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DouglasCorr

Hymns appear to be getting heavier!

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Have you noticed that nowadays choir men come in two types; ones with massively muscular arms and less developed ones that, in procession, gasp for breath. Well, I think I have discovered the reason for this.

 

This Christmas I received a Common Praise Hymnal (music edition) (CP) as a present. I noticed immediately that it felt like a lead bellows weight, as I staggered to lift it onto my music rack. It weighs in at 2 lbs 11 oz or 1222 gm! This just pushes the New English Hymnal into second place at 2 lbs 7 oz. From the olden days we have the English Hymnal at a comfortable 1 lb 11 oz. and Ancient and Modern Revised (AMR) at 1 lb 12 oz. I am obviously onto something here!

 

But just what is going on? The English Hymnal has 728 hymns, however the New English Hymnal has only 541 hymns. Similarly AMR has 636 hymns and CP has 628. Hymns are clearly getting much heavier! I cannot explain why this, is as the English is simplified in the most recent hymn books. However I should warn that there appears to be exceptions to this trend. The Westminster Hymnal (WH) provides evidence of this, as even in paperback edition it provides only 291 hymns for 1 lb 4 oz, this results in 1.95 gm per hymn compared to 1.98 gm per hymn for CP; and this is in spite of mysterious factors in WH, as one would expect, that certain hymns do not have a tune!?

 

More investigations are required.... :)

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The heavier they are the more momentum they have as they fall off the music desk and bounce down on to Swell, Great, Choir, (maybe even Pedal too) and the more dramatic the resulting note clusters.

 

JS

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I'm tempted to suggest that it's due to the leaden doggerel of so many modern hymns. ^_^

 

Aren't page sizes of hymn books generally bigger nowadays than they used to be? Why?

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Because some of us can't see them if they are any smaller!! Another topic perhaps but I discovered this at a nearby crematorium yesterday. My organ glasses which work perfectly well at home or at church gave a decidedly dodgy view on the 2 manual electronic I played - following two minutes of 'getting used to'. The book that worked the best was H O & N - mind you I only had to cope with its wonky version of Dear Lord and Father.... and a bit of left foot bass for Give me Joy in my Heart. My A5 folder of 'useful music' was only just useful too. Probably a sign of age.

 

 

A

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Because some of us can't see them if they are any smaller!! Another topic perhaps but I discovered this at a nearby crematorium yesterday. My organ glasses which work perfectly well at home or at church gave a decidedly dodgy view on the 2 manual electronic I played - following two minutes of 'getting used to'. The book that worked the best was H O & N - mind you I only had to cope with its wonky version of Dear Lord and Father.... and a bit of left foot bass for Give me Joy in my Heart. My A5 folder of 'useful music' was only just useful too. Probably a sign of age.

 

 

A

 

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

 

 

It's probably down to paper quality. Lighter usually implies stronger/better, unless it's written by hand on velum, in which case you would need one of those cherry-picker cranes to carry it to the stalls.

 

MM

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Because some of us can't see them if they are any smaller!! Another topic perhaps but I discovered this at a nearby crematorium yesterday. My organ glasses which work perfectly well at home or at church gave a decidedly dodgy view on the 2 manual electronic I played - following two minutes of 'getting used to'. The book that worked the best was H O & N - mind you I only had to cope with its wonky version of Dear Lord and Father.... and a bit of left foot bass for Give me Joy in my Heart. My A5 folder of 'useful music' was only just useful too. Probably a sign of age.

 

 

A

 

I was wondering how long it would take before someone mentioned HO & N. I'm ashamed to say I have to put up with it every week, there are some very unusual arrangements in that book. One of the worst being a one called Eagle's Wings ( cannot stand it) it the only hymn i've seen that starts on a leading note. I do have a copy of the New English Hymnal and use instead of the HO & N if the hymns needed are in it. I've noticed that many of the hymns in HO & N do not appear to have authors, I can understand why as I wouldn't put my name on some of the music in it! But getting back to the main point yes it is quite heavy, if you had a few copies they would make the perfect height adjustment accessory for any Organ Bench!

