Saturday, August 10, 2013

A New Lease on Tackiness

The reason for my rush in getting through All God's People Sing! was that the hymnal I've been really wanting to pat down for evidence of Tackiness on Holy Ground is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's latest hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Augsburg Fortress, 2006). Henceforward I will be using the abbreviations ELCA and ELW. You may recall that I tore through the liturgical text of ELW several years ago, so I needn't repeat my critique of that part of the book. That five-part overview can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

I guess I did end Part 5 of my ELW liturgy commentary with a promise to evaluate the musical settings of the Divine Service, and I can't find any evidence that I fulfilled that promise. It doesn't matter. Suffice it to say that there are ample musical settings of the Kyrie ("In peace let us pray tot he Lord; Lord have mercy"), Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest"), Dignus est Agnus ("This is the feast of victory for our God"), Gospel Acclamation ("Alleluia, Lord, to whom shall we go" etc.), Great Thanksgiving ("The Lord be with you," etc.), Sanctus ("Holy, holy, holy"), Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God, you take away"), and Nunc dimittis ("Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace"). If you want to take a quick look for yourself, you can find:
  • Setting One (a pastiche of numbers composed by Mark Mummert, Thomas Pavlechko, and Robert Buckley Farlee) on p. 94
  • Setting Two (composed by Marty Haugen) on p. 116
—both nice-ish modern-ish settings previously unknown to me—
  • Setting Three (by Richard Hillert) on p. 138
  • Setting Four (by Ronald Nelson) on p. 147
—both settings familiar to Missouri Sinners through the hymnals Lutheran Worship (Concordia, 1982) and The Lutheran Service Book (Concordia, 2006)—
  • Setting Five (mostly plainsong-based, arranged by Rexina Fryxell) on p. 156
  • Setting Six (a pastiche of the work of four different composers in a vaguely Christian-pop style) on p. 165
  • Setting Seven (another pastiche based on Hispanic popular music) on p. 175
  • Setting Eight (with a different form of the Kyrie, a pop Gloria by Dennis Friesen-Carper, a John Ylvisaker setting of "This is the Feast," and contributions by three other composers) on p. 184
  • Setting Nine (by Joel Martinson) on p. 193
  • Setting Ten (using metrical paraphrases of the liturgical texts set to familiar hymn tunes) on p. 203, and
  • the non-Communion "Service of the Word" (with music by R. B. Farlee and Jeremy Young, including the new canticle "Salvation belongs to our God") on p. 210.
There is also a new musical setting of Morning Prayer (i.e. Matins) on p. 298, featuring music by Carolyn Jennings and Mark Mummert; an Evening Prayer (or Vespers) setting on p. 309, with tunes by David Schack and Russell Schulz-Widmar; and a Night Prayer (Compline) on p. 320, using plainsong arrangements by Carlos Messerli. This last is the same setting of Compline used in LW and LSB.

None of these settings is strikingly more beautiful, inspired, or churchly than the Hillert and Nelson versions with which many of us are familiar. Some of them are distinctly less so. Evidently, desperation to provide variety and novelty stood higher in the priorities of this book's editors than a desire for continuity and a long-enduring tradition. Pointedly absent are any traditional settings of either the Common Service or the prayer offices, using either Anglican or Gregorian chant. Even the "hymn tune" setting of the Divine Service eschews Lutheran chorales in favor of (mostly) easy-to-sing, widely known hymn tunes.

The reason I start here with my critique of the hymn selection of ELW is that the first section of hymns, following a frightful illustration of people singing and a helpful table of contents, is "Service Music"—in which the editors show their misgivings as to whether even ten settings of the Divine Service would be enough. Among these pieces, individually numbered like any other hymn, there are:
  • eight settings of the Kyrie ("Lord, have mercy"), including one with an optional text in some South African language and one in Latin
  • three settings of the Trisagion ("Holy God, holy and mighty")
  • three settings of the Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest")
  • two settings of "This is the Feast" (including my favorite one in the book, #166 by R. B. Farlee)
  • one setting of a third option for the so-called Canticle of Praise (Marty Haugen's "Now the feast and celebration")
  • ten versions of the Gospel Acclamation (texts vary, but mostly "Alleluia, Lord, to whom shall we go")
  • three brief Prayer Responses (each with a different text)
  • four settings of the obnoxious Offering Song "Let the vineyards be fruitful" (which, mercifully, seems to have been deleted from the standard format of the Divine Service since the hymnals of the 1970s and -80s; the ones by Hillert and Nelson originally belonged to their settings of the D.S.)
  • four settings of the more traditional Offering Song "Create in me a clean heart" (including both Hillert's setting and the well-known 18th century tune by Freylinghausen)
  • five combined settings of the "Holy, holy, holy," Acclamation ("Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again" and Amen (after the Pax Domini before distribution of the Sacrament), including a setting adapted from Schubert and versions by Marty Haugen and Richard Proulx
  • six versions of "Lamb of God," including the familiar 16th-century setting by Bugenhagen, a Chinese version, a Schubert setting, a plainsong version with an optional Latin text, and a version with an optional Finnish text(!)
  • four versions of the Nunc dimittis ("Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace"), including one from Tillis Butler's "Detroit Folk Mass," a plainsong setting, and a Hispanic ditto
  • four settings of the alternative post-Communion canticle "Thankful hearts and voices raise" (formerly "Thank the Lord and sing His praise," before the adoption of gender-inclusive language), including both Hillert's and Nelson's
  • Marty Haugen's "Praise to You, O God of mercy"
  • two settings of "Blessed be God the source of all life," including one by Carl Schalk
  • three versions of "You have put on Christ," including the Howard Hughes one I previously commented on, plus two settings in which the text is changed to "You belong to Christ, in whom you have been baptized"
  • Farlee's "Springs of water, bless the Lord," a responsive baptismal blessing in the style of refrain-driven Psalm settings innovated by Marty Haugen
  • seven brief antiphons of one or two phrases each, too brief and inconsequential to discuss individually
  • Rawn Harbor's "Into paradise may the angels lead you," and a briefer funeral antiphon by Mark Mummert
  • "Come, let us sing unto the Lord," a setting of Psalm 95:1-7 by Jack Noble White
  • Rawn Harbor's "Come, ring out your joy," another Psalm 95 (Venite) setting, this time after the Marty Haugen responsive-psalm pattern
  • "Blessed are you, Lord," Anne Krentz Organ's setting of the Benedictus from Luke 1
  • two settings of the Te Deum ("We praise you, O God"), including one by Farlee and the Anglican chant setting familiar to many American Lutherans
  • three settings of the Greek hymn Phos hilaron ("Joyous light of glory" or "O gracious Light")
  • two settings of Psalm 14 ("Let my prayer rise up/Let my prayer arise")
  • three settings of the Magnificat ("My soul proclaims" from Luke 1)
  • a Litany of the Saints, and finally
  • the Great Litany, both in settings previously published by Augsburg Fortress.
By this point, we have burned through the "hymns" numbered 151 through 238 (the numbers 1-150 being assigned, very reasonably, to the Psalms, which precede this section of the book). And so, when next we meet, we will begin looking at the hymns properly so called, which ELW numbers from 239 to 893. But don't worry. I won't take a poke at all of them. Even at the risk of making this book seem less tacky than it is, I will skip over anything I have remarked on in my 26 previous Tacky Hymns posts. Till next time, my fellow Lutherans, watch your shmaltz intake!

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