A "Good" Catholic Hymn

It pains me to admit it but as much as I love my church, I hate most modern Catholic music.

But I like, no love, “Holy is His Name,” John Michael Talbot’s interpretation of Our Lady’s splendid Magnificat.

This is a rather good version of it.

So it’s nice to see Talbot showing up at Deacon Greg’s establishment and in a two-part interview on Currents, the nightly news show produced by NET-TV, in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Part two will be broadcast (and livestreamed here) tonight at 7:30.

And if you want to hear Talbot sing it for himself, go here.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • archangel

    Only because it dovetails into your previous post; my favorite of late (especially if it is done really well) is “Shepherd Me Oh God.

    “Shepherd me oh God, beyond my wants beyond my cares, from death into life.”

    Very good for the times IMO.

  • Commander Craig

    I’m told JMT was once the best-selling Christian music artist. This was before all that terribly overproduced CCM swill took over.

    Talbot simply is much more talented as a guitarist, vocalist, composer and lyricist (adapting Scripture and other holy writings almost exclusively) than virtually anyone that EWTN plays. I suspect EWTN shies away from Talbot because they 1) find his combined married/single monastic community suspect and 2) don’t like that he left the ordained priesthood to marry. More’s the pity, because much of the playlist on Catholic Jukebox is a treacly embarassment, however sincere and holy the artists.

    Talbot’s work comes from a very deep contemplative place. I recommend his album “Wisdom” which adapts the wisdom literature quite beautifully.

    However, he should not be eating soup these days.

  • Cherie

    I agree with Commander Craig the music that is played on EWTN is bad.
    I don’t know much about JMT but I really Kathryn Scott. Her song Creator King is my favorite song about the greatness of God.

  • Rushad

    I pretty much hate all modern Catholic music as well. We need to go back to the Gregorian Chant and Polyphonic tradition in church music, as the documents of Vatican II called for. Talbot and his lot are great threats to that agenda. Their music is lame.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny L.

    Just a personal observation, and I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Catholic hymns are thematically more theological while Protestant hymns are more from personal experience. And that could be why Protestant hymns are more engaging.

    I love Talbot’s music. Not sure if you realize, he’s a convert to R.C.

  • Aimee

    I’m sure this shows my low tastes, but I really like contemporary Catholic music, Talbot included.

  • craig

    Manny, the best of the old-time Protestant hymns (Charles Wesley et al.) are extremely theological. It’s the contemporary evangelical megachurch stuff, Hillsong and the like, that is 99% “Jesus is my boyfriend” treacle.

    [I like old Protestant Hymns, I like African American spirituals. I love old Catholic Hymns, and I don't just mean the Latin ones. But I mostly despise the modern music for mass, and I am no fan of Christian contemporary stuff, either. I can do without. :-) -admin]

  • Rushad

    If you can tap your toe to the music, it probably doesn’t belong at Mass or Benediction. Just sayin’.

  • Rushad

    Craig is absolutely correct. The old-time hymns are highly poetic, beautiful, and theologically orthodox. It’s difficult these days to find music that fits all three of those categories. As a rule of thumb, anything written within the last 50 years probably won’t make the cut. Lol. Corpus Christi Watershed produced this really awesome little video about what types of music belong in Catholic liturgy: link here

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny L.

    Thanks Craig. LOL on the “Jesus is my boyfriend” type of music, but that is not really characterizing the hymns but the pop Christian music. And the Catholic pop music does similar.

    Really, those Protestant hymns are superior. Some of my favorites are “Peace In The Valley,” “I Saw The Light,” All Things Are Possible,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and my all time favorite, “Take my Hand, Precious Lord.”

  • Rushad

    “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” is a glorious hymn!

  • Mary in CO

    My favorite JMT songs are those faithfully based on Scripture verses, or on Christian writings. They **are** poetic, and orthodox. But I think their best use is not within the context of a Mass.

    Especially like Holy Is His Name (Magnificat), Come Worship the Lord (Psalm 95) and St. Teresa of Avila’s poem “Christ Has No Body”.

  • http://bobmetivier.com Bob Metivier

    I understand and agree with some of your comments, but am amused or disturbed by others. I function in both worlds, as a traditional music director in a Catholic church and as a Contemporary Catholic composer. The music that you hear on my blog, bobmetivier.com is mostly acoustic pop but there is also a newly written piece based on the Crucem Tuam chant as the last one, no. 13 in the player on the site.

    My argument is that you can do both if you concentrate on how you are composing and know where to use them. Father, for instance was used at the Good Friday service, but sung a capella, which completely changed its delivery, making it appropriate for a traditional setting. I would’ve done the Crucem Tuam as a choral setting but it was too difficult for my choir to do this year without accompaniment.

    I think that I would like to get your feedback on my approach to things ; -)

    Bob Metivier

  • Pingback: Favorite Hymns

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny L.

