Hymn Society Bulletin
The Church of Ireland’s ‘Church Hymnal’ logo
1. Not to us be glory given
2. Come, bless the Lord
3. Such a host as none can number
4. When candles are lighted on Candlemas Day
5. Crown him with many crowns
6. I, the Lord of sea and sky
7. Céad míle fáilte romhat
8. We sing the praise of him who died
9. When circumstances make my life too hard to understand
10. O Jesus, I have promised
The Making of a Hymn-Book: The Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal, 5th Edition by Edward Darling and Donald Davison
(A shortened version of a presentation to the Society’s Conference at Dublin, July 2000)
Part 1: Background and Textual Aspects by Bishop Edward Darling (General Editor)
It has been a rare privilege for both Donald Davison and myself to have been involved in the compilation and production of the latest edition of the Church Hymnal (published on 2 September 2000 and launched at a special service is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Dublin, on 9 September). We are privileged because hymn singing is very dear to our hearts and is a means of expressing praise and adoration which has occupied a treasured position in the worship of the Church of Ireland since the first collection Hymns for Public Worship was published in 1856. That book, containing only 180 hymns, had such a wide circulation that there was soon a demand, especially from the clergy, for an extra 100 hymns to be added. As a result, an enlarged book with 280 hymns was published in 1864 as the first official hymn-book of the Church of Ireland and was given the title Church Hymnal – a title that has been retained with every subsequent revision, though it is often colloquially referred to as the Irish Church Hymnal. We toyed with the idea of a new title for the revised book. We liked such titles as Rejoice and Sing, With One Voice, Glory to God, and Songs of God’s People. They are meaningful and challenging; but we could not think of something sufficiently original and effective, and finally we felt that there really was merit in maintaining a continuity in the history of hymn singing in the Church of Ireland. So we decided to retain the title Church Hymnal.
The first Church Hymnal, then, came into existence just five years before the Irish Church Act of 1869 which led to the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland the following year. Until then the Church of Ireland had governed its affairs through its General Convention; but, after Disestablishment, it enacted its statutes in a parliamentary fashion through the newly-constituted General Synod. In 1873, only nine years after the first Church Hymnal had appeared, this General Synod authorized a second edition almost twice the size of its predecessor. Some more hymns were added in the form of an appendix in 1891, and this enlarged collection, containing 642 hymns in all, remained in use until a third edition, containing words only, made its appearance in 1915. the full music version following four years later under the joint editorship of Dr Charles H. Kitson and Dr Charles G. Marchant. This edition contained 721 hymns, along with 14 Christmas carols in a special section at the back of the book.
Another small appendix was added in the mid-1930s. Following World War 2, with costs of printing and publishing rapidly increasing, the Association for Promoting Christian Knowledge requested the General Synod to consider the possibility of reducing substantially the number of hymns being used in the worship of the Church of Ireland. Although this request was initially given favourable consideration, there were also requests for a limited number of new hymns to be added. The outcome of these somewhat conflicting proposals was the setting up of a committee at the 1952 General Synod to make a further revision of the Church Hymnal.
After a lengthy period of preparation, the fourth edition, comprising 688 hymns and 31 Christmas carols, was published in 1960, the music editor being Dr George Hewson, Organist and Master of the Choristers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. An admirable compilation of the best in classical hymnody, the 1960 hymnal has enriched worship throughout the Church of Ireland over the subsequent 40 years. However, one could argue that it came just a little too soon, for its appearance was soon to be followed by what is commonly termed the ‘hymn explosion’, which saw a rapid growth in new challenging texts, an ever-increasing diversity of musical styles and a steady stream of new hymnals and worship song-books, large and small. In preparation for a further revision, therefore, a supplement of over 140 hymns and songs, entitled Irish Church Praise, was launched in 1990, to be used in conjunction with the Church Hymnal and to meet a growing demand for the use of modern hymns and songs in the Church’s worship. It was at this stage of development that Donald Davison and I became very involved in an editorial capacity, and. in editing the music of that book, Donald had the able assistance of Dr Tony Carver from the Music Department of Queen’s University, Belfast.
Although Irish Church Praise was widely adopted, its publication was intended only as an interim measure. Indeed, it was only four years later at the 1994 General Synod, held in Cork, that a Resolution was brought forward, calling for a committee to be established to undertake a complete revision of the Church Hymnal. This Resolution was passed overwhelmingly by the Synod and a committee of 21 people was appointed. At its first meeting, the Hymnal Revision Committee appointed me as Chairman and to act as General Editor of the proposed hymnal, and Dr Donald Davison to be the Music Editor.
It immediately became clear that the task facing the Committee, in preparing the fifth edition of the Church Hymnal, was going to be much more complex than anything previously undertaken. The vast changes that have taken place in the Christian Church around the world since 1960 have set a very different and challenging agenda: new forms of worship, new English translations of the Bible, new revised lectionaries, new styles of language, new fashions in music, new emphases in theological interpretation, and a new awareness of, and sensitivity to, the ways that the use of language can either exclude or include. A growth in ecumenical co-operation and the far-reaching influence of the charismatic movement have also had a bearing on the way that we as revisers would view our appointed task. Signs of a new reformation have become, and are becoming, very apparent throughout the Christian Church; one such sign, presenting perhaps the biggest challenge to the Committee, is the vast number of new hymns and songs that have been written since 1960, many of which have gained widespread popularity throughout the English-speaking world.
And so, recognizing these sweeping changes, how were we to set about our work? The first step was to contact all the parishes in the Church of Ireland to find out which hymns from the Church Hymnal and Irish Church Praise were in regular use, which hymns should be deleted, and which new hymns should be included in the revised hymnal. Obviously, a clear response to ‘What do you sing and what do you want to sing?’ would be of great value to the Committee in the work of revision.
We were encouraged by the fact that well over half the parishes of the Church of Ireland responded readily to our questionnaires. All the information received was fed into a computer data base, and subsequent analysis yielded much valuable information on the usage of existing hymns and on the relative popularity of new hymns that might be included.
Guided by this extensive survey, we have retained practically all the great classical hymns which have influenced worshippers down through the years and which are still loved and cherished. Selecting new hymns, on the other hand, has proved a more difficult task in that we cannot yet be certain which ones will stand the test of time. Nevertheless, we are convinced that a new hymnal must contain a wide-ranging selection of old and new hymns and songs which are compatible when used together in any act of worship. Jesus himself taught us that our involvement in the kingdom of heaven implies our ability to be able to treasure things new and old.
Considerable thought was given to the way in which the contents of the new edition would be arranged. The 1960 edition (like many older books) had been organized rather prosaically under the headings: Times and Seasons, Special Occasions and Subjects, and General Hymns. Influenced in particular by Rejoice and Sing, we decided on a radical change: the new edition basically follows the structure of the historic creeds of the Church, and has two main parts. The first deals with The Love of God – God the Father, Creator; God the Son, Redeemer; and God the Holy Spirit, Life-Giver – ending with a group of hymns on the Trinity. The second part is headed The Life of Faith, and includes hymns for various aspects of the Church’s worship (and in particular the Eucharist), hymns on the Church’s mission and witness, on personal faith and discipleship. and on the Christian hope of heaven. Thus, the book begins with what God has done for us, and then follows this with our response to him, as a Church and as individuals, in worship and daily living. The book ends with a third, shorter, section of liturgical material, consisting mostly of metrical versions of the Canticles.
The language of our hymn-book
As theological understanding, styles of worship and the meaning of language itself have changed over the years, hymn-book compilers have often felt it necessary to alter the wording of certain hymns in order to make them relevant and more meaningful to the average worshipper.
There have been several problem words and phrases which we have debated at length and which have caused us considerable agonizing. We cannot claim to have been entirely consistent in the changes we have made: in some cases we found that the original wording could readily be changed, whereas in other cases we were unable to produce something better without marring the poetic quality of the text, and so we allowed the original wording to stand.
For a start, there are certain hymns with words and phrases which are rarely understood by those who sing them. We could so easily, for instance, have deleted such phrases as ‘consubstantial, co-eternal, while unending ages run’ and substituted a simpler alternative. We were reluctant, how ever, to lose that majestic grandeur of language which can still so enrich our worship of God. Language should surely be used not to bring God down to our level, but to lift us up to God’s level. Often, therefore, we have opted for the retention of such words, but have tried to ensure that they are understood by inserting a footnote to indicate their meaning. A ‘difficult’ hymn, annotated in this way, can be informative and educational and ceases to be regarded as spiritual mumbo-jumbo.
Indeed, the idea of including footnotes from time to time was one which we were anxious to employ. Where the meaning of a word might not always be obvious, we felt that an explanation might be very helpful to the average worshipper. Consider, for instance, the following verse in Charles Wesley’s ‘Help us to help each other, Lord’:
Touched by the loadstone of thy love,
let all our hearts agree;
and ever towards each other move,
and ever move towards thee.
Here we added quite a lengthy footnote, explaining the striking metaphor employed:
A ‘Loadstone’ (or ‘Lodestone’) is a piece of natural magnetic ore which, if free to rotate, will point to the magnetic north – hence its use as a compass from ancient times. When ‘touched’ by a loadstone, other pieces of suitable material acquire an induced magnetism, and will then also point north (‘let all our hearts agree’) and be attracted to the loadstone and to each other (lines 3 and 4). The loadstone is thus a striking metaphor for the power of Christ’s love in the Christian community’.
This year’s Act of Praise includes our Executive President’s lovely hymn for the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, ‘When candles are lighted on Candlemas Day’. Here again, and particularly for some members of the Church of Ireland who might be suspicious about the word ‘Candlemas’ and who are not accustomed to making something of the Presentation of Christ as a special occasion, we have inserted what we believe to be a necessary footnote:
As Christmas is a popular name for the Nativity of Christ, so Candlemas is often used to describe the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and is a reference to the ancient custom of lighting candles on that day to symbolise the ‘Light that lightens the Gentiles’.
This is an ideal hymn for highlighting the importance of 2 February, which is given greater prominence than in the past through the Revised Common Lectionary’s emphasis on Candlemas as being the climax of the forty days of Christmas.
As Christingle services are growing in popularity, a similar footnote appears beneath our two special Christingle hymns, one of which – ‘It’s rounded like an orange’ – has been written by another member of the Hymn Society, Basil Bridge. Thus:
A Christingle is an orange surmounted by a lighted candle and decorated with fruit and ribbon. It is received in an Advent and Christmas act of worship which originated in the Moravian Church and is now popular in other Christian traditions.
It is our belief that, by inserting occasional footnotes in this way, we can use our hymnal, not just as a book from which to sing praise to Almighty God, but also to enlighten, educate and inform worshippers of the relevancy of the songs and hymns we use in our worship.
