Academic journal article The Hymn

God of the Future: New Hymntunes

Academic journal article The Hymn

God of the Future: New Hymntunes

Article excerpt

God of the future New hymntunes by Alfred V. Fedak. Pittsburgh, PA: Selah Publishing Co., 2009. 52 pp. No ISBN, catalog no. 125-017. US$15.95.

This volume is Alfred V. Fedak's third published hymn collection, presenting 26 tunes mostly written since Sing to the Lord no threadbare song (2001) and The Alfred V. Fedak hymnary (1990). With this book, Fedak confirms the opinion this reviewer had formed from his previous two collections: that he is the finest composer of hymn tunes working today. (We are fortunate to be living in a time in which there are many talented creators of new music and texts in the hymn genre, and recognizing Fedak's achievement in no way diminishes the excellent work of other composers.) Composing a successful hymn tune requires a deceptively difficult- to-achieve mix of accessibility and creativity. The harmonic limits of the genre put an unusual burden on the contemporary composer to employ a basically traditional language while still attempting to say something that is not simply a paraphrase of earlier tunes. Of the more than 100 living hymn tune composers whose work is known to me, I can think of no other composer who so consistently manages (with truly impeccable musical craftsmanship and technique) to create tunes that are immediately accessible and useful to all congregations, yet are so freshly creative and expressive.

It is difficult to single out favorites within such a strong volume, but some especially memorable offerings include the thrilling ancient beauty ("O beauty ever ancient," Shirley Erena Murray) - one of the finest tunes Fedak has written, the stirring bon ("Our song is now resounding," John Core), the soaring Herndon ("God of the future," Carl P. Daw, Jr., FHS), the Genevan-style carol hill country ("Fields of stars above them," Gracia Grindal), the delightfully updated Arthur Suliivanesque nelson ("O bless the Lord," James Montgomery), and the surprisingly (yet inevitably) modulating niskayuna ("Praise is due to God in Zion," James Hart Brumm). …

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