Friday, November 26, 2021

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity
by A. Lee Martinez
Recommended Ages: 13+


Title notwithstanding, this is the first of three Constance Verity adventures by the Texas-based author of Gil's All Fright Diner, The Automatic Detective and many more funny sci-fi and fantasy novels. The other two titles in the series are Constance Verity Saves the World and Constance Verity Destroys the Universe.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Tacky Hymns 90

Before continuing with the Christmas section of Christian Worship: Hymnal (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2021), I repeat:
Please understand the following three "types" of comments for which I'm interested in singling out hymns for special mention. "Type 1" means I wish the editors had shown better taste than to include such-and-such in the book, because it clashes with the decor (i.e. doctrine and spiritual culture) of an intentionally Lutheran church body. "Type 2" is just a point of trivia that I want to raise, like "what an interesting choice of a tune to go with this hymn," etc.; not necessarily an example of tackiness, as such. "Type 3" is the reverse of tackiness: a hymn so marvelous that its appearance in CWH shows up other hymnals that don't include it. (Also, let's assume references are "Type 3" unless otherwise specified, and "tacks" are awarded on a five-tack scale of tackiness.)
The hymns selected for the Christmas section (329-366) are quite diverse, ranging from ancient, pre-Reformation masterpieces, through treasured Lutheran chorales, to traditional carols, an African-American spiritual and modern-day lyrics. (I wanted to use the word contemporary, but it has baggage.) Most of them are excellent, essential repertoire or, at least, exactly what one would expect to see here and fairly unobjectionable. So I'm only gonna comment on items that particularly stick out. Generally, though, I would note that while it seems like you have to have this many Christmas hymns – because you'd get in trouble if many of them were left out, and yet you still have some new stuff to strut – it's going to be a challenge finding a use for all of them without holding carol-sings, "lessons and carols" services, youth Christmas programs and bouts of "stump the organist" throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons. And then you have all those fine Advent hymns to consider, too. But anyway, here goes:

330 (Type 1) is "Peace came to earth" by the late Jaroslav Vajda († 2008), of whom I've previously mentioned that he and I were, unofficially, under the same pastor's care toward the end of Vajda's life. What that self-serving anecdote doesn't hint at is that we weren't actually members of the same congregation and I didn't personally meet him, but some brushes with fame are very light indeed. Anyway, I've given Vajda's hymns a bit of rough treatment in past installments, and I was ready to do the same to this one, especially after reading stanza 2 – which threatened to make the hymn one of those "let's all rush to the manger scene in either a time travel caper or a flight of pious imagination" type of ditties, which drive me bonkers. But I was careful to read stanzas 3 and 4, which more than corrected that tendency, and for that I give Vajda a measly half-tack. The tune, which absolutely sounds like a tune written for a Jaroslav Vajda hymn, is PEACE CAME TO EARTH by Richard Jeffrey.

331 is "From heaven above to earth I come," my all-time favorite Christmas hymn by no less than Martin Luther himself. Props to CWH for retaining all 15 stanzas, some of which have been cut from recent hymnals whether they needed to save page space or not.

334 (Type 2) is "I stand beside your manger here" by Paul Gerhardt, which ELHy (for one) set to its own tune (ICH STEH AN DEINER KRIPPEN) but which CWH sets to ES IST GEWISSLICH (the tune to "The day is surely drawing near"). Either tune is fine, I guess, but in my experience ES IST GEWISSLICH is stretched pretty thin over a lot of different hymns and J.S. Bach's gentle tune is really beautifully paired with Gerhardt's tender nativity hymn.

335 and 336 (no type) are Martin Luther's "To shepherds as they watched by night" and Nahum Tate's "While shepherds watched their flocks by night," on facing pages. I just mention this as a warning against confusing the two.

337 (Type 1) is "Silent night," with a Mandarin translation both in Chinese characters and romanized transliteration at the bottom of the second page. I guess if the editors just wanted to shade in the blank part of the page, there's no harm in it. But I'll always point out, in my parade of hymnal tackiness, gimmicks that smack of triumphalism, and I think furnishing one hymn out of 658 with a Chinese version smacks of such a tendency. "See how multicultural we are," "Behold our missionary outreach," etc. Meanwhile, does your Chinese-speaking mission congregation have its own Lutheran hymnal? 1 tack.

340 and 341 (Type 2) are both "Away in a manger," on facing pages, with the two tunes most widely associated with it so that congregations are prepared to pick up the pieces after the obligatory brawl over which tune they should sing it to. I think alternate tune choices are cool and I'm almost ambivalent on this one, but nah, I'd pick AWAY IN A MANGER (the tune on the left) over CRADLE SONG every time.

