For my first entry, I will be reviewing The United Methodist Hymnal (1989), as it is the hymnal I grew up with. According to my mother, we drove by a church one Sunday when I was 4, and I asked her why all the cars were parked there. She explained what church was, and I asked why we didn't go to church. So we did, from about 1991-2005, except for a spell around 2003-04 when I got my first organist job at another church.
What surprises me is the high amount of liturgical text in the front of the book. In all the years that I attended, I don't recall using any of this, except the musical settings for Communion, which was only administered once a month, and occasionally a baptismal setting. Of the five settings, I mostly only remember Setting A (Elise Eslinger), Setting B (James A. Kreiwald), and Setting E (William Matthias). Of these, I preferred A and B as a child, since they were happier sounding. I only recall Setting C (adapted from Franz Schubert's Deutsche Messe by Charles H. Webb and Richard Proulx) and Setting D (by Carlton R. Young) a couple times each, if that. Looking at them now, I feel that Eslinger's is almost childishly simple (it says it's adapted from Nicaea, but I only hear it in the first bar); Kreiwald's would be better without the call-and-response; Schubert's has a majestic feel; Young's is too simple and somber; and Matthias's (which I actually got to play one summer) has a starkness and energy to it. Among these five, I would probably now consider his my favorite.
Another Service of Word and Table setting is also included, featuring the older wordings (e.g. "It is meet and right so to do") and the more penitential text about gathering crumbs from under the table (which I was familiarized with during a Lenten service at an Episcopal church). This includes plainsong liturgical settings by John Merbecke for the Sanctus and Agnus Dei (I also learned those terms at an Episcopal church). These, we obviously never used. Likewise unused were the two musical settings for the baptismal rites: one by Charles Webb, one by Carlton R. Young.
WesleyIn true Methodist fashion, the hymnal opens with Charles Wesley: specifically, "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing". A marginal note on the facing page gives a little history on the hymn, with all 17 verses of the source "Glory to God, and Praise and Love" included on the next page, as well as a Spanish translation. This sort of supplementary context is fascinating to me as someone with a bit of an interest in hymnody, and I could see the benefit of such context even for congregational use; in fact, I wish that this book had employed a bit more of it outside just a small number of Charles or John Wesley texts.
Wesley gets a lot of time in the limelight in this book. "Maker, in Whom We Live" (set to "Diademata") is a text I've never seen anywhere else; "O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done", another I have rarely seen anywhere else, is given the monotonous tune "Selena". "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" has two extra verses marked with asterisks, but unlike literally every other asterisk in this book, there is no footnote saying "may be omitted" or whatever they are supposed to mean in this case.
"Spirit of Faith, Come Down" is also otherwise unfamiliar to me; here, it's set to "Bealoth", one of Lowell Mason's better tunes by merit of being far less gratingly repetitive. Charles also gets a run of four in the middle of the book: "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling", "Let Us Plead for Faith Alone", "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown" (set to the Scottish tune "Ye Banks and Braes"), and "O Come and Dwell in Me". (Five if you count the longer, text-only version of "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown" in between the latter two.) "I Want a Principle Within" and "A Charge to Keep I Have" are yet more Wesley pieces I've rarely seen anywhere else, both set to limited sing-songy melodies.
Oddly, in a few cases, a Wesley text is just plopped down without a tune, although one may be suggested anyway (for instance, "Jesu, Thy Boundless Love to Me" suggests "St. Catherine" and "Sinners, Turn, Why Will You Die" suggests "Messiah" [see below] — why not just put them in there straight with that?). The passion text "Behold the Savior of Mankind", which seems to beg for some kind of tune, isn't even given a suggestion, despite being in common meter! Likewise, "Where Shall My Wondering Soul Begin" is given some context but no suggested tune.
