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The World's Worst Hymns


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A latter in the current issue of OR claims that the three least popular hymns seem to be All Things Bright and Beautiful, Lord of the Dance and Shine Jesus Shine. However, none of these, not even the Kendrick, approaches the depths reached by I Watch the Sunrise, a hymn devoid of any musical and theological content. It seems I have to play it for 9 out of 10 funeral services, and I cannot work out why. Any thoughts? Are there any hymns that drop below the Sunrise Scale?

 

Regards

 

Peter

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Guest Andrew Butler
A latter in the current issue of OR claims that the three least popular hymns seem to be All Things Bright and Beautiful, Lord of the Dance and Shine Jesus Shine. However, none of these, not even the Kendrick, approaches the depths reached by I Watch the Sunrise, a hymn devoid of any musical and theological content. It seems I have to play it for 9 out of 10 funeral services, and I cannot work out why. Any thoughts? Are there any hymns that drop below the Sunrise Scale?

 

Regards

 

Peter

 

I assume "I watch" crops up in Catholic churches? I've not come across it elsewhere. It could be a favourite of the Priest(s) who are asked for advice by (often) non practicing catholics / non-Catholic relatives who are organizing the funeral. That is the case at a Catholic parish near me. The "rests" in the tune throw people and it rarely goes well.

 

Talking of Catholic hymns that plumb the musical depths, look at "Go, the Mass is ended" :P

 

Then there is "The Old Rugged Cross" of course B)

 

On a serious note, I do believe though that if a hymn says the right thing at the right time, it can't be that bad. (My wife hates "Amazing Grace" and was flabbergasted that I had programmed it - but its relevance on the occasion in question literally moved her to tears.)

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My absolute least favourite is 'O Sing About Christingle', which goes to the tune of the Holly and the Ivy. Words here (PDF). Once you have sung the word Christingle to those three notes for the tenth time, you will be tempted to start sticking the four sticks of Christingle somewhere else entirely.

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I find that 'Thou didst leave thy throne and Kingly Crown' is pretty grim.

Actually I rather like that one.

 

Top of my miss parade are probably:-

- One more step along the world I go. (One chord per line and no modulation is not my idea of a good tune.)

 

- Make me a channel of thy peace. (I have this old-fashioned idea that the number of syllables should fit the number of notes available.)

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Quite - though perhaps it is an open question whether the likes of "One more step" and "Make me a channel" deserve to be dignified by the term "hymn".

 

Restricting myself pedantically to genuine hymns, I think I would nominate "Christian, dost thou see them on the holy ground?" Sorry, but how does singing those eleven syllables to the same note constitute a melody?

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I think I would nominate "Christian, dost thou see them on the holy ground?"

Sorry, but how does singing those eleven syllables to the same note constitute a melody?

 

You could, of course, sing it to “Gute Bäume bringen” (NEH 65) rather than “St Andrew of Crete” (AMNS 55).

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- One more step along the world I go. (One chord per line and no modulation is not my idea of a good tune.)
If you do have to play it (and I'd agree it's not exactly the pinnacle of the art), the arrangement in Common Praise makes the best of a bad job.

 

If I were a butterfly..................'can't remember the rest but I can't stand it!
The assistant in Cambridge SPCK once suggested a whole set of alternative words to me. Can't remember them all but "If I were a pubic worm" was a highlight...

 

I did once, by request, play a set of variations on this for a friend's wedding. As far as I'm aware, none of the congregation noticed the source material.

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.....However, none of these, not even the Kendrick, approaches the depths reached by I Watch the Sunrise, a hymn devoid of any musical and theological content. It seems I have to play it for 9 out of 10 funeral services, and I cannot work out why.

 

Couldn't agree more Peter. I encountered it first at an RC funeral I was asked to play for, and have sung it several time at funerals since. I like the music at a funeral to leave me feeling uplifted - if not a little hopeful - but the only thing that dirge does for me is make me determined that they're not going to play it at mine!

 

Strangely though, one of my colleagues (former Convent girl) says it's her favourite hymn. Considering that she has impeccable taste in popular music, I can't for the life of me work out what she sees or hears in hymns that the rest of us don't.

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Shine Jesus Shine - Though playing the Chorus entirely in 2nd inversion chords can be amusing (using the 'tune' as the root note.)

 

Amazing Grace i have always had a passionate dislike of

 

The usual happy-clap brigade tripe such as one more step / make me a channel / the servant king (This deserves to be ripped out of the annals of history)

 

And going for somethin that resides in the English Hymnal... God is working his purpose out because i don't have a congregation that ever signs it right. Ditto Living Lord.. the words are nice, and the four part harmonised version does make up for it, but its such a 'wet' tune.

 

 

 

Favourite Hymns?? Well...

