Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tacky Hymns does ELHy

When the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) put out the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (ELHy) in 1996, I was a member of the ELS church in Mankato, Minn. that serves the synod's Bethany Lutheran College and Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary community as well as the synodical offices. It was ground zero for testing out the new hymnal. During that period, the synodical president was our vacancy pastor, and his manner of chanting the liturgy out of the hymnal supplement that paved the way for ELHy has stuck in my memory ever since. The members of the worship committee who edited the hymnal are three men that I know and respect deeply; I credit at least one of them with helping make me the choral singer, parish organist and lover of fine church music that I am today. They include Dennis Marzolf, an organist whose example and leadership in the musical establishment of congregation and campus bears witness to the powerful way Lutheran hymnody can be used to form and reinforce faith; Mark DeGarmeaux, who served as BLC's dean of the chapel for a while after I moved on from there, and who is now a religion prof, chapel organist and organ instructor at the college; and Harry Bartels, whom I've only met a couple of times, but who contributed a wonderful hymn paraphrase of the Athanasian Creed to this book.

Like the old Norwegian Synod's previous hymnal, The Lutheran Hymnary (LHy), ELHy contains many excellent, historic Lutheran hymns and proportionally few artifacts of wider English and American protestantism – something on which Gracia Grindal, in her essay on "What Makes a Hymn Lutheran" for the ReClaim Hymnal, drops disapproving hints that I think both books should wear as a badge of honor. Like LHy, ELHy also contains a lot of hymns from the Scandinavian Lutheran tradition that may be entirely new to the German-American heritage of the Wisconsin and Missouri synods. The two books have many other things in common – including a couple of liturgical quirks that I shall mention presently – and they also both open with the full text of the Augsburg Confession, which you don't see in the foreparts of many Lutheran hymnals.

Actually, the A.C. comes after a table of contents, a topical index of hymns, a Church Year calendar, an explanation of liturgical colors and a table of the dates of Easter from 1997 to 2034. After it is Luther's Small Catechism, some prayers for worship (p. 40), and four Rites of the Divine Service.

Rite 1 is the "Bugenhagen" setting, familiar to those who previously used the LHy (as I did, but only while attending Mount Olive in Mankato). One quirk of this liturgical form, which I've run by liturgical scholars in the LCMS and received only disapproving comments, is that the Kyrie Eleison ("O God the Father in heaven, have mercy upon us" etc.) is inserted between the Confession and the Absolution, and the Gloria in Excelsis Deo ("Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men") is placed after the Absolution, rather than the entire service of Confession and Absolution prefacing the service and being followed, bang-bang-bang, by the Introit, Kyrie and Gloria. (The rite actually puts the Introit before the confession of sins.) This is strange and perhaps misses the point that, first, confession and absolution are a preparation for the Divine Service, which begins with the Introit; and, second, the Kyrie is all-purpose worship and not merely a plea for forgiveness. Another quirk is that instead of the Laudamus Te ("We praise you," etc.) following the Gloria proper, the Bugenhagen rite inserts the first stanza of the Gloria hymn paraphrase, "All glory be to God on high." Other than these details, I think highly of the Bugenhagen rite, and of ELHy's inclusion of the minister's chant notes in the pew hymnal. The melody for the Sanctus ("Holy, holy, holy") is similar to the one used in one of the Divine Service settings in Lutheran Worship (LW) and The Lutheran Service Book (LSB). The chant melody for the Lord's Prayer is also tucked away somewhere in LSB. Those familiar with The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH) "Morning Service with Communion" liturgy and its heirs in LW and LSB will recognize the tune for the Agnus Dei ("O Christ, the Lamb of God").

Rite 2 is pretty much that TLH communion service, reinstating the liturgist's chant melodies that the TLH pew book left out (consigning these to a separate "Music of the Liturgy" book that many congregations never used). A Lenten sentence to be used in place of the Alleluia is also provided, as well as a beautiful chant melody for the Lord's Prayer that I can still hear, in my mind's ear, being chanted by Prof. Wilhelm Petersen. The music is pretty much exactly TLH, only some of it transposed down a step.

Rite 3 is a churchly setting by a contemporary composer named Alfred Fremder, who had at one time directed the choirs at Bethany College. Fremder actually furnished the liturgist's chant parts (in his duet with the congregation during the Preface) with harmony, so that he could sing it with support from the organ; I remember helping to introduce this innovation with some enthusiasm from the organ bench.

Rite 4 is actually just a one-page list of hymns that can be used to replace the liturgical canticles in the Divine Service. ELHy also includes Matins and Vespers (morning and evening prayer services) pretty much just like in TLH; a spoken Office of Compline (prayer at the close of day), all in one page; services of private and corporate confession and absolution; a Baptism liturgy; the Litany; the Suffrages; graduals, introits and collects for the church year; daily and weekly prayers; selected psalms pointed for chant with a choice of four tones (I once composed several extra tones for use with this book, at the request of an ELS pastor); tables of Psalms for the seasons of the church year and monthly reading; several biblical canticles; the ILCW three-year lectionary; the historic one-year lectionary; and a liturgical glossary.

So much for the foreparts. After this come hymns numbered from 1 to 602, which we will begin considering next time. Skipping to page 908, we find a couple pages of acknowledgements regarding gifts that supported the production of ELHy; copyright notices; an index of authors, sources and translators of the hymn texts; an index of the composers and sources of the hymn tunes and their settings; alphabetical and metrical indexes of the hymn tunes; an index of psalm paraphrases; an index of the first lines of translated hymns by their original language – where one can see that the number of Scandinavian hymns, though considerable, is still dwarfed by the German representation; an index of Scriptural citations as well as other texts that the hymns allude to; finally, the index of hymns by first line (including alternate titles); and on the last leaf, an order for emergency baptism.

So, when this thread resumes with "Tacky Hymns 81," I'll begin repeating (once again) that I mean to comb through the hymn selection of ELHy with the objective of identifying three categories of hymns: (1) Unfortunate selections by the worship committee, that shows that even their judgment is not infallible; (2) Interesting hymn text-tune pairings that are worth noting, either in themselves or regarding alternate pairings; (3) Hymns of such excellence or importance that they deserve more attention than I think they are getting outside the circles that use this book. At the risk of letting the cat out of the bag, however, I'll say up front that I rank ELHy alongside TLH as one of the best worship books the anglophone (English-speaking) world has to offer intentionally Lutheran congregations. I'm not expecting to lift up a lot of "Type 1" ditties. Come along and see how it all works out!


David S. said...

Not to tell you what to do, but I suspect the new LCMS children's hymnal will need to be put through the tackiness wringer sometime soon.

RobbieFish said...

Good idea, thanks!