345 (Type 1) is "Where shepherds lately knelt" by Vajda, at which I've previously sniped. 4 tacks. For what it's worth, it's also only the third hymn so far (cf. 311, 325; the next example is 347 "Angels from the realms of glory") where only the melody appears in the pew book, forcing people who want to join in harmony or play through the book on the piano to invest in the accompanist's edition. Hey, that's the future of hymnody, says Fish, whose own two hymnbooks are entirely of the melody-and-text-only persuasion (albeit with the harmonized tunes in an appendix). It's an economy measure, and these books aren't getting any cheaper to produce.

348 is "A child is born in Bethlehem," a 13th century Latin hymn (Puer nobis nascitur) set to a Michael Praetorius setting of its own 13th century tune, which I think is marvelous. It revives warm memories of the "Mass for Christmas Morning" CD that my vicarage bishop gave me as a Christmas present, maybe the best album I ever owned (and that's saying a lot; I had loads of them). It's a simple but terrific carol that would be great to teach to kids. It has alleluias and an echo effect after the first line of each stanza, also conducive to combining the congregation with a choir or kids' group in alternatim.

351 is "He whose praise the shepherds sounded," based on the first section of each stanza of a much larger Latin carol (Quem pastores) also found in CWALH. I would appreciate it even more if, like LW and LBW, the entire carol had been included – another favorite track from that Praetorius CD and a marvelous vehicle for combining the forces of children, choir and congregation in a huge musical celebration. And I'm not too loyal to the LCMS to say that of its book (LW) and the ELCA's (LBW), the better arrangement is in LBW.

352 (a grudging Type 3) is "Joy has dawned" by contemporary Christian music mavens Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (not a typo, and not the actor who played L'Estat in Queen of the Damned). I say "grudging" because I've never been thrilled with their contributions to Lutheran hymnbooks, but I have to admit that this is a reasonably good Christmas hymn if you overlook the very loose rhyme scheme – which I have to, based on my own versifying record – and the risk that the pianistic arrangement, with lots of extra notes jammed into the chords and rapid changes of left-hand position, could render Mrs. Schmeckpepper, the $20-a-week operator of your church's 40-year-old Allen organ, a nervous wreck.

356 is "God rest you merry, gentlemen," the 18th century English carol set to its own traditional tune, which most folks know by memory but only as far as the first stanza. The full four-stanza version expands into the angel's announcement to the shepherds and, in its quirky, 18th-century-carol manner of speaking, does a reasonably good job of getting across the gospel where the birth of Christ is concerned. Keep this in mind when you're planning a youth Christmas program.

357 is "A glory fills the midnight sky" by Timothy Dudley-Smith, set to the tune (FOREST GREEN) that some hymnals propose instead of ST. LOUIS with "O little town of Bethlehem." It also, in contrastingly up-to-date and current language, does exactly what 356 does. And it's only two stanzas! So, again, it might be a smash at the youth Christmas program.

364 is "Love has come," an original hymn by Ken Bible set to the tune of the French carol "Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella" – which, I just learned now, is titled UN FLAMBEAU. Whoever this Bible guy is, he seems to have corrected the traditional carol's tendency to over-focus on "good folk of the village" and all the tackle carried by fictional characters rushing to view the manger scene, with solid gospel content like (stanza 2) "Love is God now aleep in the hay" and especially stanza 3, which proclaims that this Love "never will leave us ... is life everlasting and free ... is Jesus within and among us ... is the peace our hearts are seeking" and "the gift of Christmas." This could be really catchy.

365 is "Lord, you were rich beyond all splendor" by Frank Houghton († 1972), also set to a French carol melody (Quelle est cette odeur agréable/Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing) for which, I must add, Martin Shaw's harmonized setting is really beautiful. This is a type of hymn that I particularly admire, but mostly see in older numbers like from before the Reformation to a century or so after. It delves into the paradoxes and reversals of the gospel, like God who is rich becoming poor for us, humbling Himself to become a man to raise sinners up, etc. It does so with remarkable brevity and directness. My only knock agaisnt it (I'll give it 1 tack for this) is the line "leaving your throne," which on its face is just a Christological heresy, that's all. To say the Son descended from heaven is not to say He left His throne at any time; an aspect of the mystery of the incarnation that hymn writers have to watch out for, and I'd be lying if I said I've never had my feet entangled in its cords.