    I linked this entry to my blog where I embedded my favorite hymns.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny L.

    Rushad, that link was incredibly informative. I had never realized the criteria placed on Cathloic church music.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/deaconsbench/ Deacon Greg Kandra

    To the best of my knowledge, Talbot was never a priest. He joined the Catholic Church in the late 1970′s, became a Secular Franciscan, then founded his own hermitage and religious community.

    I think his wife, however, is a former nun.

    Interestingly, in my conversations with him the other day, he described himself as conservative. He’s also not as old as he looks (56).

    Musically, he’s the first Catholic artist to really “cross over” and gain widespread popularity and acceptance with evangelical Protestant listeners. In 1988, he was named the #1 Christian Recording Artist by Billboard magazine.

  • Rushad

    Manny, I’m glad you were able to gain greater insight from CC Watershed’s video. If you enjoyed that video, you’ll love this one they did about the annual Colloquium sponsored by the Church Music Association of America last year: link

  • James

    It is as if, post-Vatican II, the Church was looking for “folk” music and instead of adopting the great treasure of American Protestant hymms, Dan Schutte and others were commissioned. I generally dislike (I would use a stronger word, but I don’t want you to think that I am angry.) anything written in the 70′s and 80′s. Apparently, American Protestant hymms are no longer taboo, which is a good thing. But often the martial tempo did not make the jump into Catholic Mass.

  • Signe

    I am not a fan of very much of what passes for modern “Catholic” music. One hymn that I have discovered recently is by M. D. Ridge, “The Lord Is My Hope”. The melody is lovely and the lyrics are scriptural (partly based on 2 Samuel, I believe) “The Lord is my hope and my glory, The Lord is the song that I sing, so tender and loving a Shepherd, so rooted in justice a king… Other than a few others of the modern “idiom” I prefer the old ones, i.e., Wesley and such things as “O God of Loveliness” and “Holy God We Praise Thy Name”.

  • http://sevenoaks-jeanne.blogspot.com/ Jeanne

    “Shepherd Me” is probably my favorite. As part of our church’s Music Ministry, it is very hard to find hymns that fit the readings for Sunday and are easy enough so that the congregation can pick up on them and sing them. At our last practice we worked on a new hymn and burst out laughing – the tune sounded so much like “Beauty and the Beast.” A lot of the newer stuff leaves much to be desired. When we belt out a good old 1700′s or 1800′s Protestant-borrowed hymn, the whole congregation sings with joy. When we try something akin to the new Beauty & the Beast melody, people just get confused. Bring back that old time music!

  • Commander Craig

    Thanks, Greg, for the clarification. I know he took a lot of heat for getting married (see his liner notes on the “Hiding Place” CD — jeepers, do they still make CDs?!).

    BTW, in the dying days of Catholic Radio 2.0, JMT was nice enough to write some encouraging words on the wall of the show’s Facebook page. So naturally, I think he’s a stand-up guy!

  • craig

    The thing about a good old hymn is that the congregants don’t have to be good at meter and rhythm. If you have a powerful organ accompanying, they don’t even have to be good at pitch. ;-) (Which actually gives them something in common with good karaoke tunes and school fight songs, if that’s not blasphemous.) Those characteristics leave everyone free to just sing about God’s works and promises, the overall message being His transcendance: “the Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord…”; “who saved us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray”; “every eye shall now behold Him robed in dreadful majesty”.

    Now, there’s no reason new hymns can’t be written to meet all these criteria. It just hasn’t happened much, which is why we talk about good old hymns.

    The current fad for show-tune style inverts the paradigm: the congregants now have to manage syncopated meters and breathy melodic tricks designed to show off miked performers’ technique. Even worse is how the newer lyrics frequently lapse into subjectivism and posit an intimacy between God and the individual which is occasionally presumptuous. When the congregants sing paeans to their own love of God, it either comes across as the boyfriend songs mentioned earlier (“I’m desperate for You”), or else as eerily reminiscent of Peter’s Maundy Thursday claims (“forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand”).

  • Rushad

    Why are we as a Church acting as if Vatican II didn’t say that Gregorian Chant is to be given first place in the liturgical services of the Roman Rite. It’s ridiculous for us to fish around for hymns to insert into the Mass when we jolly well ought to be chanting the Proper texts of the Mass itself (Introit, Offertory, Communion), as well as the Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei). We, as a People, need to learn to Sing Like Catholics link, link.

    [When you comment with unembedded url's the spam detector thinks you are spamming me, and throws you into the spam filter. Link tutorial here -admin]

  • Lori

    I completely agree on modern church music, Anchoress. But I think it’s a testimony to Catholics’ love for the Body of Christ that the best of the modern songs are the Eucharistic ones. I love “One Bread, One Body,” “Gift of Finest Wheat,” and the like. They aren’t the Panis Angelicus, but they’re so much better than the rest of what passes for church music today.

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