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Your 20 Best Hymns?


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I hope this topic doesn't upset anyone. Apologies in advance!

 

I wondered if anyone cared to suggest the 20 best hymns; the hymns that all churchgoers should be introduced to, both musically and theologically. Ancient, traditional, modern - the choice is yours.

 

And no fights about musical styles, please.

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I hope this topic doesn't upset anyone. Apologies in advance!

 

I wondered if anyone cared to suggest the 20 best hymns; the hymns that all churchgoers should be introduced to, both musically and theologically. Ancient, traditional, modern - the choice is yours.

 

And no fights about musical styles, please.

 

Hi

 

I'm not going to attempt to list hymns - the "top" hymns are the ones that are theologically sound and that fit the theme of the service and say what needs saying.

 

For example, for Good Friday (a joint service with the local Anglican church) we are singing a mix of traditional and contemporary:-

 

Come and See

My Lord, You Wore no Royal Crown

My Song is Love Unknown

O Sacred Head

No Scenes of Stately Majesty (Graham Kendrick - a very interesting worship song inspired by images of Princess Daiana's funeral - well worth looking at tghe words if nothing else - they are available on the web.)

How Deep the Father's Love for Us

 

These are interspersed with readings from John 18 & 19 - plus an opening prayer and the Lord's Prayer and probably a collect - and finish in silence.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I must admit that Advent is not complete without 'Hark the glad sound !' to 'Bristol'

 

Isaac Watts 'Nature with open volume stands' may have prospered more if it had a decent tune and he hadn't already written 'When I survey'

 

Hymns that progress incrementally such as 'For all the saints' and 'Praise to the Holiest' will, I imagine, have a place in a lot of folks top 20.

 

Personally, I like Hymns that are sung to French hymn tunes such as 'Grenoble' and 'Solemnis Haec Festivitas'

 

Lover of classic hymnody will find little comfort in the recently published Church of Scotland's 'Church Hymnary 4th Edition'. As well as having the feel of a vanity project, it also omits many fine hymns and tunes to give space to the most banal nonsense.

 

Leafing through it recently, I found myself asking 'Has it really come to this?

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I hope this topic doesn't upset anyone. Apologies in advance!

 

I wondered if anyone cared to suggest the 20 best hymns; the hymns that all churchgoers should be introduced to, both musically and theologically. Ancient, traditional, modern - the choice is yours.

 

And no fights about musical styles, please.

 

Off the top of my head and in no particular order....

 

Love Divine - Blaenwern (not the effete Stainer tune)

Come Down O Love Divine - Down Ampney

Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken - Abbots Leigh

O Praise Ye the Lord: Laudate Dominum

Christ is Made the Sure Foundation - Westminster Abbey

Let All the World - Luckington

Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending - Helmsley

Drop drop slow tears - Gibbons Songxxx

Allelulia, sing to Jesus - Hyfrydol

Lord, enthroned in heavenly spendour - St Helen

King of glory, king of peace - Gwalchmai

Come thou long expected Jesus - Cross of Jesus (Stainer did write some good tunes!)

Thine be the glory - Maccabaeus

Light's abode, celestial salem - Regent Square

Guide me O thou great redeemer - Cwm Rhondda

O Gladsome Light, O Grace - Nunc Dimittis

Wake, O wake - Wachet Auf

A safe stronghold - Ein fest burg

O sacred head - Passion Chorale

Before the ending of the day - Te Lucis (plainsong)

 

JJK

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Off the top of my head and in no particular order....

 

Love Divine - Blaenwern (not the effete Stainer tune)

Come Down O Love Divine - Down Ampney

Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken - Abbots Leigh

O Praise Ye the Lord: Laudate Dominum

Christ is Made the Sure Foundation - Westminster Abbey

Let All the World - Luckington

Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending - Helmsley

Drop drop slow tears - Gibbons Songxxx

Allelulia, sing to Jesus - Hyfrydol

Lord, enthroned in heavenly spendour - St Helen

King of glory, king of peace - Gwalchmai

Come thou long expected Jesus - Cross of Jesus (Stainer did write some good tunes!)