366 is "O rejoice, all Christians, loudly" by Christian Keimann (words) and Andreas Hammerschmidt (music), a cut-down version of a cantata that I sang in its full version in my college choir days. I think this is a wonderful hymn, and it's the ideal one to close out the Christmas section because of its parting greeting "holy peace, a glad new year" (just before the final refrain). This makes it a great choice for a Sunday after Christmas, whether before or after New Year. It's been in a lot of hymnals, including all the ones used at all the churches I've ever attended, so I don't have the excuse of novelty for mentioning it. Just two little things: that "glad new year" line has been scrubbed from some hymnals' translation of the piece, so props to CWH for retaining it; and though LW reinstated the 12-fold Hallelujah that bookended the original Hammerschmidt piece, CWH joins most other books in continuing to omit it. I kind of like the 12-fold Hallelujah, especially for involving the choir in this hymn. But I guess I understand the motives for dropping it (or rather, not picking it back up) – precious space, expense and the likelihood that most congregations would skip it anyway. They should get to know this hymn, however.

I reckon this section added another 6-1/2 tacks to my evaluation of this book's overall level of tackiness, bringing the total for the first 66 hymns to 10 tacks. That's an average of about 0.15 tacks, or 3/20 of a tack, per hymn. So far, not too shabby. I've never kept a running total or attempted to keep track of the tackiness quotient of an entire book, which just adds intrigue to this project as a potential fingerpost to the future. Next time, I hope to cover hymns 367-392, or New Year through Transfiguration in the church year section of CWH. Till then, think about buying a copy of CWH so you can follow along and check out the hymns I'm skipping over.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Tacky Hymns 89

As we press on with the hymn selections of Christian Worship: Hymnal (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2021), I repeat:
Please understand the following three "types" of comments for which I'm interested in singling out hymns for special mention. "Type 1" means I wish the editors had shown better taste than to include such-and-such in the book, because it clashes with the decor (i.e. doctrine and spiritual culture) of an intentionally Lutheran church body. "Type 2" is just a point of trivia that I want to raise, like "what an interesting choice of a tune to go with this hymn," etc.; not necessarily an example of tackiness, as such. "Type 3" is the reverse of tackiness: a hymn so marvelous that its appearance in CWH shows up other hymnals that don't include it.
The hymns are sectioned as follows: CHURCH YEAR – Advent, 301-328; Christmas, 329-366; New Year, 367-369; Epiphany, 370-387; Transfiguration, 388-392; Lent, 393-410; Palm Sunday, 411-415; Holy Thursday (which I was brought up to know as Maundy Thursday), 416-418; Jesus' Passion, 419-437; Easter, 438-471; Ascension, 472-476; Day of Pentecost, 477-479; Holy Trinity, 480-484; Second Coming, 485-495; Minor Festivals – Name of Jesus, 496; Presentation, 497; St. Michael and All Angels, 498-500. TRIUNE GOD – Creation and Preservation, 501-509; Redeemer, 510-550; Good Shepherd, 551-555; Justification, 556-574; Grace, 575-584; Work of the Spirit, 585-596; Praise and Adoration, 597-629. MEANS OF GRACE – Word of God, 630-645; Holy Baptism, 646-649; Confession and Absolution, 650-658; Holy Communion, 659-677. LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN – Baptismal Life, 678-693; Discipleship, 694-718; Prayer, 719-725; Love, 726-733; Vocation, 734-740; Witness, 741-747; Stewardship, 748-754; Home and Education, 755-762; Marriage, 763-764; Society, 765-771; Nation, 772-775; Morning, 776-782; Evening, 782-796; Trust, 797-830; Hope and Comfort, 831-853. LIFE OF THE CHURCH – Church, 854-861; Church Militant, 862-879; Church Triumphant, 880-894; Ministry, 895-899; Missions, 900-908; Christian Schools, 909-910; Opening of Service, 911-922; Close of Service, 923-932; Service Music, 933-958.

The "Advent" section has a decent selection of traditional Advent hymns. Let's assume references are "Type 3" unless otherwise specified.

The first item of note is 305-306 (Type 2), two settings of Georg Weissel's "Life Up Your Heads, You Mighty Gates." TLH had three tunes for this hymn, two of them named after the original German text (MACHT HOCH DIE TÜR) and one commonly given as MILWAUKEE. LW, LSB and CWALH all retained the better of the two MACHT HOCHs and MILWAUKEE. Surprisingly, for a Wisconsin product, CWH drops MILWAUKEE and replaces it with the fanfarelike TRURO – a tune about which I recently had an argument with my church's choir director because she swore it was the tune her "confirmation hymnal" paired with this hymn, even though no LCMS book has ever done so. (Service Book and Hymnal, hereafter SBH, may be the book she has in mind; a strange gift to give a Missouri Synod girl upon her confirmation.) Well, she didn't like either MACHT HOCH or MILWAUKEE, either of which I prefer to TRURO. And here it suddenly is, in CWH 306, as if the book had read her mind; and what's also interesting is that it assigns a different sequence of five stanzas to each tune.

