Reviews of Celebration Hymnal
Thanks to all who took their time to write with ideas/suggestions/advice.
Your help is greatly appreciated!!
Below is a compilation of responses a great number of you requested.
1- I would not recommend the Celebration Hymnal. It large proportion of
Praise Choruses along with the hymns. I serve a church in which we use lots
of Praise Choruses - it's not that I object to them per se. From experience,
however, Praise Choruses have too short a shelf-life to go to expense and
permanency of putting lots of them in a hymnal. If a church is serious about
its hymnody, and also wants to sing some Praise Choruses it is much wiser and
cheaper to purchase a hymnal that emphasizes *hymns* and purchase an
inexpensive CCLI license so the church can stay current with the choruses.
2- In response to your inquiry regarding the Celebration Hymnal (not to be
confused with the Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, the predecessor of the
Celebration Hymnal), we are a PCUSA church in Ohio (on the northern edge of
Cincinnati) of just over 300 members and acquired the Celebration Hymnal
probably about a year and a half or so ago to replace The Hymnbook which the
church had used for longer than anyone could (or cared to) remember.
We are extremely pleased with the hymnal for its mixture of standard hymns,
Gospel songs, praise/worship choruses, readings, etc. Our choir frequently
incorporates the optional choral endings provided with many of the songs, and
we will often use the alternate last verses, many times preceded by a written
modulation. These are particularly helpful for a part-time organist, who,
while very skilled, is not professionally trained as such, other than having
had a number of years of first piano, then organ, private lessons. Our
biggest transition has been not having "amens" on the end of every hymn, as
was the case with The Hymnbook. (But having them on a few hymns now and then
makes us appreciate them more when they do occur.)
The demography of our growing congregation is largely professional upper
middle class and covers the entire range of age levels, backgrounds
(religious and otherwise), etc. Thus, like so many congregations, we were
hearing the expressed need for a more contemporary worship approach from some
of the members (with some even desiring a separate "contemporary" service),
while others preferred the more traditional. The Celebration Hymnal seems to
answer each of these approaches. ..... [personal info edited out] .....
[cont.] ..... As music director of the church, I have stood opposed to any
separate "contemporary" service, working more toward the "blended" worship
concept prevalent today, which, I feel, promotes an appreciation for varied
worship styles. I tell you all of this because I think that is the intended
approach of the Celebration Hymnal; and, for me personally, and for us as a
congregation, it works very well.
The minor one criticism I might make concerning the hymnal (and this has not
been expressed to me by anyone; it is only my impression) is that the print
size of the hymn texts seems to me to be somewhat small and therefore might
not be conducive to being easily read by persons who are farsighted,
particularly older folks with failing eyesight. I am not aware of any
large-print version being available unless such a version has been published
since our purchase of the hymnal. Again, I have not actually heard that
concern expressed by anyone and we have a number of older members in our
congregation, it being the oldest on-going congregation in our township,
established around 1869 or thereabouts (I don't believe any of them are
charter members, but some have been around for a very l-o-o-o-ng time!).
I hope this information is helpful to you; it is only one opinion but it is
based on our experience with the hymnal. Thus far, it has been a very
positive experience and seems to meet the needs of a wide spectrum of the
varied musical tastes of our congregation. It has been very well received.
For churches seeking to incorporate more of the contemporary approach to
congregational singing while maintaining the traditional, the Celebration
Hymnal is probably the best I've seen thus far. (And I do not work for Word
Music, nor am I on a first-name basis with Tom Fettke!)
3- A lot of this depends on the style of your particualr church. Having just
left a PCUSA church that was "cutting edge" blended (whatever that means),
that church's needs were far different than a "by the book" order of worship
I will say that from my standpoint, it is not my hymnal of choice. Thatwould
by "The Worshiping Church" published by Hope, edited by DonHustad. As a
hymnal it is much more comprehensive. The "Celebration Hymnal" has more
choruses, but if you are trying to be current and relative, they are old.