Thine be the glory - Maccabaeus

Light's abode, celestial salem - Regent Square

Guide me O thou great redeemer - Cwm Rhondda

O Gladsome Light, O Grace - Nunc Dimittis

Wake, O wake - Wachet Auf

A safe stronghold - Ein fest burg

O sacred head - Passion Chorale

Before the ending of the day - Te Lucis (plainsong)

 

JJK

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Off the top of my head and in no particular order....

 

Love Divine - Blaenwern (not the effete Stainer tune)

Come Down O Love Divine - Down Ampney

Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken - Abbots Leigh

O Praise Ye the Lord: Laudate Dominum

Christ is Made the Sure Foundation - Westminster Abbey

Let All the World - Luckington

Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending - Helmsley

Drop drop slow tears - Gibbons Songxxx

Allelulia, sing to Jesus - Hyfrydol

Lord, enthroned in heavenly spendour - St Helen

King of glory, king of peace - Gwalchmai

Come thou long expected Jesus - Cross of Jesus (Stainer did write some good tunes!)

Thine be the glory - Maccabaeus

Light's abode, celestial salem - Regent Square

Guide me O thou great redeemer - Cwm Rhondda

O Gladsome Light, O Grace - Nunc Dimittis

Wake, O wake - Wachet Auf

A safe stronghold - Ein fest burg

O sacred head - Passion Chorale

Before the ending of the day - Te Lucis (plainsong)

 

Sorry, I pressed the wrong button!

 

I think that this is a fair enough list. I am finding considerable problems in talking brides to be (or quite often their mothers) out of having unsuitable hymns for weddings to say nothing of unsuitable or impossible music to play on the organ. I give up when they want a movement of a Rachmaniov Piano Concerto played for their entry into the church which takes about 60 seconds walking slowly in our place. Classic FM has a lot to answer for!

 

Please would someone come up with a list of suitable wedding hymns.

 

FF

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I hope this topic doesn't upset anyone. Apologies in advance!

 

I wondered if anyone cared to suggest the 20 best hymns; the hymns that all churchgoers should be introduced to, both musically and theologically. Ancient, traditional, modern - the choice is yours.

 

And no fights about musical styles, please.

 

Hymns or Hymn tunes?

 

My favourite tunes are:

 

Love Unknown

Guiting Power

Gonfalon Royal

Coe Fen

Repton

St. Clement

Down Ampney

 

Add a good descant too (has anyone come across the "St. Paul's Cathedral Descant Book", descants by John Scott?), and I might just cry.

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Off the top of my head and in no particular order....

 

Love Divine - Blaenwern (not the effete Stainer tune)

C

JJK

 

 

NOOOOOOOO, spare me from Blaenwern. When I played at a CofE church it made a nice change, but now that I reside in Methodist land its all they ever want to sing!

 

I've played Love Divine to Fairest Isle a few times - confuses the heck out of them!

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Favourite hymn? "All my hope on God is founded" (Michael). A wonderful hymn, and inspiring music by Howells.

 

By the way, is anyone familiar with NEH446, "Sing Alleluia forth" (to the tune Martins)? I think it deserves to be far more widely known...........

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I've no idea what the best hymns are, but my favourite dozen are probably these:

 

Thy hand, O God, has guided - Thornbury

For all the Saints - Sine nomine

Glorious things of thee are spoken - Abbot's Leigh

Alleluia, sing to Jesus - Hyfrydol

At the name of Jesus - Evelyns

When I survey - Rockingham

Love divine - Blaenwern [sorry!]

When morning guilds the skies - Laudes Domini

O worship the Lord - Was lebet, was schwebet

Lord enthroned in heavenly splendour - St Helen

Drop, drop slow tears - Song 46

Alleluia! Alleluia! hearts to heaven - Everton

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Is it just me, or has anyone else found that the very best organists for some reason don't make for good hymn players? Could it perhaps be a case of those that can, play, and those that can't, do hymns? :P

 

Playing hymns is an art form in it's own right. It is one thing to rattle off the Widor Toccata, quite another to get a congregation singing. A strong rhythmic lead, a good tempo and a few passing notes to keep the music flowing (despite moans from the choir tenors and basses) all helps.

 

In my youthful cinema organ days, on Saturday nights one often had to lead an audience of 1,500 in community singing which proved to be excellent training for leading a congregation.