307 is "When the King Shall Come Again," an unfamiliar but decent hymn by contemporary writer Christopher Idle, set to the lovely chorale GAUDEAMUS PARITER.

308 (no type) is James Milligan's "There's a voice in the wilderness crying," set to a piece of music by Henry Bancroft that I somehow recall hearing (or maybe accompanying) as a choir piece. This piece offers as good an opportunity as any to point out a couple of issues with this book's hymn layout, which bucks the long-standing tradition of capitalizing the first word of each line and also botches the notation of a tune with an "irregular" text underlay. So, it has several instances of a pair of barred-together eighth notes under which some stanzas slur one syllable, while others squeeze in two. A thoughtful typesetter would have done something like put in a dotted tie mark between two separately flagged eighths, to show that the tie is optional. Yea, verily, that's nitpicking; and it's conceivable that someone involved in editing this book found that type of notation annoying. But if it is annoying, it's the authors of hymns that don't hew to the same metrical pattern throughout that we should be annoyed with, not the practical difficulty of guiding singers to land the right syllable under the right note.

310 is Wendell Kimbrough's "Long in darkness Israel wandered," which I don't remember seeing before. It's set to an equally contemporary tune by Bruce Benedict (both authors are about a decade younger than me) which, on first sight-reading, reminded me a bit of George Warren's tune GUIDE ME. It's a simple, well structured, very learnable tune, though I think some of its phrase-endings (including the final one) are a little weak. The text is decent, drawing material from the Exodus, various Messianic prophecies and the healing work of Jesus. Oddly, though, the hymn selects a line from the middle of stanza 3 for the title at the top of the page ("Dawning light of our salvation"), rather than the first line of stanza 1.

320 is Werner Franzmann's "As angels joyed with one accord," which I've seen elsewhere, though it still strikes me as a rarity. It's set to the fine, Christmassy sounding chorale PUER NOBIS.

322 (Type 2) is Charles Wesley's "Come, thou long-expected Jesus" – notice, by the way, that CWH has also parted ways with the tradition of capitalizing pronouns whose antecedent is Jesus or God. I really mention this hymn because CWH changed the tune to Southern Harmony's RESTORATION. CWALH had it with ST. HILARY; LW and LSB both paired it with JEFFERSON, which is therefore the tune that this hymn brings to my mind. But whatever. What I find really interesting, but probably only because I'm a nerd, is the fact that the trajectory of change, both from CWALH to CWH and from LW to LSB, was from updated language ("Come, O long-expected") to the unaltered "thou," etc. Maybe it's a sign that the judgment of history (the history of hymnody) is swinging back toward letting poets' perfectly clear language stand, rather than compulsively updating every archaic expression.

325 (Type 1) is titled "My soul in stillness waits," but its first line is "For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits" – a Marty Haugenish ditty by, like, Marty Haugen. It comes complete with keyboard cues at the end of each stanza. In case you're not picking up on it, I'm not a big fan of the vogue for this kind of hymn, or canticle, or whatever it is. I get it, not everybody has my taste. I've visited a Lutheran church where the entire service was composed by Haugen (something called "Holden Evening Prayer," I believe it was). I think it ends up elevating a soloist or choir above the congregation, encouraging people to spectate rather than participate; and there's a sameness and, in large doses, sickening cuteness to the music that bothers me – even if others could say the same thing about the chorale tradition, which doesn't bother me at all, if it's even true. Give the Haugen phenomenon another decade or two and I think music like it will come to sound very dated and out of touch, while objectively excellent hymn tunes continue to open up a rich treasury of spiritual meaning to new generations. 2 tacks on a 5-tack scale of tackiness.

326 (Type 1) is "O Jesus, grant me hope and comfort," which is new to me although it isn't new. Translated by Walter Buszin from a 19th century German hymn and set to Buszin's arrangement of a 17th century chorale (quite the renaissance man, that Buszin fellow), it's attractive overall despite a little awkwardness in its proportions. As to the lyrics, I sniff a trace of Pietism in its strong emphasis on "my" emotional state, amid its two stanzas and refrain welcoming Jesus. Example: "My thoughts, desires, and all my longings I dedicate, O Christ, to thee." It doesn't say anything that I wouldn't pray to my Lord at times, but in a 28-hymn Advent section it will probably never make my top 25 choices for any given service. Maybe 1 tack.

328 (Type 1) is the Basque carol "The angel Gabriel from heaven came," which was also in LSB and I think it's nice. But I also think it's more likely to be sung by a choir, and the refrain "most highly favored maiden, Gloria!" might trigger some parishioners who are sensitive to anything that smacks of Mariolatry. I'll give it half a tack.

