70 "Behold a host, arrayed in white" is a favorite Danish funeral hymn which Sucha strangely sites in the Easter section, though it is more relevant to the "end times."
72 "Now the green blade rises" has been discussed before. I mention it in passing, rather than simply passing over it, to give you a more accurate idea of how frequent are this book's questionable hymn selections.
74 "Golden harps are sounding" is a precious little Ascension hymn by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-79), full of childlike simplicity and warm sentiment. It also has somewhat of the ring of stifling schoolmarmishness that may have contributed to the frustration of many boys, some three or four generations ago, feeling strangled by their starchy collars and longing to be free from having to go to church and put up with such mortifying, emasculating sugar-water. It perpetuates poetical cliches like the phrase "pearly gates." And the words of its refrain, "All his work is ended," don't take into account the work of intercession Christ continues to do on our behalf, let alone His intimate involvement with the faithful on earth.
78 "There's a fountain flowing" is a 19th century Swedish hymn out of the Covenant Church that, according to editor James Sucha's explanatory blurb, splintered off the Lutheran Church in the 1800s. Its five stanzas, sung to a shmaltzy facsimile of a folk tune, dwell at length on the benefits of the liquid that flowed from Jesus' side on the cross. Yet the hymn never commits itself as to whether it is talking about baptism, the Lord's Supper, or anything else in particular. This vagueness seems calculated to let the reader, hearer, or singer imagine his own route of access to the benefits of Jesus' cross.
79 "Savior, thy dying love" is another hymn that I have previously abused (under the title "Something for Thee"), and it's an easy target, what with the breathless melodrama of its poetic meter and the warbly sentimentality of the tune to which I know it best: WINTERTON by J. Barnby. TSH however, like the hymnal referenced in my previous remark on this hymn, concentrates the shmaltz even more with R. Lowry's tune SOMETHING FOR JESUS, which sounds like the tear-jerking alma mater of an all-boys' Ivy League prep school.
Joseph Barnby (1838-96)—ST. CHRYSOSTOM, on which I have also commented before—with a "Communion" text by Charles Wesley, one of the fathers of Methodism. Though it does a remarkably good job of expressing the mystery of the atonement, and almost (but not quite) gives a clear confession of how Christ applies the atonement to us in His Supper, it is not without its awkwardnesses. At least one of them seems to be the fault of Wesley himself, who (for example) in his fifth and last stanza dithers over whether to apply Jacobean verb-endings such as "-est" and "-eth"; sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. Other blemishes seem to be the mistake of the editor, who (for another example) mistakes the word "savor" for "savior." For me, though, this is mainly a tacky hymn because it's in the "Communion" section, but does not assert anything clearly and directly about the Sacrament.
81 "Let us break bread together" has been discussed before. With Communion distribution taking up less and less time in many Lutheran Churches—perhaps in consequence of their imbibing the ideas about the Sacrament expressed by hymns like this—it hardly seems necessary for Sucha to add two additional stanzas of his own composition to this historic African-American slave spiritual. The slightness of their content is ridiculously out of proportion to the amount of time they add to the length of this piece.
|About equally helpful.|
83 and 84 "A mighty fortress is our God" are two settings of Luther's paraphrase of Psalm 46, which Sucha triumphalistically styles "the greatest hymn of the greatest man of the greatest period of German history" and the "Battle Hymn of the Reformation." And though admitting that the isometric version of the hymn, originating in the cantatas of J. S. Bach, requires a translation in a different meter from Luther's original text, he somehow contrives that both settings are of the isometric version—whereas most hymnals offering two settings of this hymn would make sure that one was the rhythmic version, in Luther's original meter. Why include two settings of the same isometric version? In the first place, so that one can be in the key of C and the other in D. And in the second place, so that Sucha can include his own setting of the melody, "based on Johann Sebastian Bach." Let's not go there again, all right? If you're not going to leave Bach's harmonization unaltered (except perhaps by transposing it to a lower key), leave his name out of it!
85 "Eternal Father, strong to save" is "The Navy Hymn," as the subtitle at the top of the page admits. I have already called this offender on the carpet not once, but twice before, albeit for the gentlest of criticism. The biggest problem with having it in the pew hymnal is that the space is wasted on a piece that has very limited application in the real world; it seems better suited for an armed forces supplement or a thin book of devotional hymnody. But its appearance in TSH points up some of the more obnoxious aspects of Sucha's layout practices, including the arbitrary selection of fonts, which change from one stanza to the next, and the garbled syntax of the editorial blurb, whose want of a copy-editor's red pencil resulted in such unreadable sentences as, "Named after Melita, where the island the Apostle Paul reached after his ship went down (Acts 28:1); today we know it as the isle of Malta."
|Why not Private Sonatas?|
1Think: "Hosanna, loud hosanna."