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Peter Clark
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An interesting discussion today about hymns between Ann Harrison of the RSCM and Timothy Dudley-Smith. The question was about whether "traditional" hymns were still being sritten. TD-S cited what he thought two good modern hymns: Be Still for the Presence of the Lord" (which I agree is a fine piece) but then lost a bit of credibility when he cited Kendrick's "From heaven you came" aka The Servant King - in my opinion one of the most atrocious pieces of word setting in the last 30 years.

 

It is worth doing a listen again if you missed it.

 

Peter

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An interesting discussion today about hymns between Ann Harrison of the RSCM and Timothy Dudley-Smith. The question was about whether "traditional" hymns were still being sritten. TD-S cited what he thought two good modern hymns: Be Still for the Presence of the Lord" (which I agree is a fine piece) but then lost a bit of credibility when he cited Kendrick's "From heaven you came" aka The Servant King - in my opinion one of the most atrocious pieces of word setting in the last 30 years.

 

It is worth doing a listen again if you missed it.

 

Peter

 

Hi

 

TD-S isn't a musician (by his own admission) - and the Kendrick words are full of theological nuances.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I used to like a lot of the Kendrick stuff, but have grown a little tired of much of it. I happen to think The Servant King is one of his better offerings, in that it is more singable. Compare it to Beauty for brokenness, which we had on Sunday, and trying to keep a congregation together on that is an absolute nightmare - it goes all over the place, lots of held notes. Meekness and majesty likewise. The Servant King is very much more singable and much easier to accompany. Theologically, it is also quite good, the line 'hands that flung stars into space, to cruel nails surrendered' being particularly interesting. I also think Shine Jesus Shine is one of his better ones, and will certainly get a congregation singing.

 

Surely one key difference between 'modern songs' and 'traditional hymns' is in how they were composed. Most hymns are a marriage of words and music which have been composed separately, often some time apart. For instance, Love divine was written in the 18th century by Charles Wesley but the two most popular tunes - Blaenwern and Love divine were both composed some 100 years later. Kendrick writes both words and music to his hymns, and Be still (which is indeed a modern 'classic') likewise. Tell out my soul was written in the 1960s, but the fine tune Woodlands to which we pair it was written nearly 100 years ago - is that really modern? Then we have John Mason's How shall I sing that majesty - words from the 17th century, now paired most commonly with the excellent Coe Fen, which is a modern tune. How many of the hymns we call 'modern' are actually old words set to new tunes, or new words set to old tunes? Christ triumphant is perhaps one truly 'modern' offering.

 

Just a few reflections.....

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Tony I am not sure what you mean by "theological nuances". Could you explain?

 

Thanks

 

Peter

 

Hi

 

Basically, Kendrick's words are scripturally based. Phrases such as "Hands that flung stars into space/To cruel nails surrendered" say a lot theologically in a few words - Jesus as Creator ("In the beginning was the Word ... (Jn1)) and the contrast with Jesus willing submitting to crucifixion. "This is our God/The Servant King" points both to the divinty of Christ and the suffering servant prophecies of Isaiah. Take a close, thoughtful look at the words. The musical style might not be what some people "like" (and Kendrick isn't a great musician) - but his word are, in the main, very thoughtful and have a lot to say.

 

I have interviewd Graham Kendrick a few times in the past for radio programmes - he takes his songwriting seriously - and runs songs past theologians.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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An interesting discussion today about hymns between Ann Harrison of the RSCM and Timothy Dudley-Smith. The question was about whether "traditional" hymns were still being sritten. TD-S cited what he thought two good modern hymns: Be Still for the Presence of the Lord" (which I agree is a fine piece) but then lost a bit of credibility when he cited Kendrick's "From heaven you came" aka The Servant King - in my opinion one of the most atrocious pieces of word setting in the last 30 years.

 

It is worth doing a listen again if you missed it.

