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CNP Feedback — Contemporary Hymns

The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians. From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.

Q. Dear CNP:

I am a music director who wholeheartedly agrees with your viewpoint about contemporary liturgical music with a narcissistic bent. However, I can also find much in the contemporary repertoire which is liturgically sound, Christ-centered and inspiring to my choir and those in the pew. I do not understand a broad brush approach which brands anything that isn't Gregorian chant, highbrow sounding, or rigid in structure as inferior or unacceptable. In my experience, a good mix of traditional hymns, chant and good contemporary hymns can provide a solid and appealing liturgical foundation.

New Song Aficionado

A. Dear New:

I completely agree with you about a mix of traditional hymnody, chant and contemporary hymns being the best option for congregational music. If our website presents a contrary message, it is unintentional. Even our name, CanticaNOVA, means "new songs" in Latin.

Our hymn suggestions on the Liturgical Planning pages come from ten standard hymnals that we feel are worthy of use in parishes. We do not recommend any "missalette-style" worship aids — congregational music should not be disposable. We also do not include hymnals that offer mostly new and often trite selections (like Gather or JourneySongs). We limit our hymnal choices to solid, standard volumes — hence, all our suggestions come from that repertoire. This does not mean that one shouldn't choose good hymns from other contemporary sources.

While our Musical Musings section contains many articles bemoaning the proliferation of the "Voice of God" and "Sing of Us" genre of contemporary songs, we do not disdain the many good selections that are being written today. We even offer our own Hymn Resource Collection of modern hymns, and we publish a variety of music by contemporary (meaning still-living) composers.

Here is a list of some good hymns in the popular OCP Music Issue [taken from the 2002 edition]:
#312   Let Us Go to the Altar (Schutte)
#351   Ubi caritas (Hurd)
#363   Celtic Alleluia (O'Carroll)
#386   Church of God (Daly)
#399   Jesus, Remember Me (Berthier)
#401   Christ Be beside Me (Wasson)
#404   Come, My Way (Vaughan Williams)
#426   Out of Darkness (Walker) with the original text
#435   Where Charity & Love Prevail (Benoit) with the original text
#437   In Perfect Charity (DeBruyn)
#464   O God, You Search Me (Farrell)
#481   We Walk by Faith (Haugen)
#483   All the Earth (Deiss) with the original text
#521   The Cry of the Poor (Foley) with the original text
#551   Festival Canticle (Hillert)
#554   This Day Was Made by the Lord (Walker)
#575   Canticle of Zachary (Joncas)
#577   Benedictus (Farrell)
#605   We Praise You, O God (Jones)
#661   Song of Farewell (Sands)
#666   How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place (DeBruyn)
#682   My Soul Rejoices (Alstott) with the original text
#689   O Holy Mary (Alstott)
#690   Mary's Song (Rieth)
#849   Magnificat (Farrell)
I've used many of these in my own parish. There are, of course, numerous other examples of resources from which to draw quality hymns. I hope some of your favorites are among those listed here.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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