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Zingt Jubilate

Well-meaning, not unsuccessful, but let down by poor arrangements: this widespread hymnbook for Flemish Catholics is a stern challenge to any musician or liturgist.

Zingt Jubilate has rounded up hymns from a number of different sources, and the editors have also taken the trouble to make an extra volume available to explain what comes from where and what other versions are available. Necessarys – the deliberate choice of simple, accessible arrangements is an admirable idea, but the musical equivalent of a bread-and-water diet. And some of the bread is so far from nourishing that it's essential to know where to find a better baker.

It didn't take more than a couple of Sundays for me to start despairing of Zingt Jubilate. As I winced my way through its simple, simple three-part harmonisations I could hear the ghost of my music-teacher at my shoulder: Don't double your major thirds! Don't use 6 4 chords! Not just simple, in fact: crude. A painfully low level of musicianship.

Frustratingly, I have to admit I was not clever enough to do anything about it – except, my natural response, order a book. The critical apparatus for ZJ lists every hymn in the collection, giving the source of the words and explaining where you can find variants or other settings of the music.

I clearly had to get my hands on a copy, but after years of sporadic effort the closest I'd been was a 'phone call from the Protestant bookshop in Brussels saying it didn't seem to be available after all. Brief gloom, with new twinges every Saturday evening.

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