Still more on the 1999 Wisconsin Synod hymnal supplement, Let All the People Praise You: A Songbook. See the previous seven posts under "Tacky Hymns" for background info. We resume with ...
(242-244) Praise the Lord with the sound of trumpet, however, is a long kids' choir or Sunday School song by Natalie Sleeth that I was made to sing it with my classmates when I was little-ish, and that approaches the Psalm paraphrase-scented praise song concept in a repetitive way that becomes tedious somewhere in the course of two long stanzas. It's basically a list of instruments with which, and of times and places in which, to "praise the Lord" – repeating that three-word phrase 24 times – without actually mentioning any reasons to praise him. So, for all its cheerful musical effect, it's basically all law.
(245) People need the Lord is a little CoWo ditty by Phil McHugh and Greg Nelson, with music by David Allen, that in spite of being a product of three men's creativity, consists 5/8 of the phrase "People need the Lord" to which the remaining 3/8 adds only "At the end of broken dreams he's the open door" and the final plea, "When will we realize (people need the Lord)?" As hard as I strain, I can't figure out how or why this adds up to a hymn.
(246-247) Praise the Spirit in creation is by Michael Hewlett, set to David Hurd's tune JULION. Hurd's arrangement puts it very definitely in the category of a sacred art song or choir anthem, dependent in part on a four-bar piano tag being played before each verse and at the very end. I think it might be possible to re-arrange the music more into the form of a congregational hymn. As for Hewlett's attractive four-stanza poem about the Holy Spirit, I think deeper discussion is called for before deciding whether it belongs in a Lutheran songbook. Stanza 2, for example, says the Spirit "by a still small voice conveys God's will to those who listen" (if you'll pardon me for reversing the order of the last two lines to make what they say stand out more clearly). I think this could be understood to suggest that we should listen in the quiet (say, of our hearts) for a private revelation of the Holy Spirit. Was that Hewlett's intent? I dunno. The fourth stanza asks the Spirit to "fire our hearts and clear our sight (till we) set the world alight," which sounds like a great punchline for a synodical evangelism campaign but never more than vaguely hints at the means by which the Spirit is pledged to do this. My vicarage bishop's dictum applies; those who have been following along in my critique of LAPPY will know what I mean.
(248-249) Psalm 91 (first line: "The shelter of the love of God") is a 1970s paraphrase with words and music by Joyce Freud, who does a passable musical impression of Robert Lowry, only without some of his tackier harmonic touches. Its paraphrase is all right as far as that goes. But, of course, its three stanzas (plus refrain) only cover selected verses of the psalm, and some of the verses it omits are really wonderful. My biggest concern, however, is the phrase from the refrain which says that God shelters me "because I come to him in love," etc., which sounds like decisionism.
(250-251) A purple robe (a crown of thorn) is a Timothy Dudley-Smith number set to music by David Wilson (with guitar chords). It's a pretty good Passion of Christ hymn, but I think the music is a bit of the "bonfire ballad" persuasion and may be heard to best advantage when sung by the youth choir or a soloist, rather than the full congregation.
(254-255) Rejoice and be merry (in songs and in mirth) is a setting of the traditional English "Gallery Carol," celebrating "the birthday of Jesus our King" in four light, economical stanzas. They just touch on the angels, the shepherds, the magi and their gifts, while managing to allude to Jesus as the "Redeemer (of) all mortals on earth ... who brought us salvation." So, I guess it improves on some Christmas carols. It would be a nice addition to a carol-sing or a youth Christmas program, but I don't see it breaking into the top 20 songs the congregation absolutely has to sing every Christmas season.
(256) is the Hmong version of "Jesus loves me," three stanzas this time, again with no music. The difficulty of reading the Hmong language (if it's not your mother tongue) is demonstrated by the contrast between the two columns of text – the Hmong spelling on the left, a phonetic spelling on the right, which itself has a pronunciation guide appended to it. This is going to be hard. But don't worry, nobody's expecting you to sing it. As I've said before, it's pretty much there in lieu of "THIS PAGE HAS BEEN INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK."
(257) Rejoice in the Lord always (and again I say, rejoice) is Dale Grotenhuis' four-part round setting of Philippians 4:4, with the same two lines of text, or fragments thereof, repeated throughout. Kid stuff. It doesn't have much in it for the congregation except an opportunity to take a breather while the kids sing it. If Dale G. had seen fit to try setting verses 5-6, at least, or maybe even 7, now we might have something for worshipers to sink their teeth into. Instead, we have a trite little musical exercise for the young.
(260-261) Rock of my salvation (first line: "You are the rock of my salvation") is a CoWo piece by Teresa Miller whose rhythms, I can tell you already, will be a stumbling block for the choir at Shepherd of the Tamarack Bog Lutheran Church, even after they've become habituated to unfortunate musical choices over many long years. Just imagine where that will leave the congregation as a whole. As for the lyrics, they have a certain quality, like one of those CoWo psalm paraphrases that barely uses any of the original psalm, that almost (but not quite) convinces me to excuse it for the fact that it sounds like a romantic love song addressed to the Lord. Put a little more charitably, it has a very intimate, personal tone to it that just doesn't smack of the congregation's worship.
(262-263) Savior, like a shepherd lead us is one that I've previously commented on.
(264-265) Seek ye first (the kingdom of God), with an "Alleluia" descant, is also one that I've already commented on.
(266) She will be called blessed (first line: "Her strength and her dignity clothe her with beauty") is a weird hymn by Elizabeth deGravelles, based on a passage in the book of Proverbs, set to a tune by Joseph Barlow titled IRENE. The weird part is that only the refrain is set to music while the two stanzas are supposed to be spoken. I've never seen a "hymn" like this. I'm not sure whoever thought it up really understood what a hymn is about.
It's a strange place (page-numberly speaking) to break off for the night, but for one thing, it's getting late and for another, I've just seen what's on the next page and I'm not ready to face it yet.
Before I retire for the night, however, I'll share one of the conclusions about this book that a growing feeling tells me this study will lead me to draw: It has some wonderful hymns in it. But the vast majority of the songs in LAPPY suggest a target audience that, by and large, won't be interested in that tiny minority of pieces. Conversely, the people who will value those songs as highly as they deserve might not consider this book, overall, to be a good investment.
Saturday, May 30, 2020
Tacky Hymns 63
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