While there is a growing recognition among regular worshippers that the language of some of the older hymns should be updated, we deliberately did not adopt a policy of uniformly converting all occurrences of ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ to ‘you’ (along with the consequent changes that are often required to preserve a rhyming scheme). There are, unfortunately, hymn-book editors who have gone down this road and have caused some fine hymns to be impoverished and spoilt by their inflexible desire to be contemporary and relevant. What they don’t seem to appreciate is that there are parts of Britain and Ireland today where ‘thee’, and even ‘ye’, are still widely used in everyday parlance. Some hymns, of course, can be so modernized without the change of words jarring on the ears of the worshipper. ‘Thy kingdom come, O God’, for example, can easily be altered to ‘Your kingdom come, O God’ without any ill effects; and there are some hymns like this which we have changed by using more modern wording. But we can lose a certain richness and spirituality if we dogmatically try to remove all indications of antiquity from the original wording.
There are some, of course, who believe that one does not have the right to alter a hymn from the way it was originally written; but there are ample precedents for making certain changes, and whenever the Committee has in conscience felt that altering a word or phrase improves a hymn, we make no apology for doing so.
Some of us — myself included — wanted to change ’without a city wall’ in Mrs Alexander’s ‘There is a green hill far away’ to ‘outside a city wall’, particularly since there is evidence that Fanny Alexander herself had considered the possibility of making that alteration. The majority of the Committee, however, felt that moving away from a phrase which is so familiar might be irksome and annoying to many, and so we opted instead for a simple footnote reminding the worshipper of the original meaning of the word ‘without’.
We did make some slight changes to words that were not always completely compatible with the music. An obvious example of this occurs in Isaac Watts’s ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun’. Some of us were unhappy with the third line of verse 2: ‘his name like sweet perfume shall rise’. While that is exactly what Watts wrote, yet the words undoubtedly fit the music much better if we sing ‘his name, like incense, shall arise’. The use of the word ‘incense’ is surely more descriptive of the kind of substance or perfume that was used, and still is used, in the worship of Almighty God. Perhaps those of us who suggested this change did so with tongue in cheek, knowing that this is probably as close as we shall ever get to having incense in the Church of Ireland!
Another prime example of where the words and the music don’t marry together well is in the hymn ‘Come, let us join our cheerful songs’ to the familiar tune NATIVITY. In the original verse 3 we sing
Jesus is worthy to receive
honour and power divine;
the emphasis on the second syllable of the word ‘honour’ being decidedly ugly. We think that we have improved the second line when we sing
Jesus is worthy to receive
all honour, power divine.
From time to time one comes across a hymn in which it is not obvious to whom the words are expressed. Yes. we know that the ‘Thou’ in ‘Thou, whose almighty word’ is referring to God; but, in verse 2. the ‘Thou’ doesn’t make it clear that this time it is Jesus who is being addressed. We believe that substituting the word ‘God’ for ‘Thou’ in verse 1 and ‘Saviour’ for ‘Thou’ in verse 2 makes the meaning of the whole hymn much clearer. That is the kind of change we felt was necessary on certain occasions.
The committee also spent a great deal of time in ensuring that the language of hymns and songs was as gender-inclusive as possible. Thus we have avoided, in most cases, the use of such words as ‘man’, ‘sons’, ‘brothers’ etc. whenever the reference is clearly intended to include both male and female persons. We also preferred the use of ‘humankind’ to ‘mankind’. Sometimes, however, poetic style and meaning can be damaged when, with a view to being inclusive, the wording is changed, and. in the few cases where this might have been the case (e.g. ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind’), we have decided that no alterations should be made.
We were firmly convinced that we should not remove all gender-specific words when the reference is to God. While recognizing that God is above or beyond gender and can be regarded as both male and female, we felt strongly that we should uphold the historical and theological truth that Jesus Christ came into this world as a man, that God spoke of him ‘Thou art my Son’, and that he himself frequently referred to God as his father.
Of course, the term ‘inclusive language’ does not refer only to gender. Language can be exclusively damaging if it conveys a racial, ethnic or cultural bias. In this respect, we were concerned that the second verse of the hymn ‘Lo! he comes with clouds descending’ could nowadays be interpreted as being anti-Semitic and we have altered the wording accordingly. We are grateful that the compilers of Rejoice and Sing had already brought this to our attention.
The committee also considered at some length how inclusive is the use of militaristic language in certain hymns. Some people are gravely unhappy singing hymns that mention armour, battle or warfare. On the other hand, we were conscious that there are those for whom the rousing rendering of ‘Onward, Christian soldiers’ can be spiritually uplifting and that the battle referred to in such a hymn is entirely compatible with scripture, for, both as individuals and as a Church, we are called to combat sinfulness and evil in this world. Therefore, we have retained some of these well-loved hymns, but would express the strong hope that worshippers do not sing them in a spirit of triumphalism, but rather in the knowledge that it is the love of God that conquers all. The triumph of the Christian must be the triumph of the love which is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude (1 Corinthians 13:4).
A feature common to the past two editions of the Church Hymnal was a special ‘Christmas Carols’ section at the end of the book. The Committee decided, however, that it would be more appropriate if all the Christmas hymns and carols appeared in the section of the book that focuses on our Lord’s incarnation. Conscious of the many collections of carols that are nowadays published for use by choirs, we have therefore removed the separate Christmas Carols section from the new edition.
The committee has provided a number at the back of the book to help those who plan the worship in our churches to select hymns and songs with both creativity and sensitivity. Among these indexes is a list of topics and subjects which suggest appropriate hymns for different occasions. There is also an index which shows hymns that are based on specific biblical passages. This makes it possible for hymns to be chosen at appropriate points in the liturgy to complement the readings of the lectionary that is used.
The committee felt strongly that children should be regarded as full members of the worshipping community, and that there should not therefore be a special section in the book entitled ‘For Children’. There is a danger that placing certain hymns under such a heading might imply that they are inappropriate for adults or that other hymns are inappropriate for children. There is, however, a suggested list of suitable children’s hymns in the index of subjects and topics, and planners of worship might well give serious consideration to regular inclusion of such hymns in congregations where children are active participants.
When the proposed contents of Irish Church Praise were presented to the General Synod for approval in 1989, there was an overwhelming request that the book should include some hymns written in the Irish language. Accordingly, four Irish hymns with English singing translations were added. I introduced members of the Hymn Society to some of these ten years ago when I addressed the annual conference in Bangor, North Wales. Bearing in mind this strong desire for Irish hymns to be included in Irish Church Praise, the Committee has increased the number of Irish hymns in this book and once again, so that no congregation may feel excluded from using them through unfamiliarity with the language, new English singing translations have been provided. We believe that this adds an inclusivity to the Church Hymnal that did not exist in previous editions. One of the simpler ones is included in this year’s Act of Praise so that you may have a sample taste of the kind of spirituality which they readily convey.
In producing this fifth edition of the Church Hymnal, it has been the aim of the committee to provide a much greater range of different styles and sources than were to be found in the 1960 edition. The committee has also taken more risks than previous hymn-book compilers — let’s face it, some of our choices may not ‘come off’ — but is this not appropriate as we learn afresh to be a pilgrim Church? It is our belief that this selection of material for worship does not imply any departure from the official doctrinal position of the Church of Ireland, but rather reflects the widely-expressed desire for greater diversity of worship — this is a book which is so much more flexible and wide-ranging than any that has gone before it. We have been anxious to provide a collection of hymns which will be a treasured resource book for years to come and which expresses the faith of the Church, with words and images of our time, in ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:8).
Part 2; Musical Aspects: Dr Donald Davison (Music Editor)
The task of the music editor of a full-sized hymnal can never have been an easy one – unless, of course, one is content simply to do a ‘scissors-and-paste’ job on the music of existing hymnals. My experience in editing the music of the new Church Hymnal suggests that the job is probably harder to carry out satisfactorily today than ever before. The reasons are not hard to discern. For one thing, there is a far greater diversity of hymns and songs in use in our churches today than was the case, say, forty years ago, when the last edition of the Church Hymnal was published. But also, although the pipe organ is still the most widely used instrument for the accompaniment of congregational singing, electronic organs, pianos, guitars and instrumental groups are becoming ever more common, and so too (in rural Ireland at least) is the use of recorded hymns in worship. It is true that, in our larger cathedrals and some parish churches, the standard of choir work is as high as it has ever been, but in the majority of churches the numbers of choirs have generally fallen in recent years – often quite dramatically, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to fill organist’s positions.
The challenge to a music editor is therefore twofold: firstly, how to present such a wide diversity of music effectively and with integrity: and secondly, how to cater for the wide range of possible contexts in which the hymnal will be used – from the church with an able director of music and a highly-trained choir (and, probably, a strong disinclination to sing anything other than ‘traditional’ hymns) to the church with an organist of modest ability and little or no choir, or one where the emphasis is on informal worship for younger people, using a range of contemporary song material, and with the piano or other instruments playing a major role. It is no exaggeration to say that if one addresses the editorial task conscientiously, almost every hymn-tune poses a problem!
In editing the music. I have had three principal aims:
(i) to promote the whole-hearted participation of the people in the pews:
(ii) to make the book as user-friendly as possible;
(iii) to maintain scholarly standards without undue pedantry.
It has been no easy task to maintain a balance between these three objectives.
Here I will mention just a few of the more significant musical features of this book: some are new, others have precedents in other books, but all reflect the amount of thought (and. at times, agonizing!) which is necessarily involved in preparing the music of a new hymnal.
The sheer range of music included in this book is at least as great as that in any recent hymnal. The categories represented include:
Plainsong melodies (17), including both the Advent Prose and Lent Prose:
Genevan tunes (9). some with their original harmony;
Bach chorale harmonizations (18) and many other chorale melodies:
Taizé chants (11);
Iona songs (7);
Irish traditional melodies (22). many with parallel Irish and English texts;
North American folk melodies and spirituals (10);
Mission-type (or revivalist) hymns with their associated tunes, including several (not in the previous edition) which had been particularly requested:
Songs and choruses from charismatic sources:
Contemporary worship songs by Graham Kendrick, Brian Doerkson, Robin Mark, Ian White and many others (some only recently published);
together with a wide-ranging ‘core’ of traditional hymn melodies, from the 16th to the 20th centuries, including quite a number by contemporary composers. Such diversity in itself poses a considerable challenge to a music editor.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the new edition is the fact that, for the first time, the congregational copies include the melody line of all the tunes – a welcome advance on the previous words-only editions. Although the inclusion of the melodies has added somewhat to the price and physical size of the congregational copies. I have no doubt at all that it is well worthwhile, and not just for those who read music fluently: for even those who would count themselves musically illiterate should find it enormously helpful to be able to follow the contour of a melody. And. of course, such folk may well learn quite a lot about musical notation as they use the book on a regular basis.
