Academic journal article The Hymn

Inspiration of Ages Past: Hymnic Anniversaries 2014

Academic journal article The Hymn

Inspiration of Ages Past: Hymnic Anniversaries 2014

Article excerpt

A study of the church's song through the lens of anniversary years leaves us amazed at the variety and constancy of poetic and musical inspiration across the span of centuries. Because of the selective nature of this review, context is provided to situate the reader in time by noting highlights both secular and religious. In several cases significant hymn stories traceable to a particular year are included and a few hymns known to have been written or first published in that year are listed, if any can be identified. Representative or important collections and hymnals are also given. Text writers, translators, composers, and arrangers are commemorated, and the survey closes with a list of contemporary hymnists who celebrate significant anniversaries in 2014.


The Swinging Sixties were an era of profound change in post-World War II societies. Lester Pearson was Prime Minister of Canada, and Lyndon Johnson was elected President of the United States. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution ushered in a decade of conflict in Vietnam. In July Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as the struggle for African American civil rights continued with the Freedom Summer voter registration campaign.

This was a singing movement, whose anthem, "We shall overcome," is partially based on a hymn by C. A. Tindley, a Philadelphia African Methodist Episcopal minister. Few modern Christians experience anything like the treatment of Paul and Silas recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, but Fannie Lou Hamer did.1 Severely beaten in a Winona, Mississippi, jail, Hamer still sang:

When Paul and Silas was bound in jail,

Let my people go.

Had no money for to go their bail,

Let my people go.

Several spirituals appearing in modern hymnals are associated with the civil rights movement, including "Go tell it on the mountain," "This little light of mine," and "Go down, Moses," along with traditional gospel songs adapted to the new purpose (e.g., "We are soldiers in the army"). Because of the influence of the African American church in the movement, mass meetings could include a lined-out Long Meter hymn and a sermon.2


Great Britain's celebrated Herbert Howells composed Newnham, while Ralph Carmichael, sometimes referred to as the father of Contemporary Christian Music, wrote his early songs: "He's everything to me" (Woodland Hills) and "Where he leads me I must foliow/Like a lamb who needs the Shepherd." The Hymn published two tunes: Michelangelo, by David N. Johnson, and Formosa, by I-jin Loh. Other texts or tunes written in 1964 include:

Augustine (Eric Routley)

Bangor (John Wilson, harm.)

By the Babylonian rivers (Ewald Bash)/BABYLONiAN Rivers (arr. John Ylvisaker)

Creator of the earth and skies (Donald W. Hughes)

Earth and all stars (Herbert Brokering)

From east to west, from shore to shore (John Ellerton, trans. from Sedulius)

Gopsal (arr. John Wilson)

Lord, bring the day to pass (Ian Fraser)

Lord of creation, to you be all praise (Jack C. Winslow)

O Salutaris Hostia (John Lee)


Roman Catholics began a new chapter in their long history with the publication of the first hymnals reflecting the changes initiated by Vatican II. The People's Hymnal (Cincinnati, Ohio: World Library of Sacred Music, 1962) was followed in 1964 by both the Hymnal of Christian Unity (Toledo, Ohio: Gregorian Institute of America) and the People's Mass Book (Cincinnati: World Library of Sacred Music). Other noteworthy hymnals of the year included the Unitarian Universalist Hymns for the Celebration of Life, the Harvard University Hymn Book, and Culto Cristiano, a service book and hymnal for Spanish-speaking Lutherans, produced cooperatively by three major Lutheran bodies.


Among the hymnwriters and composers who began their hymnic journeys in 1964 are:

Cotter, Jeanne May love be our home; Bless the Lord, O my soul

Lehman, Bradley P. …

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