June 15, 1997: "Hymn of the Month Fest" (This was included in a bulletin at Bellefield Church.)
Today is our annual "Hymn of the Month Fest"--a day of worship where we look back at a
whole year of hymn singing. You'll notice that all the hymns we are singing today have
a month listed beside them. This indicates when the hymn was sung as a hymn of the
month. Below is a a complete list:
|September||Come, Christians, Join to Sing|
|October||I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say|
|November||Praise the Lord: Ye Heavens, Adore Him|
|December||Hail to the Lord's Anointed|
|January||Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah|
|February||Jesus, Lover of My Soul|
|March||When I Survey the Wondrous Cross|
|April||All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name|
|May||Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me|
|June||Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us|
Although they probably wouldn't describe it this way, many people view worship as "catching a spiritual buzz." Certainly, feelings and intuition should be part of our worship, but our goal should be to worship God with our whole being. (Deuteronomy 6:5 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.") That's one of the primary reasons we have a hymn of a month at Bellefield--the more our minds are involved in worship, the more likely we are to experience the life-changing reality of God's love.
There's also a practical purpose for the hymn of the month: it allows us to learn new hymns and broaden our understanding of classics.
Not too many years ago, hymns were an everyday expression of people's faith in the same way that pop music today serves to reflect the state of modern culture. But, as pop culture made its way into the church we lost our rich heritage of hymn singing. Most young people today don't see hymns as an expression of their faith at all. At Bellefield we have the best of both worlds--the immediacy and intimacy of contemporary praise music and the tradition and majesty of hymns--but, hymns can take a little longer to learn, so we concentrate on one hymn for a full month, until it becomes part of our "repertoire."
Of course, it's not just the younger generation that has something to learn about hymns! Often, people who grew up singing hymns kick into auto-drive while singing "Amazing Grace" for the 324th time. Learning more about the background of a hymn and its authors, and putting the hymn in the context of new tunes and choral arrangements, breathes new life into words we may have thought could never speak again.
Naturally, the hymn of the month itself is not going to change the way we worship; however, my hope is that it is part of a larger picture that one sees in our services. The study of hymns allows us to incorporate our minds more fully in our worship. Learning hymns gives us more ways to express ourselves to our God. Take some time to reflect on this year's hymns and how how they've enriched your spiritual life. Also, think about hymns that have affected you in the past, and let me know if you think the congregation would benefit from learning them. Have a great Summer, Greg Scheer
June 15, 1997: "Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" June's Hymn of the Month The text of "Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" first appeared in Hymns for the Young, 1940, which was edited by Dorothy Ann Thrupp (1779-1847). Although no author's name appears with the text, it is thought that Thrupp wrote it, since she often published hymns anonymously, under the pseudonym "Iota," or simply using her initials.
The tune we sing today was written by William Bradbury expressly for this text and appeared in his Sunday School collection, Oriola, 1859. Bradbury was a protege of the great music educator, Lowell Mason. Bradbury sang in Mason's Bowdoin Street Church choir and Boston Academy of Music as a youth, and later started similar church and school music programs in New York where he served as organist at First Baptist Church. Beyond his work as an educator and church musician, Bradbury studied composition in Europe, founded the Bradbury Piano Company with his brother, and edited a number of music books. Bradbury is probably most famous for writing the music to "Jesus Loves Me."
It's interesting that "Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" was originally intended for children. In fact, many classic hymns like "Morning Has Broken" and "All Things Bright and Beautiful" were originally written for youth. Certainly this proves that educating our children and creating lasting music need not be mutually exclusive goals!
May 4, 1997: "Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me" May's Hymn of the Month
tune: REDHEAD 76 ("God Be Merciful to Me," "Rock of Ages," "Go to Dark Gethsemane")
A century ago, Christians took their hymns very seriously. So seriously that the publication of Thomas Toke Lynch's (1818-1871) little hymnbook, The Rivulet 1855 ("for Christian poetry is indeed a river of life, and to this river my rivulet brings its contribution"), almost split the Congregational Church. The "Rivulet Controversy," as it was called, centered around Lynch's frequent references to nature in his hymn texts but the controversy was probably exacerbated by his fresh poetic style. The great hymnologist, John Julian, says, "Lynch's hymns are marked by intense individuality, gracefulness and felicity of diction, picturesqueness, spiritual freshness, and the sadness of a powerful soul struggling with a weak and emaciated body." Though the booklet was meant simply as an in-church supplement to Isaac Watt's popular hymnbook, the controversy spilled beyond his own church's walls and provoked the likes of Spurgeon to condemn him for promoting bad theology.
