Occasional papers of The Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland

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Members of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland have free access to read the Occasional Papers online or download the PDF copies. Why not consider joining us? You will also have free access to the Canterbury Dictonary of Hymnology.


Newly published by The Hymn Society

Worshipping Caretakers: the Creation and our Stewardship of it in Hymnody - Alan Hall

It is not unusual, these days, to be overwhelmed with articles concerning the plight of our planet, environmental issues and global warming. These are always thought-provoking, and the very real threat to the natural world calls for a response from Christians, not only in their praise for the beauties of creation, but in their responsibilities as stewards of all that is given to us by God our creator.

In this thorough and searching exploration, Alan Hall starts by reminding us that since earliest times, hymns have been sung praising the beauties of creation. However, he points out that simply to sing All things bright and beautiful is to ignore the ‘enormous suffering and waste in the natural world'.

Rather than abandoning worshippers to a diet of empty words, Alan Hall opens a deep discussion with God as both creator and redeemer. He explores hymns from many Christian traditions, and in several languages, which draw attention to the urgent need for Christians to grapple with some of the difficulties of today's environmental concerns.

Whilst Alan Hall discusses well-known texts, he offers a fresh perspective on many of these, placing them within their historical and cultural context. Furthermore he brings the discussion right up to date, quoting texts by present-day hymn writers all with a view to offering new insights into this complex subject. This is a fascinating booklet is sure to broaden the horizons of all interested readers.

£4.00 - Available from the Secretary or as a digital download, please see below.


Faith, Hymns and Poetry - Timothy Dudley-Smith

This Occasional Paper is an expanded version of a lecture given by Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith at the Hymn Society’s 2013 Conference. It contains all the elements that Dudley-Smith’s readers and singers have come to expect: clarity of thought, rigorous enquiry, an ability to stir the imagination, a certain delightful humour.

In a frank discussion of attempts to include in hymn books poets that should never have been there, the essay nails its colours firmly to the mast: ‘it does seem best’, the author writes, ‘that if a hymn text is to be sung with integrity, it should come from a writer who can sing it in the same way.’ The author argues that the presence of Shelley and Hardy in Songs of Praise does a disservice to their memory; although this essay is never authoritarian.

To lovers of Dudley-Smith’s hymns, this Occasional Paper will be a delight. His appreciation of A.E. Housman, for example, is the admira­tion of one craftsman for another: ‘mark the natural word-order, the single emphatic inversion, the precision of stress and metre’. But the reader will also find here something of the inner mind of the hymns, reflected in his personal choices. These are an indication of the influ­ences and loves that help to drive his hymnody – Alice Meynell, Walter de la Mare, Robert Louis Stevenson. These are the stuff of Dudley-Smith’s dreams: if only they could have had faith and written hymns!

Connoisseurs of humour will find much to interest them here, from A.A. Milne’s parody of the National Anthem to Housman’s ‘Hallelujah Hannah’. These moments lighten what is a profoundly serious and revealing essay, which all lovers of hymns – and of poetry – will find stimulating, and enjoy reading.

£4.00 - Available from the Secretary or as a digital download, please see below.


The Cambridge Carol Book - Gordon Giles

There is an argument that the British Christmas was, for many years, hugely shaped by two men: Prince Albert (1819-61) and Charles Dickens (1812-70). The former is credited with popularising Christmas trees in British homes; the royal household had followed this German tradition for some years, but it was after Albert’s marriage to Queen Victoria that the habit became widespread. As for the latter, the influence of his writing on Britain’s literature, social conscience and customs is considerable: the poignant story and memorable characters of tales like A Christmas Carol continue to resonate.

Yet this paper demolishes any such theory by introducing a third key figure: George Ratcliffe Woodward. Gordon Giles shows how the compiler of The Cambridge Carol Book resuscitated an older tradition, placing carols for various seasons into the hands and voices of church musicians and choirs. He argues that without this influence we would not have the rich tradition of carols and Christmas music known and loved by many, both inside and beyond the church.

There is no intention here to put Woodward and his fellow-compilers on a pedestal. Having set the scene, the author comments on each item in their collection, exposing both the quaint idiosyncracies which permeate it and the paucity of its direct influence; for it is both remarkable and inevitable how little there has stood the test of time. Woodward showed a need that could be met; it was for others to meet that need more effectively, as Gordon Giles explains so well.

£4.00 - Available from the Secretary or as a digital download, please see below.


Occasional Papers from the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland

    First Series from £2.00

    Occasional Papers 1 No. 1
    The Constituents of a Good Hymn
    by W. T. Cairns (1939)

    Occasional Papers 1 No. 2
    Reality in Worship
    by Frederick John Gillman, (1939)

    Occasional Papers 1 No. 3
    Music in Hymnody
    by Millar Patrick (1945)

    Occasional Papers 1 No. 4
    The Hymn Writers of Bristol
    by K. L. Parry (1946)




    Second Series from £2.50

    Occasional Papers 2 No. 1
    Looking at Hymn Tunes: The Objective Factors
    by John Wilson (1991)

    Occasional Papers 2 No. 2
    Susanna and Catherine Winkworth
    by Peter Skrine (1992)

    Occasional Papers 2 No. 3
    Hymns and an Orthodox Dissenter: in Commemoration of Bernard Lord Manning 1892-1941
    by Clyde Binfield (1992)

    Occasional Papers 2 No. 4
    A Hymn Book Survey 1980 - 1993
    by Donald Webster (1994)

    Occasional Papers 2 No. 5
    John Darwall and the 148th Metre
    by John Wilson (2002)

    Occasional Papers 2 No. 6
    A Hymn Book Survey 1993-2003
    by Alan Luff (2003)

    Occasional Papers 2 No. 7
    The Wit and Wisdom of Percy Dearmer
    by Alan Luff (2006)




    Third Series from £3.50

    Occasional Papers 3 No. 1
    Snakes and Ladders - A Hymn Writer's Reflections
    by Timothy Dudley-Smith (2008)

    Occasional Papers 3 No. 2
    What do Hymns Say About Daily Work?
    by David R. Wright (2009)

    Occasional Papers 3 No. 3
    Revealing Hidden Wisdom - Women Finding a Voice in Hymnody
    by June Boyce-Tillman (2010)

    Occasional Papers 3 No. 4
    Redefining the Hymn: The Performative Context
    by Katherine Jenkins with an extended introduction by Rhidian Griffiths (2010)

    Occasional Papers 3 No. 5
    ‘Race Shall Thy Works Praise Unto Race': The Development of Metrical Psalmody in Scotland
    by Graham S. Deans (2011)

    Occasional Papers 3 No. 6
    Hymns Ancient & Modern 1861 - 2013: Its Rise, Development and Influence
    by James Dickinson (2013)

    Occasional Papers 3 No. 7
    Worshipping Caretakers: The Creation and our Stewardship of it in Hymnody
    by Alan Hall (2014)

    Occasional Papers 3 No. 8
    Faith, Hymns and Poetry
    by Timothy Dudley-Smith (2016)

    Occasional Papers 3 No. 9
    The Cambridge Carol Book
    by Gordon Giles (2017)


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