Hymns

Last week Fr Kelvin asked Who Chooses The Hymns? It is a question I am often asked too. And the answer in my case is: I do. To be truthful, I do with a little advice from Andrew the organist. And let me tell you it is not the fun task you might imagine.

Each Sunday has a theme dictated by the lectionary readings or the time of year.  So we try to find hymns which fit that theme. (What do you mean, you hadn’t noticed?!) Then there is the length of the hymn to be considered.  You don’t want 12 verses for the Gradual but you need enough verses to set the table at the Offertory.  At St Mark’s we have some people who prefer traditional old-style hymns and we also have some who would prefer us just to sing more modern hymns and choruses. Finding a balance is probably the hardest job for me because I’m not terribly familiar with all the modern hymns in our book (Complete Anglican Hymns Old & New, in case you’re interested) and I suspect that Andrew our organist isn’t either.  And we all know how much people LOVE learning new hymns.

I choose the hymns about 3 months ahead and pass them over to Andrew who draws to my attention duplicates and suggestions. Things like ‘that one isn’t easy to sing while kneeling’ is really helpful. A will also suggest replacements but I have noticed that they are never the new ones!!

One of the biggest complaints I get about hymns are the lack of modern hymns. The second biggest complaint is that some of the hymns have been made more inclusive and some language is changed. I actually am happy about this but know some folk get caught out with the oldies they know off by heart. I think we always need to remember that newcomers coming to church may be really put off by archaic, male-centric language and that we should be modelling inclusiveness in all we do.

On the 15th of November Susan will be choosing the hymns. She won the bid at the recent Auction of Talents.  I was asking her recently how it was going and she said her problem was that all her favourites were Communion hymns. I can relate to that. I’m not sure there is a post-Communion hymn which I don’t like, in fact.

So, today’s question is:

What are your 5 favourite hymns?

Here are mine – well today anyway:

  1. I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say
  2. Come Holy Ghost our souls Inspire
  3. As The Deer Pants For the Water (and As Pants the Hart)
  4. Tell Out My Soul
  5. My Song is Love Unknown
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23 thoughts on “Hymns

  1. Mine are (in no particular order)

    1. Praise my soul The King of Heaven
    2. Shine Jesus Shine
    3. Abide with Me (though it will make me cry)
    4. We Plough the fields and Scatter … love the good old rousing songs
    5. All People that on earth do dwell

    So what does it say about me.. lol

  2. You’ve just stolen @blethers’ thunder! 😉

    This is a hard one. I tend to like a hymn for its tune(s – or rather, its bass-lines) first and foremost, so:
    1) the Interchangeable As: Aurelia (the Church’s one foundation), Austria (Glorious things of thee are spoken), Abbots Leigh
    2) the Welshies: Hyfrydol (Alleluia, sing to Jesus), Blaenwern (Love divine), Ebeneezer (O the deep, deep)
    3) the theologically sane: Immortal, invisible (St Denio)
    4) modern evo-bop (a strange genre returning to haunt after Uni days): How deep the Father’s love; maybe even Lion of Judah
    5) respectable Kendrick: The Servant King, Meekness & Majesty etc

    Hat-tip to Woodlands (Tell out my soul), because you only need one note of introduction on the pedals, don’t you?

    The absence of egocentric / petty / paw-waving / conservative / nationalistic choices might be significant.

  3. 1. Joyful Joyful, We Adore Thee (Music: Ode to Joy)
    2. Shine Jesus Shine
    3. O Come O Come Emmanuel
    4. O For A Thousand Tongues
    5. Be Still for the presence of the Lord

  4. I would find it really hard to pick five hymns that were permanent favourites, but the thing that I really dislike is when the organist has chosen safe old favourites yet again instead of the ones that only really get an airing once a year in due season. I notice that this particularly applies to advent hymns which tend to get pushed out in favour of premature carols.

  5. Still have something to say about this; still saving it for a rainy day (!). Don’t you use the RSCM bookie to suggest suitable hymns to go with the lectionary? Mr B finds it mega-useful.

  6. Tim, love Abbot’s Leigh and Blaenwern and you made me remember that I’d forgotten one to the tune Ton Y Botel or something.

    Karen, like all of yours too.

  7. Lissa, you must know that in my church we NEVER have carols before Christmas time. We don’t even attend Christmas Carol services until we are past Advent 4 and if we do we sit tight-lipped throughout the carols!

