Contemporary Versions of Traditional Hymns

When it comes to playing music in class, I am always torn between my desire for children to hear and learn hymns they will hear in church and songs that have more “pop” to them: a more contemporary sound. I like some Christian rock, but I feel that if I rely only on that, the kids are not being catechized for the liturgy, which is an important part of our role. With that in mind, this year, I have set out to locate contemporary versions of traditional hymns. Here are some examples that I have found and am using this year.

* These are not necessarily the best for singing along with since some have more of a “performance” flavor to them. However, they can work well for background music or a prayer meditation, and they sound more like the kind of music kids are used to (less “stuffy”).

What contemporary versions of traditional hymns do you know of and can share with us?

About Joe Paprocki 2747 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

9 Comments on Contemporary Versions of Traditional Hymns

  1. Joe:

    I love Mike Harrison’s CD “Catholic Kids Music”

    Not so much Traditional Hymns as they are Ancient Prayers and Texts (ie. Prayer to St. Michael (with African Drums) .. Canticle of the three youths.. (bit of a rap beat) the Jesus Prayer ..

    I would like to use these songs with my 4th graders but wondering if they are too “ancient” – love to hear thoughts on these songs. THANKS

  2. Check out the “What Wondrous Love” CD from Marian Grace. It’s a little more contemporary than my personal taste, but nicely done for what it is. I heartily second the recommendation for l’Angelus.

    And Chris Rice has a CD of hymns that I’ve heard and want to own, but don’t yet.

  3. Joe, I am an 8th grade catechist whose students staring high school in the face. What do you think about introducing the students to the type of contemporary music that is used in Lifeteen Masses?

    • JDL, I’m not specifically familiar with the contemporary music used for Lifeteen but I see great value in using contemporary Christian rock in faith formation. As I mentioned, my struggle is that, if that’s all they hear from us, they won’t recognize a thing when they go to church unless that parish is uber-contemporary. That’s why I’m pursuing contemporary versions of traditional hymns…trying to get the best of both worlds so to speak.

  4. One recent song that I like to listen too Cee Lo Green’s version of Mary Did You Know. My 4 year old daughter loves to watch the video for it on Youtube and sings along with it.

    I also like the version of Ave Maria done by Chris Cornell.

  5. Joe, this compilation is a great gift to me. I will shAre it. One of my favorites is “Holy Ground” and the story that accompanies it. My favorite version is the original Geron Davis version.
    He wrote the song when he was a teenager for the dedication of his minister father’s new worship space. It has moved me and the persons I play it for every time.

  6. I really like the modern takes on old hymns, so here are a few that I’ve found. Matt Maher has a couple like Adoration and Holy, Holy, Holy. His Litany is also really good.

    Paul Hilts has Tantum Ergo and O Salutaris that I really like, I especially like the inclusion of the Latin while still having a modern feel.

    Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing from Chris Rice and
    O Sacred Head, Now Wounded from Fernando Ortega are also really good.

    Hymns: Ancient and Modern is one of my favorite albums that has a number of good choices.

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