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JKS and other books


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Last year I became interested in following a Slovakian organist who does very good videos for his youtube channel, since I never heard any of the music he played in the services he recorded, I decided to find the books he was using. There was another channel I followed of a Hungarian boy which further expanded my interest to the book he was using that likewise I had never heard the music before, and it was also different from the Slovakian books.

After a lot of work I found which specific books they were,  and located the organist editions which was even more of a challenge, especially trying to navigate foreign web sites, resorting to google translate in one window and the stores'  site in another to figure out what links were for ordering  etc etc. Here's what I found;

  1. The 1936 Slovak book "JKS" "Jednotny Katholicky Spevnik" (translated roughly to English it is the "Uniform Catholic songbook" ) by Spolok Vojtecha, 565 pages.
  2. "SKS"  the 1918 book "Slovensky Kalvinsky Spevnik" free scan download, https://archive.org/details/slovenskykalvi00slov/page/n6/mode/1up unable to find print version
  3. "SZVU"  the Hungarian book (Szent vagy, urami! ) ISBN# 963-360-361-7 Harmat Artur and Sik Sandor, Budapest Purchased used from Antikvarius books in Hungary
  4. "EE"   the book "Eneklo Egyhaz", purchased new from a bookstore in Budapest Hungary

The JKS book was very high quality, a beautiful book with bright clean music and pages, almost all on one page or two with few page turns needed, out of the approx 600 hymns in it I only recognized maybe  less than 5 or 6, so it was all new material to me to practice with as were the others.

One of my favorites from the JKS book is #48 which has a melody that both hints at "Twinkle twinkle little star" and  part of the pedal line in Pachelbel's Canon, about 3/4 of the music was composed by the author/

Here is JKS #48 as an example;

Parish Church of St. Bartholomew (Myslava) One-manual with pedals and a mechanical action of 10 registers, Rieger Testverek, Budapest, Opus 846.



Another favorite I like is this one, on a different organ;

Builder's plate; "Tattinger Ferene organ and harmonium epito vallalate Ersekujvar" 2 manual



Console view https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dlv0kCnbYKc


I have been unable to find much out about these organs, and this organist plays at least 7 or 8 different ones regularly, what I did learn was most seem to date to ca 1900 or earlier,  they retain their tracker actions and haven't been "messed with"

One in Hungary has a single manual and the smallest console I ever saw, and its from about 1872 by Franz Stramer




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This is really interesting, thanks for sharing. I love collecting hymnbooks, and must have somewhere near 50, though mostly English and French (with one Welsh). I assume from their titles that JKS is a Catholic hymnbook and SKS is Protestant. I wonder if there is any overlap between the tunes used? It would also be interesting to know if they sing any of the German and French tunes that we know.

Do you know if the Hungarian Rieger is a subsidiary of the German firm, or a completely separate company?

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14 minutes ago, David Surtees said:

 I love collecting hymnbooks, and must have somewhere near 50, though mostly English and French (with one Welsh).

Hi Dave

Another hymnbook collector - although mine are all English - oldest IIRC is a Methodist book from the late 1800's.  Not sure how many I've got - I'll find out soon as I'm planning to relocate them so I can access them better.

Every Blessing


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19 hours ago, David Surtees said:

This is really interesting, thanks for sharing. I love collecting hymnbooks, and must have somewhere near 50, though mostly English and French (with one Welsh). I assume from their titles that JKS is a Catholic hymnbook and SKS is Protestant. I wonder if there is any overlap between the tunes used? It would also be interesting to know if they sing any of the German and French tunes that we know.

Do you know if the Hungarian Rieger is a subsidiary of the German firm, or a completely separate company?

Glad you found it interesting! I have never heard of any of these books before last summer, it was by accident, I kept seeing in the video titles of the organist I follow "JKS" and a number and I asked him what "JKS" was, I had to ask what the others he used were too; "EE" "SKS" SZVU," I also asked about how this book was arranged, and Frantisek Beer kindly provided this "index" of the JKS book contents in English below.

The entire book can be read/printed free here in this index by number and alphabetically;



JKS 1-33: Advent
JKS 34-113: Christmas, including songs at the end of the year (JKS 102-108) and songs about Biblical Magi and the baptism of Christ (JKS 109-113).
JKS 114-120:  Songs about Jesus.
JKS 121-191: Lent
JKS 192-226: Easter, including songs for Ascension of Jesus Christ (JKS 213-215), songs about Holy Spirit (216-219), songs about Trinity (JKS 220-222) and songs for Feast of Corpus Christi (JKS 223-226).
JKS 227-235: Songs about Sacred Heart of Jesus.
JKS 236-259: General mass songs during the year.
JKS 260-327: Eucharistic songs and Litany.
JKS 328-416: Songs about the Virgin Mary.
JKS 417-459: Songs about various saints.
JKS 460-478: Songs for Mass of the dead.
JKS 479-526:  Songs for different occasions.

Correct, the JKS book is Catholic, the SKS book inner page says;




Slovenská Kalvínska Presbyteriánská Jednota v Spojených Státoch Amerických.

Copyright by the


It is out of copyright too and on archive.org

The JKS book is very nice, the EE (Eneklo Egyhaz) (Roman Catholic) book is different, it has a lot of very short pieces you might call anthems or accompanyment to sung passages whereas the JKS book has full page scores of hymns. The SzVU book from Hungary has a lot of short pieces, but a few full page scores too. Though there are a number of pages where only the melody line is provided and the organist is expected to improvise their own bass line!

I have not really found much overlap between these books which is surprising, like out of 600 tunes in the JKS I recognized maybe up to 6, one was "Oh Sacred head" but it was not identical to the familiar one in the American books, the melody is there but it's written differently and that's true of the few others.

