I had occasion to get out one of my old hymn books recently (I say mine, but actually, my brother stole it from Ealing Abbey many years ago, so its precise legal status is somewhat ambiguous). (I say stole, but it was his, as a member of the Ealing Abbey choir; I imagine he should have surrendered it on leaving; but even that isn't clear cut. He sort of left when he went to University, but then sang at Ealing in the vacations. I'm not sure when he finally left) (Anyway, all that is quite beside the point).
(Enough parentheses - Ed.)
It is a copy of Praise The Lord (Full Music Edition) edited by Wilfrid Trotman, and given the imprimatur in January 1966. And that is not beside the point: it was published just after the close of the Second Vatican Council, and before the New Rite of Mass was introduced.
Which makes the Foreword by Cardinal Heenan, and the Preface (unsigned, but almost certainly by the editor) particularly interesting to those of use who are trying to understood how the change in the liturgy was brought about, and the thinking (and the sequence of thinking) that accompanied it.
So without further ado (all capitalisation and italics are in the original):
Some people are happiest at Mass kneeling quietly as they unite their thoughts with the priest and the rest of the congregation in offering the holy Sacrifice to Almighty God. They have every right to make up their own prayers of say the rosary. The ultimate object of the liturgy is the union of our souls with God.
But if everybody chose to follow Mass in this way the liturgy would become impossible. It is true that if there is a priest at the altar, the holy Sacrifice would be offered but the priest is at the altar to intercede for the people. The Church has always required the priest to have at least an altar server to represent the people. The ideal for which the Church is always striving is the active sharing by priest and people in the words and actions of the Mass.
That is why I welcome the hymn book PRAISE THE LORD. When religious exercises are varied they keep their freshness. There are many ways of assisting at Mass and all should be given their turn. I think that children and young people will delight in the hymns and psalms that are set out here. For older people the Mass could never be boring. But even half an hour is a long time for a child to keep still. I am sure that this book will help many to grow in love of the Mass.
March, 1965. + JOHN CARD. HEENAN
PRAISE THE LORD has been complied and published in order to make available a worthy collection of hymns and psalms, suited to the requirements of a renewed liturgy, and especially for use during Mass. It is the first book to be issued in the English speaking countries that draws heavily on the hymn treasures of other denominations, and it is hoped that in a small way it may contribute to the cause of Christian Unity.
The method of selection has been straightforward: anything that was of doubtful merit has been omitted. Inevitably this has resulted in the exclusion of many 'old favourites', but it is difficult to make a case for retaining hymns that, although suited to the emotional needs of an earlier age, no longer meet the artistic requirements of the Church, and appear excessively sentimental.
A hymnal is intended primarily for congregational use and experience shows that the keys originally chosen for many hymns are uncomfortably high for the average congregational voice, especially men. For this reason many hymns have been transposed down so that except in unavoidable cases, no tune goes above D. Sometimes this results in slightly muddy harmonies, but this is outweighed by the comfort which the average singer gains by a pitch well within his capability.
PRAISE THE LORD is being published at a time when understanding of the liturgy is constantly increasing. In time parish priests and musicians will find they need hymns and psalms for occasions that are not catered for in this book. The editor will be very grateful to receive suggestions for improvements in future editions, especially from those who are actively engaged in the formation of parish worship.
There is much of interest and note here, including the Cardinal's comments when placed alongside some of his others (eg to Waugh, and his famous intervention at the Council), and Trotman's many assumptions. I will be interested in readers' comments, and may post further on this as time allows.
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