Friday, July 1, 2016

Coming Soon...

Guess what is close to becoming publicly available? Here's a fat hint:
It's the second, expanded edition of Useful Hymns! I want to give a proof copy a once-over, and then hand it to someone else to make it a twice-over for good measure. But now that I have overcome various difficulties uploading the document to Lulu (the self-publishing/print-on-demand website), and obtained permissions to reprint a couple copyrighted hymn texts for which I have written original tunes, the fruit of more than 25 years is (once again) that close to being available to the public! And this time it has an ISBN, so I can sell it at online booksellers such as Amazon, not just through Lulu itself.

This edition pours out in one gush the whole steady trickle of original hymns I have been posting over the last year and a half, in addition to the previous collection of exactly 100 hymns dating from 1990-ish to 2014. That's 201 original hymn texts, plus a handful each of hymns that I translated and hymns by other writers for which I wrote an original tune. There are numerous original tunes by yours truly, as well as my original harmonized arrangements of quite a few existing tunes. There are also several original tunes written by other composers for my hymn texts, which dials down the "me, me, me" bit somewhat, but still excites me tremendously.

Soon, I optimistically hope, I will be ready to tell you where to shop for a copy of this book that I hope will prove at least a little "useful" to the Lutheran church. For now, here is a sneak peak at the back cover (pending final edits), followed by key paragraphs from my preface to the long-sweated-over book:
Music and poetry are beautiful gifts from God. I...believe there is no higher art form than hymnody that unites excellent music and poetry with sound theology to teach and confess the faith, to exhort the faithful, to direct their sincere prayers to God, and to glorify Christ.

I think a fruitful school of hymn-writing is indispensible to a lively church at any place and time in history. Meanwhile, the best way to introduce new hymns to the church may not be simply publishing them in the latest pew hymnal. Rather, new hymns should be published in journals, devotional pamphlets, and literary albums like the present work. This allows hymns to be discussed, tried out, and evaluated without investing valuable space in the pew book, and to perhaps winnow out a few thought worthy to form a lasting addition to the church’s sung worship.

[big snip]

I am a seminary-trained, ordained Lutheran minister. I have a bachelor’s degree in music and experience as an organist, pianist, singer, choir director, and journalist. If experience has taught me anything, however, it is not to expect these credentials to have any bearing on whether a hymn writer’s work is any good.

It may be more helpful to note that my notion of sound theology can be summed up as a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions. My preference for “traditional” hymnody is based not only on subjective taste but on years of in-depth study of the content and meaning of hymn texts and tunes.

My credentials as a poet, composer, and arranger of music are only the fact that I have attentively studied and performed hymns all my life, and have tried hard to write them for many years, with some improvement along the way. I do not pretend to be a genius, but perhaps while we wait for one to show up, my humble efforts in this book will prove useful to a few people and pleasing to God.

No comments: