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Introducing Unknown Hymns


nfortin
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I wonder if anyone has a really successful method for introducing new/unknown hymns to a congregation. I find this to be very problematic. I fully understand that the congregation feel frustrated if there is a hymn that they don't know, but there has to be the possibility of introducing new hymns to them.

 

A case in point arose yesterday when I picked as the final hymn at the 10:00am eucharist "From glory to glory advancing" to the tune (whose name escapes me) by Holst. It seemed to me to fit yesterday's transfiguration readings really well. I've always thought this to be a very strong and uplifiting hymn, but it was new to my congregation and went like a lead balloon. At least with this particular hymn there is the possibility of using it again a few times to try to get it into peoples' memories, but with other hymns this is not always the case.

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I wonder if anyone has a really successful method for introducing new/unknown hymns to a congregation. I find this to be very problematic. I fully understand that the congregation feel frustrated if there is a hymn that they don't know, but there has to be the possibility of introducing new hymns to them.

 

A case in point arose yesterday when I picked as the final hymn at the 10:00am eucharist "From glory to glory advancing" to the tune (whose name escapes me) by Holst. It seemed to me to fit yesterday's transfiguration readings really well. I've always thought this to be a very strong and uplifiting hymn, but it was new to my congregation and went like a lead balloon. At least with this particular hymn there is the possibility of using it again a few times to try to get it into peoples' memories, but with other hymns this is not always the case.

 

I’ve seen two approaches to this quandary.

 

One, do it as an “anthem” the previous week.

Two, have a small “teach in” before the service proper starts.

 

:blink:

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One, do it as an “anthem” the previous week.

Two, have a small “teach in” before the service proper starts.

These are both useful, although the first is difficult without a choir :blink: . I will generally improvise liberally on a new tune before the service, which seems to have a beneficial effect. I find it much easier to drag a congregation through an unfamiliar tune if I accompany on the (in my case very fine) piano than on the (also good) organ.

 

Michael

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I've tried playing the tune over a few times or improvising on it (or a mixture of both) before the service, but in reality too many people are nattering noisily and no-one ever takes any notice of what I'm playing before the service !

 

I've also tried doing a short teach-in on the new tune before the service starts but this is not very popular with the congregation, possibly because it makes them feel self-concious, or more probably because it interferes too much with the aforesaid nattering.

 

I'm sure that if we advertised a special new-hymn learning session once a year no-one would bother to turn up. (Sorry if I'm sounding somewhat defeatist here.) The bottom line is that my congregation don't like having any new hymns. I've tried pointing out that every hymn that they now know was new to them at some time, and that every well known "standard" hymn was once a newly written/composed hymn that doubtless people of the time complained about. Goodness only knows how they ever managed to pick up "All my hope on God is founded", and "Living Lord" for example - I suppose they were all 40 years younger at the time.

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Guest Andrew Butler
Goodness only knows how they ever managed to pick up "All my hope on God is founded", and "Living Lord" for example - I suppose they were all 40 years younger at the time.

 

My lot still haven't worked out how to fit the words to the last line of the former, and think that the triplet crotchets in the latter should be a crotchet followed by 2 quavers.. :blink:

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I've tried playing the tune over a few times or improvising on it (or a mixture of both) before the service, but in reality too many people are nattering noisily and no-one ever takes any notice of what I'm playing before the service !

 

That's easily fixed if you have an organ capable of making enough noise - doesn't need to be massive, just enough for you to make enough noise that the congregation feel they have to talk louder than usual, then you just drop the volume right back, and they feel all self conscious. Keep on with this game for a few weeks, then they'll learn. I've not had to use this at my current place, more's the pity - with a plethora of BIG reeds, this would be quite good fun :blink:

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The bottom line is that my congregation don't like having any new hymns.
A typical congregation then! :blink:

 

The last time I was faced with this sort of problem was when a new priest arrived with all sorts of new ideas - including hymns. So when any new hymn arose I would teach it to the congregation from the choir step, line by line, before the service began. How I managed this without an assistant I can't think, but I did. Yes, there were one or two old ladies who would sit there, lips tightly sealed, stony glare in eyes - and they would refuse to sing the hymn in the service too. But eventually, once the hymn had appeared in enough services to become familiar they would capitulate. The system seemed to work well.

 

With such hymns I would always make a point of soloing the melody for at least the first verse.

 

An example of how not to do it was what happened last Advent Sunday at a church where I was standing in for the regular organist. The priest had decided to introduce, as the Gradual, some song in which the verse and chorus could be sung simultanously as a sort of round - it had lots of Alleluias in it, I seem to remember. He opted to have a teach-in in the middle of the service, so stopped everything and got me to play the thing through just once. Then, without more ado, the congregation had to sing the whole hymn from beginning to end. After that, without them having any real idea about what they were supposed to be singing, the priest made them sing it as a round. After the inevitable fiasco he chuckled and said, "Oh well, by the time we get to the end of Advent you'll have learned it."

