Academic journal article The Hymn

Introducing an Old Hymnal

Academic journal article The Hymn

Introducing an Old Hymnal

Article excerpt

I have been through the process of introducing a new hymnal to a parish, both as a layperson and as a pastor. There are new tunes to be learned, new words and images to be cherished, and also some new words to reshape some old texts. In general, the hymns that were dropped from the prior hymnal are not missedthough the exceptions to this general statement can provoke great furor.

Right now, the parish I attend is beginning to use a new hymnal, and I hear lots of questions every Sunday. With older hymns, three questions usually are asked: "Is such-and-such in the new book? To which tune is it sung? Is there vocal harmony provided, or just a melody line?" With newer hymns (hymns new to the parish, that is, not simply newly written hymns), other questions are asked, like "is the tune familiar?" or "is it singable?" Every week, during the fellowship time that follows worship, the songs of this new hymnal are one of the main topics of conversation.

As a scholar, seeing all this play out makes me wonder about other transitions from one hymnal to another. How did those discussions sound in earlier times, over earlier collections of hymns, compared with the ones I am hearing today? Listening to these contemporary conversations can suggest all kinds of approaches for scholars of hymnody to better understand the people of earlier days and the hymn collections that moved and inspired them.

Comparing one hymn collection with the earlier volume that it replaced is a good place to start-which hymns appeared in both books, which only in the former, and which only in the latter? Are there commonalities among these three groups of hymns, such as authors who fell out of favor or others who grew in favor? What of musical styles? What about changes to the organization of the collections?

Church history, too, plays a role. Often the mergers of different religious bodies-and splits within them!-are mirrored in the hymnal collections sung within each group. Historians may learn a great deal by examining hymnals created before and after mergers and splits, and musicians may learn some history by doing the same. What, in the music of the new hymnal, reflects the unity of these two (or more) groups? What, in comparing the separate hymnals of a denomination that divided, reflects the reasons and causes and future implications of the schism? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.