While "Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me" does not contain examples of his controversial nature imagery, it has been accused of promoting the "human spirit" rather than the Holy Spirit. In light of the third verse's prayer for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the hymn's overall concentration on the fruits of the Spirit, these criticisms are unfounded. Lynch's life also bears the mark of the Spirit; in the middle of these turbulent times he said, "The air will be all the clearer for this storm. We must conquer our foes by suffering them to crucify us rather than by threatening them with crucifixion." Although this trial did nothing to shake his faith, his health suffered significantly, and it is thought that it contributed to his early death.
The tune, REDHEAD 76, is given its name because it was the 76th tune in Richard Redhead's (1820-1901) Church Hymn Tunes. Redhead was trained as a chorister at Magdalene College, Oxford, and though he was a reputable organist, he is chiefly remembered as one of the key figures in the Oxford "Gregorian Revival." REDHEAD 76 is probably best known as the tune to "Go to Dark Gethsemane," and is therefore often referred to as "GETHSEMANE;" but has also been called "PETRA" (rock) for its association with the text "Rock of Ages."
April 6, 1997: "All Hail the Power" April's Hymn of the Month
It is interesting that those who express the most eloquent praise are often the people we would deem the least likely to have the ability. Yet David, the adulterating, murdering, and lying king of Israel wrote a good deal of the Psalms, which we still use today as our guide for worship. In the same way, all accounts show Rev. Edward Perronet (1721-1792) to be a sharp-tongued, difficult personality, who would rather pick a fight over theology than display brotherly love.
Though Perronet was a minister of the established Church of England, his evangelical, or "dissenting" roots grew deep. His father had been associated with Whitefield and the Wesleys, and Perronet himself worked with the Wesleys until they split over the question of administering the Sacraments. Perronet then found work as a chaplain for the famous patroness of the evangelical movement, Countess of Huntingdon, but was soon removed from his post due to his violent attacks on the established church. (Acidic remarks like, "I was born and I am like to die in the tottering communion of the Church of England; but I despise her nonsense." are the kind that force even the hardiest dissenter to keep their distance!)
The text first appeared anonymously in 1780 in Gospel Magazine with the title "On the Resurrection." Many argue that the hymn has experienced continued popularity due to the hymntune MILES LANE which appeared with it in Gospel Magazine and the tunes CORONATION and DIADEM which have accompanied the text since that time. The poem was edited and added to by Rev. John Rippon for his book A Selection of Hymns, from the Best Authors intended to be an Appendix to Dr. Watts's Psalms and Hymns (1787), and his edition is the one commonly used in hymn books today. Below are the original verses:
"All hail the power of Jesus' name,
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
To crown Him Lord of all!
Let high-born seraphs tune the lyre,
And as they tune it fall
Before his face, who tunes the choir,
And crown him Lord of all.
Crown him ye morning stars of light,
Who fixed this floating ball;
Now jail the strength of Israel's might
And crown him Lord of all.
Crown Him, ye martyrs of your God,
Who from His altar call;
Extol the stem of Jesse's rod,
And crown Him Lord of all!
Ye seed of Israel's chosen race,
Ye ransomed of the fall,
Hail Him who saves you by His grace
And crown Him Lord of all!
Hail Him, ye heirs of David's line,
Whom, David Lord did call,
The God incarnate, Man divine,
And crown Him Lord of all!
Sinners, whose love can ne'er forget
The wormwood and the gall,
Go spread your trophies at his feet,
And crown Him Lord of all!