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I was wondering how long it would take before someone mentioned HO & N. I'm ashamed to say I have to put up with it every week, there are some very unusual arrangements in that book. One of the worst being a one called Eagle's Wings ( cannot stand it) it the only hymn i've seen that starts on a leading note. I do have a copy of the New English Hymnal and use instead of the HO & N if the hymns needed are in it. I've noticed that many of the hymns in HO & N do not appear to have authors, I can understand why as I wouldn't put my name on some of the music in it! But getting back to the main point yes it is quite heavy, if you had a few copies they would make the perfect height adjustment accessory for any Organ Bench!

 

 

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

 

 

Our priest regularly has "ethnic moments," so we have to sing a hymn to the tune of "O Danny boy," which of course commences on the leading note.

As I haven't the music, I just busk it. In fact, coming to think of it, I busk most things these days. Unhindered by a choir, (what a terrible admission), I am able to busk on the fly, which may sound like a village on the Welsh Borders, but which is absolutely necessary in order to correct the utterly iliterate harmonisations contained in the hymn book.

 

I would love to meet the "musicians" responsible for these master-works, and then give them a good, hard slap.

 

Do they have any musical education at all, I wonder?

 

It isn't just hymn books, because the same problem actually pervades the entire liturgical "settings" of the parish mass, which in most examples, wouldn't even have got a pass in GCSE (GCE?) O-level music.

 

It's a sorry state of affairs when even pop music is better written and better harmonised, but in many instances it is.

 

Now, "when I were a lad," I cannot recall a single flaw or a bad harmonisation in several hymn-books with which I came into contact. Ancient & Modern, The English Hymnal, the Methodist Hymn Book, Songs of Praise....all of them were superbly well crafted, irrespective of whether the tunes were good, bad or indifferent.

 

I hesitate to name and shame any particular publishers, but be it sufficient to say that in order to throw rocks, it may first be necessary to hew them.

 

MM

 

 

PS: Perhaps hymn books make better missiles than rocks.

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"In fact, coming to think of it, I busk most things these days."

 

A wonderful comment; what I particularly like about it is that many illustrious names from history would nod in agreement - old Bach, Mozart*, pretty much any French organist/composer you care to mention etc ...

 

Raul Prieto Ramirez, one of the best players around, had no formal early education in music; he just busked from a very early age; and studied formally much later. It's done him no harm at all of course.

 

One of my friends (not a musician) asked me what instrument I'd recommend his son to learn; I answered 'anything where he can just sit down and play when he feels like it, not needing other musicians to play with, not needing a score, just let his fingers follow where his mind wonders'. We agreed either guitar or piano (probably a dabble at both); having seen so many ex-orchestral players who never pick their instruments up any more and get no pleasure out of the time they invested learning to play, I'm convinced it's the best way.

 

SC

 

 

* eg, some of the violin sonatas had no written piano part until well after the first performance - Mozart tried to fool the audience by playing from a blank piece of manuscript! See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violin_Sonata_No._32_(Mozart)

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"In fact, coming to think of it, I busk most things these days."

 

A wonderful comment; what I particularly like about it is that many illustrious names from history would nod in agreement - old Bach, Mozart*, pretty much any French organist/composer you care to mention etc ...

 

Raul Prieto Ramirez, one of the best players around, had no formal early education in music; he just busked from a very early age; and studied formally much later. It's done him no harm at all of course.

 

One of my friends (not a musician) asked me what instrument I'd recommend his son to learn; I answered 'anything where he can just sit down and play when he feels like it, not needing other musicians to play with, not needing a score, just let his fingers follow where his mind wonders'. We agreed either guitar or piano (probably a dabble at both); having seen so many ex-orchestral players who never pick their instruments up any more and get no pleasure out of the time they invested learning to play, I'm convinced it's the best way.

 

SC

 

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

 

 

And I thought I was all alone!

 

Before my reputation, (or lack of it), plunges to the depths, I did eventually get around to taking music seriously and studying properly; if only in my own peculiar way. I would suggest however, that I'm 90% self-taught.

 

This raises an interesting question about music-education, to which I have alluded previously.

 

If music isn't about enjoyment, self-expression and creativity, then it is a waste of time and effort. If one thing struck home when I researched and wrote about Hungarian organists, organs and organ-music, it was the fabulous quality and artistic integrity of so many organists. They really are a force to be reckoned with, yet they are either paid nothing or paid peanuts in the churches.