OthersAmong the "older" pieces that I have not seen anywhere else: "Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know" by Johann C. Schwedler is a text I have never encountered before, although the tune ("Hendon") is one that nearly every other hymnal I have seen uses for "Take My Life and Let It Be" instead. (This one, for the record, uses Louis J. F. Hérold's "Messiah", which I prefer since it does not require abridging the text.) While this book is sparse on Advent material, I must give it props for including the jaunty "People, Look East", one that I wish were in more books. Over in the Christmas section, I also appreciate the inclusion of "Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light", "Sing We Now of Christmas", "On This Day Earth Shall Ring", "There's a Song in the Air", etc. However, I could take or leave "The Friendly Beasts", which I have seen in literally no other hymnal ever. The rendition of "Silent Night" also includes the first verse auf Deutsch, and a verse I have never seen elsewhere ("Silent night, holy night / Wondrous star, lend thy light / With the angels let us sing / Alleluia to our King / Christ, the Savior, is born! / Christ, the Savior, is born!").
Oddly, the two common variations of "Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed" are set very far apart: Hugh Wilson's "Martyrdom" is in the "Passion and Death" section, while Ralph Hudson's version (often retitled "At the Cross", but not in this case) is over 150 pages away under "Repentance". Among all the 19th century tradtitionals, Fanny Crosby's "Close to Thee" is yet another I've never encountered before.
Overall, the selection has a somewhat Baptist feel to it what with the frequency of 19th and early 20th century texts such as this, although it does lean a bit more on the classics. (And the everlasting arms, of course.) For example, I have rarely seen Martin Luther's "Out of the Depths I Cry to You" in anything other than a Lutheran hymnal, or Johann Franck's "Jesu, Meine Freude" anywhere.
"Forward Through the Ages" is a 1908 text by Frederick Hosmer, set to the melody of "Onward, Christian Soldiers", which I have never encountered elsewhere. Similarly, "Heralds of Christ" (Laura S. Copenhaver, 1915) nips the tune most commonly known for "God of Our Fathers", trumpet fanfares and all. A few English tunes are included, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams' setting of "God Be with You Till We Meet Again" (and considering how omission-happy this hymnal is, I'm surprised that their version of William G. Tomer's melody for the same doesn't omit the refrain like so many do!) "For All the Saints" and "Hail Thee, Festival Day" from RVW are included too, as is Handel's much less common "Gopsal" tune for "Rejoice, the Lord Is King!" (which I almost always see only to "Darwall's 148th"). As with many hymnals from the latter half of the 20th century, this book is also quite culturally diverse:
InternationalI took particular interest to the Spanish-language material as a teen, as I first took Spanish class while I had both a Peruvian classmate who barely spoke English, and a Colombian exchange student. Several new tunes of Hispanic origin are included, such as "¡Canta, Débora, Canta!" ("Sing, Deborah, Sing!"), a lyrically light ("Mother of Israel, leader of her armies, sing a hymn of victory to our God" — that's the entire first verse), syncopated ode to a lesser-known Biblical figure. I particularly like the Easter hymn "Camina, Pueblo de Dios" ("Walk On, O People of God") with its sturdy, surging melody, as well as the gently flowing "Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore" and "When We Are Living", personal favorites of mine in either language. (The melody shows up again much later in the book, with a different setting by Young, as "Shalom to You". I remember singing the latter in my grandmother's church when I was 8. I was so fascinated by the word that, when someone was selling hamsters outside the church, I asked to buy one and named it Shalom.) Interestingly, only two pieces that are not already of Hispanic origin are given Spanish translations: "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" and "Holy, Holy Holy! Lord God Almighty", both near the very beginning.
Other international tunes and texts are included as well. Of particular note is the high number of Taizé chants; while only the congregation's ostinato appears in the book, I have seen the accompaniment versions and their separate parts for songleaders and other instrumentalists. I have only ever played a Taizé chant once, and it was with only a keyboard and cantor at a Catholic church, so I have no idea as to their effectiveness. Several pieces of Asian origin are included as well. I find that these often come across as very clunky due to the extreme differences between Asian languages and English.
"Mountains Are All Aglow" and "Come Back Quickly to the Lord" are doubled with herky-jerky melodies both by Jae Hoon Park. The Chinese "Rise to Greet the Sun" fares little better, as it seems the translators forgot their own rhyme scheme: verse 1 is ABBB, and the rest are AABB, and blunt phrases like "glad for cotton coat" sound clumsy. But I will give all of these pieces the benefit of the doubt and assume that they scan better in their native languages. The traditional Taiwanese "God Created Heaven and Earth", the supposedly Filipino "O God in Heaven" (which is actually an original English text that only claimed to be translated), and the Japanese "Send Your Word", "Here O Lord, Your Servants Gather", and "Lonely the Boat" fare better as far as their English flow and scansion, although even the last of these has to resort to repeating "Wondering what to do" in one verse instead of coming up with a rhyme.
