Thursday, January 26, 2017

"Psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles"

St. Paul exhorted the Ephesians in chapter 5, verses 18-19 to be "filled with the Holy Spirit", and to share "psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord" (Douai-Rheims). Suddenly, hymns are a common topic among Catholic book publishers, with EWTN re-marketing a book by Father George Rutler, TAN publishing Anthony Esolen's Real Music, and Emmaus Road Mike Aquilina's How the Choir Converted the World: Through Hymns, With Hymns, and In Hymns. I am reading Real Music now.

We watched Father Rutler's series on hymns years ago and purchased the VHS tapes (!); he gives the historical and biographical background to a hymn and its composer or lyricist, and then plays the melody on a piano on the set, speak-singing the hymn. The book and the DVD are separate items, however. The book was originally published by Ignatius Press with the title, Brightest and Best: Stories of Hymns. You can see a sample of the hymns Father Rutler discusses in the TV series here.

Anthony Esolen's book Real Music has an advantage over Father Rutler's book because the musical selections are included on a CD with it, as the publisher notes:

Real Music by Anthony Esolen – and the accompanying CD of 18 hymns recorded by the St. Cecilia Choir of St. John Cantius Church in Chicago - is a comprehensive and fascinating guide, in print and song, to the great hymns of the Church. It shows that, unlike much of what is sung in too many Catholic churches today, good music, “Real Music”, combines great poetry with doctrinally sound lyrics and beautiful melody.

With noted Catholic author Anthony Esolen as your guide and the St. Cecilia Choir as your muse, join the Catholic Musical Renaissance which is truly a recovery of the best that has been sung and prayed down through the ages. You’ll be glad you did.

Real Music is arranged by events in the life of our Lord and the seasons and Sacraments of the Church. This book/CD set will teach you much about poetry, music, and the Catholic Faith itself. What better way to learn your Faith than through beautiful music!

Whether at home in your favorite easy chair, or among friends in an informal class at your parish,
Real Music will bring you deep into the lyrics and melodies of the great hymns that so magnificently offer praise and honor to God.

Real Music is meant to be savored; first by reading Esolen’s masterful explication of the poetic, melodic, and doctrinal elements of a hymn and then listening to the hymn itself on the accompanying CD.

Finally, there's Mike Aquilina's book, which Emmaus Road Publishing describes briefly:

Music is the most effective delivery system for feelings—love, joy, sadness, glory. The early Church Fathers knew that music also has power over minds, and they used that power to maximum effect, writing hymns through which the early Christians would learn, retain, and spread the Gospel message. In How the Choir Converted the World, best-selling author Mike Aquilina demonstrates how the earliest Christians used music to transform a world that desperately needed transforming. As Aquilina suggests, “If we did it once, we can do it again.”

As Mike Aquilina has focused so much on the Fathers of the Church throughout his publishing career it makes sense that this book, with an introduction by John Michael Talbot, is about the early Church and how the Fathers, like St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, and others, emphasized the role of singing the psalms of the Old Testament, and the hymns of the Church, in forming their congregations in the faith.

When I've finished reading, and listening to, Real Music, I'll review it here.

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