Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Talking About Hymns

Pop Quiz:

1.  What is a hymn?
2.  Is every song we sing at church a hymn?
3.  What do you think of when you hear the word    

A google search will teach you more than I know (or care to know) about hymns.  Instead, let me explain it by:

    1.  Looking at the “fine print” found at the bottom of each song 
         printed in hymnals

    2.  Comparing a hymn with something that isn’t a hymn


1.  The fine print

Take a look at the bottom of Now Thank We All Our God hymn #198 where it gives information about the “Text.”

67, 67, 66, 66:          This speaks to the meter of the stressed        

                                 Count the syllables;
                                 Now thank we all our God (6)  
                                 With heart, and hands, and voic-es (7.)

Sirach 50:22-24      The songs’ scriptural reference
           Now bless the God of all who everywere does great things, 
           who raises us up from our birth and deals mercifully with us.  
                                                                (Sirach 5:22) 

Martin Rinkart      
A scholar, chorister and future pastor who wrote the words.

Catherine Winkworth      
A British native who translated this and many hymns from German to English.

Here is what we learn about the music:
John Cruger         
A musical composer and hymnal editor who composed the hymn tune Nun Danket.

The name of the hymn tune is noted to the right of the title.  In this case, the tune derives its’ name from a literal translation of the first words of the original text, “Nun Danket Alle Gott.”


2.  Comparing a hymn to a song

The second way to learn about hymns is by comparing it to something that isn’t a hymn.  

Our communion song Miracle of Grace provides an excellent contrast.  In the interest of space I will let you compare the fine print on your own.

A quick glance at the music and a little attention paid when singing reveal several distinct distinctions that separate hymns from songs.   Hymns employ simple rhythmic patterns and notes that move stepwise up and down the scale.  Songs allow for greater intervals between pitches and more complex rhythms.  Miracle of Grace (#363) is very typical of contemporary church musical composition.

Now for the challenge question:    

4.  What is better? Hymns or songs?

Once again, a google search will tell you more than I care to know, read or think about.  Let me answer by saying; “I have been and continue to be intentional in picking and singing all verses of a hymn as our recessional song.”

Blessed to be serving at St. Mary’s,


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