Quick Summaries: A Marathon Look at Liturgical Music

Quick Summaries are pithy paragraph-long reviews
of releases that cross our QBR desk. 

These are reviews for when you don't have all day 

to decide whether a resource is worth
your time, money, storage space, or trouble.

Hawn, C. Michael, compiler and editor. Foreword by John L. Bell. Preface by Pablo Sosa. New Songs of Celebration Render: Congregational Song in the Twenty-first Century. Chicago: GIA, 2013. 460 Pages. Cloth with audio CD. $42.95. www.giamusic.com (LHP)

Tice, Adam M. L. Stars Like Grace: 50 More Hymn Texts. Chicago: GIA, 2013. 128 Pages. Spiral. $19.95. www.giamusic.com (H) 

Gathered for God. Chicago: GIA, 2013. Sheet music: $18.50. Audio CD: $16.95. www.giamusic.com (LHP)

Haas, David. We Are Not Alone: Hymns, Psalms and Songs for Eucharist and the Hours. Chicago: GIA, 2013. Sheet music: $26.50. Booklet of Reflections and Prayers: $9.95. Audio CD: $16.95. www.giamusic.com (LH)

Alonso, Tony and Marty Haugen. The Lyric Psalter: Revised Grail Lectionary Psalms (Year A). Chicago: GIA, 2013. Spiral music: $25.00. Audio CD set: $39.50. www.giamusic.com (LH) 

Lowenberg, Kenneth. Gregorian Preludes for the Liturgical Year. Chicago: GIA, 2013. 47 Pages. Paper. $25.00. www.giamusic.com (LHP) 

Joncas, Michael. God of All Beginnings: Liturgical Music for Choir and Assembly. Chicago: GIA, 2013. Sheet music: $20.00. Audio CD: $16.95. www.giamusic.com (L) 

Cry Out with Joy: Responsorial Psalms, Gospel Acclamations and Universal Prayers for the Liturgy of the Word (Christmas, Triduum, Solemnities, and Other Celebrations). Chicago: GIA, 2013. Spiral sheet music: $33.00. Audio CD set: $25.95. www.giamusic.com (LH) 

Cry Out with Joy: Responsorial Psalms, Gospel Acclamations and Universal Prayers for the Liturgy of the Word (Year A). Chicago: GIA, 2013. Spiral sheet music: $33.00. Audio CD set: $25.95. www.giamusic.com (LH)

Chepponis, James. Mass for the People of God (Choral Accompaniment Edition). Chicago: GIA, 2013. Paper. $4.50. www.giamusic.com (L)  

Bell, John L. The Truth that Sets Us Free: Biblical Songs for Worship. Chicago: GIA, 2013. Sheet music: $14.95. Audio CD: $16.95. www.giamusic.com (H)

Tate, Paul A. Seasons of Grace, Volume 5. Chicago: GIA, 2013. Sheet music: $20.00. Audio CD: $16.95. www.giamusic.com (LHP) 

Lawton, Liam. Eternal. Chicago: GIA, 2013. Sheet music: $20.00. Audio CD: $16.95. www.giamusic.com (LHP) 

Stuempfle, Herman G., Jr. The Song of Faith Unsilenced: Hymns, Songs and Carols. Chicago: GIA, 2013. Spiral. $21.95. www.giamusic.com (H) 

Blest Are Those Who Mourn: Music for the Order of Christian Funerals. Chicago: GIA, 2013. Paper. $3.95. www.giamusic.com (LH) 

Schrock, Dennis. Handel's Messiah: A Performance Practice Handbook. Chicago: GIA, 2013. 111 Pages. Spiral. $16.95. www.giamusic.com (LHP) 

Lawton, Liam, with Theresa Donohoo. Catholic Irish Classics. Chicago: GIA, 2013. Audio CD. $16.95. www.giamusic.com (H)

My Lenten Prayer: Morning and Evening Prayers for People on the Go. Chicago: GIA, 2013. Audio CD set: $25.95. www.giamusic.com (LH) 

