Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Useful Hymns

This isn't going to be a review, since I'm the author of the book and that would constitute a conflict of interest. I just want to let it be known that one of the projects that has been taking me away from this blog lately is now for sale at Lulu. May I recommend Useful Hymns by yours truly. You can buy it here for $10 a copy.

The Lulu blurb (which I also wrote) describes it as: "100 hymns for worship, prayer, and instruction in the Lutheran home, school, or church. Rich in style and spirituality, the poems, melodies and settings in this book are the fruit of 25 years of work by a theologically trained composer and author. Every hymn is founded on trust in the power of God's promises in Christ."

The texts of the hymns, minus a few corrections I made in the printed proof, can all be found elsewhere in this blog by anyone who has time to search for them. I think the book pulls them together into a pretty attractive package.

It's a coil-bound, 6-by-9-inch paperback, 227 pages in black and white, with each hymn accompanied by a melody (only) and an appendix containing harmonized arrangements of all the tunes in ABC order. The book also features a table of contents listing the hymns by title, a brief preface, an index of hymn texts by first line, and tune indexes by title and meter.

Many of the hymn tunes and arrangements are also my original work, though I used several old tunes that I thought deserved to be revived and I based some of my new tunes on older models. I also harmonized a handful of pre-existing tunes.

The reason I am publishing my collected hymns is that I believe this is the way the church's hymnody should grow, and realistically does grow. I am not convinced the best way to introduce new hymns to the world is to spring them on an unsuspecting church body in a new pew hymnal, having either commissioned them for the book or accepted submissions. This way lies the crop of hymns never seen in print before or since the one hymnal in which they appeared, and seldom used even in that book.

I think the church should tell hymnal editors what the contents of its hymn-book should be, not the other way around; otherwise space is wasted that could have been better used printing a tried and tested hymn. And in my opinion, the place to try them and test them is in a book like Useful Hymns, where an author puts his work out there for the church to judge. Perhaps, God willing, one or two of the hundred hymns in my book will go to the hearts of enough people that the next generation of hymnal editors will see fit to include them.

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