I think we're at 3-1/2 tacks now. Not bad, all things considered. More another time. Till then, stay classy, brethren and sistren!

Monday, November 22, 2021

What's in CWH?

I've just come into possession of a copy of Christian Worship: Hymnal, the new Wisconsin Ev. Lutheran Synod hymnal fresh out of Northwestern Publishing House in Milwaukee. Its title lends itself to confusion with WELS' previous pew book, Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal (1993) – which until now, I've always shortened to CW upon repeated references, but which I suppose will now have to be CWALH to distinguish it from CWH. I'm going to take the high road for once, and refrain from making any cheap quips about the progression of titles suggesting that WELS has gotten over the need for its hymnal to be explicitly Lutheran. (Alas, I'll never achieve the brilliance of the wag who described WELS' rebranding of its college in New Ulm, Minn. from "Dr. Martin Luther College" to just plain "Martin Luther College" as "stripping Luther of his doctorate.")

In my review of the book, which I intend to take in an as-yet-undetermined number of installments under the thread "Tacky Hymns," I don't intend only to lampoon the examples of "tackiness on holy ground" that I find therein. As with my previous series of posts on the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (see posts 81-88 on this thread) and The Lutheran Hymnal (67-80), please understand the following three "types" of comments for which I'm interested in singling out hymns for special mention. "Type 1" means I wish the editors had shown better taste than to include such-and-such in the book, because it clashes with the decor (i.e. doctrine and spiritual culture) of an intentionally Lutheran church body. "Type 2" is just a point of trivia that I want to raise, like "what an interesting choice of a tune to go with this hymn," etc.; not necessarily an example of tackiness, as such. "Type 3" is the reverse of tackiness: a hymn so marvelous that its appearance in CWH shows up other hymnals that don't include it.

Before we really dive into the hymn selection (where the numbering starts with 301), I'll just toss out a few brisk observations about the front part of the hymnal. First, the pew edition is a thick, substantial book with a dark blue cover embossed, on the front, with a silvery Chi-Rho (the first two Greek letters in the name of Christ) – similar to yet distinct from the design of CWALH. Almost directly behind that front cover, the first thing really worthy of note is the Introduction, which makes a clear statement of the confession the book aims to make. I'm a little less enthusiastic about the evidence it gives that NPH is following CPH (cf. Lutheran Service Book) in loading a lot of supplemental content into a proprietary "Service Builder" software-as-a-service package. Heigh ho.

Past that, there's a church year "calendar" that lists the Sundays and feasts with an indication of their liturgical color, which is handy for the altar guild. Then there's an list of lectionary years and dates that specifies which year of the three-year lectionary (A, B or C) goes with each church year from 2022-23 through 2051-52, complete with dates of the First Sunday in Advent, Ash Wednesday and Easter. That's so useful, I might stick a copy of it to my wall. The three-year lectionary goes on to list Scripture references for the three main readings of each service in parallel columns for years A, B and C; a one-year lectionary, another for minor festivals and another for "occasions" (like church anniversaries, confirmation, Mother's Day, etc.) follow that. It's nice to know one-year remains an option, even if it's the redheaded stepchild.

Next, there's a table of Psalm appointments for the one- and three-year lectionary. Since I've been skimming lightly so far, I just noticed for the first time that CWH has gone back to the Latin names of selected Divine Services, such as the Sundays in Advent (Ad Te Levavi, etc.), Lent (Invocavit, etc.) and Easter (Quaismodo Geniti, etc.) I'm for it, as you'll have guessed if you've flipped through my hymns for the Sundays of the church year. It shows a commitment to staying connected to the church of past generations that goes even further than TLH (which didn't preserve the Latin titles of the Advent services). It also points up very graphically what a difference 3-year vs. 1-year makes, with Transfiguration appearing three weeks earlier in the latter. You may also notice that CWH's 3-year lectionary follows LSB in designating the Sundays after Trinity as "Proper 1," etc., based on their range of calendar dates. One odd thing about this table is the header "Festival" above the names of the services, even though some of them arguably aren't festivals (e.g. penitential seasons and "normal time" or the "non-festival" half of the church year).