Lectionary Psalms: the Revised Grail Psalms (As Found in Lead Me, Guide Me Second Edition). Chicago: GIA, 2013. Audio CD set. $29.95. www.giamusic.com (LH)  

Lectionary Psalms: the Revised Grail Psalms (As Found in Lead Me, Guide Me Second Edition). Chicago: GIA, 2012. Spiral sheet music. $34.95. www.giamusic.com (LH) 
Lead Me, Guide Me (Second Edition). Chicago: GIA, 2013. Cloth Hymnal. $15.50. www.giamusic.com (LH) 

If you're overwhelmed by the list of resources above, think how thrilled, stunned, honored, and happily buried we were last October when a large box of unsolicited review copy books, CDs, and sheet music arrived from Chicago and our friends at GIA. We followed up with them with our thanks and a request for the last two items on the list. Let's dig in!

+ Although the last resource read, this was the first one that had me excited, New Songs of Celebration Render: Congregational Song in the Twenty-First Century. There has been a need for a book like this, a modern supplement to the previous work by Routley and Westermeyer on the melodies and texts of historic church music. Hawn, et al., and the accompanying CD describe "Seven Streams of Song: An Overview of Congregational Song since Vatican II (356-7, passim). They include: 1. Roman Catholic Liturgical Renewal Hymnody (Blest Are They, On Eagle's Wings); 2. Protestant Contemporary Classical Hymnody (Tell Out My Soul, When in Our Music); 3. African American Spirituals and Gospel Songs (Total Praise); 4. Revival/Gospel Songs (Because He Lives; Shine, Jesus Shine); 5. Folk Song Influences (use of Southern Folk Tunes and Shaped-note melodies; British, Irish, and Scottish tunes); 6. Pentecostal Songs (Awesome God, El Shaddai, Majesty, Thy Word); 7. Global and Ecumenical Song (Taize; Bell, Sosa). Chapter Six unfortunately parrots the false story of Luther pioneering vernacular styles (177), misunderstanding history near and dear to me. Scheer is correct about Booth--please keep Luther out of it. I must complement Scheer on the focus on the recent hymn revival, a theme QBR has followed closely (197). He also correctly shows the danger of worship adopting one generation's youth culture (200). I am also thankful that Chapter Two (Brink, 64) highlights the hymn revival. The modern hymnody of Townend (54, 193, 198, 351) and Getty (54, 198) is also featured in multiple chapters, demonstrating the unifying nature of such singable, freshly-stated, and theologically deep congregational song. I could quibble about other details in a longer review, but there just isn't anything like this resource elsewhere. Recommended.

- A Lutheran response to a new collection of Mennonite hymnody is a challenge. I personally found two texts, "God is our Shelter and Our Shield," and "Upon the Holy Mountainside" usable in my context. I was horrified by the anti-scriptural "God Sparks the Human Soul," particularly because it was written to encapsulate "a core tenant of Anabaptism--human freedom in choosing to follow God." Scripture teaches Original Sin, that humans are naturally enemies of God, and that even our heart, reason, and desires are tainted with sin. I most appreciated sight-reading the new hymn tunes. Not recommended.

+/ Gathered for God is both a CD and choral composition collection. I think of it as a GIA composer sampler. As a Lutheran, I won't use "Dolorosa." I will consider Cooney's "God Is Love" for weddings, as well as Mahler's "My Beloved Is Mine," and "The Lord Is My Shepherd" by Daigle. Partially Recommended.

- Haas' We Are Not Alone has three components: CD, choral sheet music, and a devotional. I refuse to pray to Mary. She is not the One Mediator between God and men that Jesus is, nor is she omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. I respect her as the Mother of God, full of His grace, but still another sinner like me in need of a Savior. The Magnificat would have been a great substitute for "Hail, Holy Mary..." Similarly, I resist calls for social justice in "Sing a New World into Being." "Come, Follow Me" lacks context. St. Francis similarly misunderstood Mark 10. I dislike the word "choice" in "Join the Gospel Song" and am confused why "Body and Blood" are omitted from "Coming Together for Wine and Bread." Not Recommended.