 

FF

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Is it just me, or has anyone else found that the very best organists for some reason don't make for good hymn players? Could it perhaps be a case of those that can, play, and those that can't, do hymns? :P

 

Playing hymns is an art form in it's own right. It is one thing to rattle off the Widor Toccata, quite another to get a congregation singing. A strong rhythmic lead, a good tempo and a few passing notes to keep the music flowing (despite moans from the choir tenors and basses) all helps.

 

In my youthful cinema organ days, on Saturday nights one often had to lead an audience of 1,500 in community singing which proved to be excellent training for leading a congregation.

 

FF

 

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

 

 

I was about to write out my top 20 list, but then, with the sort of stunned silence bordering on apoplexy, I realised that my top hitter was "All my hope on God is founded" (Michael) - with music by Herbert Howells.

 

Following a quick Brandy (for medicinal purposes of course), I thought it much more interesting to think about the art, or otherwise, of hymn accompaniment.

 

I refrain from naming names, but a certain assistant organist at a cathedral was just awful at hymn accompaniment, and no-one quite knew when to start the next verse.

 

It's always a bit embarassing approaching someone who can rattle their way through Dupre, Reubke, Liszt, Bach et al, and then ever so-slightly "suggesting" that they hadn't a clue what they're doing with hymns, but I was the one who got the short-straw, and all those smirking choristers pushed me towards the organ-console and then fled.

 

Being a Yorkshireman, there was only way to tackle this.

 

I started with a compliment; offering warm congratulations on the best Finale to the Vierne 6th I had ever heard, but then added, "pity you can't play bloody hymns though."

 

He gave me a cold, shark-like stare and with a hint of malice asked, "What do you mean by can't play?"

 

"Only the hymns!" I pleaded my case pathetically, as he put the Vierne back into the cupboard.

 

"What exactly is wrong with my hymns?" He continued to stare coldly.

 

"Nothing......much.....really," I stammered.

 

At that point, he slammed a hymn book onto the music desk, opened it, and said, "Right, then YOU play me a hymn."

 

I played and he sang, and when we got to the end of the first verse of "O little town of Bethlehem" (we were in the middle of Trinity), I instinctively counted three silent beats, and he came in early after two.

 

I stopped, he stopped and he stared at me again.

 

"What are you doing?" He asked.

 

"I was keeping the silence in time with the metre," I replied.

 

"I always count one, two and then come in again with the next verse," he advised, "because that's what I was taught to do."

 

After that, we talked a while and he tried new ways of doing things, and I'm happy to report that the same organist now accompanies hymns wonderfully, but isn't it interesting to contemplate the blind-spots we can have as musicians?

 

Finally, picking up on something Frank Fowler mentioned, I think just about the best hymn accompaniment/crowd control I ever heard, was on a "Songs of Praise" televised from Blackpool.

 

The organist was Phil Kelsall at the Wurlitzer organ of the Tower Ballroom, who "sans trems" led a packed house to perfection, and with every bit as much skill as he leads strict-tempo ballroom dancing.

 

MM

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I'm quite impressed by Vox Humana's selection. Henry Smart knew how to write a good hymn tune and 'Everton' is excellent though not quite as well known as the ubiquitous 'Regent Square' which gets an outing every other week at my own church; St Helen's Bishopsgate. I would have thought that most hymnals have matched 'Allelulis Alllelulia' to Arthur Sullivan's tune 'Lux Eoi'. Hyfrodol is a lovely tune but 'Allelulia. sing to Jesus' seems a very wordy hymn and all in all a bit of a marathon.

 

What about the worst hymns? I think any hymn tune with the word 'extended' after it is bad news. Sagina, Lydia and Lynham are the main culprits. My other bete noires are 'O love that wilt not let me go' and 'Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown'

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What about the worst hymns?
I think it would be hard to beat "Christian, dost thou see them on the holy ground?" to the tune in the old A & M Standard - can't remember its name, but it's the one where all the words above are sung to nothing more than a repeated G. The end of the second line hovers around and ends on G too. Appalling. It doesn't get much better with the cheesy change to the major that follows. The words aren't much cop either.
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Second thoughts: lovely though the Gibbon's Song 46 is, I've got to trade it in for "The day thou gavest" to St Clement. A bit syrupy for some, I dare say, but I like it!