That's all prologue to the Psalms, whose numbering begins at 1 and goes all the way to 150 but doesn't hit every Psalm along the way. Each number apparently corresponds to the Psalm of the same number, of which it is either a hymn paraphrase or a chant setting or, in by far the majority of cases, one of the Marty Haugen type of Psalm settings with a catchy refrain repeated a few times between verses pointed for an Anglican chant type tone. Exceptions include 22, which samples a couple phrases from the Passion chorale "O sacred head, now wounded" for its refrain; 24, which does the same with the Israeli ditty "Welcome the King of glory" (I learned the version that goes "The King of glory comes"). Psalm 42 is represented by Martin Nystrom's ditty "As the deer"; 45 is a paraphrase by John Wainwright, set to the tune YORKSHIRE; 62 uses a Taizé refrain; 66 has a through-composed setting by Steven C. Warner; 72 has a refrain that samples a phrase from "We three kings," melody only; 78 gets a contemporary setting by Greg Scheer; 80 is a paraphrase set to ABERYSTWYTH; 111 is a paraphrase by Jaroslav Vajda set to an original hymn tune. 119 divides selected verses of the Bible's longest psalm into five segments that can apparently be done interchangeably with the same refrain and chant tone; 128 is a paraphrase by Stephen Starke, set to Stephen Johnson's lovely tune PUTNAM, which was also in LSB; 136 is a unique setting by Marty Haugen; 138 is a Herman Stuempfle paraphrase set to the chorale O WELT, ICH MUSS DICH LASSEN (a.k.a. INNSBRUCK); 139 is set as an Anglican chant canticle, like the Te Deum in TLH; 145 is a paraphrase set to Hubert Parry's tune JERUSALEM, which some people wish was the national anthem of the U.K.; 149 is a Hal Hopson ditty; and 150 is also a hymn paraphrase set to an original tune, with a "Halle! Hallelujah!" refrain.

The book's "Services" section begins, very significantly, with Holy Baptism. Heretofore I don't recall ever seeing Baptism put in what I now, suddenly realize to be its proper place in the liturgy section – the beginning. Usually, if it's included in the pew book at all, it's buried deep in the part of the book most people never turn to, well after the services the congregation uses every week. The service, which seems at least partly to be newly invented for this book, makes a good catechetical statement/confession about the need for baptism; I just wish it had followed LSB as far as including Luther's Flood Prayer.

"The Service," as CWH calls Divine Service, begins on p. 154 with Setting One. It's kind of a hybrid of the "old, old hymnal" liturgy with the "old, new hymnal" one, with two updated versions of the corporate confession and absolution, the type of Kyrie that alternates bids like "In peace, let us pray to the Lord" with "Lord, have mercy" (instead of the historic "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy" and cut), but the Anglican chant canticle version of the Gloria in Excelsis pretty much straight out of TLH. Options for an Introit and Gradual are omitted. There are seasonal Gospel acclamations, which all begin and end with the triple Alleluia (except during Lent) but omit the "Glory be to You, O Lord" response to the announcement of the Gospel. ("Praise be to You, O Christ" after the reading is preserved.) The Nicene Creed uses plural pronouns ("We believe...") and both the Nicene and Apostles' Creed have updated language, but at least "descended into hell" was left as-is. The Prayer of the Church is rather precious, with the congregation reading parts of it responsorially.

Updated language continues in "The Sacrament" portion of the service, with the Sanctus mentioning "heavenly hosts" instead of Sabaoth, for example; otherwise quite similar to the setting in TLH. In the Prayer of Thanksgiving, CWH joins LSB in walking back a part of Luther's reform of the Mass and restores a eucharistic prayer between the Sanctus and the Lord's Prayer. There are two options for wording of the Lord's Prayer, so that at least in theory, WELS Lutherans need no longer worry about being able to rely on everybody saying the same words when they gather in prayer. The updated language of the Agnus Dei setting is just different enough to draw notice if you're used to the musically similar version in TLH.

I'm not going to go through Setting Two and Setting Three, which seem to be pretty much the same but with new music. This leads to Morning Prayer/Matins, which has some music in common with the TLH setting, alternating with some new chant melodies. The Te Deum setting is aggressively of the "scotch the last two stanzas" persuasion, not even leaving them in italics as LSB did for those who choose to keep them; also you have to be on your toes because Stanza 7 isn't where you'll expect to find it. Evening Prayer/Vespers is more as one finds it in Lutheran Worship and LSB than in TLH, with Phos hilaron moving onto Psalm 141 ("Let my prayer rise before you as incense"), two settings of the Magnificat, and that cute extended Kyrie that can be chanted with the liturgist's "let us pray to the Lord" overlapping with the congregation's "Lord, have mercy." CWH then follows LW and LSB in adding Compline to the congregation's repertoire of prayer services.