There is also the Vietnamese "My Prayer Rises to Heaven" by Dao Kim, whose refrain is more than twice as long as its verses! Another baffling one is Timothy Tingfang Lew's "The Bread of Life For All Is Broken", set to another melody devoid of flow or time signature. (Jesus drank the cup on Golgotha? This line still baffles me.)
The hymnal also has a surprising amount of Native American material: the Muscogee/Creek "Heleluyan"; "Many and Great, O God, Are Thy Things", which I have seen in many and great other hymnals (even The Hymnal 1982!); "Twas in the Moon of Wintertime" (aka the Huron Carol, a favorite of mine not just because I live very close to Lake Huron); "Great Spirit, Now I Pray" (paraphrase of a traditional Kiowa prayer); and Ova'hehe's "Jesus Our Friend and Brother". "Jesus Loves Me" has translations into Cherokee, German, Japanese, and Spanish (although I'm pretty sure you meant "bien" and not "bein"; first typo I've ever seen in a hymnal!), while "Amazing Grace" gets translations to Cherokee, Navajo, Kiowa, Creek, and Choctaw.
Most of the African-American spirituals are given settings by William Farley Smith, except "Kum Ba Yah", which was arranged by Carlton R. Young instead. While I have heard others describe Smith's settings as tacky and dated, I won't deny that his common use of diminished, augmented, and otherwise unusual chords was one of the first things that fascinated me about this book. When I first got into composition as a teen, I often tried to duplicate such strange chord progressions, and I still do to this day. "O, Mary, Don't You Weep", which I have never seen anywhere else, was fun to sing as a child. However, eleven verses is way, way, way too many for "Go Down, Moses".
And speaking of African-American tunes, Charles Albert Tindley is well represented: "Nothing Between", "Stand by Me", "Leave It There", "Beams of Heaven as I Go", and "We'll Understand It Better By and By". The surging "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is in here too, perhaps not coincidentally followed by two more spirituals and two more Tindley pieces in the "Strength in Tribulation" section. (James Weldon Johnson has one other contribution with the prayer "Listen, Lord", which is laden with mixed metaphors — how can empty pitchers have merits? Why are our knees in some lonesome valley?).
Newer materialAlso like many hymnals from the later 20th century, much of the material is new: Jane Marshall offers "What Gift Can We Bring", a rhyme-less yet well-intentioned meandering about giving the gift of thanks that proves why Marshall is not often a lyricist ("for mission that bids us turn prayer into deed" just scans poorly to my ears). I admit that I'm also not a fan of her tunes, as she tends to come up with childishly simple melodies, yet give them complex dissonant arrangements. (She apparently wrote like this her entire life, as I saw a children's songbook she wrote in the 1950s that was exactly the same way.)
Thankfully, most of her other compositions were relegated to the psalm settings in the back. Gracia Grindal also goes herky-jerky and rhyme-less on "To a Maid Engaged to Joseph", fit to an overly harsh Rusty Edwards tune; and "The Kingdom of God Is Like a Grain of Mustard Seed", set to a start-and-stop melody by the usually more reliable Austin C. Lovelace. Her translation of Caroline V. Sandell-Berg's "Thy Holy Wings, O Savior" fares much better, not just because she actually bothered to rhyme in it.
