Resource Review: Worship 4

My overall rating: 2.5/5

Content: 2/5

Book Quality: 4/5

Ease of use: 3/5

Musicality: 2/5

Summary: has some good stuff but won't be everything your parish needs, making it a very expensive supplement.

The Worship hymnal line from GIA Publications has been one of their flagship resources for a really, really long time. The fourth edition was published in 2011, so as to include the new translation of the Novus Ordo. Their site rates it as "80% traditional, 20% contemporary," so it's clear that they don't use the same metric as I do for that divide. Per their website, "Worship IV is filled with the finest organ-based hymnody GIA has to offer." I don't doubt that this is true.

the Good

There's a ton of stuff in here. There are over 1200 separate pieces of music, encompassing hymns and canticles for the Liturgy of the hours, eight complete Mass settings, alternate psalm settings, traditional hymns, contemporary works, and more. The accompaniment books come in four volumes, and there are other instrumental books available for optional C and B-flat instruments, and so on.

Besides the music, the Order of the Mass is included, as well as the Funeral and Marriage rites. The organ accompaniments are well indexed by hymn tune, meter, liturgical season, scriptural references, composers and sources, and of course first lines/titles. There is also a "Hymn of the Day" section that gives at least one hymn recommendation for each Sunday and feast of the church year, for all three years in the cycle. If you're stuck for a thematic match, GIA has your back.

And my favourite thing about this collection is that hymn #666 is a hymn entitled "Silence, Frenzied Unclean Spirit." Clearly put together by a publisher with a sense of humour.

the Bad

A lot of the songs in here are straight-up bad. Not just stuff I don't care for, and not just stuff that falls short of what belongs to the dignity of the liturgy, but theologically questionable outright garbage. Much of it is cloaked in recycled hymn tunes that used to have excellent lyrics. The hymn tune KINGSFOLD is used for seven different sets of words - that one is the record holder, but many others are similarly abused. Most of the lyrics for these "new wines in old wineskins" are pedestrian, clunky, and self-worshipping. Most (if not all) of the actual traditional hymns have had their language "updated" to modern squishy sensibilities, and no longer contain the full poetic impact that they once had.

None of the Mass settings are chant-based except for the ICEL Mass and the most basic Latin chant. All of the English settings have a refrain-style Gloria, which I think is a hot mess. Most of the Sanctus settings span an octave or more within the first two bars. These are not settings geared towards full participation by average parishioners, they are showcases for the cantor/choir.

For being such a fat volume, it does not contain any readings. This means that you will still need missals or printed worship aids for your parish. Since a good portion of the Worship is music your parish probably doesn't need for Sunday Mass (liturgy of the hours, psalms and canticles, two complete sets of responsorial psalms, etc), it feels like a waste of space. For something that will only provide part of what your parish needs, it's a large and expensive resource.

My Final Take

When our parish first bought the Worship 4, I was careful to select two hymns from the Worship and two from the missal we purchased, just so that no one would complain that we spent money on books we weren't using. Over time, that ratio shifted as all of the musicians in our parish found that the other book had better words, better harmonizations, and better selection than the hymnal that was four times its size, and now it forms about 25% of our repertoire, at best. While it's got some great stuff that you won't find elsewhere, I don't think it is worth purchasing for a parish that wants authentic sacred music in a reverent liturgy.

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