Catholic Worship Book II Online?
...now considered the official music resource for the Australian Church by the Australian Bishops Conference...
The Australian Catholic Bishops' National Liturgical Music Board launched Catholic Worship Book II (CWBII) in 2016. This hard-cover hymnal was the conclusion of an eight year project that overcame a number of publishing issues to provide the Australian Church with a common liturgical music repertoire. There are a number of very good reasons to consider using CWBII. Most importantly, it contains excellent liturgical music that is theologically appropriate for local parishes. Some of the hymns will be new, but there are also a great many treasured 'golden-oldies'. It contains a number of adaptions, for example 'Gather Us In' #501 only has three verses because a Vatican review found the fourth verse problematic. It is a liturgical song book: the hymns have been ordered for best use by season and rite.
There has been some push-back from parishes that CWBII omits some favourites. There is a good reason for this. After Vatican II, our liturgy began to be celebrated in English here in Australia. Consequentially, there was an incredible need for new liturgical music. In the great rush to meet the needs of the new liturgy, lots of music was produced: some good, some bad. Vatican II is now 50 years in our past, but in many ways we are still coming to understand what this incredible Council called us to do. In the creation of Catholic Worship Book II, there was a process of discernment to ensure that it provided a balanced repertoire. Musicians and theologians from all over Australia that took part in this process are inviting us to make space for new music, and in many ways, better music.
CWBII is not a perfect resource. The people's edition is heavy. The accompaniment version is expensive and is printed on demand, but usually this only means a wait of a couple of weeks. Musicians complain that the accompaniment version (printed portrait style) is too thick to sit on most music stands. A soft cover version is in the works but still unconfirmed (the contract needs to be renegotiated with music publishers for this to happen).
Many communities no longer use hymnals. For them, the biggest complaint is obtaining the right to copy lyrics to Powerpoint and newsletters. Unfortunately, when the National Liturgical Music Board were negotiating printing rights with publishers, they were unable to secure digital rights at the same time. This means a constant check against the 'OneLicense' catalogue to see if a hymn is available. Oftentimes the hymn is not available and so is unusable.
The other common complaint is expense. With OneLicense not allowing choirs to use pdf versions of hymns and musicians required to have accompaniment versions (ie: no photocopying allowed), this can become a very expensive transition. The people's edition is currently priced around $35 and the accompaniment version around $295. Many small regional parishes are priced out of an immediate transition. Where budget is an issue, a transition/purchasing plan may be required, where resources are slowly purchased over a number of years. Waiting could also mean that different, cheaper versions may come to market, but there is no promise of this happening.
There is good news. The National Liturgical Music Board members are musicians themselves, working in parishes, acutely aware of these hurdles. Negotiations are underway to secure digital rights to all of the music in CWBII. This will be a slow process with many different publishers. I have spoken with several people on the National Liturgical Music Board, and I do not believe that we will see much movement here in the next 12 months.
Should parishes transition to using Catholic Worship Book II?
Absolutely. It is now considered the official music resource for the Australian Church by the Australian Bishops Conference. If you don't want to purchase the people's edition (printed pew hymnals), then it might be a case of buying the accompaniment (musician's) version and playing the hymns that do appear in OneLicense so that you can copy to newsletter or Powerpoint. It may take a couple of years, but the current issues are being worked on. Catholic Worship Book II is an excellent resource, with beautiful hymns, which have been carefully selected for our local needs including many from Australian composers.
James Robinson, Education Officer, Liturgy Brisbane