Page 235 kicks off a section of daily devotions with a page of introduction, followed by spoken offices of the hours (Matins, Laud, Prime, Terce, Vespers and Compline, by those and other names). There's a daily lectionary on pp. 248 ff., a schedule for praying through the Psalms, and four pages of personal prayers. Then, filed under "Rites," we get another Service of Holy Baptism, which this time does include the Flood Prayer; a "Service of Word and Prayer," apparently for any time of day; a wedding service; a funeral service; services of corporate and individual confession and absolution; the Athanasian Creed; Luther's Small Catechism, including the "six chief parts," Daily Prayers, Table of Duties and Christian Questions for those who intend to go to the Sacrament; and so, after a table of contents for the hymn portion of the book, which is literally p. 299, the hymns begin with number (and page) 301.

Skipping to the end of that part, for now (the last hymn is 958), we arrive at indices, including acknowledgments, copyrights, end credits for the book itself, an alphabetical index of sources (words and music all lumped together), hymn tunes by meter and then by title, and hymn text titles and first lines. The book's final numbered page is 992. And so, till next time, there I'll leave you.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Constance Verity Destroys the Universe

Constance Verity Destroys the Universe
by A. Lee Martinez
Recommended Ages: 13+

Connie has grown used to saving the world from megalomaniacs, mad scientists, rampaging cryptids and alien invaders. She's been doing it since childhood, and she's come to terms with the fact that the mantle of Caretaker has fallen to her. It puts her at the right place at the right time, and she has developed the skills to cope with pretty much anything. Then comes the day when assassins from every corner of reality start targeting her, all regretful to inform her that the sacred entrails, or probabilistic equations, or whatever, have determined that she is destined to destroy the universe. Staying ahead of multiple attempts on her life is hard enough. Balancing work with a chance to start a family with her long-suffering boyfriend, Byron, is even tougher.

And now it seems there may really be something to all this buzz about the universe coming to an end, what with an ancient artifact that hastens entropy (i.e. the heat death of the universe) out in the open again for the first time since forever. Once it's in play, Connie is on a non-stop race either to destroy everything or save it, while her friends and loved ones only make things harder for her despite their helpful intentions. These characters, by the way, include the world's greatest ninja, a kleptomaniac wonder dog, a childhood friend who has the ultimate passive-aggressive mother, a retired goddess, a shape-shifting alien, a mostly reformed mad scientist and his artificially intelligent robot wife, a supervillain lair designer and her genius partner, and several more characters who, I take it, were featured in previous books but only make cameos here.

I was constantly engaged by this book's nonstop parade of cracked fantasy-adventure sequences, gags and scenes from the life of a career Snurkab (a title that's much more impressive than it sounds). Whatever it is, no matter how far out, no matter how ridiculous, Connie really does seem to be cut out to handle it. And handle it she does, with a remarkable sensitivity and sympathy toward even the most mustache-twirling of villains. She takes attempts on her life in stride, with no hard feelings, and makes friends with her enemies in a really charming way. If anything, this book throws too much at her, and at us, bubbling over with mini-adventures almost to the point of undercutting the coherence of the plot. But it also offers many all-too-rare opportunities to laugh out loud, after which you'll surely forgive it that and much more.

This review is based on an uncorrected, pre-publication proof that I received in a Goodreads giveaway. The book, due to go on sale in March 2022, is the third in a series that also includes The Last Adventure of Constance Verity and Constance Verity Saves the World – both of which I ordered online after this book fell into my lap. I haven't read them yet, but I'm already a big fan of Martinez, a Texas-based author of hilarious horror and speculative fiction. His other novels, most of which I have read and would heartily recommend, include Gil's All Fright Diner, In the Company of Ogres, A Nameless Witch, The Automatic Detective, Too Many Curses, Monster, Divine Misfortune, Chasing the Moon, Emperor Mollusk vs. the Sinister Brain and Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest. There's also a collection of his shorter fiction titled Robots vs. Slime Monsters.

Friday, November 12, 2021

314. On Growing as a Theologian

Let's see if you can recognize Martin Luther's advice on how to become a good theologian in this hymn, the first I have written post-Edifying Hymns. As usual, I wrote it without a specific tune in mind. On looking at a few options, I fancy SURREY, a.k.a. CAREY, by Henry Carey (1723), which is in The Lutheran Hymnal (368 "The Lord my pasture shall prepare"), Service Book and Hymnal (359 "Lord God of hosts, whose mighty hand," second tune) and the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (372 "Jesus, Thy boundless love to me").

You who a stronger faith would know,
Pray constantly, that it may grow.
Be exercised in your belief
And seek the Lord in joy and grief,
Your heart with His thus closely bound
Till full contentment you have found.

You who would know God as He is,
Search diligently what He says.
Chew on His word and drink it deep
Till all your fibers in it steep.
Then shall you taste the mystery:
The truth that binds and sets you free.

You who the Teacher's robe would don,
A pupil's yoke must first put on.
As for your sake He suffered loss,
You, too, are called to bear a cross.
'Tis in the taking of this test
You'll follow Christ and know Him best.