 

Doesn't this demonstrate a certain passionate enthusiasm in what they are doing?

 

I wonder if the "Kodaly method" isn't somehow at the heart of this, but as I'm not an educator or a specialist, perhaps others may wish to comment.

 

I can only speak for my own experience, in that I loved to play at playing when I was young, and although I embraced more rigorous and formal discipline at a later date, the initial enthusiasm has never left me.

 

Incidentally, when I wrote "busking," I think I should really have said re-arranging and re-harmonisation, because I DO read the notes and then promptly ignore them if I feel that they are badly written. Of course, this is only possible without a choir, and I can sympathise with those who have to re-write everything for choral use, as a way of bettering the quality. It's a dreaful state of affairs.

 

MM

 

 

 

 

 

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I am able to busk on the fly, which may sound like a village on the Welsh Borders, but which is absolutely necessary in order to correct the utterly iliterate harmonisations contained in the hymn book.

 

Quite. I wonder how many of us don't do this! God knows, it's necessary. Taken as a whole, the Gumby book used at our church (no prizes for guessing the publisher) has by far the most incompetent arrangements I've seen in any book. The competition seems quite anodyne by comparison. I can only assume that the arrangers were attempting a degree of "modern" harmony without having the skill to do it competently, while, at the same time, having to cater for guitarists with a severely limited repertoire of chords..

 

Now, "when I were a lad," I cannot recall a single flaw or a bad harmonisation in several hymn-books with which I came into contact. Ancient & Modern, The English Hymnal, the Methodist Hymn Book, Songs of Praise....all of them were superbly well crafted, irrespective of whether the tunes were good, bad or indifferent.

 

Absolutely. I had a slightly surreal experience last Sunday. His Nibs is away in the Phillipines for a couple of weeks, so I got to choose the hymns. It goes without saying that the faithful flock got an unadulterated diet of decent, solid, traditional fare. Afterwards the not-so-old priest who was deputising sought me out and congratulated me on my choice of hymns, saying how much he enjoyed the old, traditional hymns and how good it was to have tunes "you can get your throat around". At last I understand exactly how an ornithologist feels when he hacks his way through some far eastern jungle and rediscovers a species long thought extinct. It made my day.

 

PS: Perhaps hymn books make better missiles than rocks.

 

At Southwark Cathedral Sidney Campbell used to try to silence the vergers who talked noisily during his voluntaries by lobbing hymn books at them while playing. It didn't work.

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.

Absolutely. I had a slightly surreal experience last Sunday. His Nibs is away in the Phillipines for a couple of weeks, so I got to choose the hymns. It goes without saying that the faithful flock got an unadulterated diet of decent, solid, traditional fare. Afterwards the not-so-old priest who was deputising sought me out and congratulated me on my choice of hymns, saying how much he enjoyed the old, traditional hymns and how good it was to have tunes "you can get your throat around". At last I understand exactly how an ornithologist feels when he hacks his way through some far eastern jungle and rediscovers a species long thought extinct. It made my day.

 

 

Good to hear that, we had a similar experience to that as well. We seem to have a mix at our place although its not exactly a 'healthy' balance between tradtional and contemporary the problem is we have one priest looking after two churches and the 'folk group' at the other church pick our hymns ( personally I think this is completely wrong) but it looks like it will never change in the near future. I was given by someone an unwanted copy of Songs of Praise The Enlarged Edtion edited partly by Vaughan Williams, mine is the twelth impression so it was printed around the 1950's and it is a fabulous book a real treasure trove of Tradtional worship music. I just wish there was more people who actually cared about the choice of music in churches today.

 

Liam

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Good to hear that, we had a similar experience to that as well. We seem to have a mix at our place although its not exactly a 'healthy' balance between tradtional and contemporary the problem is we have one priest looking after two churches and the 'folk group' at the other church pick our hymns ( personally I think this is completely wrong) but it looks like it will never change in the near future. I was given by someone an unwanted copy of Songs of Praise The Enlarged Edtion edited partly by Vaughan Williams, mine is the twelth impression so it was printed around the 1950's and it is a fabulous book a real treasure trove of Tradtional worship music. I just wish there was more people who actually cared about the choice of music in churches today.