 

Peter

John Scott Whiteley took a refreshing and uncompromising musical approach to "The Servant King" at the most recent Archbishop's Enthronement. The basic premise seemed to be "100% re-harmonisation" of the accompaniment.

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John Scott Whiteley took a refreshing and uncompromising musical approach to "The Servant King" at the most recent Archbishop's Enthronement. The basic premise seemed to be "100% re-harmonisation" of the accompaniment.

Many, if not most, of the "modern" hymn tunes we are asked to play generally appear in printed versions that remind me of printed music for non-religious pop music. Voicing, harmony, bassline and style generally need some alteration to make them musically satisfying. There is nothing wrong about this, as long as what we do helps rather than hinders the participation of the congregation.

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Hi

 

Basically, Kendrick's words are scripturally based. Phrases such as "Hands that flung stars into space/To cruel nails surrendered" say a lot theologically in a few words - Jesus as Creator ("In the beginning was the Word ... (Jn1)) and the contrast with Jesus willing submitting to crucifixion. "This is our God/The Servant King" points both to the divinty of Christ and the suffering servant prophecies of Isaiah. Take a close, thoughtful look at the words. The musical style might not be what some people "like" (and Kendrick isn't a great musician) - but his word are, in the main, very thoughtful and have a lot to say.

 

I have interviewd Graham Kendrick a few times in the past for radio programmes - he takes his songwriting seriously - and runs songs past theologians.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Tony this may not be quite the place for this but I wonder if "Jesus as Creator" is theologically sound? It sits uneasily with kenotic christology and anyway the understanding in trinitarian theology is that "Jesus" (son) is not "Father" (creator) - and indeed neither are "Spirit" (sanctifier) though each participate in the divine economy. If Kendrick indeed runs his stuff past theologians I wonder how much notice he takes of their advice?

 

Cheers

 

Peter

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Many, if not most, of the "modern" hymn tunes we are asked to play generally appear in printed versions that remind me of printed music for non-religious pop music. Voicing, harmony, bassline and style generally need some alteration to make them musically satisfying. There is nothing wrong about this, as long as what we do helps rather than hinders the participation of the congregation.

 

Indeed, I did much the same at Bath Abbey when we installed a new Vicar Theologian. Such services there invariably bring together the disparate congregations (including the 6.30 student music-group led crowd) so we had what the Boy and Girl Choristers alike described as "a dodgy hymn" - "All I once held dear" if you're wondering. I had just got my FRCO, so Peter King approached me with a copy of the thing and asked me (in so many words) if I wouldn't mind putting my paperwork skills to good use by re-writing the whole thing so that all parallel fifths & fourths and other such grammatical horrors were eliminated. This was easily done, and the result was far more effective as a result. (Unfortunately, I could never play my reharmonisation again after that, for on every subsequent occasion it came up, that hymn was accompanied by the music group using the original uncorrected copies...)

 

Incidentally, mention of "Love Divine" above reminds me of the index to a hymnal I saw somewhere which included Purcell's tune "Fairest Isle" as an alternative to "Love Divine" or "Blaenwern." With it was an editorial footnote stating that the words had been written expressly for Purcell's music. Anyone else on here seen that? (And does anyone else think it might be true? I'm not all that sure myself!)

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Incidentally, mention of "Love Divine" above reminds me of the index to a hymnal I saw somewhere which included Purcell's tune "Fairest Isle" as an alternative to "Love Divine" or "Blaenwern." With it was an editorial footnote stating that the words had been written expressly for Purcell's music. Anyone else on here seen that? (And does anyone else think it might be true? I'm not all that sure myself!)

 

I believe so. The CD of hymns from Wells which includes the hymn has a booklet inside with some interesting information about the hymns on it. It makes some kind of reference to Purcell's 'Fairest Isle', which I believe was the original basis for the hymn. It is a good CD with some slightly different hymns on it compared to the 'norm'.

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With it was an editorial footnote stating that the words had been written expressly for Purcell's music. Anyone else on here seen that? (And does anyone else think it might be true? I'm not all that sure myself!)