Alleluya Sing to Jesus

How shall i sing that majesty (Coe Fen)

O Love how Deep, How broad how High

My God, I Love thee not because

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I've never really liked "Abide with me", but was horrified to be confronted with this version at a recent funeral http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/b/abidewme.htm :(

 

 

And I never enjoy playing Abbot's Leigh, although it's one of my favourite tunes. I just hate the last two bars, where congregations always sing F# - E - D.

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I banned 'O Jesus I have promised' when set to the tune 'Hatherop Castle' (made me feel like Fozzy Bear from The Muppets) and can't abide 'How Great Thou Art'. Not enough harmonic interest.

 

H

 

 

How ironic you say that

 

Oh Jesus i have promised works to the muppet show theme. and match of the day :(

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I've never really liked "Abide with me", but was horrified to be confronted with this version at a recent funeral http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/b/abidewme.htm :(

And I never enjoy playing Abbot's Leigh, although it's one of my favourite tunes. I just hate the last two bars, where congregations always sing F# - E - D.

 

 

 

 

I ve been a Organist in a Catholic Church for 20 years now and also play for Funeral Serivces at a local Crematorium. Its dosent matter how least popular a Hymn u dislike might be ! Don't end up getting egg on your face cos u cannot communicate rhythm, bar structure, and above all the melody. If your not sure how the hymn should go listen to a recording of it by some one like Daniel o ' donnell even if u hate him ! As most Catholics try to sing I watch the Sunrise the way he does ! The trick with any hymn u dont know is too count and feel the pulse behind the Rhythm ! The bass notes is the clue although some hymns have rather fussy arrangements dont fussed trying to fit in all the notes give out the melody which is the most important behind a simplified accompaniment. The Congregation expect u to lead them thats your job. Dont end up being the idiot as what happen recently at a Wedding I went to of a friend of mine. The Organist was asked to play My Jesus My Saviour one of those jazzed up worship songs ! He had no idea of the rhythm or melody or even a feel for it. The Bride was so disgusted she was given a refund of the Fee after the Vicar had to apologised for the poor standard of playing from his Organist and needlesss to say it ruined her day as it was one of here favourite hymns.

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True, but I think I might actually use "King's Weston". After you get over the initial shock it doesn't go too badly.

 

Well, I must be terribly old fashioned then because I think the Stainer setting of "Hail gladdening light" is fantastically effective when sung as an introit from the back, for instance. Likewise the growling pianissimo in the first half of "Christian, dost thou see them" springing joyfully into the sunny slopes of the second half. And "thou didst leave thy throne" (and, for that matter, "God is working his purpose out"). Something you actually have to concentrate hard on leading, rather than just bumbling along with.

 

That awful drossy rubbish that is usually done to At the name of Cheese Arse really sets my teeth on edge. Whyever not "Cuddesdon"? A fantastic tune.

 

I have in my possession three hymns written shortly after the arrival of a new chaplain in response to some of his new, fresh ideas; the lyrics are "Let me be the putty, Lord, around your window pane", "God's Supermarket", and "Be cool with the Lord - stay cool!!!!" which is littered with alliterations. Each has a bespoke tune of a special nature. I strongly recommend casually dropping these into services when things start going The Wrong Way. Copies can be obtained under seperate cover...

 

I am pleased to see that "Living Lord" hasn't yet appeared. I do think that done well it can be extremely effective, especially if you have a collection to cover and you can make the inter-verse sections a little longer and more exciting. Same goes for "Lord of the Dance" - as set, it's pretty poor, but if you do clever rhythmical stuff with it (see the Copeland setting of American folk songs) it can be equally good. So can Make me a channel. Possibly the most fun I have ever had with a congregation was on ajt's organ, doing "Be still for the presence of the Lord". Lots of Rollschwellers, note clusters on the bottom octave of an 8' flute (thunder, you see) etc. Should've heard them go!

 

Strange how the majority of people's "poor hymns" coincide with the advent of books which include guitar chords. Much to the constant frustration of my poor choir, I tend to treat all hymn books as vocal scores, having been taught from an early age (by my first vicar) to embellish harmonies as much as possible.

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One nomination I'd put forward is "What a friend we have in Jesus" to the tune Converse. I cannot understand why some churches still insist on singing it. I came across a Naval version of this hymn "Me no likee English Sailor", a lament by a waterside prostitute in the far East comparing the attributes of the English sailor ashore to American sailors, which was very refreshing.

 

David's 3 hymns are absolute class...

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Make me a channel. Possibly the most fun I have ever had with a congregation was on ajt's organ, doing "Be still for the presence of the Lord". Lots of Rollschwellers, note clusters on the bottom octave of an 8' flute (thunder, you see) etc. Should've heard them go!

 

It was quite superb - we had a big (noise, not so much in terms of numbers) choir in, and a good 500+ in the congregation. I've never heard Be Still accompanied by full organ before - awesome.

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