+ Lyric Psalter Year A puts the Revised Grail Lectionary Psalms to melodies composed by Tony Alonso and Marty Haugen. With some adaptations to the Three-Year Lectionary of Lutheran Service Book, I can see this collection used profitably in an LCMS congregation. Roman/Marian Feasts would be omitted. We would like to see similar collections for B, C, and the Historic Lectionary. Recommended.

++ Gregorian Preludes for the Liturgical Year will find immediate use in my parish after I complete this review. "Kenneth Lowenberg offers ten preludes based on well-known Gregorian chants for the liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, and Corpus Christi. These short preludes are perfect for setting the mood of the season and are accessible to any organist" (Publisher's website). Highly Recommended and compatible with Lutheran Service Book!
/ The God of All Beginnings collection of Joncas music is only Partially Recommended. "Christ Be Near" is comforting. "Like a Bird" sings an oft-misunderstood Bible text too overused by moderns pushing a feminine view of God or ministry. I could use "Canticle of Mary," but not "Holy Mary." "Sacred This Banquet" has some unfortunate language, incompatible with either Lutheran (LCMS) or Roman understandings of Close Communion. The remainder of the pieces are serviceable for Lutherans to consider using.

+ Like The Lyric Psalter, Cry Out with Joy gives liturgical Three-Year Lectionary congregations fresh settings of Psalms to sing. This collection of responsorial Psalms, Gospel Acclamations, and Universal [responsive] Prayers, covering Psalms for Christmas, Triduum, Solemnities, and Other Celebrations, paired with Year A, is a complete resource for congregations desirous of singing more psalms. Refrains would be accessible by a congregation even without sheet music, due to the internal repetition. A choir or soloist is necessary to sing the bulk of each Psalm.  I would be interested to see years B and C as well as a similar resource for the Historic Lectionary. Recommended.

+/ Prolific composer James Chepponis' Mass for the People of God is next on our list. My concerns as a Lutheran are those of Luther looking at the medieval Roman Church's Latin Mass, as well as those of a modern Lutheran confused at seeing the Kyrie misused as part of the Penitential Act, instead of as a prayer of the forgiven people of God asking for mercy. Also, I will "quibble" about the phrase "people of good will" in the Gloria in Excelsis as an inadequate translation. LCMS Lutherans could use this setting otherwise, though we would certainly miss having an Offertory and our Nunc Dimittis. Recommended with slight modification.

+ John Bell's latest collection, The Truth that Sets Us Free, surprised me. I had not been that impressed just looking at the paperback music collection. It was the CD that changed my mind. I had been listening to another review CD from another publisher. As this CD began, I noted how much simpler and "unplugged" the tunes and texts were, reminding me of Bell's Introduction: "In an era when less and less may be assumed about the general public's knowledge of Jewish and Christian Scripture, it is important that the Church does not forsake the deep pools of Biblical truth for the shallows of saccharine personal piety." Consider also: "From John L. Bell and the Wild Goose Resource Group comes a new collection of 21 shorter songs for public worship. The music in The Truth that Sets Us Free magnifies God and the experience of God’s people and effectively offsets the personal focus that most popular praise songs emphasize. This diverse mix of world music has biblical roots and references—some express exultant praise—others yearning, or anger. Many of the songs are suitable for most Sundays while others are better suited to a particular season or liturgical act. It is the hope of the Iona Community that this collection will add to the pool of similar material, which takes both God and the world seriously, since it was for the world and not just humanity that Christ came" (Publisher's website). Recommended.

+ Paul A. Tate's Seasons of Grace, Volume 5 is a great resource for church musicians either as the CD or as the piano solo sheet music. Building on well-known Christian hymn tunes as diverse as those known for "In the Garden" and "Hail, Holy Queen," this collection is usable by Lutheran musicians. Consider this a collection to be used when the tunes of good hymn texts show up on Sunday morning and other times of worship. Use without fear beautiful melodies now divorced from their problematic, even unBiblical texts. I can't wait to hear Volume 6, and Volumes 1-4 and listen to such creatively beautiful piano music while following along in the solo books. I will also be sharing this with our church musicians yet this weekend. Recommended!

