Monday, March 9, 2015

Favourite Tunes

by Alice Valdal

 Our "Book of Praise" has 600 hymns and of that we sing only about 200 on a regular basis.  Why?  Are we just resistant to learning new music or is there something inherent in the rejected hymns that makes them unpopular?

    To be fair, some hymns are meant for specific occasions like weddings, so they won't be in our general repertoire.  But some hymns just don't work for the modern ear.  In an effort to force the words to fit a certain metre, there is some tortured syntax in our book, particularly in the Psalms section.  e.g. "For He in His pavilion shall/ me hide in evil days; /In secret of his tent me hide, And on a rock me raise."  Sounds a bit like a pirate shouting, "me hearties,"  don't you think?
    Other reasons may have to do with changing tastes and mores.  When I was little, "There were Ninety and Nine" was a great favourite.  It's in our Book of Praise, but it certainly hasn't made our top 100 list.  Similarly, "Onward Christian Soldiers," although an all-time favourite for many is today considered politically incorrect and seldom found in our services.
   One of my favourite hymns, "I Feel the Winds of God Today," is not in our Book of Praise at all, although the tune, Kingsfold, is used several times.  It's a great tune and has been used for very contrasting texts.
    "I Feel the Winds," is basically a call to action in the world.  We lift our sail at God's command and brave another cruise, even if that sail is tattered and torn.  We trust in God as our master and pilot.
   The tune is used in our Book of Praise as an invitation to rest.
"I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,"
    It is also used for Psalm 107 and for "Lord, Who at Cana's wedding feast."
     Perhaps one test of a hymn's spiritual power is the frequency of publication.  "Rock of Ages" has been published in 2428 hymnals since it was written in 1776.  "Servant Song" copyrighted in 1977 has been published in 27 hymnals, including the newest version of the Book of Praise.  "I Feel the Winds" is in 25 hymnaries, but "We Thank you God for Bodies Strong," also set to Kingsfold appears in only one.  It made headline news when it first appeared in the
1971 Hymn Book of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada, owing to the line "for all the body's appetites which can fulfilment find,/ and for the sacrament of sex that recreates our kind."  I notice it was not included in "Voices United" a later edition of the United Church hymnary.

   So, what's your favourite hymn?  The worship committee is inviting congregants to nominate hymns to be included in our anniversary service.  Look for the list in the narthex.

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