diversity of music and style. Gather 4, of course, includes Marty Haugen’s Mass of Creation and Tony Alonso’s Mass of Joy and Peace, but it seats them alongside the Cantus Missae, Ed Bolduc’s contemporary Mass of St. Ann, and M. Roger Holland, II and Kim Harris’s Welcome Table: A Mass of Spirituals. The well-loved Gloria from A New Mass for Congregations by Carroll T. Andrews is literally placed next to the Gloria from Norah Duncan, IV’s Holy Name of Jesus Mass. There are also a number of additional service music selections in English, Latin, Vietnamese, and Spanish, including excerpts from Peter Kolar’s bilingual Misa Luna and Richard Proulx’s Mass for the City, among many others.

The Liturgy of the Hours section includes chanted responses for each liturgical season and a generous selection of settings of the New Testament Canticles. By my count there are six settings of the Magnificat, including ones by Leon C. Roberts and Bernadette Farrell. This highlights not only the editors’ commitment to varied styles and genres of music, but it also shows their readiness to include works from other publishers. Musical settings of the Rites are also more diverse than previous editions of Gather, with music ranging from Howard Hughes to Pedro Rubalcava to Kate Williams.

The Psalmody section of Gather – Fourth Edition is perhaps the most exciting collection of psalms that I have ever encountered in a single hymnal. In addition to individual pieces by a variety of composers, there are a number of collections represented throughout, including those of Michel Guimont, Joseph Gelineau, SJ, the Lyric Psalter, and the Lead Me, Guide Me psalter. As psalmody is a great way to introduce communities to new musical styles and cultures, the psalms of Gather – Fourth Edition will be a welcome addition to any assembly’s core repertoire.

I have often heard music directors and pastors lament when their favorite songs are not included in a particular hymnal. In paging through this edition of Gather, though, I do not find myself missing pieces that I thought I would. The editorial commitment to showcasing the diversity of the church through composer representation is exciting and palpable. In addition to songs by veteran composers, Gather – Fourth Edition introduces us to a number of new text authors and composers, including Diana Macalintal, Bex Gaunt, and others. Similarly, the inclusion of more traditional African American spirituals, world folk songs, and Spanish-language texts than ever before better represents the diversity of the Body of Christ. It is not insignificant nor inconsequential to note that the index boasts the work of more women composers than any previous edition. There is no question that the commitment to inclusion and representation is a hallmark of Gather – Fourth Edition.

GIA’s acquisition of World Library Publications also affords the inclusion of a number of WLP pieces that had previously not been included in GIA hymnals, including works by Lorraine Hess, Clifford Petty, Danielle Rose, Janèt Sullivan Whitaker, Michael Ward and Steven C. Warner, among many others. Gather – Fourth Edition also includes music from Hope Publishing Company, Liturgical Press, Oregon Catholic Press, Oxford Press, and dozens of other copyright holders. The intentionality of the editorial team in choosing pieces by other publishing houses shows their commitment to good, solid content, regardless of the publisher.

Gather – Fourth Edition does not attempt to be something it is not. This hymnal is not RitualSong or One in Faith or Breaking Bread. And perhaps most importantly, it does not try to be. While it builds on the musical heritage of its predecessors, Gather – Fourth Edition is really a brand new adventure that is current, forward-looking, and relevant. It includes the best of both chant and contemporary music, hymn tunes and refrain-based songs, and remains committed to developing and upholding the voice of the people of God. If are willing to understand authentic liturgy as “the work of the people,” I cannot wait to see the fruits of this hymnal, grounded in a commitment to this same authenticity.

John Kyler is liturgy and music editor at Liturgical Press.