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Guest Lee Blick
I'm sure that if we advertised a special new-hymn learning session once a year no-one would bother to turn up. (Sorry if I'm sounding somewhat defeatist here.) The bottom line is that my congregation don't like having any new hymns.

 

In a couple of parishes, I organised a few 'Sing Hymn In' sessions where after the morning service and coffee the congregation came into the church hall and were invited to choose favourite hymns to sing. In between the hymns, we did a few simple breathing exercises and gave tips for good singing. We introduced a couple of new hymns and the choir sang a piece. Add a social element, 'the pot-luck' lunch as we did and you will get a good turnout.

 

I enjoyed doing it and it brought the music and the choir closer to the congregation.

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I've tried playing the tune over a few times or improvising on it (or a mixture of both) before the service, but in reality too many people are nattering noisily and no-one ever takes any notice of what I'm playing before the service !

 

I've also tried doing a short teach-in on the new tune before the service starts but this is not very popular with the congregation, possibly because it makes them feel self-concious, or more probably because it interferes too much with the aforesaid nattering.

 

I'm sure that if we advertised a special new-hymn learning session once a year no-one would bother to turn up. (Sorry if I'm sounding somewhat defeatist here.) The bottom line is that my congregation don't like having any new hymns. I've tried pointing out that every hymn that they now know was new to them at some time, and that every well known "standard" hymn was once a newly written/composed hymn that doubtless people of the time complained about. Goodness only knows how they ever managed to pick up "All my hope on God is founded", and "Living Lord" for example - I suppose they were all 40 years younger at the time.

 

 

I thought 'this sounds particularly grim' and then I remembered exactly where you are organist.

That's your problem. Around there, (Cheltenham) IMHO (and most certainly theirs) not only do they know best, but they are not ready for any outsider to try and teach them anything! [i was organist at two Cheltenham churches, a total of eleven years.]

 

Sorry to be rude, but this sounds awfully familiar. I don't think all congregations are firmly against new hymns, the best trick would be to try to get your hymn introduced over a period of weeks - i.e. maybe staggered through the first time (with choir help if you can) but then repeated before the first memory has died away. Obviously it pays not to have more than one brand new hymn in any service.

 

Mind you, I don't know whether I would rather have your problem, or a pattern (in my most recent post) where the vicar deliberately spices up major services by putting down hymns that only he knows. This tends to bring the whole mood right down - especially when such a hymn ends a service!

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What i've done in my experience is to play over the whole of the tune prior to the hymn. If this is only done for unknown hymns, the congregation is normally well receptive to it.

 

Normally done on Gt 8,4,2 + Trumpet with a full swell coupled down, for the tune and the 'inner parts' played on the sw

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"From glory to glory advancing" to the tune by Holst ("Sheen" - AMR 417). I've always thought this to be a very strong and uplifiting hymn

I agree - what a pity it seems to have completely died out nowadays.

 

A little anecdote which may (or may not) be of interest to anyone who does use it: I learnt it from Herbert Byard (one of my tutors at Bristol nearly four decades ago) who always played the last line of music slower - he said he learnt this "piu lento" from Holst himself.

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Unfortunately there are no, or at least very few, evening services in my church and so a lot of really good and well established hymns simply never get used. Three spring to mind:

 

The Day Thou Gavest (though this does crop up for funerals)

Hail Gladdening Light

Abide with Me (funerals ditto)

 

Hmm... thought.... this also means I miss out on "I Watch the Sunrise".... :)

 

Peter

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Something else which works is - verse 1, choir top line only - verse 2, choir unnac in harmony - verse 3 onwards with the congro, preferably all in unison for the first outing.

 

Or, even better - choir in unison for all verses with a firm, clear organ leading (i.e., few mixtures) - the congregation to sing from verse two, if possible. Repeat in the same way the next time the hymn is used (preferably within a month). Then, the third time, choir unison for first and last verses only.

 

I am unconvinced that having the choir unaccompanied in harmony for the second verse will do anything but spread confusion. This, at any rate, would almost certainly be the result at my own church.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have, on occasions, requested using the sermon slot for teaching new music for the congregation. It seems to work, especially when the hymn (or whatever) is then used later in the same service. For some reasons this scheme always seems popular with choir and congregation members....

 

A

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I have, on occasions, requested using the sermon slot for teaching new music for the congregation. It seems to work, especially when the hymn (or whatever) is then used later in the same service. For some reasons this scheme always seems popular with choir and congregation members....

 

A

 

Inspired. I shall suggest it forthwith and introduce new hymns at every service.

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I have, on occasions, requested using the sermon slot for teaching new music for the congregation. It seems to work, especially when the hymn (or whatever) is then used later in the same service.

This was also popular in my little village when introducing the new hymnal. Not that the incumbent's sermons needed avoiding - they were rather good.

 

Paul

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