Articles Archive


This section contains articles from the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland’s archive and is available for members only. Not a member but would like to become one? Why not subscribe with PayPal and get immediate access?

The Constitutes of a Good Hymn: by The Rev William T Cairns DD

The subject which has been appointed for me to open this forenoon may seem at first sight a very simple one, alike for the writer and for those who discuss what he has written. Even the man in the street has his own ideas about a hymn—at least about the kind of hymn which he likes; and the B.B.C., from St Martin’s-in-the-Fields and other Regional centres, is ready to give him all he wishes. We members of the Hymn Society may well go a step or two further, and not only form a judgment on the “Constituents of a Good Hymn,” but be prepared to give our reasons and justify our opinion…More

Reality in Worship: by Frederick John Gillman, October 1939

With some reference to the Society of Friends and their relation to Hymn-singing

The pitfalls besetting public worship are manifold, and they doubtless have at some time or another caused many searchings of heart, lest we should fall short of complete integrity of spirit…More

Music in Hymnody: by Rev Millar Patrick DD

A Paper read to the Hymn Society Conference at Jordans, Bucks, on 20th June 1945. Printed by request.
It stands to reason that wherever people gather with their hearts turning to God, and their thoughts full of what He is and what He has done for them, their thought and feeling demand expression. The instinct to seek expression falsifies and defeats itself if we refuse it utterance. So utterance in some form is an essential part of worship. “O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of His praise to be heard.” Make it heard! It is part of our duty to God to do that. We owe it to Him for a testimony to His infinite goodness and grace. We are not to enjoy His gifts in silence. We are to say in effect to others what one of the Psalmists felt bound to say to the people he lived among: “Come and hear what God has done for my soul!” … More

The Hymn Writers of Bristol by the Rev. K. L. Parry

An Address given to the Hymn Society at Bristol on Tuesday, 9th July 1946, by the Rev. K. L. Parry, Minister of Highbury Chapel, Bristol.
To all hymnologists Bristol means first and foremost the home, of Charles Wesley. He is said to have written 6500 hymns. Of these, 243 survive in the latest edition of the Methodist Hymn Book; Songs of Praise is content with twenty-one. The difficulty with so many of Wesley’s hymns is that they express an intense religious experience which is hardly suitable for public worship. As Dr. Benson says in his great book, The English Hymn:

From the liturgical point of view the hymn of experience seems to violate the traditions, and to create a new standard of Church Praise. Instead of a congregation uttering its corporate praise with a common voice, we have a gathering of individuals conducting their private devotions in audible unison. And when the hymn of experience becomes autobiographical, it gives rise to the double question, how far its writer’s individual experience is fitted to be the norm of Christian experience in general, and how far putting another’s experience into the mouth of a promiscuous congregation lends itself to the promotion of religious insincerity. … More

Snakes and Ladders – A Hymn Writer’s Reflections: by Timothy Dudley-Smith

Snakes and Ladders: it is a phrase we’ve known since childhood. I confidently related it in my mind to the book of Genesis: the serpent in the Garden of Eden and the ladder of Jacob’s dream at Bethel. Not a bit of it: the game of Snakes and Ladders comes, I discover, from ancient Hinduism, perhaps representing the ascent to some kind of Nirvana. I am using it as a vivid metaphor for the ups and downs of life: that is, of my life learning to be a hymn writer…More