Aspects of the full music edition
Various basic features of the full music edition, while by no means unique to this book, deserve some mention.
We have given close attention to the choice of pitch for the tunes. A common complaint about the 1960 edition was that many tunes were pitched too high for the average congregation. For example. OLD 100TH was given in A major, and it was asserted in the Musical Preface that it should not be pitched any lower because it would then ‘lose its life and brightness’. But in the new edition it is set a tone lower (in G major), in common with most contemporary hymnals. Actually, the decision as to what key a tune should be printed in is often far from easy: if a relatively low key is chosen, a loss of brightness or sense of climax can be a problem in the case of more joyous texts, and the wide range of some tunes (e.g. many Irish traditional melodies) presents a real problem. In many cases. D flat major or G flat major would be a reasonable compromise for general use, but such choices would be distinctly unwelcome to the more hesitant organist! (In this connection, the transposing device on many electronic organs is a real advantage for the player who does not have the confidence to transpose at sight.) When a tune occurs more than once in the book, we have usually printed it in different keys, with ample cross-referencing, both under the tunes and in the indexes.
It has seemed desirable (not least in the training of young choristers) that notation of the music should conform closely to the usual conventions in other areas of musical activity. So, for example, time signatures have been included at the start of most tunes (double where necessary), and in common with most recent hymnals, the fundamental time unit has nearly always been taken as the crotchet and dotted crotchet in tunes with simple and compound time-signatures respectively. Commas above the treble stave (along with occasional light double bars) are used to indicate the ends of phrases (coinciding with the ends of lines of text). The Musical Preface makes clear that although a breath is usually taken at a comma, this need not be so when there is a ‘run-on’ indication at the end of a line of text.
Incidentally, such run-on indications also appeared in the previous edition (following Hymns A&M Revised). But now this notation has been extended to indicate those elisions within lines which must be observed in order to maintain the correct metre: this is something which I believe has not been done in other books. So. for example.
cherubim and seraphim
filled his temple, and repeated͜
each to each the͜ alternate hymn.
Indeed, at one point, in our desire to reduce textual ambiguity as tar as possible, we considered indicating ‘silent’ syllables within individual words by the use of italics (e.g. victory, heaven), but finally decided that this might cause more confusion than clarity! Perhaps this is something for another day.
We have taken pains to ensure that the music is always unambiguous: for example, metrical irregularities are carefully indicated by the use of broken slurs and ties.
One thing which is, to the best of my knowledge, a new feature in this book is the considerable use made of small notes above the treble stave to indicate rhythmic alternatives. The principal motivation for this innovation was the problem of ‘long notes’ in old psalm tunes, particularly those of, or derived from, the Genevan tradition. It is well known that the original rhythmic variety of such tunes has often been ‘ironed out’ over the years, generally to their detriment: but there is still considerable difference of opinion as to what extent the original rhythms should be restored. What we have done is to print what we judge to be the most effective version (usually, but not always, the original rhythm) but in addition to indicate by small notes an alternative rhythm (usually a later form). Organists can then choose the version which they deem to be most suitable for their particular circumstances.
The same notation is used to indicate rhythmic variants in other contexts: similarly, footnotes indicate pitch variants. In all these cases, a preferred version is given, but a sensitive organist can use the variant if this is deemed appropriate.
This leads me to consider a wider aspect, that of authenticity. One very vexed question (to which there is no simple answer) is how far one should appeal to the original form of a tune and its harmony (if known) when deciding how to present it in a contemporary book. In the wider musical world, the search for authenticity has had a profound influence on the performance of earlier music, but it a hymn-tune and/or its harmony have changed substantially over the years in passing through successive editorial hands, how justified are we in seeking to restore the original? In particular, one has to ask:
(i) if the current version of the melody is well known and well sung, is it worth going back to the rhythm of the original if (as is usually the case) it is more complicated?
(ii) if the original bass is instrumental rather than vocal, will it provide a satisfactory basis for four-part vocal harmony? If not. should one retain the four-part harmonization of a later period, or promote a return to unison singing?
In answering such questions, our approach has been pragmatic rather than dogmatic, though we have tended, on the whole, to pay more attention to the original than in previous editions. (Here, incidentally. I feel I should acknowledge the lead given by Hymns and Psalms and by Patrick Russill in the recently published Catholic Hymnal).
For example, MORNING HYMN (for ‘Awake, my soul, and with the sun’) and LONDON (for ‘The spacious firmament on high’) have been set in four-part harmony but with their original basses restored, GOPSAL (for ‘Rejoice, the Lord is King’) is in optional four-part harmony but with a unison refrain and a coda on Handel’s bass, while ICH HALTE TREULICH STILL (for ‘Commit your ways to God’) has been set for unison singing with strict adherence to Bach’s figured bass. Again, HARTS (for ‘Jesus! Name of wondrous love’) has been printed both in its original melodic form (with its original bass) and in a later simplified version (as
given in the 1960 edition), while the melody of ODE TO JOY (for ‘Sing to God new songs of worship’) has had a characteristic syncopation restored and provided with harmony derived from Beethoven’s original.
What about Victorian church tunes and the whole corpus of ‘mission-type’ or revivalist tunes? One has to remember that some 19th-century hymn-tune composers were very competent musicians, and one should therefore think twice before tampering with their work: for example, we have adhered closely to the original forms of tunes by Dykes (more so than in the I960 edition) with the exception of ALMSGIVING (for ‘O Lord of heaven and earth and sea’), where I cannot but feel that Dykes made a miscalculation near the end. But even competent musicians, in attempting to be simple, could be incredibly boring, and none more so than Lowell Mason (a composer once described by Erik Routley as ‘entirely defective in musical imagination’ and ‘often supremely dull’): the boredom factor (or worse) is even more evident in many mission-type tunes. In such cases I have felt more at liberty to introduce greater variety into the harmony.
I know that not everyone will agree with me here, and I readily concede that in this matter of authenticity I have not been entirely consistent. My principal motivation has been a practical one: it is my hope that, in providing a revivalist tune, for example, with more attractive harmonies, I am perhaps making it more widely acceptable (particularly to those singing ATB in choirs) without diminishing the participation of congregations. An editor is in something of a dilemma here. For despite their generally impoverished musical style, the revivalist hymns are still valued by. and meaningful to. many of our church people, and are often sung with great warmth. Many are made more interesting (I prefer not to say ‘improved’) by introducing some harmonic variety, provided that it is done with discretion.
In churches where a good choir is maintained, and at Choral Festivals, descants can help to enhance the singing of hymns (so long as there is a sufficiently strong, confident and well-rehearsed soprano section). Another distinctive feature of the book (which harks back to Hymns A&M Revised and the Anglican Hymn Book) is the inclusion of some 40 descants, many for use with the existing harmony, but some with their own individual accompaniments (some of which in turn can be used to accompany unison singing without the descant). These descants come from a wide variety of sources, and include several previously unpublished. They are presented in reduced size notation, so as to be relatively unobtrusive.
The musical indexes are particularly comprehensive. For example, the metrical index of tunes includes the keys of multiple occurrences, together with descant and faux-bourdon indications, while the index of composers etc. uses ‘=’ to indicate multiple occurrences of the same tune.
Some specific categories
Bishop Darling has already referred to the considerable number of Irish hymns which we have included. Several of the associated melodies have not had a wide currency before, and I hope that they will eventually become widely used: some are traditional folk melodies, some come from the Irish Catholic tradition, and there are three fine examples by the composer Sean O Riada. One practical problem concerns the Irish texts: in Northern Ireland at least, very few Church of Ireland members can read or speak Irish. So I was anxious from the beginning that (as in Irish Church Praise) each Irish hymn should include an English singing translation so that it could he used by the whole Church, North and South. This got me involved (rather reluctantly) in the lengthy and often unsatisfactory process of devising such singing translations, starting from literal translations provided by the Revd Gary Hastings and Bishop Donald Caird and with frequent reference to a couple of Irish dictionaries! I haven’t always been satisfied by the result, but I hope that our combined efforts will enable the whole Church to experience something of the rich heritage of Irish hymns.
A representative selection of Taizé chants (or songs, as Taizé now call them) has been included, with considerably more guidance on their use than is to be found in most hymnals. I have to express some regret that, in responding to copyright applications, the Taizé authorities appear to be insisting on a very strict editorial policy, the effect of which is to tend to fossilize the Berthier tradition, rather than allowing responsible editors to promote the genre in the most effective way. And yet. despite this over-conservative attitude, we were forced to alter the melody of one refrain (LAUDATE DOMINUM) because it was asserted that singers had found the original version ‘difficult’ (which is simply not true in my experience).
In a church with a lively youth instrumental group, the contemporary songs we have included will possibly represent only a small proportion of such items in use (though one hopes they will be among the most commonly sung) and the source material will already be available. So in editing the music I have tended to think primarily of the organist who is faced with the problem of playing an effective accompaniment. Sometimes, it is simply impossible to rewrite the original accompaniments for the organ without altering fundamentally the character of the song, and in such cases one actually hopes that a piano and/or guitar accompaniment will be used. But in many other cases, a judicious rewriting of the accompaniment and/or use of four-part vocal harmony can greatly extend the usefulness of such material. Incidentally, there is an interesting question of authenticity here. In one recent popular hymnal, many such songs have been rewritten with new harmony by very competent musicians. But it seems to me that, in the process, the character of the pieces has often been radically altered for the worse, even if (or perhaps because) the reharmonization obeys all the usual ‘classical’ rules. I believe that authenticity here involves respecting the harmony indicated by the original guitar chords (although the judicious addition of appropriate inner parts can certainly enhance the final result). This means, in turn, that the original guitar chords can be included with the arrangement, often with capo indications to help less expert players.
A further category that deserves comment is what may be termed revivals. It is particularly satisfying when one is able to give a new lease of life to a fine tune which has either been largely forgotten or which is in danger of falling into neglect because the text associated with it in the previous edition has been dropped. Examples in the former category include AVE MARIA KLARE (from which NARENZA was derived), set to ‘A great and mighty wonder’, and G.R. Woodward’s harmonization of FRISCH AUF in Songs of Syon, set to ‘O Christ, our hope, our hearts’ desire’; while examples in the latter category include the Münster melody SCHÖNSTER HERR JESU, previously associated with ‘O most merciful’ but now restored to its proper text ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’ (joining the more familiar Silesian melody of the same name), and Charles Wood’s RANGOON, which has lost its original text ‘Trumpet of God. sound high’ but is retained in association with a specially commissioned text (‘People of God. arise!’) by Michael Forster (who also provides words for R.R. Terry’s ECCLESIA).
