Academic journal article The Hymn

Hymn Performance

Academic journal article The Hymn

Hymn Performance

Article excerpt

An imagined, though maybe real, scenario: Someone has chosen as the first hymn for Sunday a month from now Julian Rush's hymn, "In the midst of new dimensions." I'm pleased to have a month to prepare for this one, as I'm not sure how well my congregation might know it. The hymn is a very strong combination of text and music and should be a memorable singing experience for the people. A consideration for an introduction to this hymn is the amount of text contained in the five stanzas. But even more important than word count is the number of powerful images and issues that are addressed in this hymn .

There are many attractive and colorful images in the text, perhaps none more so than those contained in the refrain: the rainbow, the pillar of fire, the soaring eagles, and the journey. Each of them is rooted in history; each has a strong look ahead toward the future, toward what comes next. This is the starting point for my idea of turning this hymn into a colorful processional.

A. plan:

[1] An intonation for organ or piano: a piece that sets the mood and the key for the hymn, but not necessarily the hymn or a prelude based on it. If the congregation does or could sing in parts, I'd opt for the hymn in D major.

[2] Have a solo quartet sing the refrain unaccompanied, in unison for the first five bars, then only the soprano ("ours the journey"), adding the alto in the next measure, adding the tenor in the following measure, and finally the bass for the final two measures. I would also distribute the voices around the four sides of the worship space, using sound to create an inclusive space from the beginning.

[3] Have the organ or piano play the stanza, and invite the congregation to sing at the refrain. Go on and have the congregation sing stanza 1 and another refrain.

[4] Next, a series of instrumental stanzas (without singing), but always followed by a sung congregational refrain. In these stanzas, whatever processional elements one might have available. The hymn text is colorful, the procession should be as well. It's likely that most of our congregations have many elements of color that too often stay hidden. With adequate planning, those colors can be revealed: in banners, in attire, in dance, and more. …

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