Erik Routley provides one of my favorites: a constantly modulating, rousing tune for George Herbert's 1633 text "Let All the World in Every Corner Sing" which I find the best out of any tune I've seen for this simple yet effective text. Fred Pratt Green turns out to be a mixed bag. His "For the Fruits of This Creation" fares best (although I find it works better to the familiar "Ar Hyd y Nos" than to the original tune by Francis Jackson given here); likewise, his paraphrase of Isaiah 55:6-11, "Seek the Lord", is paired to a sturdy melody ("Geneva" by George Henry Day) and faulted only for its constant slant rhymes (hand/mind, forgives/disbelieves, fruit/eat, etc.). He sometimes gets a little screwy, though: "Which of all the airy castles can the hurricane endure?" is in "All My Hope Is Firmly Grounded", and "life itself is ours on lease" jumps out of "Of All the Spirit's Gifts to Me". Green also exemplifies the hymnal's heavy emphasis on being active in the world, with lines such as "Some march with events to turn them God's way / Some need to withdraw, the better to pray" in "Rejoice in God's Saints".
Fred Kaan's first appearance is translating Anders Frostenson's "Your Love, O God" into English, although even this one shows the repeated theme of breaking down barriers ("But there are walls that keep us all divided / We fence each other in with hate and war…") that permeates through other text such as Georgia Harkness' "Hope of the World" ("Save us, thy people, from consuming passion" and "to heal earth's wounds" both appear). Also from Kaan is the bizarre "We Meet You, O Christ" with a strange metaphor of trees in every verse (e.g. "You live in a palace, exist in a shack / We see you, the gardener, a tree on your back") in addition to its mentions of worldly troubles ("We hear you, o man, in agony cry / For freedom you march, in riots you die / Your face in the papers we read and we see / The tree must be planted by human decree").
His worldliness is also seen in "Help Us Accept Each Other" (as is his affinity for Emily Dickinson-esque slant rhyme — us/embrace is nowhere close!). This last one sticks out to me, as I distinctly recall a pastor at my home church calling out this tune as preachy and heavy-handed right before we sang it! Kaan also gets political on "For the Healing of the Nations", which includes the line "All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned / Pride of status, race, or schooling, dogmas that obscure your plan." There is also "We Utter Our Cry" which includes the uncharacteristically childish line "For strength to say 'no' to all that is mean" and "to leaders conferring 'round tables for peace / that they may from bias and guile be released." (Both that verse and the next, which mentions "protest and march", are starred as "may be omitted".) However, I do find the ending line of "Choose Christ before Caesar and life before death" an interesting, unusual comparison.
Similarly, William W. Reid's "O God of Every Nation" pleas that we be saved from "trust in bombs that shower destruction through the night". The undated "Let There Be Light" by Frances W. Davis also mentions "perish the bombs and hunger, perish the fight for gain", and Miriam Therese Winter's "Wellspring of Wisdom" has "put to flight the terrors of a nuclear night". Not surprisingly, all but the last of these political-leaning texts are in the "Social Holiness" section. (But as Charles Wesley's "Our Earth We Now Lament to See" from 1758 — listed here without a tune — proves, such texts are not a recent development.)
Brian Wren usually fares well among the new writers, with interesting imagery ("Web and loom of love") and starkness ("Christ, upon the mountain peak, stands alone in glory blazing…", set to a very complex tune by Peter Cutts, no less). His "This Is a Day of New Beginnings" is also a solid text of rebirth set to a sturdy Carlton R. Young tune, while "I Come with Joy" is similarly well tailored for Communion. Wren is not exempt from slant-rhymes either, as he tries to pass off war/straw as a rhyme in "Christ Loves the Church"; this is also the only other Jane Marshall tune used for an actual hymn and it's just as dreadful as her first. But really, Mr. Wren? A reference to Rumpelstiltskin in a hymn?!? ("His love outwits us, spinning gold from straw".)
Michael Peterson (no, not the country singer who sang "From Here to Eternity", at least not as far as I can tell) provides a rare misplaced modifier in "On the Day of Resurrection": "While confused, amazed, and frightened, Jesus comes to us, unknown." Pretty sure Jesus wasn't confused, amazed, or frightened.
There is also a great deal of space-related imagery: "Creating God, Your Fingers Trace" ("…the bold designs of farthest space"), "God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens" (and who also "flung the suns in burning radiance through the silent fields of space"), and Fred Pratt Green's "When Our Confidence Is Shaken" ("Solar systems, void of meaning, freeze the spirit into stone").