In addition, it is pleasing to be able to give wider currency to existing pairings: examples include John Carter’s setting of Timothy Dudley-Smith’s ‘Christ is risen as he said’ and Kenneth Naylor’s EASTVILLE, which provides a welcome, stronger, alternative to SPIRITUS DEI for ‘Breathe on me. Breath of God’.
In conclusion, I must pay tribute to the panel of experienced church musicians who scanned all my work as it proceeded and came up with many helpful criticisms and suggestions. But even with such a superb ‘backing group’, the task of a musical editor is indeed a formidable one nowadays, and, like marriage, is certainly not to be undertaken unadvisedly or lightly! However, the fact that there are so many problems and challenges in editing the music of hymns is but one facet of the continuing fascination of hymnody as it continues to develop into a new century.
Act of Praise 2000
With this issue of the Bulletin comes a copy of the booklet used in the Act of Praise during our Dublin conference. Some effective local publicity resulted in a good number gathering in Christ Church Cathedral for what proved to be a most inspiring occasion. John Crothers, the Chairman of RSCM Ireland, had assembled under his baton an expert band of singers from choirs affiliated to the RSCM. In addition to leading the congregational singing they contributed three anthems based on hymn texts: Walford Davies’s Blessed are the pure in heart’ as introit, ‘O for a closer walk with God’ to music by Grayston (‘Bill’) Ives of Magdalen College Oxford, and ‘Rejoice, the Lord is King’ set by Malcolm Archer as one of a group for the 1995 Charles Wesley Festival (thanks to funding from the Pratt Green Trust). Accompaniments were in the capable hands of Jonathan Hardy at the organ and the hymns were introduced by our Executive President, Elizabeth Cosnett. The event was recorded by the BBC; extracts were broadcast on 17 September in ‘Sunday Half Hour’, which also featured interviews by Roger Royle with the Dean and with Elizabeth Cosnett. We reproduce, with Elizabeth’s kind permission, the substance of her commentary.
1. Not to us be glory given
Our first hymn was chosen partly to mark the centenary of the death of the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, perhaps better known as one half of ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’. His tune LUX EOI became well established to Christopher Wordsworth’s Easter hymn ‘Alleluia, alleluia, hearts to heaven and voices raise’ but more recently has also partnered Timothy Dudley-Smith’s Not to us be glory given. This text, written in 1970 and shorter than Psalm 115 on which it is based, contrasts the living and life-giving nature of God and the essential deadness of all substitutes.
2. Come, bless the Lord
For several months in 1995 (said Elizabeth) I shared the life of a congregation in Potsdam, upstate New York, where they celebrated the beginning of each academic year with a spirited rendering of ‘Earth and all stars’, a hymn by Herbert Brokering with a refrain based on Psalm 98 and a rousing tune by David Johnson. I greatly enjoyed the singing but felt that some of the mid-twentieth-century language would increasingly seem dated. At about the same time Bishop Edward Darling, hearing the hymn at the International Anglican Liturgical Conference in Dublin, was, he said, ‘struck by the whole-hearted participation of those who were singing’. To meet the need for a hymn based on the canticle ‘Bless the Lord’ in the revised form of Evening Prayer he produced Come, bless the Lord (no. 2), a strong simple paraphrase, beautifully fitting David Johnson s fine and metrically rather unusual tune.
3. Such a host as none can number
Such a host as none can number (no. 3) is based on the sublime picture of heavenly worship in Revelation 7. Here, however. Michael Forster moves beyond paraphrase to conscious interpretation. Two comments he made are: (1) If God, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever, has prepared a perfect world for us in the future then he cannot be happy about the state of this one, and the perfection of heaven presents a challenge to this world: Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven; (2) True resurrection faith played a large part in – just one example – the ending of apartheid. People had the faith to risk failure and to be prepared to die if need be for the transformation of this world. The tune ECCLESIA is by Sir Richard Terry, the first and deeply influential organist of Westminster Cathedral.
4. When candles are lighted on Candlemas Day
When candles are lighted on Candlemas Day (no. 4) was written at the request of Canon Nicholas Frayling, Rector of Liverpool, for a particular Candlemas service. Elizabeth was then surprised and honoured when a priest in Adelaide asked if she could suggest alternatives to the seasonal references so that the hymn could be used in the southern hemisphere where days in February grow shorter, not longer. The traditional tune LOURDES was the inspired suggestion of Dr Ian Sharp.
5. Crown him with many crowns
Crown him with many crowns (no. 5) has often been altered, abbreviated and combined with material from other hands. But to celebrate the author’s 200th birthday we chose the A&M version because it is closest to what Matthew Bridges originally wrote. First published in 1851 and popularized by its inclusion in SPCK’s The People’s Hymnal of 1867, it was claimed for the A&M Appendix of 1868 and there teamed with Sir George Elvey’s DIADEMATA. Bridges, a mid-nineteenth-century convert to Roman Catholicism, chose the same biblical starting point as Michael Forster for our no. 3; each hymn is characteristic of its period yet both reach out towards the same eternal truth.
6. I, the Lord of sea and sky
Both words and music of I, the Lord of sea and sky (no. 6) are by the American Jesuit Daniel Schutte. Some might categorize it as a worship song, yet it has strictly metrical stanzas with regular, if limited, use of rhyme. Dramatic in form, it represents a dialogue between God and the believer, and within each verse the creator God responds as saviour to the people’s appeal. Though not a direct paraphrase it is full of biblical reference, particularly to the call of Isaiah and of Samuel. Key patterns of words, especially of strong, monosyllabic verbs, are emphasized by the shape of the melody, and this excellent match surely has contributed much to the hymn’s popularity.
7. Céad míle fáilte romhat
The traditional hymn Céad míle fáilte romhat (no. 7), much loved by Roman Catholics throughout Ireland, is often used at funerals as well as at Mass. Others are now invited to share its moving simplicity; not only is it included in the new Irish Church Hymnal but it was to be sung at the launch of that book in St Patrick’s Cathedral on 9 September and had been recorded for the promotional CD. The book includes several hymns in Irish but English translations are provided for non-lrish-speakers. After some practice we had a reasonable shot at singing the Irish but were grateful to Dr Donald Davison for his faithful translation of the text as well as the arrangement of the haunting tune.
(The text printed in our booklet needs some correction. Verse 1 line 4 should read ‘céad míle míle fáilte romhat, Íosa, a Íosa’. In verse 2 line 3 ‘Shlánaitheoir’ should be preceded by ‘a’ (as in v. 1) and the first ‘a’ in line 4 should be deleted. Our production team were in new linguistic territory, but apologies all the same.)
8. We sing the praise of him who died
Thomas Kelly, author of We sing the praise of him who died (no. 8), was a son of Dublin. Ordained in 1792 he became a very earnest evangelical preacher but his sermons did not find favour with his archbishop who forbade him to preach in the city. He consequently left the established church and built separate places of worship for his followers for whom he wrote well over 700 hymns. An obituarist said of him ‘He was admired alike for his zeal and his humility; and his liberality found ample scope in Ireland, especially during the year of the famine.’ Sir Sydney Nicholson, who wrote the tune BOW BRICKHILL for this hymn, had served as organist at Manchester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey before retiring to found and direct the School of English Church Music, now the RSCM.
9. When circumstances make my life too hard to understand
With no.9 we celebrated the 100th birthday of the composer John Hewlett Alden, and also congratulated our member Martin Leckebusch on the publication earlier in the year of his first collection of hymns More than words. John Alden had a varied career as director of music at several independent schools from Capetown to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. He was secretary of the Music Masters Association for nearly twenty years and organist for a time at St Martin-in-the-Fields. As the title suggests, his tune SHEPHERD BOY’S SONG was composed for Bunyan’s ‘He that is down needs fear no fall’. It was popularized by its inclusion in Hymns for Church and School. I feel (said Elizabeth) something of Bunyan’s valley of humiliation in the modern words, When circumstances make my life too hard to understand, although the author assures me that at the time of writing he was unaware of the tune and ‘would certainly not dare to feel that I was associating myself with John Bunyan’. Words and music were brought together by the editors of Sing Glory.
10. O Jesus, I have promised
John Ernest Bode, author of our final hymn O Jesus, I have promised, wrote it for the confirmation of his own three children in 1866. The tune WOLVERCOTE, by William Harold Ferguson, who died fifty years ago, was written for the hymn and was first published, anonymously, in The Public School Hymn Book of 1919. Thousands will remember this hymn affectionately from their own confirmations or from other moments of dedication. With such a well-loved combination of nineteenth-century words and twentieth-century music we express our forward-looking commitment to Christ in all the exciting and sometimes bewildering changes and challenges of the twenty-first century.
Fred Pratt-Green 1903-2000
With sadness, yet with profound thanksgiving for a long and uncommonly fruitful life, we record that our distinguished member and vice-president Fred Pratt Green died peacefully in his sleep on 22 October.
His hymns – more than three hundred – have found favour with a very wide spectrum of Christian belief and practice around the world. Yet it was as a poet and dramatist that he first made his literary mark and his hymn-writing career did not begin in earnest until he was on the point of retiring from the Methodist ministry in 1969. But from then on his prolific output inevitably led to comparison with his spiritual forebear Charles Wesley – although the parallel was one that the ever modest Fred shrank from.
Frederick Pratt Green was born on 2 September 1903 in Roby, a suburb of Liverpool, (if I’d been born later’, he once waggishly remarked, ‘I’d have been a Beatle.’) His father, a Wesleyan Methodist, had built up a successful business as a leather merchant in Liverpool. Fred grew up in a Christian home where, he said, religion was scrupulously observed but never made burdensome. He was educated at local schools and then at Rydal, the Methodist boarding school in Colwyn Bay. Although he had thoughts of becoming an architect his father’s firm claimed him for about four years. Then, however, the course of his life changed when in Claremont Road Wesleyan Church, Wallasey (to which the family had then moved), he was so moved by a sermon on Masefield’s The Everlasting Mercy that he offered himself for the ministry.
He was almost turned down on the grounds of delicate health but Didsbury Theological College, Manchester, accepted him. On completing the course there in 1928 he applied to serve as a missionary in Africa but the college principal thought it wiser to send him as chaplain to Hunmanby Hall, a girls’ school in Yorkshire. There he met Marjorie Dowsett, a teacher of French, and they were married in 1931. At about this time he began using his full name to avoid confusion with another minister named F.P. Green.
