Academic journal article The Hymn

Hymns of Light, Vol. 1

Academic journal article The Hymn

Hymns of Light, Vol. 1

Article excerpt

Hymns of Light, Vol. 1 by Owen Alstott. London: Viewport Resources, 2011. 63 pp. ISBN 1-899916-083. $15.00.

Though based in London, British author and composer Owen Alstott (b. 1947) has long been associated with Oregon Catholic Press, where he served as publisher from 1983 through 1992 and now edits several of their monthly resources/missals.

This new collection contains fourteen original hymn texts, each presented first as poetry and then interlined with music in a second, separate section. One of the tunes is by Alstott; all the others are very familiar (Slane, Picardy, Hyfrydol, etc.). In the music section, only melody lines are given, and a note in the back of the book states that accompaniments are available from a website. However, when this reviewer visited the website, no reference existed to this book at all, let alone to downloading (or purchasing) any accompaniments.

The texts are generally conservative in style and well made, without rough edges. The topics chosen are common ones employed by contemporary hymn poets - especially social justice, peace, and service. One text ("By song alone we cannot build," loosely based on 1 Corinthians 13:1-3) even has a stanza that addresses the seeming futility of doing something like writing hymns in the face of the world's problems: "No crafted verse, though full sublime / in grand cathedral offered up, / could ever fill, by perfect rhyme, / an empty plate or empty cup."

Occasionally, Alstott's traditional diction leads to clichés, like the opening stanza of this hymn: "From mountains high / to valleys low, / from sea to shining sea / the call goes forth / to one and all - / O come and follow me. …

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