Joy and Wonder, Love and Longing/In Wind and Wonder

By Core, John | The Hymn, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Joy and Wonder, Love and Longing/In Wind and Wonder


Core, John, The Hymn


Joy and Wonder, Love and Longing by Mary Louise Bringle. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2002. 176pp. ISBN 10: 1-57999-192-0. U.S. $21.95. (I)

In Wind and Wonder by Mary Louise Bringle. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2007. 187 pp. ISBN 13: 978-1-57999-661-1. U. S. $24.95. (II)

Mary Louise ("MeI") Bringle is Professor of Philosophy and Religion, and Chair of the Humanities Division at Brevard College. She won the Hymn Society's 1999 search for a hymn to celebrate the new millennium ("It Started with 'An Idle Tale'," I, 72). Two years later in the search for a text honoring caregivers, she won again ("Bless the Arms That Comfort," I, 24). Subsequently honored as Emerging Text Writer during the 2002 conference, she has served on the Society's Executive Committee, and will be its President for the 2008-2010 biennium.

Her first collection, Joy and Wonder, Love and Longing, was somehow not reviewed in THE HYMN. We are addressing that unfortunate oversight and considering her second collection, In Wind and Wonder, in a timelier manner with this double review. What might with some authors' work be a double-distance slog through mud and mire is, with Bringle's collections, a wondrous journey by waters sometimes still, sometimes rolling down like mighty streams, but always refreshing and clear.

There is a fabulous array of meters. Each book has 75 texts. Scanning the metrical index for I, there are no fewer than 39 different meters, and for II, an astonishing 48. Forms run the gamut from the simple, mantra-like "Prayer and song are/wings of longing,/ lifting hearts to God" (II, 107) to the complexity of "Would You Share My Passion" (I, 158), a powerful text for Cruger's JESU MEINE FREUDE. The meters are well chosen, and handled with great skill. One exception might be "When Memory Fades" (I, 146), where the 11.10.11.10.11.10 meter seems almost to overwhelm the quiet simplicity of the text on Alzheimer's disease. But perhaps all that is needed is a subdued alternative to the sprawling FINLANDIA tune provided. The chief reason for the plethora of meters is Bringle's penchant for working "tune first" (see her prefaces). Composers know they can turn to her with their most unusual melodies, and receive texts which are more than just metrically correct. Her words will be eloquent, yet not overwhelm the tune: all will work together to beautiful, meaningful effect.

While a number of composers have given Bringle inspiration, her relationship with William Rowan seems to have proven especially fertile: there are no fewer than 32 of their collaborations spread across these two volumes. While it is difficult to choose out of so many, see especially "Light Dawns on a Weary World" (I, 80), which the author has discussed previously in THE HYMN,1 and the evocative Song of Solomon-based "Lo, the Winter's Past" (I, 84). Bringle also weighs in briefly as a composer herself, with a worthwhile tune in each collection.

While Bringle's hymns come from a deep well of spirituality, her imagery often evokes the sensate world. The brilliance of glinting gemstones in "The Emerald Drinks Green" (II, 130) is answered by the gathering Passion darkness of "Shadows Lengthen into Night" (II, 116). The muted opening of "Now the Heavens Start to Whisper" (II, 83) is countered boldly with "Sing a New World into Being" (II, 122). Even the sense of smell, often ignored in our hymns, is honored in "The Incense of the Morning Air" (I, 122) and "With Aloe, Myrrh and Cinnamon" (I, 154). …

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