I have often seen this. But searching for a source led me to the following passages (echoed in a number of places) in which it is suggested that the link is perhaps originally to the words rather than the tune:

A verse from John Dryden's poem beginning with the words "Fairest isle, all isles excelling" used by Henry Purcell in his opera King Arthur were undoubtedly Wesley's inspiration for writing this text. In fact, "Love Divine" was set to a Purcell tune in John and Charles Wesley's Sacred Melody (1761).
...some of Wesley's texts are intended to borrow contemporary secular tunes; for example, the well-known ‘Love Divine, all loves excelling’ is a textual parody of Dryden's ‘Fairest Isle, all isles excelling’, itself associated with a tune by Purcell .
Charles Wesley’s best-known hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” alludes to the words of an English patriotic song by John Dryden entitled “Fairest Isle, All Isles Excelling.” Wesley recommends using the very tune to which Henry Purcell had set Dryden’s poem in the opera King Arthur. Among Wesley’s contemporaries it was a familiar tune, and a secular tune, but Wesley evidently thought it touching and fitting.

However, none of the sources bear the sort of authority that might lead to certainty (which is why I omitted details).

 

Paul

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From the Grove entry on Charles Wesley by Nicholas Temperton:

 

"He adapted many songs of art and folk music to sacred words, and some of his best-known hymns are pointed religious parodies of secular poems intended for use with their tunes, such as He comes, he comes, the judge severe (after Henry Carey’s ‘He comes, he comes, the hero comes’) and Love divine, all loves excelling (after Purcell’s ‘Fairest isle, all isles excelling’)."

 

And from "hymn" entry by Peter Wilton:

 

"Early Methodist tunes use the fashionable galant style of the time, and some of Wesley's texts are intended to borrow contemporary secular tunes; for example, the well-known ‘Love Divine, all loves excelling’ is a textual parody of Dryden's ‘Fairest Isle, all isles excelling’, itself associated with a tune by Purcell".

 

I guess one would have to resort to the bibliographies for the evidence.

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Tony this may not be quite the place for this but I wonder if "Jesus as Creator" is theologically sound? It sits uneasily with kenotic christology and anyway the understanding in trinitarian theology is that "Jesus" (son) is not "Father" (creator) - and indeed neither are "Spirit" (sanctifier) though each participate in the divine economy. If Kendrick indeed runs his stuff past theologians I wonder how much notice he takes of their advice?

 

Cheers

 

Peter

 

Peter,

I have said that I won't comment any more on matters theological, but I'm afraid I must. Tony refers to John ch. 1. It reads

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. ...

 

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. ....

 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. ...

 

The nature of the Holy Trinity must always remain a mystery; it cannot be adequately expressed in human language. But I have always understood that 'Three in One and one in Three' summarises the doctrine. I, though, am not a theologian, and am happy to be corrected if I've misunderstood.

 

Regards to all

 

John

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Peter,

I have said that I won't comment any more on matters theological, but I'm afraid I must. Tony refers to John ch. 1. It reads

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. ...

 

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. ....

 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. ...

 

The nature of the Holy Trinity must always remain a mystery; it cannot be adequately expressed in human language. But I have always understood that 'Three in One and one in Three' summarises the doctrine. I, though, am not a theologian, and am happy to be corrected if I've misunderstood.

 

Regards to all

 

John

 

Three persons in one God and one God in three persons but those persons are not each other.

 

Suggest end of this discussion or continue by PM?

