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Musical Resources for the Revised Common Lectionary.

The Revised Common Lectionary is a three-year cycle of biblical passages (lessons) for public reading at Christian services of worship. With some variation, the common lectionary is used around the world by Roman Catholics and most mainstream Protestants. Arthur Wenk's handbook admirably "offers assistance to ministers, organists and choirmasters interested in selecting hymns, organ music and choral music appropriate to [these] lessons" (p. ix). To accomplish this task he divided his book into five main parts: (1) "Music for the Church Year," which is a service-by-service chart of the entire cycle, citing the appointed lessons and then suggesting related organ music, choral music for adults, choral music for children, and hymns; (2) "A Scriptural Index of Hymn Texts," which helps the user find hymns related to particular verses in the Bible; (3) "An Index of Hymn Preludes," which helps the user find keyboard music based on particular hymn tunes; (4) "A Scriptural Index of Anthems," which lists choral music in three ways: (a) by the scripture verse upon which an anthem is based, (b) by the church season during which an anthem would be appropriate, and (c) by the name of the hymn tune upon which an anthem is based; and (5) Appendices, which group by composer (a) the organ works cited in part 1, giving approximate timings and some publication details, and (b) the choral works cited in part 4.

This is a valuable resource because it organizes so much information that is of potential use to the intended audience. Generally, I find the recommendations exemplary and, when taken in toto, successful in unfurling the riches of the various repertories. The book can be a real timesaver for service planning.

I confess surprise at finding 128 works by Healey Willan cited in part 4 (more than any other composer), along with 30 by Max Drischner and 22 by Keith Bissell. Johann Sebastian Bach gets only 84, Felix Mendelssohn 32, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 13, and poor Dietrich Buxtehude only 7. The contemporary American composer Richard Proulx is listed only once, and David Hurd and Calvin Hampton make no appearance at all. So there is a particular musical slant to this book that will not be universally admired.

A few hymn recommendations are dead wrong, probably as a result of reading hymn texts inch-by-inch instead of as whole canvas. For example, "Now the green blade rises" uses words taken from lessons appointed for Lent V, but it is in every way an Easter hymn and certainly is not suitable for singing on Lent V as recommended (p. 93). Though "Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor" and "At the Lamb's high feast" both derive in part from lessons appointed for Good Friday, they interpret these words in the context of Easter, and would be inappropriate for Good Friday (p. 160).

Palm Sunday brings up some difficult issues. If a service planner follows the lectionary the service will begin with a reading that tells of Jesus' triumphant procession into Jerusalem. Later the service will continue with the reading of The Passion - the story of the suffering and death of Jesus. This latter reading is a hinge into the solemnity and seriousness of Holy Week. For organ music at this service Wenk suggests a prelude based on the Passion Chorale ("O Sacred Head, sore wounded") and a postlude based on the traditional Palm Sunday processional hymn "All glory, laud and honor." Surely the order of these pieces should be reversed, thereby supporting musically the change that has occurred during the service. For Palm Sunday in Year C Wenk suggests the choir sing the Alleluia from Jean Berger's jubilant "Brazilian Psalm," but the mood is wrong for this service, and, besides, most churches using the Revised Common Lectionary discourage the singing of alleluias during Lent or Holy Week.

The book intends to organize a huge amount of information and it succeeds. It cannot always be tidy. The book is not necessarily self-referencing; for example, the anthems listed in part 4, the "Scriptural Index of Anthems," are not necessarily called for in part 1, the chart of "Music for the Church Year." Rather, part 4 is simply "a compilation of choral libraries from several churches" (p. 442), which means, for example, that though Gregorio Allegri's Miserere is listed in part 4, it is never recommended for use in the charts.

And, oddly, in part 2, the "Scriptural Index of Hymn Texts," page numbers of cited hymns are given, but there seems to be no pattern as to what hymnal is cited: sometimes it is the Presbyterian hymnal, sometimes the 1971 Canadian hymnal, sometimes the Episcopal, sometimes the United Methodist.

But these are minor criticisms. As a practicing church musician I used Musical Resources for the Revised Common Lectionary almost weekly for two years before writing this review, and invariably I found it very helpful.

RUSSELL SCHULZ-WIDMAR The Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest
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Author:Schulz-Widmar, Russell
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1997
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