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The Federation Hymnal

At the St Ninian Catholic Federation we are seeking to develop a knowledge-rich curriculum that introduces children to learning opportunities that do not yet feature in our current programme. As I have written previously, whilst we are indebted to the work of Hirsch in lighting the way on this, we also need to develop a curriculum offer that reflects our own Catholic ethos, our tradition and our identity, our priorities and needs.  Just as the Catholic vision of education is a broad and coherent whole, embracing beauty, goodness and truth in both the religious and the secular, so we aspire for our curriculum to do likewise.

As a result, we wish to develop our music curriculum to better recognise its central status as part of that vision. Whilst this will include new programmes of study, it will also a commitment to ensuring that each child has a minimum entitlement when it comes to knowing the hymns and prayers that form our heritage (I will blog on the specific prayers the children will be taught and expected to know at a later date).

As such, we have decided to develop a Federation canon of 20 hymns that we will aim to ensure all children know before they leave school, and a further list of hymns or chants chosen for their liturgical or spiritual value in the life of the Church. Of course, over the course of 7 years’ worth of hymn practice and Mass attendance the children will come to know more than just this list, and they will come across age appropriate songs at each age level, but identifying a core list helps ensure this minimum entitlement is met.

Whilst this is still a working document, and open for change, the hymns we currently have identified as comprising a core canon are:

  • Adeste Fideles
  • Amazing Grace
  • As I Kneel Before You
  • Be Still for the Presence of the Lord
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • Eat This Bread, Drink This Cup
  • Faith of Our Fathers
  • Forty Days and Forty Nights
  • Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer
  • Hail, Queen of Heaven
  • Holy Virgin by God’s Decree
  • How Great Thou Art
  • Immaculate Mary
  • Lord of All Hopefulness
  • Sweet Heart of Jesus
  • Take My Hands
  • The Lord is My Shepherd
  • Ubi Caritas
  • Veni, Veni Emmanuel
  • When I Survey This Wondrous Cross

We also want the children to know and be able to recognise different prayers and parts of the Mass that might be sung, or prayers often sung on special occasions. For this, our current list is:

  • Pater Noster
  • Ave Maria
  • Credo
  • Kyrie
  • Gloria
  • Agnus Dei
  • Sanctus
  • Salve Regina
  • Tantum Ergo
  • Te Deum
  • Dies Irae

Many of these the children will have already been introduced to, primarily through the weekly Mass, which will ensure the music they learn and sing reflects the liturgical year or spiritual use for which it was originally designed. It is also important to note that list will work alongside the wider curriculum (and in many cases overlap with it), which will include a variety of musical traditions, both secular and sacred, complementing the performative aspect of singing with both theory and the ability to read and be able to follow sheet music as part of that performance.

There are challenges of course – from expertise, to resources, to time. These are significant, though not insuperable. We are also aware that the curriculum must remain mindful of the pupils, and not become a simple adornment of our own ego – it is all too easy to produce a list of increasingly obscure suggestions, not to develop the abilities and interest of children, but to make a statement about one’s own.

For this reason, the curriculum will be under constant review. In the first instance, however, we are determined that music will no longer be seen as an adjunct to our learning, but as a core component of the Catholic curriculum, helping us deliver a suitably rounded and coherent vision of human flourishing in what we teach our children, or more accurately for the purposes of this blog, what we expect them to be able to sing.

And that is where we are to date. If you think there are other hymns you think would be worthy for inclusion, or have any other thoughts to share, I’d be delighted to hear from you – do please either use the ‘Contact’ form on the website or make recommendations in the comments box below.


N.B. Newman needs to be on there – Praise to the Holiest in the Height. Hmmm…


  1. richeldis says:

    Scrub “Holy Virgin by God’s Decree” – lyrics are banal and don’t fit the tune. Substitute “Mary Immaculate, Star of the Morning” and add “I’ll Sing a Hymn to Mary” – both of which have core Marian teaching in them. Scrap “When I survey the Wondrous Cross” and substitute “O Sacred Head Ill Used” (Knox lyrics). Scrub “Take my hands” and “Be Still” and substitute “Let all Mortal Flesh keep Silence”. Soul of my Saviour is a must, as is “God of Mercy and Compassion” (H/t Michael). “Lead Kindly Light” and “Lord for Tomorrow and its Needs” are both excellent additions for assemblies.


  2. Ellen Teague says:

    Great selection. I would add Dear Lord and Father of Mankind ….
    Just scanned the comments and seen someone’s already suggested this so I’ll add my voice to theirs!


  3. Dennis Sewell says:

    O Purest of Creatures

    O God of Earth & Altar (GKC)

    Alleluia! sing to Jesus!


  4. Ben Trovato says:

    How about He who would valiant be; My song is love unknown; Lord, for tomorrow & its needs. There should, I suggest, be at least one Easter hymn: perhaps Jesus Christ is risen today. It would be good if, as well as the Salve, they learned the other seasonal Marian antiphons, especially Regina caeli, but also Alma redemptoris mater and Ave regina caelorum, though I realise those are less frequently sung these days.


  5. Carmel O'Hagan says:

    Come Down O Love Divine


  6. Superb idea.

    Soul of my Saviour?

    God of Mercy and Compassion? This version is a bit faster than I remember it being sung when I was a child in Cork and I think we just sang the first and fourth verses. (You will see why.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4W_CLRW9Lo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. carmelohagan says:

    Richer Than Gold is the Love of My Lord..
    When I Needed a Neighbour Were You There?
    Sweet Saviour Bless Us ‘Ere We Go
    Crown Him With Many Crowns
    Bring Flowers of the Rarest
    Panis Angelicus


  8. misslisa67 says:

    Would love to hear the children singing these. And ‘In Christ Alone’ and ‘My Jesus, My Saviour’.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Andrew Plasom-Scott says:

    Oh, twenty is so few: it’s like Desert Island Hymns… Personally, and based on nothing more than hymns that moved me as a child, I’d suggest: Let all mortal flesh keep silence, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, (and then of course there are all the Christmas Carols, which they should know by heart!) Jane recommends Bring flowers of the rarest for the crowning of Our Lady’s statue in May. Great idea: maybe make it 25…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Fantastic list! The only one I’d add is Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. Beautiful both lyrically and musically..

    Liked by 1 person

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