Lyricist Thomas H. Troeger and composer Carol Doran also fare quite well with their sturm-und-drang approach, although I can't imagine any congregation pulling off the eerie, hyper-dissonant, haunted house tune of "Silence, Frenzied, Unclean Spirit!"). "Wind Who Makes All Winds That Blow" is also a stark Pentecost text with a strong melody. Speaking of eerie and dissonant, Charles E. Ives' "Serenity" is included. If there is a tune less suited to that title than this high-pitched dissonance, I've yet to find it. This one literally gives me the chills in the worst way when I hear it. I linked to it once on TV Tropes, where someone described it as the kind of music one would hear as the world silently explodes. Also, I can't see a congregation carrying a melody that syncopated. And if you've not had enough dissonance, how about William Albright's messy tune for "Father, We Thank You", which beats the listener over the head with an endless pattern of DMaj9 and D13 chords?
Jaroslav Vajda seems the most experimental of the bunch, his "God of the Sparrow God of the Whale" and "Now the Silence" opt for a complete lack of punctuation, and a rigid structure: the former is "God of the X God of the Y God of the Z / How does the creature say A How does the creature say B", and the latter is an almost stream-of-consciousness phrases beginning with "now".
One of the more unusual inclusions is "Many Gifts, One Spirit", by Off-Off-Broadway composer Al Carmines. It's just surprising to me to see a title like The Faggot also among the works of someone whose name has made it into a hymnal!
Several Gaither pieces are included, such as "There's Something About That Name", "Because He Lives", "He Touched Me", and "Something Beautiful". Many other similarly short pieces are included such as "Spirit of the Living God", "Seek Ye First", and so forth. (Although I admit a fondness for "Let There Be Peace on Earth".) Outside them, Kurt Kaiser's "Pass It On", Dan Schutte's "Here I Am, Lord" (which I confess to liking too), and the Crouch and Grant pieces mentioned below, very little of the hymnal's content comes from the modern praise music circuit. But perhaps the most baffling "modern" inclusion here is Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday". No, I kid you not.
Omissions and AdditionsOne thing I find unusual is that this hymn seems to shy away from including the verses on the more "praise song" type tunes. For instance, "Blessed Be the Name" is pared to just the refrain. I have found that some hymnals use actual verses originating from Ralph Hudson, while others just use random Charles Wesley lines with "Blessed be the name of the Lord" tacked on and call that a verse. Andraé Crouch's "My Tribute" is gutted to only its familiar refrain of "To God be the glory for the things He has done". I've seen many books omit the first verse ("How can I say thanks for all the things…"), but this is the only one I know that doesn't even include the second verse ("Just let me live my life…"). Similarly, his "Through It All" is also trimmed to just the refrain.
The same is true of Michael Joncas' "On Eagles' Wings" (which, in addition to having egregious footnotes suggesting alternate pronouns for all the "you"s, is erroneously credited as being arranged by Carlton R. Young), Amy Grant's "El Shaddai" (which is at least helpful enough to translate the Hebrew terms), but oddly, "Thy Word" is left complete. I have seen some books so lazy as to take only the refrain of "Thy Word" and print it in several increasingly higher keys, as if its two brief verses were too difficult for a congregation.
"Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" has three verses by F. Bland Tucker added on; unlike most such instances where something like this is done, I find their language congruent to the feel of the original. Tucker does likewise with Vincent Stucky Stratton Coles' "Ye Who Claim the Faith of Jesus" (set to David Hurd's excellent "Julion") by paraphrasing the Magnificat.
Another odd one is "Who Is He in Yonder Stall", which usually has two lines (77.77) but in this instance, has the second half of each line removed. This reminds me of how the older Methodist hymnal omitted the repetitions in "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us", which reappear in this version. Going back a little further, "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" by Doris Akers is trimmed to only one verse instead of the usual two or three. Helen Lemmel's "Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus" and Richard Blanchard's "Fill My Cup, Lord" are also chopped down to just the verses. As far as I know, none of these has the verses only in the choir/songleader edition, either.