Let every tribe and every tongue
That bound creation's call
Now shout in universal song,
The crowned Lord of all!"
and a verse added by Rippon in 1787:
"Oh, that with yonder sacred throng
We at His feet may fall;
We'll join the everlasting song,
And crown Him Lord of all."
March 28, 1997: "Vexilla Regis Prodeunt"
Venantius Fortunatus wrote this hymn in honor of the founding of the monastery of Poiters. It is believed to have been first sung on November 19, 569 as part of a procession that brought the most revered relic of the Catholic church, a piece of the cross of Christ, from Constantinople to the French monastery. Nowhere is the work of the cross so poignantly portrayed as in theses immortal lines.
The royal banners forward go;
The cross shines forth in mystic glow,
Where he in flesh, our flesh who made,
Upon the tree of pain is laid.
Behold! the nails, with anguish fierce,
His outstretched hands and vitals pierce!
Here, our redemption to obtain,
The mighty sacrifice is slain!
Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life's torrent rushing from his side,
To wash us in that precious flood
Where mingled water flowed and blood.
Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old;
Amidst the nations, God (saith he)
Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.
O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy limbs should find their rest!
On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world's ransom hung:
The price of human kind to pay,
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.
With fragrance dropping from each bough,
Sweeter than sweetest nectar thou,
Decked with the fruit of peace and praise,
And glorious with triumphal lays,
Hail, Altar! Hail, O Victim, thee
Decks now thy passion's victory;
Where life for sinners death endured,
And life by death for man procured.
March 3, 1997: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"
March's Hymn of the Month
One Sunday afternoon the young Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was complaining about the deplorable hymns that were sung at church. At that time, metered renditions of the Psalms were intoned by a cantor and then repeated (none too fervently, Watts would add) by the congregation. His father, the pastor of the church, rebuked him with "I'd like to see you write something better!" As legend has it, Isaac retired to his room and appeared several hours later with his first hymn, and it was enthusiastically received at the Sunday evening service the same night.
Although the tale probably is more legend than fact, it does illustrate the point that the songs of the church need constant infusion of new life, of new generation's praises. With over 600 hymns to his credit--many of them classics like "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"--Isaac Watts has rightfully earned the title, "the father of English hymnody." This hymn, which is known as Watts' crowning achievement, was first published in this "Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707" and was matched with such tunes as "Tombstone" and an altered version of Tallis' canon called "St. Lukes." For many years it was sung to "Rockingham" by Edward Miller, the son of a stone mason who ran away from home to become a musician, later becoming a flutist in Handel's orchestra. In recent history the hymn text has settled in with Lowell Mason's "Hamburg," an adaptation of a five note (count them!) plainchant melody. Besides writing thousands of hymn tunes he was a church choir director, the president of Boston's Handel and Haydn Society, and a leading figure in music education.
Though "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" was intended originally as a communion hymn, it
gives us plenty to contemplate during this Lenten season as our focus is on the cross
Christ. The hymn is said to be based on Galatians 6:14 (May I never boast except in the
cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I
to the world.) which is evident in a verse that Watts' eliminated from later editions of
His dying crimson, like a robe,Perhaps Watts eliminated this verse in order to focus more attention on our response to Christ's crucifixion than the crucifixion itself. Notice how he starts with contemplation of the cross and the fact that all our worldly achievements and possessions pale in comparison. Next he shows that Christ went to the cross out of love for us. In the most powerful image of the hymn, he affirms the deity of suffering Christ with the brilliant juxtaposition: "Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?" And the last verse shows that the only proper response to this amazing love is complete devotion.
Spreads o'er his body on the tree;
Then am I dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.
Take some time during Lent to meditate upon, or even memorize the words of this hymn and see if it works in you a new understanding of the depth Christ's love.
Below are some related verses:
Phil. 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
February 17, 1997: A Response to the Choralist's "Paperless Music" Discussion
As a semi-paperless choral music publisher I feel it's time for me to de-lurk and address some of the issues that have been raised about the viability of electronic publishing.