+/ I respectfully disagree with Liam Lawton that "Christ Has No Body Now But Yours" and omit his "Ave Maria" from my use of his Eternal choral music and CD collection, yet I will consider use of his beautiful "Bethlehem Sky" and the comforting and memorable piano, choir, assembly, keyboard, guitar and cello piece, "The Lord Is My Shelter." Partially recommended.

+ Many collections of new hymn texts are uneven. I have appreciated the hymn texts of Herman Stuempfle, including those in the new collection of hymns, songs, and carols called The Song of Faith Unsilenced. Sung in proper context, 16. "For Vows" is growing on me. 28. "Jesus Christ, Our Elder Brother," has title language to problematic to be sung in places with Mormon populations. 54. "The Guns of Death" and "While Nations Thunder Threats of War" speak truth, but not complete truth, omitting the concept of necessary self-defense, the Christian understanding of Just War, and our responsibility to protect and defend the innocent. I very much like hymn texts for neglected Lectionary texts like 2. "A Pharisee Went to Church," and fresh restatements of more common texts like 8. "Behold the Lamb of God!"  We are saddened on the occasion of the author's death in 2007. He will be missed. Recommended.

+ With a few notable exceptions, Blest Are Those Who Mourn: Music for the Order of Christian Funerals, Second Edition is Recommended.  Lutherans have no overwhelming objection to the Liturgy of the Sacrament at a Christian Funeral, yet our concerns largely have to deal with the pastoral care concern of practicing Close Communion, even when the very immediate family of the deceased may not have been in temporal Communion fellowship with the deceased. Lutherans will also object to language (6) referring to the Roman sacrifice of the Mass, though we would not object to the historic texts of the Mass itself with exceptions, including prayers to Mary (100, et al.) and the Saints (102, et al).  Much of the good found in this affordable booklet is already in Lutheran Service Book. I will give further consideration to the recommended hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs included here as I comfort the mourning with our Christian hope in the communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

++ Dennis Schrock's performance practic handbook for Handel's Messiah comes Highly Recommended. Participating in a performance of even part of Messiah can be a daunting proposition. This handbook will help you better understand the composition, content, theology, and musicality of the piece as a whole and as individual compositions. I appreciate the professionalism and high musicianship of this handbook and how it can prepare singers and musicians to worship the Messiah while performing Messiah.

+ Good, edifying Christian song for St. Patrick's Day can be difficult for Christians to find. Perhaps this recording of Irish Catholic Classics can fill that void. I love St. Patrick's Breastplate. Apart from that text, "Be Thou My Vision" sung to SLANE, the tune ST. COLUMBA, and the text "May the Road," much on this recording was new to me. I celebrated St. Patrick's Day this year as a good Lutheran with Guinness, corned beef and cabbage, "In Christ Alone," and hymns like these. Recommended.

-/ Appreciated, but Not Recommended. In QBR 2.1, (Christmastide 2007), we reviewed the original pair of My Morning Prayer and My Evening Prayer. Our praise and critique of My Lenten Prayer is identical. That previous review is reproduced below.

