Touch the Earth Lightly: Hymns 2003-2008 Shirley Erena Murray. Foreword by Brian A. Wren. Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing, 2008. ISBN: 7-63628-28388-9. 171 pp. US $16.95.
It is always a delight to sit down with a new collection by Shirley Erena Murray. Her texts in this volume are again biblical yet surprising in language, robust theologically, and challenge us from complacency about our faith. The tunes are well matched, many new to this collection, from a variety of composers, in various styles, with organ, piano, and occasional guitar settings. Several of these texts appeared in earlier collections with other tunes. The notes on the hymns in the back of the volume explain the origins of the text and include scripture references; there is an extensive topical index as well. Hymns appear in alphabetical order, with text appearing as poetry, as well as interlined with a tune, and in four instances, with two tunes; texts #6, 10, 13, and 17 still await a tune.
"Leftover people" will be familiar to Hymn Society members who heard the premier of this winning hymn, with its tune by Colin Gibson, at an Annual Conference. His tune Cardrona, with "The bread is blessed, the wine is poured," marvelously matches Murray's combination of communion text with a chant-like section of Psalm quotations. Gibson provides six other strong tunes in this collection, equaled by the eight tunes of Julian Bray, another New Zealander. Jane Marshall tops the composer list with eleven tunes, including some wonderful matches: "Through winter cold"/COMPASSiON, "Sing with me, friends"/ Fatthnotes, and "Simply to be"/ENFOLDED. Marshall's Shining Thread for "The light, the Christmas light" combines a 3/4 quasi-refrain (perhaps for congregation) with a quasi-stanza (perhaps for soloist) in 5/8. Two tunes by Swee Hong Lim are particularly striking: Wairua Tapu for "As the wind song through the trees" and Damai for "Come and find the quiet center." The text and tune combination "Into the hands that blessed the children"/ADiEU by Carlton R. …