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OrganistOnTheHill

Finding Sacred Texts

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Dear all,

I wish to compose a relatively easy choral piece for the school choir and organ for fun and also a possible submission to the inter-school composition competition.

Where could I find sacred texts to base my choral melody on? 

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Since you're at Harrow, see if you can find a copy of the Public School Hymnbook, edited by C.S. Lang.  There are some interesting texts in there which are not in other books. Other possible hymnal sources are the Cambridge Hymnal, Songs of Priase and Songs of Sion (although some of the contents of the latter are guaranteed to bring a smile to the lips for all the wrong reasons). For one of the finest English religious poets, try George Herbert, or on a lighter note, maybe John Betjeman.  

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At Evensong yesterday we sang the wonderful hymn "Come, labour on"; the words are by Jane Borthwick from her book Thoughtful Hours. You might find some suitable texts there, although some are a little twee: https://archive.org/details/hours00bort

(I should point out that the hymn was chosen for Harvest, and not because the Labour Party conference has just started...)

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Do be wary of the copyright problem when selecting your text won't you.  Should your entry win the competition and be used publicly in any way, or be published, you or your school had best make sure that no rules will have been transgressed!  John Betjeman as mentioned above is a case in point, though to be fair I've found his publishers (John Murray) to be helpful when I wanted to quote from his work on my website.  Though even here, where no commercial considerations were involved and I only quoted a few lines, I had to seek their permission and also add an acknowledgement in the form prescribed  by them, tell them when it had appeared, etc.

The Bible is obviously safer in this regard, but it might be wise not to lift anything from a recent version and stick to one of the very old ones to be on the safe side.

It's an utter minefield into which the unwary can wander quite innocently, and the penalties (which can take retrospective effect to cover the period of infringement) can be dire.  I really am not overstating the case.

I have also assumed you are referring to Christian sacred texts.  However, if looking further afield to those of other religions, you might be well advised to take advice about how they regard people who do this.  A huge amount of very beautiful prose exists of course which it might be tempting to use.  Your school religious studies department might be able to help here.

Nevertheless, very best wishes for your endeavours.

CEP

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Yes, good advice from Colin re copyright texts.

I’d be tempted to look in old service books eg the Liber Usualis and the Book of Common Prayer. A translation of the old English Use (probably Sarum) would be good too, but find one that’s out of copyright.

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19 hours ago, Richard Fairhurst said:

At Evensong yesterday we sang the wonderful hymn "Come, labour on"; the words are by Jane Borthwick from her book Thoughtful Hours. You might find some suitable texts there, although some are a little twee: https://archive.org/details/hours00bort

(I should point out that the hymn was chosen for Harvest, and not because the Labour Party conference has just started...)

Shades of the scheduling of "Come ye faithful" - Thatcher on one cathedral list (I think it was Southwark) on General Election day some years ago.

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