To God, who hears and answers prayer;
To Christ, the Word, forever fair;
To Holy Spirit, cleansing flame—
The Three in One, always the same—
We pray, we listen, and we yield
The hymn of hearts for glory sealed.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Correcting EH Proofs

I've corrected my first proofs of Edifying Hymns. One last step remains before the book goes live on Lulu-dot-com: riffling through one of the copies I just ordered to make sure all the pages are there, and printed right-side-up, then clicking a button on Lulu to approve it for distribution. My first pile of copies also include ones I plan to send to the contributors as a thank-you gift. This time around, they include hymn writers and composers Alan Kornacki Jr., John Kleinig, Andy Richard, Tapani Simojoki and Theo Kavouras, of whom only Alan is a repeat recipient after his contributions to Useful Hymns.

To give you an idea of how error-riddled my proofs were, to start with, I only ordered two proofs because I'd already ordered one when I realized that I'd omitted the accompaniment to the Order of Divine Service included in the book. So, upon adding that as an appendix, I ordered Proof 2, and both arrived at the same time. The duplicate copies made proofing easier, because they allowed me to enlist the help of a friend – a very good friend, I must say – to check the accuracy of the section headings, table of contents and indices.

The types of mistake I found and corrected are many and varied; and correcting them wasn't easy, since on two separate occasions, I had trouble starting the computer I've been using for this project and had to take it, both times, to a local repair shop. Here, in general terms, are the types of mistakes I had to fix:
  • A punctuation error literally in the first paragraph of the preface.
  • A notehead missing from a hymn tune.
  • Four hymns whose meter was omitted from the tune's credit line.
  • Three hymns whose staff text saying "insert the relevant stanza, then skip to the final stanza" wasn't italicized like other instances.
  • One or two hymns whose credit lines were too close to the title, a spacing issue that seems to have developed in MuseScore all by itself.
  • A copyright notice in which I inadvertently, and erroneously, claimed credit for somebody else's hymn text.
  • Two hymns in which the section name wasn't consistent with the TOC or the other hymns in that section.
  • A commandment, in my melodic setting of Luther's Small Catechism, in which I'd incorrectly typed the word "steal" instead of "kill." Boy, would that have been embarrassing!
  • Multiple hymns in which I omitted the period at the end of a line, usually the end of the final stanza.
  • Several hymns where I caught a misspelled word, or a homophone mistake like "heal" for "heel" or "our" for "are."
  • A couple hymns in which I decided to change a word choice to fit the meter better, or to correct a grammar mistake.
  • One hymn in which I'd inserted a space above, instead of below, the last line of a stanza.
  • A stanza number that I'd forgotten to delete from a hymn of the "insert the relevant stanza" type.
  • A hymn with a repeat sign in the tune, in which I'd forgotten to type the lyrics for the second time through.
  • Two hymn-tune harmonizations and a liturgical accompaniment where I caught and corrected voice leading errors – the dreaded Parallel Perfect Fifths, which I don't doubt will continue to jump out at me every time my eye falls on one of those pages.
  • Three hymns whose placeholder hymn numbers didn't get changed to their final numbering in the first line, tune title and metrical indices.
  • One hymn that I'd omitted from the first line index.
  • One hymn tune that was listed under the wrong meter in the metrical index.
  • A tune title that was partially left out of its listing in the metrical index.
  • A tune harmonization where I'd forgotten to put breath marks between phrases and a fermata at the end.
  • A mistake in the title of the accompaniment to a piece of liturgy.
Correcting these mistakes required me to open 24 MuseScore documents (hymn layouts with the first stanza under the melody line and the other stanzas below in two columns) and six Finale files (scores of the accompaniment). Have I mentioned that I use a different laptop for each scoring program? Then, after saving each corrected file, I had to export it as a PDF (Finale likes to crash during this step, adding to the fun). Then, I took the PDFs to a third computer, which happens to have PhotoShop, and turned the PDFs into JPGs. Then I took the JPGs back to the first computer (the laptop with MuseScore) and updated the links in my InDesign document, where I also had to make all those corrections to the preface and indices. Finally, after repackaging the whole document (and learning by trial and error that just adding the corrected JPGs to the links folder, saving the InDesign file and exporting a PDF didn't result in a file Lulu would accept), I uploaded the whole shmeer to Lulu and ordered a bunch of copies.

If Proof 3 comes back riddled with mistakes, it can only be because of what I noted when I was proofing UH: My work is nothing if not an unbroken tissue of error. What more can I say but "Duhhh...."

EDIT: The book is now live at Lulu-dot-com, here.