"O Sons and Daughters, Let Us Sing" is the only version I've seen that does not have the introductory "Alleluias"; perhaps the arranger, Charles H. Webb, disliked them? The tune most often associated with "Gimme that old time religion" is given the words "Tis the old ship of Zion", which I have never seen anywhere else. "Old time religion" is suggested only as an alternate, which then doesn't fit with "Ain't no danger in the water". "Be Thou My Vision" is missing the third verse ("Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise"), something I have never seen any other hymnal do.
Perhaps one of the more pointless alterations here is "The Church's One Foundation". While the hymn itself is untouched, an alternate version appears on the facing page, mostly with all the "she"s removed. In addition, "From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride / With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died" becomes "From heaven he came and sought us that we might ever be / His living servant people, by his own death set free", which jarringly breaks the rhyming scheme.
OrganizationI find the organization of the hymnal a bit strange, too. To me, the doxologies and other similar short responses would be better suited to their own section. Instead, the Lesser Doxology (both Meineke and Greatorex) and the more familiar Thomas Ken doxology ("Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow", set to both "Old 100th" and "Lasst Uns Erfreuen") are both in the "Praise and Thanksgiving" section. Various other responses, such as "All things come of Thee, o Lord", are variously scattered. In addition, several responsive readings, often with an intermediate musical response (or several), are included throughout. On the other hand, many prayers are also scattered about various sections, but I find this less bothersome as I have seen this done in other hymnals as well.
What I find more baffling is a two-page stretch in the middle of the "prayer, trust, hope" section: one page has only a single prayer and a very brief three-verse tune titled "Dear Lord, for All in Pain" which can be finished in under a minute; the next page includes three other prayers (one of which is the Serenity Prayer) and no hymns. Later in the same section, the Prayer of St. Francis (the actual prayer itself, not Sebastian Temple's setting) is followed by four different Kyrie Eleison settings and five different prayer responses: an Alleluia chant, two short responses by Sally Ahner ("This is our prayer" and "Hear us, O God" — that is literally the entire text of each), plus a Taizé chant and a J. Jefferson Cleveland setting of Luke 23:42. Given the abundance of prayers throughout, I feel that they and some of the shorter responses (such as Erik Routley and Alan Luff's adaptation of Romans 8:26 and Luke 11:9-10 into a short canticle) would have been better off in their own section as well.
PsalmsThe psalms are set out with five different tunes to which they may be chanted, or with alternating plain and bold text for responsive reading. Each includes one to three sung responses to be inserted at certain points within the reading. About half are original melodies by Jane Marshall (who offers one that literally consists of nothing but D's!), Carlton R. Young, Richard Proulx, etc, and the others are snippets of familiar tunes. Oddly, Psalm 1 suggests the last line of "I Shall Not Be Moved" as a response, even though the full version of that song is nowhere in this book. My only experiences with the psalm settings is that the arrangements of the sung responses are often clashingly dissonant. Also, the one time we tried chanting the psalms instead of using readings and sung responses, it just didn't work. Finally, after a few more settings of worship — why aren't these in the front with the communion and baptism settings? — are several variations of faith affirmation. The Nicene Creed, two versions of the Apostle's Creed (all with footnotes indicating that "the holy catholic church" means "universal" and "descended into hell" bowdlerized into "descended to the dead"), and three versions of the Lord's Prayer. Finally, there are several different Amen settings, one of which is a complex John Rutter piece (we always used the Danish three-fold).
- Oddly, Charles Webb appears to have made two different arrangements of "Morning Song". The versions at 198 and 726 are identical (barring the latter's repeat to make it 86.86.86 instead of CM), but one is copyrighted 1988 and the other 1987. The third apperance, at 226, differs from the other two but is also dated 1988.
- Webb is also erroneously credited with arranging "In the Garden".
- As mentioned above, Carlton R. Young is erroneously credited with arranging "On Eagle's Wings".
- The tune for Cleland B. McAfee's "Near to the Heart of God", where the last note of the verse is a D, as opposed to the F-sharp I've seen in every other version. However, I have to wonder if the F-sharp is actually the erroneous note, as the D shown here seems more logical to me.
- "Jaya Ho/Victory Hymn" is missing the byline for its music.
- The topical index in the back lists "Funerals and memorial services" as comprising 652-656 (which is correct), but also lists 652, 653, 654, 655, and 656 individually among the other recommendations.