 

Liam

 

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

 

 

I'd like to see a "folk group" tell me what I had to play! (At this point, I tried to find the "angry" Gif....not available) (Insert your own Gif, consisting of a little face with a dagger in its mouth :mellow: )

 

I think I shall start a new movement, which seeks to banish any music older than ten years, so as to appeal to the yuff of to-day.

 

To me, there is nothing worse than the bleeding heart piety of religious "folk music," usually sung and strummed by hippies of a certain age; all wearing wool in some deathly earth-colour, flat shoes and no make-up.

 

Amusingly, someone once asked me if I could possibly write a worship song. In the time it took for a modest sermon, I had written the words, sketched out a really catchy tune and could improvise the rest after morning mass. The person who asked was beside themselves with joy, but I can say with absolute certainty, that it was total garbage from beginning to end; both musically and theologically. The sad thing is, I knew they would love it.

 

I'm afraid I have little time for religion which wallows in mawkish sentimentality, milk and honey....opium is apparently far more effective, though a little expensive.

 

I find myself agreeing with Liam, because "Songs of Praise" is a fine tome, yet it never truly caught on as it should have done.

 

MM

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

 

 

I'd like to see a "folk group" tell me what I had to play! (At this point, I tried to find the "angry" Gif....not available) (Insert your own Gif, consisting of a little face with a dagger in its mouth :mellow: )

 

I think I shall start a new movement, which seeks to banish any music older than ten years, so as to appeal to the yuff of to-day.

 

To me, there is nothing worse than the bleeding heart piety of religious "folk music," usually sung and strummed by hippies of a certain age; all wearing wool in some deathly earth-colour, flat shoes and no make-up.

 

Amusingly, someone once asked me if I could possibly write a worship song. In the time it took for a modest sermon, I had written the words, sketched out a really catchy tune and could improvise the rest after morning mass. The person who asked was beside themselves with joy, but I can say with absolute certainty, that it was total garbage from beginning to end; both musically and theologically. The sad thing is, I knew they would love it.

 

I'm afraid I have little time for religion which wallows in mawkish sentimentality, milk and honey....opium is apparently far more effective, though a little expensive.

 

I find myself agreeing with Liam, because "Songs of Praise" is a fine tome, yet it never truly caught on as it should have done.

 

MM

 

Yes songs of praise is a fine hymnal as is the New English and we use them for the traditional hymns instead of playing the inaccurate HO & N versions. You will be pleased to know that not all of the "Yuff of- today" worship that garbage being 21 myself I love hearing and playing good old tradtional hymns. I find the problem lies within the schools, they insist on teaching children this rubbish so they go on to think that it is perfectly acceptable material.Getting slightly off topic one of the reasons why I never formally studied music when I attended School was that the syllabus seemed to focus more around music of different cultures. Now I believe it is imperative that we should embrace music from different cultures but perhaps they should look at teaching them music of our OWN culture before we look at anybody elses. Getting back to the point ( I do apologise for that rant) I often find that the congregation at our place belt out the traditional stuff yet when the contemporary stuff is requested you hardly hear a whimper.

 

 

Liam

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Yes songs of praise is a fine hymnal as is the New English and we use them for the traditional hymns instead of playing the inaccurate HO & N versions. You will be pleased to know that not all of the "Yuff of- today" worship that garbage being 21 myself I love hearing and playing good old tradtional hymns. I find the problem lies within the schools, they insist on teaching children this rubbish so they go on to think that it is perfectly acceptable material.Getting slightly off topic one of the reasons why I never formally studied music when I attended School was that the syllabus seemed to focus more around music of different cultures. Now I believe it is imperative that we should embrace music from different cultures but perhaps they should look at teaching them music of our OWN culture before we look at anybody elses. Getting back to the point ( I do apologise for that rant) I often find that the congregation at our place belt out the traditional stuff yet when the contemporary stuff is requested you hardly hear a whimper.

 

 

Liam

 

 

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

 

 

Haven't organists been doing that for centuries?

 

In more recent times, I can think of Indian influences on Messaien, Arabic influences on Petr Eben, Japanese influences in certain American organ works and all manner of other "foreign" influences. It's not so long ago that I suggested that Japanese melody could combine with impressionistic French modality to great effect.

 

We are prophets and pioneers without realising it.

 

I'm not in the least surprised that no one sings the folk music. The youth of to-day would be totally turned off by it....they have their own garbage.