 

No, that's right at the top of the list. As is Xtian dost thou see them to the AMR tune (St Andrew of Crete?)

 

None of these are in order, just as I happen to think of them...

 

1 The Day thou gavest, St Clement

2 Christ triumphant, Guiting Power

3 I met the Lord, another John Barnard special (like Guiting Power)

4 King of Glory king of peace to the Archer tune (Redland)

5 Dear Lord and father (Repton)

6 Xtian dost thou as above

7 My song is love unknown (mmmm)

8 Anything to Abbots Leigh

9 At the name of Jesus, preferably to Cuddesdon but Evelyns if you must

10 Give me the wings of faith (San Rocco)

11 Forth in the peace of Christ (15thC arr RVW, NEH 361)

12 Lift high the Cross (Nicholson tune)

13 We sing the praise (B. Brickhill)

14 The king of love my sheep is (dominus regit me) - the only metrical Ps23 that doesn't make me gip

15 Hail thee, festival day to the RVW 3-segment tune

16 Let all mortal flesh (Picardy)

17 All my hope (Michael)

18 Holy spirit, ever dwelling (Salisbury, also by HH)

 

Don't shoot me for the last two -

 

19 Great is thy faithfulness

20 Living Lord (Appleford) - yes, I know, but it can genuinely be made into a really memorable and uplifting experience...

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Is it just me, or has anyone else found that the very best organists for some reason don't make for good hymn players? Could it perhaps be a case of those that can, play, and those that can't, do hymns? :P

 

Playing hymns is an art form in it's own right. It is one thing to rattle off the Widor Toccata, quite another to get a congregation singing. A strong rhythmic lead, a good tempo and a few passing notes to keep the music flowing (despite moans from the choir tenors and basses) all helps.

 

In my youthful cinema organ days, on Saturday nights one often had to lead an audience of 1,500 in community singing which proved to be excellent training for leading a congregation.

 

FF

 

Not always. Take Geoffrey Morgan at Christchurch Priory - a very good and renowned performer and speaker, but a quite unbelievable accompanist at the same time, whether of a huge congregation or a school choir.

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What about the worst hymns?

Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace by Sebastian Temple is my own personal bete-noir. It is weakly constructed - it seems as if you start mid-verse - and just sounds a bit pathetic really.

 

Can I also put in a personal request since we're on the subject for a mortorium on all descants to Christmas Hymns - Hark the Herald, O Come etc - that are arranged by anyone whose name isn't David Willcocks? Subsequent King's Directors of Music have made their own valiant attempts at arrangements, and all are to be congratulated on their endeavours. But DW is the daddy. Nuff said.

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Can I also put in a personal request since we're on the subject for a mortorium on all descants to Christmas Hymns - Hark the Herald, O Come etc - that are arranged by anyone whose name isn't David Willcocks? Subsequent King's Directors of Music have made their own valiant attempts at arrangements, and all are to be congratulated on their endeavours. But DW is the daddy. Nuff said.
Take a bow, that man! You are so right.

 

In my opinion, the trouble with the post-Willcocks descants is that the composers have tried to be too clever - too contrapuntal - and it just doesn't work. All you end up with is an aimless twittering. Some of Willcock's descants are contrapuntal too, but he understood that a good descant is one that seems to grow out of what has gone before, not one that is superimposed on it.

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Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace by Sebastian Temple is my own personal bete-noir. It is weakly constructed - it seems as if you start mid-verse - and just sounds a bit pathetic really.

 

I totally agree - it's horrible. But it nearly caught me out at a recent RC Requiem Mass - the version they use doesn't use the chorus "........O Master grant that I may never............" EXCEPT after the 2nd (or was it 3rd?) verse - I just spotted it in time :P

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Second thoughts: lovely though the Gibbon's Song 46 is, I've got to trade it in for "The day thou gavest" to St Clement. A bit syrupy for some, I dare say, but I like it!

You clearly haven't taken to heart the sentiments expressed in the preface of Mercer's Hymnbook (1854) in which he wrote:

He [the editor - Mercer] has not felt at liberty to reject the least objectionable of the tunes in triple measure, such as Rockingham, Irish, Abridge &c. They are good in their particular style, though that style may not be pronounced the best [...]

Rockingham is one of my big favorites.

 

Paul

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