Fred served in many Methodist circuits around the country. Early in the war, in Ilford, Essex, he combined his ministerial work with the duties of air-raid warden. Later, in Finsbury Park, he made the acquaintance of the poet Fallon Webb whose friendship he valued for its opportunity of mutual critiques of each other’s latest verses. In his next appointment, to the Dome Mission, Brighton, Fred’s preaching – and indeed theatrical – gifts were much in evidence as he regularly drew congregations of 2000.
Another fruitful friendship was with his college contemporary, Dr Francis Westbrook. (Francis played the organ for Fred’s wedding and Fred was best man for Francis.) Francis teased from Fred two children’s hymns for the Methodist School Hymn Book in 1950.
Much more significant, however, was the invitation in 1967 for Fred to join the committee preparing the Methodist supplement Hymns and Songs (1969), the music committee of which was chaired by Francis. When the need for new hymns on new topics was voiced, a fellow committee-member turned to Fred with the challenge ‘You’re a poet. You write them.’ The eight hymns that he contributed to Hymns and Songs unleashed his talents in this field and in the next quarter-century he wrote many more on a huge variety of themes. He seldom if ever wrote ‘on spec.’ but always in response to a commission or (often at the suggestion of his friend John Wilson) to provide words for a worthy tune.
A commission that brought him national prominence was his ‘Hymn for the Nation’: ‘It is God who holds the nations in the hollow of his hand’ (HP 404) in celebration of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. Originally commissioned by Norwich Cathedral this was used as the only hymn by a living writer at the thanksgiving service in St Paul’s Cathedral (in place of one by the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, which was considered unsuitable). Thereafter Fred’s work was in demand from all over the world, particularly in America where he was made a Fellow of the Hymn Society of America (as it was then known) and was awarded an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters by Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, in 1982. He was also called to serve on the editorial panels for several hymnals and anthologies.
Long before his career as a hymnodist he had, with Betjeman’s encouragement, published poetry. His work is represented in several anthologies, notably ‘The Old Couple’ in Philip Larkin’s The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse, 1973. Under the editorship of Bernard Braley, his friend and biographer, Stainer & Bell published The Hymns and Ballads of Fred Pratt Green, 1982, and Later Hymns and Ballads and Fifty Poems, 1989. Fred always carefully distinguished between the arts of hymnody and poetry. ‘One writes poetry’, he said, ‘to please oneself; one w rites hymns as a servant of Christ and His Church. Only one thing matters; that the hymn shall be right for use in worship.’
He vowed that his hymn-writing should not bring any financial benefit to himself. The substantial royalties, particularly from America, have instead been channelled into the Pratt Green Trust for Hymnody and Church Music which he set up in 1984. Among many projects that the trust has funded is the HymnQuest Data Base which makes available in electronic form more than 15000 hymn texts and 12000 tunes and can be searched for more than 3000 themes. Fred’s personal library of hymnals and related material formed the nucleus of the Pratt Green Collection at Durham University, an immensely valuable resource now grown to over 3000 volumes. It also houses copies of Fred’s journals, scrapbooks and note-books.
Fred and Marjorie, having retired to Thorpe, near Norwich, moved in 1990 into Cromwell House Methodist Home for the Aged, Norwich. Sadly, Marjorie died in 1993 but this remained Fred’s home for the rest of his life. At his request his ashes have been sprinkled in the garden there.
He has been dubbed the Bard of Methodism but he was certainly not one for denominational flag-waving and his influence extended far beyond his own communion. His liberal outlook enabled him to see God in other faiths without diluting his own. He fully recognized the uncertainties of the modern world and did not shrink from engaging with its problems. But he was far from being over-serious. His puckish humour and a mischievous sense of fun was apt to erupt in witty light verse. (In this vein he contributed memorably to the Hymn Society’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1986.) With his resonant voice, dapper figure and silver hair seemingly caned from the solid, he retained even into his nineties an astonishingly youthful appearance.
For his services to hymnody he was appointed MBE in 1994.
There will be a memorial celebration at Wesley’s Chapel. City Road, London EC1. on Saturday 9 June 2001 from 2.00 to 4.00 pm.
Ian Stratton, 1927-2000
A long-time member of the Society and for many years a stalwart of our conferences, the Revd Ian Stratton died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Warminster, Wiltshire, on 15 November. He had been dogged by ill-health for some years, and this, to his great chagrin, had kept him from our last two conferences. After six months being nursed away from home he had returned there in early October; with health and spirits improving daily he was looking forward to resuming many of his activities and particularly to joining us at next year’s conference in an area he had known well. Alas, this was not to be.
Ian Herbert Shearing Stratton hailed from the village of Tollard Royal on the Wiltshire-Dorset border, where his father was a master-carpenter on the Pitt-Rivers estate. From the local school Ian went as a weekly boarder to Shaftesbury Grammar School. National service in the RAF took him to the Far East and fostered a life-long interest in aircraft and indeed in the RAF Association (which was represented by a standard-bearer at his funeral service). Study of the classics and then theology at St John’s College Durham led to his ordination in 1954. After serving curacies at Shirley (Southampton), and Bradford Cathedral, he became Tutor and then Vice-Principal at St Aidan’s Theological College, Birkenhead. Popular with staff and students alike, he threw himself into the work with irrepressible enthusiasm. He seemed destined for a career of academic distinction. But the 1960s were a difficult time for theological colleges – St Aidan’s in particular – and the consequent strain brought on a breakdown in his health.
Unable then to take full responsibility in parish work he served three extended curacies in the Salisbury area. Health problems, however, again intervened and in 1988 he retired early to settle in Warminster.
Here, not too far from his beloved Salisbury, he was well placed to act as the Hymn Society’s link-man with Salisbury Cathedral over the design and execution of the memorial there to his friend Cyril Taylor. In this, his enthusiasm and attention to detail were invaluable. Although far from well at the time of the memorial’s dedication on St Cecilia’s Day 1999 he was encouraged by friends in the Cathedral and the Society to attend the ceremony and this gave him much satisfaction.
He served the Society in many other ways. He brought wisdom and kindly humour to our executive committee over several years; he had twice acted as a meticulously well prepared conference chaplain; and he was a most valued contributor to the Bulletin. His last piece, immaculately typed as ever, was sent in less than three weeks before he died; it appears in this issue.
Always fascinated by the wonders of the natural world, in his retirement he took great pleasure in his garden – and even sold some of the produce to local shops. Moreover, he would often share his horticultural delight by including packets of seeds with his Christmas cards to friends. He attended French conversation classes and crossed the Channel to put his expertise into practice. And he daily delighted in The Times crossword puzzle.
A bachelor with no close family he nevertheless had a great gift for friendship. Visitors to his house could count on generous hospitality, usually including his home-made cake and jam. He kept in touch with many of his students – and gently guided their reading long after they had embarked on their own careers!
A single phrase in the tribute paid at his funeral service by Prebendary John Ridyard, a former St Aidan’s student, memorably says it all: ‘He was a lovely man’.
The Welkin: A Postscript by Ian Stratton
When the reviewers of the 1904 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern spotted the first line of hymn 62 they whetted their critical knives; the hymn-singing public appreciated the subsequent carve-up. The compilers had replaced the well-loved first line, which was also that of the refrain. Hark! the herald angels sing’, with Charles Wesley’s original opening, ‘Hark! how all the welkin rings’, though they had not interfered with the rest of the received composite text.
Percy Dearmer learned from their unwisdom. Two years later The English Hymnal printed two versions. Charles Wesley’s 1743 text in eight four-line stanzas as no. 23, followed by ‘Hark! the herald angels sing’ at no. 24. Both versions appeared again in the 1925 and 1931 editions of Songs of Praise, though not next to each other, presumably so that Wesley’s text would stand a bigger chance of being sung. Dearmer made a perceptive comment in Songs of Praise Discussed. Of Wesley’s original he wrote: “In this form the hymn is more than the song of praise that Hark! the herald angels’ is: it is a prayer for all; and its universalist tendency is shown also in ‘Universal nature say, “Christ the Lord is born to-day”,’ as it is perhaps implied in ‘all the welkin’.’’
However, it is the word ‘welkin’ which causes the difficulty. J.R.Watson (Bulletin 224) says that it was popular at least in poetry during the first half of the eighteenth century. At the time some people would have had an idea what it meant; but some would not, as George Whitefield probably thought when he altered the line to its present form. Today not one in a hundred singers would have a clue when the word hits them by surprise. For one thing the word has no cognates; for another its apparently diminutive form carries none of the weight that the majestic sonority of the classical equivalents ‘empyrean’ and ‘firmament’ conveys. ‘The apparent arch or vault of heaven overhead; the sky’ (OED 1989) would not spring at once to mind. A word which has survived in poetry and literature for four hundred years has no resonance for the technological mind.
Yet the story could have been different. Early in World War 2 officials at the Air Ministry in London had become aware that Germany was developing pressurized aircraft which could operate at very high altitudes. Some tentative incursions by single Luftwaffe aircraft actually took place. Although specially modified Spitfires (Marks vi and vii) provided some improvized defence against the high-flying aeroplanes, the Air Ministry realized that a twin-engined single seat interceptor with a fully pressurized cockpit, and so capable of operating at 44,000 ft. should be developed. Westland Aircraft of Yeovil submitted an acceptable design. The prototype, a monoplane with a high aspect-ratio wing spanning 70 ft. flew on 1 November 1942. At this period in RAF history fighter aircraft were given names appropriate to their role, usually aggressive-sounding ones like ‘Hurricane’ or ‘Gladiator’ alliterating with the manufacturer’s name. Someone at the Air Ministry knew his language and literature well, and the high-altitude interceptor became the Westland Welkin. Production began and 75 complete aircraft were produced. Because the anticipated German threat did not materialize the Welkins went straight into store and were never issued to squadrons. Had aerial combat at high altitudes taken place, and had the Westland machine scored notable successes, its name might well have become a recognizable word again; but it was not to be. In the recondite Cambridge Hymnal of 1967 Wesley’s words find a place only in the ‘Appendix of Original Words’. Wesley’s first line is quoted in the preface to the New English Hymnal of 1986. but only as an example of a place where changes can bring benefit. One’s guess is that the matter will rest there.
Singing in the Millennium with the Methodist Church Music Society by Kay Griffiths and Joyce Horn
Hymn Society members played a prominent part in the annual weekend conference of the Methodist Church Music Society (MCMS) held last October at the Hayes Conference Centre. Swanwick, Derbyshire. Celebrating ‘the singing Church past, present and future’, the meeting, attended by more than three hundred, offered a wide range of sessions and workshops about the hymn and song in worship.
