New chapter for Australian Church music

By Adrian Middeldorp
Bernard Kirkpatrick completes his final checks before sending CWBII to the printers. Photo: Elizabeth McFarlane.

After nearly a decade of work, revising a resource more than 30 years old, a comprehensive new worship resource for the Catholic Church in Australia, Catholic Worship Book II, has just been completed and is ready to be launched in Lent this year.

In layman’s terms, Catholic Worship Book II is to Catholic musicians and liturgists what The Force Awakens is to Star Wars fans. In fact, Catholic Worship Book II (CWBII) took many more years of production than the epic film.

CWBII is a project of the National Liturgical Music Board, which is the consultative body on liturgical music to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

It is the first monumental work of its kind in Australia to have been compiled by a group of musicians and consultants under the auspices of the Church, rather than a commercial publishing enterprise, for specific use in the Church.

The book encourages the vision of the Second Vatican Council that reaffirms music as an integral part of all liturgical rites and, therefore, proper worship of God.

It is a response to the 2001 Vatican document, Liturgiam Authenticam, which called for a more faithful translation of texts and clear guidelines for the establishment of sacred music repertoires within dioceses and local parishes.

CWBII consists of more than 650 musical items, explanatory notes on principles for choosing and using liturgical music, and rubrical instructions.

It includes hymns, chants and other liturgical music from a variety of Australian and overseas composers, past and present. Taize chants are well represented among plainchants along with more contemporary styles of music.

It contains not only music for Mass but also music for the sacraments, with a comprehensive section for the stages of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours).

Each piece of music has been meticulously chosen; the essential selection criteria being: musical quality, text quality and pastoral considerations.

Two key contributors and collaborators in the creation and collation of this resource will be very familiar to those in the Diocese of Parramatta: our Diocesan Administrator, Very Rev Peter Williams, and the Director of Music at St Patrick’s Cathedral, organist, conductor and composer, Bernard Kirkpatrick.

Fr Peter said the CWBII is a comprehensive liturgical music resource as it contains music for the complete range of liturgical celebrations in the Roman rite, both old and new.

“Most parishes tend to get locked into a fixed repertoire because their resources are limited. This book will provide the opportunity for all Catholic parishes to extend their repertoire, retaining what is tried and true, and also introducing new compositions,” Fr Peter said.

For Bernard Kirkpatrick, the book is just one part of the culmination of a life dedicated to Church music.

“Ever since I was a young child, I had a particular interest in the music of the Church, it is something I’ve just fallen into, something that has unfolded before me,” he said.

“In a sense, it is something akin to a vocation, you’re led by the Holy Spirit, you’ve got the gifts, and you put them into action and people call on you to assist.”

Bernard hopes the book will be the beginning of a larger project to educate and strengthen Church music in Australia and beyond.

“The book itself is one aspect of the CWBII project. It was felt that we needed to go down the track of first producing a hard copy resource, to be followed by a digital download facility, especially for the melody edition, for those places where data projection is used or special Order of Service booklets are required,” he said.

“After the book is released, we will have workshops and forums where the content of the book can be explored and demonstrated.”

A longer-term project of the resource is to record and provide pre-recorded accompaniments of selected items, for those communities where musicians are scarce or unavailable.


Title: Catholic Worship Book II (Two editions: Peoples edition and Full Music edition)

Publisher: Morning Star Publishing

Available: Lent 2016

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