 

Best

 

Peter

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Guest Patrick Coleman

The discussion on Charles Wesley's writing is quite fascinating, and if true throws a completely new light on contemporary hymn writing. Whenever I consider the Wesleys (and also, for reasons which willl be immediately apparent, when I am confronted with Hymns Old and New or Mission Praise) I think of John Wesley's words from the 1779 collection of Methodist hymns:

I beg leave to men­tion a thought which has been long up­on my mind, and which I should long ago have in­sert­ed in the pub­lic pa­pers, had I not been un­will­ing to stir up a nest of hornets. Ma­ny gen­tle­men have done my bro­ther and me (though with­out nam­ing us) the hon­our to re­print ma­ny of our hymns. Now they are per­fect­ly wel­come to do so, pro­vid­ed they print them just as they are. But I de­sire they would not at­tempt to mend them, for they are real­ly not able. None of them is able to mend ei­ther the sense or the verse. There­fore, I must beg of them these two fa­vours: ei­ther to let them stand just as they are, to take things for bet­ter or worse, or to add the true read­ing in the mar­gin, or at the bot­tom of the page, that we may no long­er be ac­count­a­ble ei­ther for the non­sense or for the dog­ger­el of other men.

 

As for Kendrick, I think his detractors often overstate the flaws in his writing, while, like Tony, his supporters are prone to overstate the theological significance of striking references like the Lord's hands in Servant King. I would hardly put Kendrick's theology in the same bracket as either of the Wesleys, but they were engaged consciously in developing a theologically literate worshipping congregation, while Kendrick (I think) is focused on getting people to worship full stop. For the most part, his work is an improvement on the vast repertoire of choruses that began to appear from the 1960s on, and for that we must surely be grateful.

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I have a (commercially made and issued) cassette recording of the choir of St Mary's Bourne Street (in the days when Shane Fletcher was still D-of-M) on which they sing "Love Divine" to the tune of "Fairest Isle". Surely there is no higher authority anywhere on the right way of doing things than St Mary's Bourne Street?

 

Malcolm

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Tony this may not be quite the place for this but I wonder if "Jesus as Creator" is theologically sound? It sits uneasily with kenotic christology and anyway the understanding in trinitarian theology is that "Jesus" (son) is not "Father" (creator) - and indeed neither are "Spirit" (sanctifier) though each participate in the divine economy. If Kendrick indeed runs his stuff past theologians I wonder how much notice he takes of their advice?

 

Cheers

 

Peter

 

 

===============================

 

 

I am enormously disappointed to learn that love can't be creative without having a title.

 

There was I, thinking that emotion, feelings and tenderness were somehow important, and that the quest of all artistic endeavour is to move people by expressing this.

 

I suppose I must now contemplate a largely lifeless universe; frigid, remote, infinite; only the illusion of time enough to explain the subsequent and consequent, and the history of one thing after another.

 

I can at least draw solace from the fact that all that we are, is the same as everything else is.

 

I am a Diapason.

 

MM

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Not Kendrick controversy, but Townend. I seem to recall there was a bit of a to-do in the RSCM CMQ a few years ago over:

 

Till on that cross as Jesus died,

The wrath of God was satisfied -

 

from 'In Christ Alone'. ANyone else remember it, or the discussion that followed? I can't find it in my back copies.

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Ah, penal substitution. I don't get CMQ, but it is certainly controversial - I recall one of our clergy members expressing views against it.

 

It is actually a rather good hymn though, this controversy aside. Is there a way of altering the words without ruining the sense of rhythm of the hymn, as our clergy don't like this line...

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Guest Patrick Coleman

Don't start me on penal substitution. In Christ Alone works quite well without its second verse. And the liturgy works very well without that hymn or its tune.

 

MM makes a very valid point about the danger of sterility in theological argument. There is a greater danger of peddling a vision of a vicious or vengeful God.

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One of the problems with Townend hymns (and I gather he lives, or used to live, very near me) is singability.

 

In June 2007 I attended the ordination (sorry, the Making) of Deacons in another diocese. The cathedral concerned has serious logistical and (even worse) acoustic problems and it was full of congregations from churches all over the place plus friends/relations of the candidates. One of the hymns was by Stuart Townend and very few people knew it. Even though the melody was printed in the service booklet the "singing" of this hymn was an absolute disaster. Perhaps not the best choice for such a service.

