Book: El Himnario Presbiteriano
Louisville: Geneva Press, 1999. 722 pp. Pew edition $14.95; accompanist edition (spiral bound) $29,95, Reviewed by Jorge A. Lockward, minister of music at West End Presbyterian Church, New York City
Putting together a balanced and useful hymnal is not an easy task. The diversity of musical styles, the accumulation of "favorite hymns" over the years, the recent explosion in both the writing and sharing of global songs, the limitations of size and cost; all conspire to make the work difficult. If to this we add that the book is to serve three distinct denominations and a growing, changing, and diverse Hispanic community in the United States and Puerto Rico, the assignment is almost impossible.
Yet this is exactly what the editorial committee, under the leadership of editor Raquel Gutierrez-Achon, has given us. The particular title listed above is the version published by the Presbyterian Church (USA). The Episcopal version is entitled El Hinuiario 1998, and the edition published by the United Church of Christ is entitled Hinuiario Unido. The song contents are identical; the only differences are in the liturgical elements at the beginning of each book.
The fruit of many years of intense ecumenical collaboration, this book provides Spanish-speaking congregations and individuals with a well-balanced diet of 495 hymns, responses, choruses (estrihillos), and psalm settings drawn from traditional and contemporary sources. Almost every style is represented from Latin America, from sources and influences as diverse as (post) Vatican 11 Liberation theology, the Evangelical heritage, and traditional Western hymnody. There is a particularly strong section of Cantos Liturgicos (service music), mostly in indigenous Latin American styles. Another important feature is the wealth of significant recent hymnody appearing for the first time in Spanish translation; jewels such as Fred Pratt Green's "When in Our Music God Is Glorified" ("Cuaiuto al cantorseglorified a Dios.") The hymnal also includes a Psalter section with 42 psalm settings that range in diversity from Anglican chant to a Puerto Rican daitza. Although many songs from the Praise & Worship tradition have been translated from English into Spanish, one disappointment is that not many of that style are included from Hispanic sources. For example, "Father, 1 Adore You" is included, but not one song by the very popular songwriter Marcos Witt.
Churches that plan bilingual services will now have many familiar standard English hymns with Spanish translations. However, it would have been helpful to have more hymns given bilingual treatment. The 15-plus bilingual settings of hymns in this collection are unfortunately not indexed separately, but a quick survey of the General Index will make them readily available for use in bilingual settings and English-speaking congregations that are seeking a wider understanding of their world and establishing links with their neighbors.
With its careful editing and wide cross sections of styles, this book is a must for any worship leader interested in a deeper understanding of current Hispanic hymnody.