 

Music can be so depressing.

 

I played a bit of Whitney Houston to a local kid to-day, and he gave the blankest of looks and said, "Does she have to sing so loud?"

 

He went on his way attempting to make up some 'Gangsta Rap' words, but got stuck with a suitable rhyming word to 'situation.'

 

We are doomed! :(

 

MM

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I knew of an eccentric Irish Catholic priest who was an expert shot at clay pigeon shooting. He used to test new cartridges by shooting a hymn book and he would by all accounts judge the results by seeing which hymn number the shot penetrated to. This was a good 25 years ago and the Father is no longer in this life. I thought his behaviour was amusing and scandalous in equal measures at the time. These days, I’d just be amused. In fact he’d have a limitless supply of naff literature to take aim at! :lol:

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I knew of an eccentric Irish Catholic priest who was an expert shot at clay pigeon shooting. He used to test new cartridges by shooting a hymn book and he would by all accounts judge the results by seeing which hymn number the shot penetrated to. This was a good 25 years ago and the Father is no longer in this life. I thought his behaviour was amusing and scandalous in equal measures at the time. These days, I’d just be amused. In fact he’d have a limitless supply of naff literature to take aim at! :lol:

 

:D What an interesting Gentleman, it is certainly a unique way of picking Hymns for the Sunday Morning service, perhaps more of us should try it.........

 

 

Liam

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Yes songs of praise is a fine hymnal as is the New English and we use them for the traditional hymns instead of playing the inaccurate HO & N versions. You will be pleased to know that not all of the "Yuff of- today" worship that garbage being 21 myself I love hearing and playing good old tradtional hymns. I find the problem lies within the schools, they insist on teaching children this rubbish so they go on to think that it is perfectly acceptable material.Getting slightly off topic one of the reasons why I never formally studied music when I attended School was that the syllabus seemed to focus more around music of different cultures. Now I believe it is imperative that we should embrace music from different cultures but perhaps they should look at teaching them music of our OWN culture before we look at anybody elses. Getting back to the point ( I do apologise for that rant) I often find that the congregation at our place belt out the traditional stuff yet when the contemporary stuff is requested you hardly hear a whimper.

 

 

Liam

 

Yes, indeed. I teach at a primary school and encounter these trite offerings at every assembly, almost invariably accompanied by happy clapping. The simplest tunes and the simplest lyrics, usually constantly repeated, presumably because it is assumed that anything more complicated will be well beyond the comprehension of children's little minds. Funny, I was a child once (a long time ago, admittedly) and the 'old fashioned' hymns that we sang didn't seem to confuse me.

 

Which came first I wonder, the cerebrally-challenged composers of this rubbish or the cerebrally-challenged children it tends to produce?

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

"Songs of Praise" is a fine tome, yet it never truly caught on as it should have done.

 

MM

 

It failed to catch on in churches because by the time it came out, Dearmer had become so ecumenical that the theology of the book was super-light in order not to offend anyone. It was also rather gung-ho - muscular Christianity and all that. In schools, however, it was a tremendous success and was the standard work throughout the country.

 

I only once saw a copy of the original (unenlarged) SofP, next to the harmonium at Saxtead Church in Suffolk over 40 years ago. I was in the church again last summer - the Songs of Praise had gone, but they had got themselves a proper organ!

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It failed to catch on in churches because by the time it came out, Dearmer had become so ecumenical that the theology of the book was super-light in order not to offend anyone. It was also rather gung-ho - muscular Christianity and all that. In schools, however, it was a tremendous success and was the standard work throughout the country.

 

I only once saw a copy of the original (unenlarged) SofP, next to the harmonium at Saxtead Church in Suffolk over 40 years ago. I was in the church again last summer - the Songs of Praise had gone, but they had got themselves a proper organ!

 

 

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

 

 

Eureka!

 

That's what we need....a bit of gung-ho Christianity accompanied by a bit of gung-ho organ-playing.

 

If it gets rid of "Shine Jesus shine," bring Songs of Praise back yesterday.

 

MM

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Don't tell anyone, but I quite like 'Shine, Jesus, shine' once in a while. At least it's singable, unlike the crooners such as 'Be not afraid' and 'Eagle Swings' - or the stuff for the middle-aged rock-star wannabes like 'Days of Elijah'.