 

My observations and experience over the years suggest that young people - teenagers with hormones flying all over the place especially - need something more emotional than middle stump parish church Anglicanism can offer. This is why they tend to gravitate to the two extremes of churchmanship and where they can sing stuff from Mission Praise &c., on the one hand or (as I did) "Ave Maria, O Maiden O Mother" and "To Jesus' Heart all burning" on the other. It is not without significance that there is a great similarity between the contents of (mainly Protestant) Mission Praise and (mainly Catholic) Celebration Hymnal. A certain kind of young person is drawn to Parish church/Cathedral style worship (and we should be very grteful that they are) but to attract them the music, liturgy and preaching all need to be of a very high calibre and I suspect that this is quite rare in parish churches.

 

Personally I think most service have far too many hymns and that they interrupt the liturgical flow of Eucharistic services. They also, almost certainly, cause more upset and argument in churches than anything else.

 

Malcolm

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The discussion on Charles Wesley's writing is quite fascinating, and if true throws a completely new light on contemporary hymn writing. Whenever I consider the Wesleys (and also, for reasons which willl be immediately apparent, when I am confronted with Hymns Old and New or Mission Praise) I think of John Wesley's words from the 1779 collection of Methodist hymns:

 

 

As for Kendrick, I think his detractors often overstate the flaws in his writing, while, like Tony, his supporters are prone to overstate the theological significance of striking references like the Lord's hands in Servant King. I would hardly put Kendrick's theology in the same bracket as either of the Wesleys, but they were engaged consciously in developing a theologically literate worshipping congregation, while Kendrick (I think) is focused on getting people to worship full stop. For the most part, his work is an improvement on the vast repertoire of choruses that began to appear from the 1960s on, and for that we must surely be grateful.

 

Hi

 

I've seen the Wesley quote that you mention - the ironic thing is that , from what I've heard, the Wesleys were quite happy to alter other people's hymn words!

 

Kendrick's theology is not the same as the Wesley's - they come from different church traditions with different theological stances.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Hi

 

I've seen the Wesley quote that you mention - the ironic thing is that , from what I've heard, the Wesleys were quite happy to alter other people's hymn words!

 

Kendrick's theology is not the same as the Wesley's - they come from different church traditions with different theological stances.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

My point is not about their theological traditions - it is about the intention of their hymn writing. The density of theological thought in the Wesleys' writing contrasts with the 'cartoon' theology in Kendrick's. Both have their place, but an intense theological discussion on particular aspects of a single Kendrick offering is in my view inappropriate, because it isn't intended to have a neat theological cogency.

 

To labour the point - since I obviously hadn't made it clear enough first time: it isn't worth indulging in close analysis of Kendrick's theology on the basis of one hymn, while there are many Wesley hymns which could be (and no doubt have been) the basis of a decent thesis. This might be the case for Kendrick's whole opus, but not I think for individual pieces.

 

I am perfectly aware that their traditions are varied (yet not so different as might be thought). It is, however, their artistic and evangelistic intention which differs markedly.

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A priest for whom I often play the organ at funerals at his church and at the crematorium - one I first knew over 45 years ago (we are of a similar age) and who was brought up in an extreme Anglo Catholic tradition - usually says at funerals that nobody would willingly destroy a beautiful work of art and that likewise God made us all as beautiful works of art and he would not willingly destroy us (his own beautiful works of art) or condem us to eternal damnation. I rather like that analogy.

 

There has recently been lengthy discussion about hymns and choice of hymns on another discussion board (similar to this) under an utterly pathetic and silly heading "disorganised clergy - how do you solve a problem like a Vicar?" I am not a member of that forum and have no intention of becoming a member but it does demonstrate how hymns can become a serious cause of strife and totally un-Christian behaviour on all sides - including people who regard themselves as traditionalists as well as those who instantly want to change everything. It makes me very cross. Very cross indeed.

 

That said, I am not sure what all this theology has to do with pipe organs apart from the fact that the tunes are often played on them!

 

Malcolm

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