  8. 1. Guide me, O thou great Redeemer/Jehovah…(Cym Rhondda)
    2. And can it be that I should gain…
    3. O for a thousand tongues to sing…
    4. St. Patrick’s Breastplate
    5. Be thou my vision…

    I agree – selecting hymns to match the lectionary theme is no easy task. I readily confess to occasionally consulting the online ‘Oremus Hymnal’. Useful but not foolproof as frequently the choice will include some that are a bit ‘out of season’. The site also helps us (as it includes music besides) to experiment with new hymns. There’s nothing quite like shaking us out of our comfort zones from time to time!

  9. I find Ebenezer / Ton y botel a bit overpowering and remorseless for “O the deep deep love of Jesus”, but it’s perfect for “Who is this with garments gory”. Though I guess in the end they’re two sides of the same coin.

    One candidate for the top five which I haven’t yet seen mentioned is “How shall I sing that Majesty” to Coe Fen.

    Robin

  10. It’s probably true what they say about nothing polarising a congregation more than the choice of hymns. Like you say Ruth, it’s a difficult balancing act and not as fun as it may sound. Interestingly, most of the above favourite hymns are those traditional ones that are familiar and comfortable despite some at times dodgy theology and even dodgier Victorian harmony! Last night’s Songs of Praise in church included a similar selection and of the few that were introduced as being contemporary, none were written in my lifetime!
    Despite a continual search by many a rector, minister, organist etc. for good modern hymns to include, they are very few and far between and there is certainly no hymn book I have ever seen which has more than a scattering of them beyond those where either the words, music or both don’t come across as trite and patronising. And before I get lynched as the out-of-touch ultra-traditionalist there are certainly some very fine modern hymns and hymn-writers out there. Springing to mind are some of the offerings from Patrick Appleford, Christopher Tambling, John Bell and colleagues from Iona. Unfortunately there is simply not the body of quality hymns to suit every theme/season and certainly not in one hymn book so there is no choice but to revert to the well-loved, familiar traditional ones. This is perhaps surprising when you consider the vast amount of fine contemporary sacred choral music from the likes of John Rutter, Bob Chilcott, Malcolm Archer, Phillip Moore but as far as I know none of them have any hymn tunes in the public domain. Similarly I’m sure there must be plenty of people out there who can produce some theologically sound, inclusive, politically-correct words that don’t leave me feeling like I’m back in nursery having a Topsy and Tim book read to me!
    So, rant over and here’s a challenge – somebody out there write us some good hymns that will keep everyone happy – I may even have a go myself!
    Just for the record I’m with Robin. Coe Fen is definitely top of my list – a modern traditional hymn if that makes sense!

  11. Excellent Andrew! I am looking forward to them. And yes you’re right – lots of new religious music out there but none of it for hymns. Why is that?

  12. I agree that it is difficult to specify one hymn book for a congregation any more. In St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow we’ve done away with the hymn books for that reason.

    Were I forced to choose a new hymnbook for an Episcopal congregation (with the proviso that with appropriate copyright malarky we could sometimes print out other hymns) I would have no hesitation in my choice.

    It would be CH4.

    In St Mary’s we don’t find there to be a shortage of either modern hymn lyrics or good hymn tunes, but we sing the hymns of the ages too.

    I’d add Fred Kaan, Brian Wren and Ruth Duck to the list of people to look up.

    And Robin, if its Ebenezer, then it is. “Sing We Of the Blessed Mother!”

  13. Replying to Goforchris a few posts back: yes, he with the garments gory does indeed come triumphing from Bozrah’s way, travelling on through Idume’s summer.

    Robin

  14. I’m a bit surprised that at this stage of this thread, nobody has mentioned ‘Christ, whose glory fills the skies’, probably my benchmark for the ideal hymn: it’s simultaneously a song, a poem and a prayer. I prefer it sung to the tune ‘England’s Lane’, by the way.

  15. I note Kelvin’s liking for Fred Kaan’s hymns. You may already be aware, but Fred Kaan sadly died at Yanwath Nursing Home (near Penrith) only a couple of weeks ago.

  16. My favourite hymn is ‘Awake our souls away our fears’, to a very cheery tune which I’ve only ever seen in the previous Church of Ireland hymn book. And I can’t remember what the tune is called. So I don’t know if I’ll ever sing it in a church again…

    And as someone who spends most of the Christmas season in transit thus missing most ‘Christmas’ services altogether, I take my chance to sing carols whenever I can without a tremor of conscience about the date. Hey, if we could take the original date of Christmas from an ancient pagan festival, we can surely take today’s Christmas season from the modern one…

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