 

I was interested to find, when I arrived here, that 'Twentieth Century Light Music Group' hymn-tunes were not known - remember that pink book? When I played the offerings for 'At the Name of Jesus' and 'O Jesus I have promised' as examples to the students at our local seminary, they cracked up with laughter (fortunately, 'King's Weston' and 'Wolvercote' are the expected tunes for those hymns here).

 

On the British market, I reckon 'Common Praise' is a fine, well-edited and varied collection for anyone who doesn't need the liturgical bits of the English Hymnal (old or New), and it has a sensible attitude to old texts - basically, if written before 1900 leave it alone. So many hymnals these days are totally ruined by messed-up texts.

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At the church, where I sing in the choir, we have printed service sheets with the hymns included, by a Christian copyright agreement. At the Christmas Carol Service we were handed the service sheet which had a good number of the words in Once in Royal David's City changed. I and several of the choir near me at least sang Mrs Alexander's words. I should add that about 20 years ago I played the organ for one of Mrs Alexander's great ...... great nephews, a person I had a great respect for. I could never sing the wrong words to one of her hymns.

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I agree with this - Common Praise has taken a sensible attitude to editing of words, making alterations where practical but if not leaving them alone. I don't disagree with editing per se, but think that it needs to be done with this bit of common sense. Unfortunately, we are stuck with HON - One Church, One Faith, One Lord, which edits everything with no regard for common sense - and the vicar wants to keep the inclusive language.

 

To give one example, last Trinity Sunday we had the annual outing for 'Holy, holy, holy' - in the second verse the familiar line is 'though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see'. In HON this becomes 'though the sinful mortal eye...' - the result was that while the rest of the hymn was sung well this line was an utter mess as some people sang the proper words and some people followed the edited words. I like to encourage a good quality worship experience and this certainly did not contribute to it. HON is full of all sorts of other clumsy editing. Meanwhile, some hymns have been virtually rewritten (they call it adapted, usually by Michael Forster, who is not exactly a fine poet) - 'All hail the power of Jesus' name' is one example of dumbing down, while 'For all the saints' has been rewritten to remove any kind of fighting or battle references! At least we print the words out and so I can change the words back to the proper versions in cases like this.

 

I like 'Shine Jesus Shine' - it is perfectly singable and one of Kendrick's better offerings. The RSCM publication 'Sing with all my soul' includes an interesting arrangement by Bill Llewelyn (John Keys calls it 'camp') including a choir coda finishing on top B flats! It is one of the few modern songs that can be played on the organ and still called a success IMO.

 

I would love us to invest in Common Praise - I think it is the hymnbook all traditional churches ought to be using nowadays, along with the point about word editing made above.

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On the subject of "Eagles Wings", I remember a few years ago a Radio 4 Sunday morning service from a church in Glasgow I could picture well. The choir had obviously been told to "give it laldy" (trans. with gusto) and so they sang : "They shall rise up on wings as seagulls" . On the subject of hymn books, the bane of my life is CH4 , the purple covered thing we have to suffer in Scotland. The music edition is too small for the page hooks on both organs and pianos, the print is pitifully small and is grey rather than black. An awful production. The English Hymnal would have been a better buy.

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On the subject of "Eagles Wings", I remember a few years ago a Radio 4 Sunday morning service from a church in Glasgow I could picture well. The choir had obviously been told to "give it laldy" (trans. with gusto) and so they sang : "They shall rise up on wings as seagulls" . On the subject of hymn books, the bane of my life is CH4 , the purple covered thing we have to suffer in Scotland. The music edition is too small for the page hooks on both organs and pianos, the print is pitifully small and is grey rather than black. An awful production. The English Hymnal would have been a better buy.

 

As an ex-organist of St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, my choir knows full well what I mean when I tell them to give it laldy!

 

When I was in those parts, the previous edition (CH3) was in use - musically quite daring in places but not adventurous as regarding texts (it was just that bit too early for some writers). The purple book, which I encounter when back in Orkney on holiday, is rather self-consciously Scottish - all shortbread and tartan. I have great admiration for John Bell, but the new book has too much of him and the rather twee theology which a lot of Iona-based stuff puts out. And it has wrecked many hymns by textual change.

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