Liturgy & Hymnody CD Review
My Morning Prayer/My Evening Prayer. (Set of both My Morning Prayer and My Evening Prayer, or available separately for $25.95 each.) Seven Daily Services for People on the Go. Chicago: GIA, 2006 & 2007. 4–CD Audio CD set. $40.00. www.giamusic.com 800 GIA 1358 (LH)
When I first saw these advertised, I thought, “This has got to be one of the best ideas that I’ve seen in years that would encourage busy people to pray.” I still hold that opinion. This four-CD set has some wonderful strengths. I will also share some deeply-held concerns.
Here’s how they are to be used, according to the back of the CD cases: “Each day of the week has two tracks on these CDs; the odd-numbered tracks are the beginning of the day’s service, the even-numbered tracks begin with the Canticle…” My Morning Prayer makes use of the Canticle of Zechariah, often called by its Latin title, the Benedictus, while My Evening Prayer sings the Canticle of Mary, often called the Magnificat, also after the Latin.
Due to the success of their 2006 release of a resource for the morning, GIA followed up with a resource for the evening. My Evening Prayer appropriately begins with Saturday, the “eve” of Sunday, since it is prayed after sunset. My Morning Prayer goes Sunday through Saturday.
The services are very learnable by repetition. Repeated elements like the Invitatory, Canticle, music for the General Intercessions and Lord’s Prayer, and the Blessing are the same for either MMP or MEP all through the week. The services are reverent and respectful of the received tradition, and their structure will be familiar to liturgical Christians nourished by the teaching of the Gospel. They also give the listener a good exposure to the texts, music and composers in the GIA catalog.
My primary concern with these CDs is the inclusion of women presiding in a prayer office. This will likely lead to confusion with regard to the Office of the Holy Ministry, (see 1 Corinthians 14:33b-40; 1 Timothy 2: 8-15; 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6; et al) and there is enough of that in Christendom as is. I wonder if the 50-50 male/female balance in reading Bible texts and praying collects is due to the influence of the flawed idea from “liturgical theology” that liturgy is “the work of the people.”
Sunday’s concluding collect at Morning Prayer makes a vague reference to how to “find” God. This could have been cleared up by a reminder that Christians find God “for us” in Word and Sacrament, just as He promises in Scripture. You will wish to avoid adding your “Amen” to the prayer for the dead near the end of Evening Prayer on Monday.
The hymn for Sunday Morning Prayer shows the influence of St. Augustine and his teaching of the role of Christianity in society (according to Niebuhr) as “transforming culture.” The hymn text for Thursday Evening Prayer is weak, due to its theology coming primarily from the First Article of the Creed.
Additional strengths of the set are memorable well after finishing the week of prayer for the first time. The Morning Prayer canticle has the tune the British use to sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Forest Green, also found in Lutheran Service Book. That is but one example of how familiar melodies provide a welcoming foundation to both MMP and MEP. New compositions help add a breathtaking freshness. Wednesday’s Evening Prayer hymn is wonderful. Listen to that before you begin using the set. Some users will notice that the hymn for Monday Morning Prayer is a text we knew from The Lutheran Hymnal 525 with new music and a new refrain.
I would encourage GIA to provide similar My _____ Prayer resources for Compline (bedtime) and Midday Prayer (useful for mid-morning, lunch hour and mid-afternoon prayer). Praying with other people is better than a recording, yet this kind of help for personal prayer is better than praying alone.

/ Our marathon edition of Quick Summary reviews of liturgical music concludes with three companion resources intended for use among Roman Catholic African Americans, Lead Me, Guide Me. The hymnal's title hymn is new to many LCMS Lutherans, yet becoming known because of its inclusion in Lutheran Service Book. Our big GIA October "Christmas Box" included a 3 CD set of recordings of lectionary Psalms, similar to both Lyric Psalter and Cry Out with Joy, reviewed above. We contacted GIA about the recordings due to an initial problem with one of the CDs that was quickly and professionally corrected. That led us to express our interest in seeing both the spiral sheet music of the Lectionary Psalms composed for Lead Me, Guide Me, as well as the second edition of the hymnal itself. There is much to like in the Psalm settings here, particularly those for Lent, when Americans are used to minor keys. I appreciated the "blue note" feel of the refrains and verses throughout, familiar to previous, more secular forms, yet fresh and appropriate for Divine Service and Daily Office use. The hymnal itself is ruggedly built for a couple decades of use and is an unique blend of the Roman and the African American. While I cannot recommend the hymnal for Lutheran use, I do consider the Lectionary Psalms companion a good resource for musicans and choirs.

More information about each of these titles
may be found on each respective publisher's website. 

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a permanent member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

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