The Hymnal Project

In 2016, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute was asked by our Music Commission to begin work on a collection of spiritual songs (sometimes called paraliturgical hymns). What are spiritual songs?

Why we need a hymnal

Our church has a rich singing tradition, both for the liturgy itself, and for hymns that are sung before and after liturgical services, and on special occasions such as pilgrimages. Our prayer books and service books have often contained the texts for these hymns in an appendix; the music was well known, and many members of the church had learned and memorized additional verses. Of course, as with any oral tradition, variants abounded, and choir directors sometimes developed their own versions of the same basic hymns.

In 2006, with the publication of a new Divine Liturgy book, our Music Commission began work on a hymnal to accompany it. Unfortunately, this work was never completed, and instead the Metropolitan Cantor Institute published a small hymnal with just text and music for the hymns contained in our previous Divine Liturgy book (1978). No critical work was done at that time; problems with the existing text and music, well-known to cantors, were never resolved, and a wide variety of other music was bot included since the goal was simply to reproduce "what we had in the old book."

Today, much of this music is in danger of being lost, either though lack of availability, or because the problems with some of the music prevent us from recognizing its value to our community. By creating a single good hymnal, we may be able to retivalize our singing of these hymns, to the glory of God, and the engagement of our people, especially our children.

Guidelines for a new hymnal

In addition:

Discuss and improve these guidelines.

Choosing which hymns to include

The first real hymnal in our church is the Pisennik ("song-book") of Father Uriel Silvay, published in Uzhorod. Here is a PDF of the 1913 edition (large download!). It does not contain music, since the melodies were assumed to be well-known. It could really use an index and commentary, if anyone would like to work on one! Many of these same hymn texts were also included in the backs of prayer books and liturgical anthologies (sborniki). I will attempt to provide a finder's guide to hymns in the more commonly known prayer books. We also have a variety of choir recordings of these hymns in their original languages.

English translations appeared over time. In 1970, a small collection of hymns with music was included in the music notebook, Byzantline Liturgical Chant; these hymns can be viewed here. A basic "core" repertoire in English and Slavonic was published in the 1978 service book, The Divine Liturgy: A Book of Prayer, prepared by Father William Levkulic and published by the Byzantine Seminary Press. This book contained no music, only texts, and omittted a number of well-known hymns. In 2007, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute published the repertoire from the back of Father Levkulic's 1978 book, with music from Byzantine Liturgical Chant and other source. This is the Byzantine Catholic Hymnal.

The 1984 Divine Liturgy book of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese provided twelve pages with many of the same hymns, with music but different translations.

And of course, there have also been particular collections of hymns for specific seasons and purposes (which we will describe in the appropriate place), as we well as anthologies put together by individual cantors and choir directors. ALL of these hould be considered for possible inclusion, if they meet a new in our Church.

Creating such comprehensive hymnal will be a LARGE project, and it would be most practical to address them by liturgical season or subject. In each category, we will look at the available hymns, pick the ones we would like to include, and work on the texts and music until we have something serviceable. Your input is welcome; see the links to comment below!

Hymns for Nativity and Theophany

This is the first group we will tackle. Check current status, post your comments, and recommend additional hymns for this section!