You could attend only two workshops out of the dozen or so available. Even after the present writers had discounted those not appropriate to their particular perspective (namely, the ones for worship leaders, people working with children, hymn and tune writers) there was still a difficult choice to be made. Reluctantly, we decided against hearing Timothy Dudley-Smith on ‘What makes a good hymn’, on the grounds that the content might be much the same as at the 1993 Winchester conference, even though it would be well worth hearing again. In the end we opted (separately) for Ian Bradley’s fascinating analysis of ‘The Lloyd Webber Effect’, in which Ian explored the wide appeal of musicals as a genre, the big themes they address nowadays, and the way they supply theology and spirituality to large numbers of people; also for Michael Wakelin, from the BBC’s Religious Broadcasting Department, on ‘The BBC and Contemporary Christian Music’. Michael gave a shrewd commentary on the difficulties, in the current BBC climate, of securing airtime on radio and television for Christian bands and singers attempting to reach young people with the Christian message. Together, we heard Elizabeth Cosnett’s stimulating, interactive session on ‘The Expected and the Unexpected’, in which her sharp mind and skill in communication opened up new (and unexpected!) ways of thinking about hymnody.
The next day there were two further ‘option’ sessions. After Alan Luff’s lucid, informative presentation on ‘HymnQuest’. someone was heard to say ‘We were thinking about having it; now I feel we must have it’. Elizabeth Cosnett chaired an informal discussion session on ‘Words for Worship’ in which she responded
with competence and good humour to the group’s different requests, helping one half to write their own hymn and the other to explore some of her own texts.
The full sessions likewise offered food for thought and nourishment for the spirit. Alan Gaunt in ’Praise above all!’ gave us an uplifting tour of the development of hymnody from earliest times. Singing engages both mind and spirit. Well-crafted hymns of depth and seriousness surprise us with joy, proclaim real faith, and should be sung with gusto. Dick Watson on ‘The Craft of the Hymn-writer’ used techniques of literary criticism to give welcome and penetrating insights. John Bell on ‘The Songs of God’s People’ spoke about the need for an imaginative and flexible approach to hymn and song singing, involving (for example) organ accompaniment, unaccompanied singing, or dialogue between soloist and congregation, as appropriate. A panel of three ‘prophets’, namely Jo Boyce (Roman Catholic worker with youth and music), Mark Wakelin (Methodist Minister with particular involvement in youth and music projects) and Andrew Maries (free-lance church music consultant), spoke from the heart on how music in worship should be the expression of offering our whole lives to God. Finally Martin Ellis took us on a tour of Wesley theology as expressed in Charles’s hymns. All the speakers gave us plenty of opportunity to sing, sometimes (as with Martin) to lesser-known tunes, or (with Jo) accompanied by British Sign Language.
Wilfrid and Hilda Little (Wilfrid approaching his 99th birthday in December 2000) attended for a short time and were deservedly feted as honoured guests. Seeing them was a real treat. It was curiously fitting that the news of the death of Fred Pratt Green on 22 October should come while Methodists were gathered together.
As with the Hymn Society conference, MCMS offered well-prepared morning and evening prayers and Sunday worship. There was the added bonus of sung grace before meals, when in true Methodist style three hundred diners raised their voices in spontaneous unaccompanied four-part harmony—a stirring sound!
Thanks must go to the MCMS and the Pratt Green Trust for organizing and sponsoring the conference. Everyone there, whatever their standpoint, could not fail to have been touched by the breadth and depth of hymnody. and the riches and joys it affords.
The Art of Matching Texts and Tunes
Our member the Revd Bryan Spinney is hoping to prepare an article (or booklet) on this subject and would be grateful for suggestions from members about particularly ‘good’ or ‘bad’ pairings of texts and tunes in current hymn-books. Examples should be accompanied by reasons for the opinions expressed. Considerations to be taken into account might include (1) metre – as some tunes appear in more than one metrical form, (2) accentuation of words in relation to the musical beats. (3) the general spirit of the words and tune. (4) the use of tunes also having secular associations. (5) common usage.
Mr Spinney would be glad to receive suggestions by I March at 28 Oldbarn Close, Totton, Southampton SQ40 2SY.
Common Praise, SCM-Canterbury Press 2000. Full music edition £19.99 (ISBN 1-85311-264-X); melody edition £ 11.99: words only £8.99 (or £6.99 limp cover).
In the golden age of rail travel there used to be a fascinating train linking the south-east of England with the north-west and north Wales. Once a day in each direction it began its journey as quite a short train: then, at various points en route, extra coaches from tributary lines were coupled on until, chugging through middle England, it had grown to a dozen or more coaches including a dining-car. The reverse process of uncoupling sections then sent sets of three or four coaches to separate destinations. (Several members attending our 1959 conference in Canterbury found it very useful.) This remarkable co-operation between different railway companies originated in a special Act of Parliament at about the time of the 1914-18 war, and this act had to be repealed before the service could be withdrawn in the early 1960s.
Hymns Ancient & Modern has been rather like that. Although not brought into being by Act of Parliament it became so much a national institution that the world at large may well have thought that it had originated thus. It began as quite a short book of 273 hymns but at intervals down the years extra sections (supplements) were coupled on (prompting the old quip that in A&M Christmas came not just once a year but three times). Very occasionally, when it had. you might say, outgrown the station platforms, the length would be reduced somewhat and the passengers reseated with more compatible companions. Lengthening by supplement would then begin again.
After the 1950 rearrangement came an upturn in hymnodic traffic and two new supplements were coupled on. Then, as word came of a new train approaching on the EH track, about half of the front, 1950, coaches were left in a siding, and the rear of the train, with only a little retouching of the paintwork, was recoupled to form A&M New Standard (1983). Within ten years another set of coaches, not too accurately labelled Worship Songs, joined the train.
With the end-of-century milepost coming into view the time was clearly ripe for a further remarshalling of the train. The year 2000 also marked the publication of Common Worship, the successor to the Church of England’s Alternative Service Book. As A&M has always prided itself on being an appropriate companion to the Anglican liturgy, it seemed, at least to someone, a good idea to emphasize that link by renaming the hymn-book. So the present collection of 628 items is called Common Praise.
Some may feel that the new title carries a hint of ‘dumbing down’. Perhaps more will regret the loss of the long-established brand name from the cover, although (temporarily?) it remains on the title-page in small lettering as a subtitle.
No doubt mindful of A&M’s ill-starred attempt in 1904 to repackage old favourites, the present compilers have evidently been anxious not to drag their faithful clientele too precipitately into the twenty-first century. In fact, almost 80% of the hymn texts have previously travelled in sonic part of the A&M train. And the compilers have been so reluctant to alter texts hallowed by usage that instances of amendment arc quite hard to find. Their principal bête noire seems to have been ‘brothers’ and its cognates. In general, though, they have not been greatly exercised by non-inclusive language. Even the notorious ‘I thy true son’ remains – as do archaic spellings such as ‘posses!’.
However, in bringing W. Walsham How’s ‘O word of God incarnate’ into the A&M fold they have amended its first line to ‘O Christ the Word incarnate’. The alteration is perhaps ill-considered for. whereas the first and third (How’s fourth) stanzas are now specifically addressed to Christ, the second, which is not, is left as an aside. (‘Excuse me just a minute, Lord, while I have a word with my friends.’) An altogether happier amendment (taken over from Worship Songs A&M) is in David J. Evans’s ‘Be still, for the Spirit of the Lord’. One might have thought that other editors would have seized gratefully on this elegant avoidance of the tautological ‘the presence…is here’. But brains can often be numbed by a seductive tune.
There was some criticism of the New Standard edition of 1983 because, while discarding almost half of AMR, it retained the whole of the two supplements, much of which had still to be fully field-tested. So it is of particular interest to see that 53% of HHT (1969) and 60% of MHT (1980) have survived into the new book. (The worship-song supplement has statistically fared less well. This, however, is partly because some of its items were rounds and short responses, genres that do not feature at all in the new book, and quite a few pieces were alternative settings of texts that had appeared earlier.) Those who have felt that the axe was wielded rather too ruthlessly on AMR may rejoice at the rescue of a dozen or so previously abandoned hymns from AMR and even its predecessor AMS.
Turning the pages of Common Praise, and seeing so many familiar faces, leaves no doubt that it continues the A&M tradition. Indeed, the table of contents, though now less detailed, differs little in essence from those in earlier editions. To begin with, Morning and Evening account for nine and 14 hymns respectively and the next 183 take us from Advent to Trinity. Saints are commemorated in general rather than particular. There is an especially generous provision of 58 hymns for Holy Communion. The perhaps mystifying title ‘General Liturgical Section’ covers metrical versions of the Nunc Dimittis, Gloria, Magnificat, and Apostles’ Creed (in that order because of the alphabetical arrangement of first lines in individual sections). Finally, Hymns through the year’ (264 of them) are what earlier editions termed, in the phrase that Erik Routley so abhorred, General Hymns.
Two new sections, at any rate in name, are ‘Christingle’ (two hymns) and ‘Candlemas’ (one). But. while allowing that the pigeon-holing of hymns is never an exact science, one wonders why Elizabeth Cosnett’s very specific ‘When candles are lighted on Candlemas Day’ is found in the ‘Christingle’ slot without even a cross-reference from ‘Candlemas’. The genuine Christingle hymn is Timothy Dudley-Smith’s ‘God. whose love is everywhere’ (Junior Praise 359): this, though unfortunately losing its valuable explanatory side-notes, has gained a splendid new tune from John Barnard.
The preface reminds us of Keble’s advice to A&M’s founding fathers: ‘make it comprehensive’. That advice, though no less relevant today, is increasingly difficult of achievement within a reasonable compass. One way of dealing with the rising tide of material clamouring for entry is to draw the boundaries of the term ‘hymn’ as closely as possible. So here we find no non-metrical pieces, no short responses from Taizé or Iona, only the merest handful of worship songs and a few carols among the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany hymns. However, no doubt in deference to the current sharp decline of parish-church choirs and thus of ‘anglican’ chanting, there is a smattering of Scottish metrical psalms.
Many classic hymns are now welcomed into the A&M fold for the first time. Entirely new texts are few but two in the Holy Communion section are immediately striking: James Quinn’s ‘Now from the heavens descending’ and Paul Wigmore’s ‘We come to this your table. Lord’. A powerful piece, slow to make its mark in Britain, is ‘A stable lamp is lighted’ by the American poet Richard Wilbur (PFT 1): it makes a splendid addition to the Christmas section.
It has to be said that the compilers do display some remarkable collective absent-mindedness. This must be the explanation for their including Edward Caswall’s translation O Jesus, King most wonderful’ twice. (It is not, incidentally, ‘another version’ of ‘Jesus, the very thought of thee’ but another cento from the same long poem.) Perhaps absent-mindedness also accounts for attributing Patrick Appleford’s ‘Jesus, humble was your birth’ to Geoffrey Beaumont.
