NPM Magazine Review

A Catholic Organist’s Book of Hymns

Noel Jones.  Frog Music Press, 2015.  The Liturgical Year (Volume 1), 2014.  ISBN 978-1500777708, 254 pages, paperback.  The Liturgical year II: 3 Part Hymns & Chorale, 2015.  ISBN 9787-1515068976.  212 pages, paperback,$24.95 each.

[Revised, corrected and now available as a single book]

Designed as a companion to A Catholic Organist’s Guide to Playing Hymns, this  two-volume set contains more than 200 hymn tunes set in three voices.  Concise summaries of the author’s advice on articulation, phrasing, and other aspects of hymn playing found in the fuller method book may be found at the beginning and end of these volumes.  The hymn tunes themselves are notated with shortened notes at phrase endings.  Avoiding the awkward voice leading sometimes encountered in three-voice setting of hymn melodies, Jones maintains harmonic interest without sacrificing elegance and simplicity.  Some of the settings will be playable with pedal by the beginning organist (or the organist who has mastered A Catholic Organist’s Guide to Playing Hymns), but many will need to be played manualiter.  Although the second volume in particular contains many tunes which are not widely sung in Catholic parishes, the two sets together cover just about all of the “traditional” hymn tunes sung in most Catholic parishes, including a few chant hymns.

Each tune is also presented as a chorale prelude for preludes, interludes, or hymn introductions.  The preludes are written in various styles, and while most are technically simple, they are consistently well-written and interesting.  Variety is achieved not only through form but also in harmonic language.   Some tunes receive multiple treatments, including GROSSER GOTT, which is set in three preludes and a postlude.

As is the case with A Catholic Organist’s Guide to Playing Hymns, Jones’s embrace of technology in these volumes sets his work apart from that of his peers.  Information on registration is offered in the same manner discussed in the review of that guide, and the entire contents of these two volumes are available for subscription download at - $20.00 per year for an individual organist or $35.00 per year for a parish subscription.

These two books have far fewer typographical errors and formatting inconsistencies than does A Catholic Organist’s Guide to Playing Hymns.  Both are attractively bound with large print for easy reading and are recommended for the beginning organist and for the experienced organist looking for a little variety in hymn playing.

Nicholas Will