The JKS book has a facebook page, they sent me the bunch of PDF files of scans before I bought the book, it's from 1937 so it's out of copyright or public domain. https://www.facebook.com/jednotnykatolickyspevnik/


Keep in mind that the author did not simply copy tunes over from other hymn books, he included 226 of his own songs in it- more than 1/3 of the book were compositions of his, and many seem to have origins from about 1600 and the Cantus Catholici. So it would make sense that most of these hymns are largely unknown outside of Slovakia!

That's what is so cool about this book- it was all new to me, but one drawback was some of the pieces I could not find on youtube to listen to as an example to learn it, so I had to kind of guess a bit on some of them for how they should sound- especially true of the SzVU, SKS and EE books- very few sporatic videos from them, but Frantisek Beer the organist I mentioned has been doing a long term project, his goal is to record every sing from the JKS book to preserve the music and he records during service with congregation singing, in fact he has several videos up where he said he asked members to volunteer to stay after church specifically to record some of the more obscure hymns, and about half the people stayed, sitting in their winter coats in the pews singing with the organ for his videos! He actually had to coach them on singing some of the pieces they didn't know.

Here's one of his videos of that, a short glimpse of the organ is in the first part, they were doing some renovation work on the church exterior which is why the lower walls inside are covered with canvas!




The Unified Catholic Songbook (abbreviation JKS ) is a cancional of the Roman Catholic Church in Slovakia .

It was first published in 1937 and is still used today, which is unparalleled in Central Europe .  It was established between 1921 and 1936 on the initiative of Mons. Ján Pöstényi , administrator of the Association of St. Adalbert , and was compiled by the composer and regenschori of Trnava Mikuláš Schneider-Trnavský , who included 226 of his own songs .



Mikuláš Schneider-Trnavský (* May 24, 1881 , Trnava - † May 28, 1958 , Bratislava ) was a Slovak composer , conductor and music teacher . He was responsible for the establishment of the Academy of Music and Drama in Bratislava . Contractor of the Unified Catholic Songbook .

He composed collections of artistic songs such as: Tiny flowers, Tears and smiles, From the heart, Songs about the mother, Nad kolískou, Slovak folk songs… On the occasion of the ordination of the first Slovak bishops (1921) he composed the vocal mass Missa stella matutina. At the request of the Association of St. Vojtech was compiled in Trnava by the United Catholic Songbook, which has no parallel in Central Europe. It contained more than 500 songs, 226 of which were original. In 1933, the composer was ordered to compose an occasional composition at Pribin's celebrations in Nitra, thus creating the symphonic poem Pribin's Promise.



jks book.jpg


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The English translation of that video description of the volunteers singing for Mr Beer's video says this, fairly accurate google translation, Veľké Chyndice by the way has a population of only 311 people! The history of the building is detailed in this translated page

The church was built in the first half of the 13th century. It underwent a more serious reconstruction in the middle of the 18th century, but the original building has been  preserved.





In the village of Veľké Chyndice, local parishioners gathered in the church to contribute their songs to my database of songs from JKS. Several of each age group came. The fact that they like to sing is evidenced not only by the commitment with which they took part in the singing, but also by the sacrifice that some of them made - one lady apologized for her hour-long celebration for recording for an hour. Others from the participating family came to record, despite dealing with the death of a loved one at night. These people are not blaspheming by the decline of traditions, faith and our culture. They themselves are really involved in maintaining this faith and culture. He will not be discouraged, even if they have to sacrifice something for themselves. On the contrary - they will be happy to do it!


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17 hours ago, David Surtees said:


Do you know if the Hungarian Rieger is a subsidiary of the German firm, or a completely separate company?

As I understand it, Rieger opened an organ building shop in Budapest  around 1890, and at least one of the organs I saw the nameplate of had "Rieger Testiverek" I think there were a couple of sons too.



Parish Church of St. Bartholomew (Myslava)

This church is of the Classicist style, it was built between 1778 and 1792. After a fire in 1808, it was rebuilt.

The organ is one-manual with pedals and a mechanical action of 10 registers, built by Rieger, Budapest, Opus 846.





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Glad you find it interesting S_L!

Here is another "version" if you will of that JKS #48 hymn I mentioned I like a lot, the video earlier was played slow, in this one it is played quite fast and as such it has a very different "feel" to it,  according to the video description the organ had mechanical problems that needed repairs, you also have to get past the out of tune organ- it was subsequently repaired/restored, but once the two men at the organ actually find the page in the book and start playing, it's very upbeat and uplifting sounding, it takes them about half a minute in to find the page haha. There is also some footage of the church interior which I always find very interesting!

Organ is in Ivanka pri Dunaji,  Slovakia, and it was built in 1911 by Vincze Mozsny Pozsony (Bratislava from 1918 before Prešpork Pressburg Pozsony)

The public domain, free music score is here for anyone who would like to print it out and try it;



See how this compares at the fast tempo and how you like this Christmas tune, I don't speak Slovak but the title Dnesny den sa radujme

is pretty much pronounced the way it looks except "j" is pronounced as "y" is in the US, phonetically it is; "Neshny den-sa rahduymay" and it translates to;

"Let's rejoice today"

So with that title in mind, it actually should be played at this faster tempo, the first verse is


Dnešný deň sa radujme a veselo spievajme
Dnešný deň sa radujme a veselo spievajme
Ježiškovi malému, v jasliach uloženému.
Spi, spi, Ježišku, milý synáčku.

In English from the imperfect google translate;

Let us rejoice today and sing merryly
Let us rejoice today and sing merryly
To the little Jesus , laid in a manger.
Sleep, sleep, Santa, dear son.



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