THEY SAY: ELECTRONIC PUBLICATION IS NOT PRACTICAL
I think this statement is best answered by the number of publishers who are already publishing choral music on the Web, CD ROM, or offering site licenses of their music. The short answer is: it works. Just because larger publishers haven't figured out how to implement it, are afraid of increasing illegal copies, or simply don't see it as profitable doesn't mean that it can't be done! To get an idea of the current state of electronic publishing, visit the Coalition of Internet Church Music Publishers (http://www.redshift.com/~bowms1/cicmp/) site, or order one of Sewanee Press's site license books. Granted, electronic publication is not flawless, but as modems get faster, printers come down in price, Internet credit card transfers become more secure, and file formats become more standardized, there will be less and less problems with the technical side of things.
I think the main problem the traditional print industry has with electronic scores is that they are nervous about their profits. While this is the first priority of a business, a quick look at the theatre world should provide inspiration. If you like a play you contact the publisher and ask permission to do a production. At that point the company sets the terms of the contract: can the director photocopy the book as part of the license? how much is charged for performance royalties? Given the fact that the choral world uses an easily reproducible format (the octavo or 8.5x11 size; no binding) it should be the first to use the Internet, desktop printers, and photocopiers to their advantage.
THEY SAY: NOT ENOUGH CHOIR DIRECTORS COULD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ELECTRONIC SCORES
This will certainly be a problem for the next 5 years or so, but Internet access will soon become as standard as the household phone or cable television. Until that time there are two factors which will ease the transition: the first is that most church choirs have at least one member who is "wired;" these members can serve as Internet-liaisons until the director him/herself is connected. The second factor is that most cutting edge publishers also offer print music as well as the hi-tech versions. So if you're interested in a piece of music, you don't have to buy a computer, you just to have to ask them to send it via snail mail.
As to the suggestion that not enough choir directors have access to a good photocopier, I think that the publishing industry's fear of photocopying answers that question sufficiently! Most directors copy music in some form (BTW, anything published before 1920 in the USA is in the public domain), so they should have no problem.
THEY SAY: THE MUSIC IS OF QUESTIONABLE QUALITY
This is also true. But then, all music is of questionable quality! As a choir director, I sift through stacks of music before I find something that will work for my situation. In fact, though there may be a lot of self-published junk on the Web, one could argue that a large print publisher has no choice but publish "lowest common denominator" music that appeals to enough churches to justify a large print run. I would compare the situation to the popular music industry. The large record companies are still publishing acts that will hit the pop charts, but "alternative" and "indie" labels are popping up all over to fill needs of specific demographic groups. And they're making so much money that the larger companies are buying them up or making distribution deals with them. I would rather wade through some poor quality Web sites and then find a small company who fit my style like a glove rather than go through reams of music from large publishers which is neither offensive or exciting.
Sorry I've run on so long about this, it's a topic that's close to my heart. I really believe that we as church music directors have everything to gain from supporting those who are pioneering this field. And I don't only say that because I publish music on the Web--I myself have found lots of great music on the Web which has added immensely to the music program at my own church.
February 9, 1997: "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" February's Hymn of the Month
It would be hard to find a hymn that has made such an imprint on the heart's of the Christian church as Charles Wesley's "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." From the time Wesley put pen to paper until today it has been treasured by Christians the world over -- that is, all but his brother John.
It seems that John Wesley, who served as the editor of Charles' hymns, felt that the imagery in this hymn was too intimate for use in mixed congregations, so it wasn't included in the Methodist Hymnbook until nine years after his death. In light of the hymn's overwhelming popularity it may seem that John's assessment was too harsh, but his critiques were instrumental in dividing the wheat from the chaff of Charles' 6500 hymns.
This hymn originally bore the heading "In Times of Danger and Temptation," which leads many to believe that it was inspired by Charles' near shipwreck on his return from America, where he spent a discouraging year as secretary to Governor Oglethorpe of Georgia. Other spurious stories exist about how the text came to be, like the one that says a sparrow being chased by a hawk sought refuge by flying into Wesley's coat, which made him think about the way we seek refuge in God. Another tells of the night the Wesleys were chased from a revival meeting by an angry mob; while they were hiding in a spring house, Charles sharpened a piece of lead into a pencil and wrote down the immortal verses.