The largest contribution of new tunes is the five by Richard Shephard. Of these the most winning is a song-style setting of Robert Willis’s new text ‘In a world where people walk in darkness’. Maurice Bevan’s three tunes include his CORVEDALE (also in Sing Glory) for ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy’. In his LM QUATFORD the pronounced caesuras after the sixth and twenty-second syllables suggest that it was not written for Neale’s ‘Around the throne of God a band’ set here. There are other instances of tunes not very happily divorced from the texts for which they were written but let us not dwell on those. One rejoices to see ‘May the mind of Christ my Saviour’ (a newcomer to A&M) given John Wilson’s superb GRIFFIN’S BROOK (HP 739) – and as it is printed without any competition one may hope that it will at last become established in the general repertoire.
Cyril Taylor is of course represented by ABBOT’S LEIGH (twice) – and two others – but ‘Come, risen Lord’ is not blessed with his BOROUGH (which John Wilson used to refer to as Cyril’s second-best tune). Equally surprisingly, John Dykes Bower, another A&M stalwart, has lost HARESFIELD. The absence of Gregory Murray’s tune for James Quinn’s translation of Ubi caritas will doubtless be regretted.
Some of A&M’s musical eccentricities have gone. For instance, the versions of ILLSLEY and SONG 34 are now brought into line with those in other books. But in GELOBT SEI GOTT English congregations are still expected to sing ‘Alleluia’ with German accentuation: surely the compilers realize that this is now a lost cause? Congregations will doubtless continue to trip over the second line of NOEL NOUVELET which, with the original version of ‘Now the green blade riseth’, does not match the first line. In this piece the same non-interventionist policy leaves undisturbed J.M.C. Crum’s further forgetfulness in mixing ‘riseth’ and ‘springeth’ with present-day verb endings: ancient and modern indeed!
We may wonder about the wisdom of having in one book two different versions of melodics such as WARRINGTON and WILTSHIRE and Boyce’s tune variously known as BOYCE and HALTON HOLGATE. We may wonder still more on seeing ‘Good Joseph had a garden’. Here CHERRY TREE CAROL is an excellent choice of tune. But we find two melodic variants on the same page; moreover, the compilers seem not to have noticed that the textual irregularities occur in the third line, not the fourth as the second setting implies. With either version the necessary do-it-yourself adjustments in bar 6 may not produce congregational unanimity.
A change of tune can sometimes throw valuable new light on a hymn text. All the same, some collocations of text and tune here will seem quirky, and it does not look as though a concern for agreeable accentuation was, for these compilers, a high priority.
In several instances tunes that were lowered in pitch in the 1983 edition have (wisely) been raised again. But such wisdom has not extended to Peter Hurford’s THE HOLY SON which has a unison melody ranging from F to F (why isn’t it set for SATB anyway?) and BENTLEY in D. There are signs too of the compilers forgetting that a parish-church congregation is not a choral society. Whatever persuaded them to include an adaptation of Elgar’s setting of the National Anthem in B flat? This famous folk-song is in fact given a plain setting in G on the inside of the back cover but as this is unnumbered, unindexed and un-cross-referenced it will be found, like much else in the book, only by serendipity. And Vaughan Williams’s setting of George Herbert’s ‘Come, my way’, delightful as it may be, is scarcely congregational. Some two dozen tunes appear in different keys in different places yet in only one instance is the fact mentioned. There are a few descants but none of the faux-bourdons that featured in earlier editions of A&M.
Recent years have seen increasing recognition that hymns in worship should be apt both to the occasion and to the liturgy as a whole. At one time help in hymn selection was almost non-existent. (True, there were separate booklets on the lines of ‘Guide to the use of….’ though these, one suspects, had little circulation and even less use.) Commendably, the indexes in Common Praise include one of Hymns for Sunday Themes: this suggests five hymns for each Sunday (and a few other days) in the three-year cycle of the Common Worship lectionary. There is also a comprehensive listing of some 4000-5000 scripture references (or rather allusions). Unfortunately, other indexes do not match this standard. In particular, people requiring reliable indexes of tunes, alphabetical or by metre, will need either to construct their own or to await the corrected edition that the publishers should speedily put in hand. A good deal of remedial work is also needed throughout the book on ascriptions, metres and even the spelling of author’s names. (And. while they are about it, the publishers could alter the eccentric layout of no. 247 to avoid the mid-performance page-turn and add a helpful ‘PTO’ or its equivalent in various places.)
Dare one suggest that every hymn-book committee should appoint, well in advance of publication, someone not necessarily one of their own number but with a knowledge of the jargon and conventions of hymnody – who will scrutinize such details. This probably unsung hero or heroine will of course realize that simply copying from the first book to hand risks visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto umpteen generations. For that matter, shovelling data into a computer untouched by human brain is likewise to court disaster.
The full music edition of this book is not unduly bulky, although the apparent obsession with alphabetical order seldom allows more than one hymn to a page opening. Durability of the binding is perhaps open to question. The printing, at least for the major part of the book, is of a good size and admirably clear.
Not so long ago it was thought, or at any rate hoped, that separate branches of Christian hymnody would converge on to a main line. Some even hoped that all could be accommodated on a single train. But now there are many train operators.
Tracks diverge. The weather is foggy. If hymnal editors misread the signals will they take their customers (as passengers are now called) on to an increasingly remote and unprofitable branch line?
Even if properly edited, would Common Praise be the train to catch? I wish I knew.
(One matter to be decided when a new hymnal appears, at any rate if its title consists of more than one word, is what is to be its short designation. As I know of no official directive I suggest CmP for Common Praise (not CP since Congregational Praise is still very much alive in some quarters).)
Laudate. Decani Music, 1999. Pew (PVC) edition £5.25
It is difficult to provide for Laudate the kind of review to which readers of this Bulletin are accustomed. The edition which has been sent to us has no preface setting out its rationale, and no index of authors. A full music edition (in two volumes at £32) is promised; perhaps these deficiencies will be remedied there, and indexes of tunes and composers provided.
The book has no less than 1000 pieces, but some of the items are responses, acclamations and even Amens. It is apparently intended to enable congregations to participate vocally not only in the Mass, but in Morning, Evening and Night Prayer. The clear enumeration, together with a large hymn board or detailed notice sheet should facilitate such participation. The season of Advent runs from 64 to 117, but beside hymns there are responses and acclamations for each Sunday. Similarly the eucharistic section runs from 458 to 667, and includes congregational settings for all parts of the liturgy which may be sung.
Following the material for the liturgical year, there is a topical section. This begins with morning and evening; for the morning, there are two hymns by Timothy Dudley-Smith, and one each by Charles Wesley, James Quinn, Brian Foley, as well as ‘Morning has broken’ by Eleanor Farjeon. The evening selection is a little larger, but it is interesting that in neither section are Thomas Ken or John Keble represented. Nevertheless, there is a wide spread of authors, including some who are only just beginning to appear in hymn-books. There are several contributions by Daniel L. Schutte whose ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’ has become popular in recent years, and in ‘God. beyond our dreams’ Bernadette Farrell seems to have taken up the challenge to ‘bring many names’. Some fairly pedestrian verses are provided for Gospel Responses in Lent, but quite striking is that offered for the Prodigal Son in Year C:
The spendthrift son. returning,
was pardoned all his wrong,
was welcomed home with feasting,
with ring and robe and song.
God. spendthrift in your mercy,
rejoicing our return,
guide all your children homeward,
your lavish love to learn.
The topical section rescues from near-oblivion ‘God. my King, your might confessing’ by Richard Mant, and Erik Routley’s ‘Surprised by Joy’, written for a wedding, is included under that heading.
The book seems to follow the principle of retaining thou/thee for hymns originally written in that form, but this is not quite invariable. ‘Glorious things of you are spoken’ appears on one page, but on the next ‘Yet she on earth hath union’. A certain inconsistency is evident in other ways. Some hymns have the melody line appended, and some do not. The source of some tunes is acknowledged, but more often it is not.
A surprising addition to this congregational edition is a four-page guide to the choice of hymns, and this encourages breadth and imagination in the selection. Fuller lists are promised for the full music edition; this will be necessary, since most of us who choose hymns want to know to what tunes they will be set.
Praying Twice: The Music and Words of Congregational Song by Brian Wren. Westminster John Knox Press. Louisville. Kentucky, 2000. ix + 422pp. Price not stated. (ISBN 0-664-25670-8)
Brian Wren has recently been appointed Professor of Worship of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur. This book could serve as a professorial manifesto, and no doubt it will have a considerable impact on the thinking of his students and on the practice of worship. But its authority comes from elsewhere: from Wren’s authorship of some of the finest contemporary hymns, his studied reflections on the language of hymnody. and his engaged interest in worship of many kinds.
‘Whoever sings (to God. in worship), prays twice.’ The book begins with these words, attributed to Saint Augustine of Hippo, and is a sustained meditation on what is implied in them. ‘Sustained’ is perhaps not quite the right word, except as an indication of length: the book is written in short sections and discrete chapters, which sometimes give the impression of a giant jig-saw puzzle, as if Wren were putting together many of the pieces, the elements which go into the business of successful worship. It is written, moreover, with reference to a number of different disciplines: history, anthropology, linguistics, psychology, literary criticism, music, and theology. Wren is eclectic, and fruitfully so: I had never before appreciated how much an understanding of what goes on in worship can involve all of these things, to a greater or lesser degree.
The book is therefore an exciting read, as Wren hurries from point to point: there are two terms’ lectures, on several courses, crammed into these pages. It is also a practical book, with specific ideas: the chapter on ‘Encouraging the People’s Song’, for example, ends with no fewer than forty-one recommendations, designed to encourage worship that is fresh and open to new ideas. It suggests, among other things, that we should ‘think generationally, but not stereotypically’, ‘look over the lectionary wall’, ‘respect the contract of enjoyment’, and ‘have at least one unaccompanied song per Sunday’. It is hard to disagree with these points: ‘introduce a new’ song with enthusiasm; never with an apology’: ‘use live musicians, not backing tapes’; discover, respect, and repeat the familiar’.
There is, in these recommendations, a drive for newness, which I suppose is natural enough. If worship stayed the same for ever, there would be no new hymns, no currents of fresh thinking, and no subject for the Professor of Worship to discuss. It is Wren’s business to make us think about these matters, and he certainly does that. Moreover, he shows himself aware of the tradition, while sometimes being critical of it. He discusses Isaac Watts’s ‘Nature with open volume stands’ and then Shirley Erena Murray’s ‘O God. we bear the imprint of your face’ with tact and critical intelligence, though I find his objections to some of Watts’s phrasing hard to agree with: to give oneself to the singing of the sweet wonders of that cross’ is, I think, to allow the phrase (however cloying in other contexts – Wren suggests that we hear it through the sentimentality of nineteenth-century romanticism) to enter our mind in its own specific way, in that place in the hymn, with its own idiom. It is precisely because we can recognize that Watts is using the phrase in his own way, precisely and finely that we can sing it with full hearts. We bypass the nineteenth century; and we change our linguistic register from the ordinary, the rational and critical, to the poetic.
