« PreviousContinue »
THE HYMNS IN THE BODY OF THE WORK BEING TAKEN FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS
SUPPLEMENT, FROM VARIOUS SOURCES.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by
J. B. LIPPINCOTT & Co.
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of
This book is not so much an experiment as it is the result of an experiment. About three years since, the compiler, hoping to aid the people of his pastoral charge in their singing, selected from the Assembly's collection some three hundred and fifty of the Psalms and Hymns, to which he proposed to confine himself in the services of the Church, both public and social. At the same time, after an extensive collation of Church-tunes, he selected about one hundred and thirty, and designated them to these hymns, taking the Presbyterian Psalmodist as a general guide. The arrangement was submitted to a revision at the hands of some of the best critics, and was adopted by the Church session. The tunes were made accessible to the choir, and the plan was inaugurated—which has been since pursued—of always singing the hymn announced to the tune chosen for it. So satisfactory has the plan proved, so much has it contributed toward the general singing of the congregation, that the compiler has been encouraged to revise the arrangement, amending and enlarging it as experience has taught was desirable, and now to publish it. He hopes for still more encouraging results when the families of his congregation shall have the music of the Church in their homes and can teach their children to use it, when the lecture-room shall be supplied and the pews of the church permanently furnished with the book containing it, and when the same hymns shall have been so long and so often sung to the same tunes that both have become familiar, and that in each case the hymn and its tune have become so firmly associated that the one shall suggest the other.
If any other congregations should be disposed to use this selection, and should receive a like benefit, it will be a matter of rejoicing to have thus contributed to the advancement of the cause of Sacred Praise.
ADVANTAGES. Some of the advantages of this arrangement have been intimated. Many persons can read simple Church-music; and to such it will often be of use to have the music before their eyes in connection with the hymn sung. But, further than this, it is obviously a great advantage for congregational singing to be limited to a fixed number of suitable tunes, to have these carefully adapted to the hymns used, and then always to sing the same words to the same music. The majority of tunes used in our churches are unsuited to congregational singing. The change of one set of tunes for another, so often made by the introduction of new tune-books or by a change of musical leaders, prevents the congregation from becoming familiar with any. Professional leaders often violate sacred associations in their selection of tunes for hymns; their selections, being often hastily made, are seldom judiciously made; and the singing of the same hymn to various
tunes prevents any association being formed between tunes and words. These difficulties are obviated by the arrangement here adopted, when the arrangement is wisely executed.
This arrangement, too, is equally well suited to any sort of leading, whether that by a precentor, a choir, or a choir and organ.
A properly-constituted choir will not object to singing familiar congregational tunes thus selected for them, provided the pastor does not, by his choice of hymns, cause the same tunes to be sung too frequently. In order, however, that a choir have occasion to meet for weekly practice, and in order, too, that a place be found for that species of song designed to be impressive on the heart of the worshipper rather than directly expressive of his devout feelings, it seems desirable that the choir be invited to open each Sabbath service with a suitable choir-piece of their own selection, to which the congregation may devoutly listen.
First, to the judgment of the Church,-preference being given to those most generally esteemed.
Secondly, to the element of devotion,-preference being given to those in which this element enters most directly and largely.
Thirdly, to poetic merit,—believing that mere prose is not adapted to be sung.
Fourthly, to lyric excellence,-believing that devotional and truly poetic hymns are not equally well adapted to be sung.
Fifthly, to the exigencies of worship, as presented by the great congregation, the social meeting, and the family, and as affected by times and seasons and occasions.
Sixthly, to variety,-seeking to include in these selections, as nearly as possible, every distinct phase of truth or experience found in the large collection.
First, again, to the judgment of the Church,-preference being given to those pronounced by the general voice to be effective.
Secondly, to simplicity,–preference being given to tunes with an even and easy movement, as alone suitable for congregational singing. As much as possible, repeats and fugues and complications of time and key, and the various characteristics of what may be denominated choir-music, have been avoided. At the same time, the effort has been made to keep from that extreme of nude simplicity advocated by some, in which melody is sacrificed and tunes lose their character as tunes.
Thirdly, to sweetness,-preference being given to those which have a pleasant melody, such as the ear soon catches and does not soon forget.
Fourthly, to dignity, preference being given to those which, with a simple
and sweet melody, possess also a grave, sustaining harmony. Melody by itself soon wears out, and, while it lasts, is insufficient for the serious purposes of worship.
THE ADAPTATIONS. In designating tunes to hymns, reference was had not merely to conceived fitness, but to associations already formed. These, when known, have, in almost every instance, been sacredly regarded.
Instead of grouping hymns on the same subject as much as possible under the same tune or tunes, the effort has been made to scatter them as widely as possible. The reason for this will appear from an illustration. If, for example, the hymns of a missionary character had been grouped under five or six tunes, it would have occasioned the singing of these same tunes at every missionary meeting, and they could be sung at no other time. But these hymns being assigned one to each of fifteen or twenty tunes, which tunes have also assigned to them hymns suitable for other occasions, a variety of tunes is secured for the missionary meeting, and tunes which, being sung at other times, are more generally practiced. In this way, too, most of the tunes sung in the lecture-room, through the week, will be sung on the Sabbath, in the great congregation; and vice versa. The intention is to bring the whole collection of tunes into current use, and to make the practice had in one sort of service available for every other sort of service.
Of course, then, the hymns are not arranged at all with reference to their subject matter. The various Indexes, it is hoped, will obviate all difficulty on this score.
THE SMALL NUMBER OF HYMNS. It may be thought by some that the number of hymns in this book is too small for an exclusive and continued use in all the services of the Church. There are, however, strong arguments in favor of a limited number. To say nothing of the difficulty of finding a large number of unexceptionable hymns adapted to be sung,
,-a difficulty more serious than many suppose,—to say nothing of this, a smaller number is preferable, in view of a congregation becoming familiar with the several hymns. The great majority of a congregation do not attend more than two services a week, of any kind. Probably they unite in the singing of seven hymns at these services. At this rate, it would require more than a year to sing once through a selection of four hundred hymns. is difficult to see how the mass of the people will become familiar with a larger number.
Moreover, it is desirable that hymns become associated with music. On some accounts, indeed, it would be well to have a separate tune for each hymn sung. But, in a large collection of hymns, either many hymns must be assigned to each tune, in which case none of them will become strongly associated with the tune, or else a large number of tunes must be furnished, in which case a congregation will never be able fully to learn them. The