Colorful anecdotes exist not only about the hymn's creation, but about the effect it has
had on believers since it was written. Below is one of those stories as recounted in Amos
R. Well's "A Treasury of Hymn Stories:"
Another beautiful story is told of this hymn in connection with the Civil War. In a company of old soldiers, from the Union and Confederate armies, a former Confederate was telling how he had been detailed one night to shoot a certain exposed sentry of the opposing army. He had crept near and was about to fire with deadly aim when the sentry began to sing, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." He came to the words,Below is a frequently omitted third verse of "Jesus, Lover of My Soul"
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.
The hidden Confederate lowered his gun and stole away. "I can't kill that man," said he, "though he were ten times my enemy."
In the company was an old Union soldier who asked quickly,
"Was that in the Atlanta campaign of '64?"
"Then I was the Union sentry!"
And he went on to tell how, on that night, knowing the danger of his post, he had been greatly depressed, and, to keep up his courage, had begun to hum that hymn. By the time he had finished, he was entirely calm and fearless. Through the song God had spoken to two souls.
"Wilt Thou not regard my call?
Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink! I faint! I fall!
Lo! on Thee I cast my care:
Reach me out Thy gracious hand!
While I of Thy strength receive,
hoping against hope I stand
Dying, and behold I live."
February 2, 1997: "Tantum Ergo"
Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
"What's the deal with the Latin?" you may be asking--is it a flagrant display of pretention? An attempt to relive the glorious pre-Vatican II days? A Presbyterian version of glossolalia? While all of these factors may have a little to do with the choir's Latin repertoire, there are two chief reasons we use Latin texts throughout the year--one musical, and one spiritual.
The musical reason is that Latin has only five vowels, all of which are pure. Whereas English contains diphthongs and triphthongs (vowels which glide into one another like the word "way" [way-ee] or fire [fah-ee-uhr]), no Latin vowel is colored by neighboring vowels or consonants. This is a great learning tool, because it allows the singers to leave behind the accents and impurities that are a natural part of spoken language and focus on a good singing tone.
The spiritual reason is that Latin draws us into the church universal, both present and past. Liturgical texts such as Kyrie Eleison, Tantum Ergo, and Ave Verum Corpus have been set to music by hundreds of composers, sung by thousands of voices, and heard by millions of Christians throughout the centuries. Certainly there is still something to be mined from such a rich tradition!
This year we will delve into the text Tantum Ergo which was part of the the Pange Lingua hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas in 1264 at the request of Pope Urban IV for use in the newly established Feast of Corpus Christi. Just like last year's "Bread of the World" Series, we will focus on different musical settings of the text every communion Sunday. This journey will include composers such as Gabriel Faure, Francois Couperin, and this week's Tomas Luis da Vittoria.
By the end of the year, the choir will be able to recite this text in their sleep, and the congregation will have added another expression of worship which will allow us to more deeply contemplate the mystery of the Sacraments.
January 15, 1997: "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" by William Williams (1717-1791).
January's Hymn of the Month
The Welsh are known for their singing. From medieval bards to Welsh Men's Choirs, to Welshman Chris Evan's voice resounding through our own congregation, they are a people particularly gifted in song. It is no surprise, then, that the Welsh revivals of the 1700s brought along with it a revival in hymnody.
When evangelist Howell Harris began to preach personal salvation to his fellow countrymen, he hoped to use songs as a vehicle for his message. However, since there were only a few hymns in the Welsh language, he ingeniously turned to the traditional "Eisteddfod" bard contests to stimulate the writing of new hymns. From these contests emerged a number of usable hymns as well as a young preacher named William Williams who became known as the "Isaac Watts of Wales."
Williams was born to a poor family in Pantycelyn, and intended to become a clergyman for the Sacramentarian Church (or "high church") until he heard Howell Harris's preaching and decided to join the Dissenters. For the next 43 years he traveled 95,900 miles bringing the gospel to his country. Although he was a fine preacher, his 800 or more Welsh hymns are what endeared him most to the people. Of those 800 hymns only one, "Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah," is commonly used in English translation today.