Wren has thought long and hard about language, as his previous writing has shown. It has led him to rewrite his own hymns, sometimes (perhaps only sometimes) for the better; and here he chafes at Watts’s ‘in the grace that rescued man’. I think he is right to worry about this, although the results of rewriting have varied. He cites Rejoice in the Lord (1985), a book which tried invisible mending, and was explicit about it:
But in the grace that saved the world
His brightest form of glory shines.
See, on the cross, the tale unfold
in precious blood and crimson lines.
This is fair enough (and Wren prefers it to the text in Rejoice and Sing) but it loses the idea of ‘rescued’ and the astonishing ‘fairest drawn’, so beautifully placed (that placing is lost in Rejoice and Sing).
In such alterations, maybe you gain something, maybe you lose something. Wren is very good on the different versions of ‘Hark! how all the welkin rings’, noting the early change to ‘Hark! the herald angels sing’, and then going on to some later ones. He is severe on its text in the New Century Hymnal, and quotes (apparently without alarm) the aims of that version: to remove archaic language, to remove archaic cosmological and other references (God up in heaven, etc), to eliminate male titles (e.g. Father. Son), to avoid language thought to deal unjustly with people on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, or mental and physical conditions; and so on. It is difficult to see how a hymn can emerge from such a process as anything except sanitized, and Wren (who is keen on most of these things) has the sense to realize that something is wrong with the final result—though he does so largely on grounds of language and poetic effectiveness.
His criticism of that hymn is just. Elsewhere I was jolted by the alteration business, when (for example) Wren quotes Cowper in a section on ‘inspirational’ congregational song: ‘Sometimes a light surprises / the Christian while (s)he sings’ (italics Wren’s). Oddly, he goes on to quote the next two lines without comment: it is the Lord who rises /with healing in his wings’. Lord? rises? Here, as in other places. I wonder if Wren has underestimated the power of the mind to cope with archaism, and the mind’s ability to translate words such as ‘Father’ and ‘Lord’ into acceptable meanings. The engagement with words, often strange or unusual ones, is part of the activity of the mind, its going out to meet the text half-way: the imagination can be made to work, even as it leaps to respond to unexpected images and phrases, to things said in ways that we would no longer say them. Those words enliven us. even as they make us think, translate, respond to metaphor, rhyme: and I think that liturgical reform has consistently underestimated the power of the unexpected and the archaic, and the mind’s enjoyment of them. As I write this review in Durham, the Royal Shakespeare Company is playing to packed houses up the road at Newcastle: no problems with the language there.
So I have reservations about Wren’s argument about the language of hymns: but the examples here made me think, and for that I am grateful. They are carefully and acutely observed: there is no mindless modernizing here. The discussion is informed and responsible, and so is the rest of the book: I admired the opening section, which is a series of vignettes of worship from 1970 C.E. (Wren of course prefers ‘C.E.’ to ‘Anno Domini’) backwards through time to 1200 B.C.E. The point of the exercise is to show the ways in which congregational song, or community song, is natural and a part of worship, and I found this whole exposition much more effective and fruitful than the discussion of the same topic in In Tune With Heaven, the report of the Archbishops’ Commission on Church Music. Wren gets much further into the subject. I think, using not only history, but writing by psychiatrists such as Anthony Stor and philosophers of music such as Leonard Meyer and Robert Jourdain. I admired, too, his anthropological field-work: he was brave enough to go into a number of churches in New England that actually advertised themselves as offering contemporary worship.
If all this sounds intimidating, it is balanced by some very down-to-earth advice: ‘Pew and choir cushions absorb sound’: ’Carpets absorb sound and negate the sound-reflective quality of the floor’. It is characteristic of this remarkable book that it should include recommendations about parquet flooring alongside elementary physics, as Wren reminds us that sounds with the frequencies 438, 440, and 442 cycles per second are all heard as an instance of the note A. There is plenty of neat quotation, too: I liked the description, from Thomas Day. of ‘the struggling-invalid singing’ of some Roman Catholic parishes (while worrying uneasily that this was ‘language thought to deal unjustly with people on the grounds of….mental and physical conditions’); and I greatly enjoyed Tom Hunter’s description of singing ‘The church’s one foundation’, when suddenly ‘an image pounced: the “mystic, sweet communion (with) those whose rest is won’”.
This is a rich book, multi-faceted and always stimulating, full of information, theory, experience, and advice, all written by a hymn-writer who knows how to make people think, and how to provoke. The provoking is done with the utmost care: there is no arrogance in this book (and there could so easily have been). It should be read by anyone who is in the tricky business of encouraging congregations to sing, Sunday by Sunday, with full hearts and engaged minds. In other words, it is exactly the kind of book that a Professor of Worship ought to be writing.
Anniversaries of 2001
We list here the year’s notable anniversaries of hymn authors and composers represented in current British hymnals.
Author = author or translator ? = exact date unknown
|50 Years ago (1951)|
|Composers Born||Composers Died||Authors Born||Authors Died|
|~||Donald S. Barrows, 27 October||~||Basil Mathews, 29 March|
|Elton M. Roth, 31 December||Robert C. Trevelyan, 28 June|
|Lewis Davies, ?||Elton M. Roth, 31 December|
|E.R. Davies, ?|
|T. Eurig Davies, ?|
|D. Ambrose Jones, ?|
|100 Years ago (1901)|
|Composers Born||Composers Died||Authors Born||Authors Died|
|T.C. Gregory, 3 February||E.J. Hopkins, 4 February||Robert Dobbie, 12 March||Mandell Creighton, 14 January|
|Eric Shave, 6 March||Thomas E. Powell, 8 February||Leslie (Taylor-) Hunt, 27 March||F.W.H. Myers, 17 January|
|Leslie (Taylor-) Hunt, 27 March||John Stainer, 31 March||Edmund Rubbra, 23 May||H.R. Haweis, 29 January|
|Horace Maybray King, 25 May||George Driffield, 22 April||Horace Maybray King, 25 May||Thomas E. Powell, 8 February|
|Laurence Bevenot, 21 June||William Haynes, 26 April||Jan Struther, 6 June||Daniel Whittle (‘El Nathan’), 4 March|
|S. Leslie L. Russell, 7 July||R. Redhead, 27 April||Albert Bayly, 6 September||William Bright, 6 March|
|F. Laloux, 27 November||Ralph E. Hudson, 14 June||Harry Rupert Angior (pseud. John Wheeler), ?||Martha E. Shelley, 25 March|
|Davey Davies, ?||John Farmer, 17 July||Hannah K. Burlingham, 15 May|
|C. Geoffray, ?||James Walch, 30 August||Maltbie D. Babcock, 18 May|
|C.W. Rigby, ?||William McDonald, 11 September||Ralph E. Hudson, 14 June|
|Meirion Williams, ?||John Richards, 15 September||William McDonald, 11 September|
|Rudolf Zöbeley, ?||H.F. Sheppard, 27 December||Julie K. von Hausmann, ?|
|Sophia C. Streatfield, 31 December|
|James Comley, ?|
|200 Years ago (1801)|
|Composers Born||Composers Died||Authors Born||Authors Died|
|J. Mainzer, 21 October||A. Widdop, 9 March||William Williams (Gwilym Cyfeiliog), 4 January||J.C. Lavater, 2 January|
|T.B. Mason, 17 November||J.G. Naumann, 23 October||William Williams (Caledfryn), 6 February||G. Friedrich P. von Hardenberg, 25 March|
|Thomas H. Severn, ?||Christian Gregor, 6 November||J.H. Newman, 21 February||Christian Gregor, 6 November|
|J. Battishill, 10 December||John Johns, 17 March|
|Thomas A. Geary, ?||John Peele Clapham, 7 July|
|Carl Spitta, 1 August|
|W. Griffiths, ?|
|Alexander Means, ?|
|Thomas Pierce, ?|
|Joseph Stammers, ?|
|300 Years ago (1701)|
|Composers Born||Composers Died||Authors Born||Authors Died|
|~||Adam Drese, 15 February||Jacques Bridaine, ?||Adam Drese, 15 February|
|Ahasuerus Fritsch, 24 August|
|400 Years ago (1601)|
|Composers Born||Composers Died||Authors Born||Authors Died|
|~||~||Jean Baptiste de Contes, ?||~|
|Charles Guiet, ?|
In the battle of the three D’s over Christian soldiers. I have appreciated both the warnings of David and the responses of Derek and Donald. If a mere C may add a footnote, first on the literal New Testament soldiery: the praiseworthy centurions of the Gospels (probably not equipped with depleted uranium on their spears) stand surely not as useful role-models for promising young believers at Antioch weighing up their career prospects, but as examples of how people can turn to Christ even from such grotesquely unpromising pagan beginnings. If Jesus himself ‘marvelled’ (Matthew 8:19) so may we.
As to the figurative use of warfare. I doubt if the coming of the day of the Lord like a thief in the night (Matthew 24 etc) is intended to set forth the professional burglar as a pattern for vocational guidance. Slavery, too, is said to have its questionable features.
Arthur C. Bridges
Our member Dr Arthur C. Bridges, who attended our 1990 conference in Bangor, North Wales, died at his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 27 September. Aged 73, he was an organist and a minister of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
Among our contributors:
Edward Darling was Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe I985-2000. He has now retired to his native Ulster.
Donald Davison is Director of Music at St. John’s Parish Church, Malone, Belfast. University Organist at the Queen’s University and Belfast City Organist (Ulster Hall).
Canon Alan Dunstan, a former Chairman of the Society, was Precentor of Gloucester Cathedral before retiring to Truro, Cornwall.
Kay Griffiths, formerly a housing officer in Gateshead and now a University secretary, is also a keen choral singer.
Joyce Horn, recently retired from the Hymn Copyright Department of Oxford University Press, now works part-time for the Pratt Green Trust. She too is a keen choral singer.
J.R. (Dick) Watson was professor of English at Durham University. He served on the committee for Hymns and Psalms, co-edited its Companion and is the author of The English Hymn (1997).
The Bulletin of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Editor: Dr Bernard S. Massey
Secretary: The Revd Geoffrey J. Wrayford
Treasurer: The Revd Michael Garland
Registered Charity No. 248225
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