Since we were using video projection of words, or pringing them in the
bulletin (it's hard to flow in medleys from hymn to chorus to verse 3 of the
hymn, to another chorus, etc. while flipping pages), it took my music from man
y different sources. I do appreciate the wording of the "Worshiping Church"
more than others, and would often use them. I find the keys are more
congregation friendly also. (The "Celebration Hymnal" is written more for
guitar friendly keys.)
4- I am not familiar with a publication called Celebration Hymnal but I am
aware of a publication called 'Come Celebrate' authored by Betty Pulkingham
and published by Mel Bay Publications. There are several other volumes in
this series which might be which might be considered a 'hymnal'. I hope this
information will be useful to you.
5- There is a worship committee which was responsible for the selection. The
choir director and I were consulted first to make suggestions. This hymnal
was the one I chose overall mainly because of the combination of old and new.
The church is leaning toward the blended type service and this book seemed
to deal with that issue without going to a separate chorus book. Good luck.
6- I'm pretty familiar with the Celebration Hymnal. My old church used the
old PCUSA hymnal, supplemented by newer songs in the bulletin; however, we
used the orchestrated version of Word's old hymnal (The Hymnal for Worship
and Celebration) when the orchestra played. My current church is PCA and
mainly puts music in the bulletin, but we own the Hymnal and the orchestra
plays out of the Celebration Hymnal. Confused? Don't be--it's just a little
context for my comments.
Both of Word's hymnals are what I call "greatest hits" hymnals. There's
essentially no editorial slant, they just compile the most popular hymns in
America and put them in a book. So the older Hymnal contains a fair amount of
Southern Gospel, all the tried and true classic hymns, and some of the older
popular praise songs. The newer Celebration Hymnal has the same slant, but 15
years later--a little less Southern Gospel and classic hymns, substantially
more praise songs. The other important thing about the Celebration Hymnal is
that it came about as a partnership between Word and Integrity, so the praise
songs are slanted fairly heavily toward the Integrity style praise song. The
main advantage with these Word hymnals is that it gives you a lot of common
ground in a diverse church age. Another advantage is that it has an
orchestrated hymnal and lots of other products that makes it a very usable
The disadvantage is that it's lacking some of the things I like most:
Anglican hymns, hymns translated from German and Latin, Taize, liturgical
music, Iona, Roman Catholic, new hymns, Psalmody, different styles of praise
songs, etc. Also, if you're concerned about things like gender inclusivity
you'll need to look elsewhere. It's not pushing any theology or tradition--it
just prints the hits.
So it's a pretty good pick if you want to play it safe--there's something for
everybody. but you might also look at the new PCUSA hymnal which I've warmed
up to over the years. Also the Baptist Hymnal is quite good (although you'll
get fired if you put that in Presbyterian pews!). The Worshiping Church
published by Hope has lots of great new hymns.
PS - Below is something I wrote to a person on the church music list who
wanted to know about the orchestrated Celebration Hymnal.
by ranting and raving about how difficult the orchestrated Celebration Hymnal
is. Since then, I've cooled off a little bit, but I can probably provide some
First of all, you'll definitely need a great first trumpet player. I've had
to hire somebody on a regular basis because we don't have anybody who can
handle the charts. You'll also need a solid first violin. It may help you to
know that the synth book is actually a reduction of the strings, and that the
accompaniment book is just a big version of the hymnal with chord symbols
above the staves--it's not actual piano parts like in Word's old orchestrated
hymnal. The arrangements sound pretty good when you put everything together,
but they've got a little too much fru-fru for my taste: lots of flute trills,
string scales, and trumpet fanfares. They sound frantic and monotonous at the
Having said that, my group (of about 12-14 players) is starting to play the
arrangements convincingly, and it's been a really good addition to the
worship at the church.
Here's an idea: see if you can find a cheap set of used Word's orchestrated
"The Hymnal" from a decade ago. I think the arrangments are just as good as
the new one. Of course, you'll be missing some of the contemporary songs, so
with the money you save you can go to one of the online companies that offers
orchestra parts for praise songs. (Try praisecharts.com, for instance.)>>
END OF COMPILATION/