Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Tacky Hymns 81

As promised, we resume with Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (ELHy), the 1996 hymnal out of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, about which see here. As with my previous walk through The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH, 1941) please observe that I'm pointing up three types of hymns in this series of critiques: (1) Hymns that I think the editors should have known better than to put in the pew hymnal of a liturgical, confessional Lutheran church – the kind that, doctrinally and artistically, qualify as "tacky" in the sense I've been using it on this thread; (2) noteworthy text-tune pairings; and (3) hymns of such high quality that I feel they deserve to be better known and more widely sung. I'll try, but not too hard, to avoid vain repetition from previous threads. That's a lot of material to try to keep in mind, you know.

First, regarding the arrangement of the hymns in ELHy, I'd like to point out that it follows the precedent of its direct ancestor, The Lutheran Hymnary (1912) in that the portion of the book organized by liturgical seasons actually assigns specific hymns to each Sunday and feast of the church year. I suppose that would be helpful for pastors and musicians wanting to plan services quickly, although the book also has many hymns organized by topic.

(4) In Jesus' name our work must all be done (type 3) is a Norwegian "invocation" hymn that, I learned during my sojourn in the ELS, was customarily used to open parish business meetings in the Norwegian synod that became the ELS. I learned it, and came to love it, as a member of the Bethany Lutheran College choir; memorized it, and sang it to myself during many a long morning at a summer job that I passionately hated. I also tried to introduce it to the LCMS congregation back home, but they didn't take to it, finding Ludvig M. Lindeman's tune I JESU NAVN too strange and unappealing to their tastes. It's irregular, for sure, but also richly expressive in a Romantic idiom tinged with stern, Nordic melancholy. I would still like to see more non-Nordic Lutherans get to know it, and maybe revive the tradition of opening meetings with it.

(5) Lord Jesus, though but two or three (type 3) is a brief Matthias Loy production, also suitable for opening a parish business meeting. It's one of a number of hymns that ELHy includes, without music (other than a reference to a suggested tune), to fill blank space at the bottom of a page. Elegant in its simplicity, it's another example of what an overlooked master of English Lutheran hymnwriting Loy is.

(7) Praise to the Father (type 3) is another block of text without music, this time by John H. Hopkins. As a hymn of praise to the Triune God, I think it might actually be better than "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty," whose tune it shares.

(13) Dearest Jesus, draw Thou near me (type 3) is a beautiful prayer for God to open our heart to His word and lead us into worship, written by 17th-18th century Danish bishop Thomas Kingo. Again, it is eloquent in its brevity and rich in sacramental thought; set to a familiar chorale (WERDE MUNTER) it shouldn't be hard to introduce to any Lutheran congregation.

(14) Father, who the light this day (type 2) is set to a tune called FRED TIL BOD – but not the one by Lindeman, that will be familiar to Lutherans in the TLH tradition from both this hymn (TLH 8 has one stanza fewer) and "Hallelujah! Jesus lives" (TLH 188). The tune used here (it'll come up again) is FRED TIL BOD by J.P.E. Hartmann, which I also learned during my time in the Bethany choir. Though I think the Lindeman tune is the finer of the two, I have a certain love for this melody as well.

(17) Awake and sing the song (type 3) is another "bottom of the page text block" hymn that I'd like to recommend. Its author, William Hammond, also wrote TLH 18 "Lord, we come before Thee now." It's another beautiful hymn calling on worshipers to receive and respond to the means of grace.

(18) God the Father, be our Stay is mentioned only because I prefer ELHy's treatment of it to that of Lutheran Worship (LW) or the Lutheran Service Book (LSB). While the latter lead off with the "Triune God" stanza (which was invented, I think, to avoid having to sing the hymn through three times), this one leads with the three stanzas addressing the Persons of the Trinity by name, and makes "Triune God" the fourth stanza. While I don't think Stanza 4 is really necessary, I do feel the three-stanza version should be the first option, not an afterthought.

(20) Holy Ghost, dispel our sadness (type 3) is a Paul Gerhardt hymn that wasn't in TLH, LW or LSB – Missouri sinners, take note – set to a remarkable tune titled GENEVA by G.H. Day, which modulates from minor to major at the midpoint. Both the words and music would be a worthy addition to our repertoire.

(21) To God be glory, peace on earth (type 3) is a "bottom of the page text block," a Common Meter paraphrase of the Gloria in excelsis by Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady, in six brief stanzas.

(22) Let all the world in every corner sing (type 1) is the first hymn in this book that I don't love. With two generic praise stanzas by George Herbert, an anonymous doxological stanza and an uninspired tune by George J. Elvey (UNDIQUE GLORIA), I just don't think it's anything special and its omission from the book wouldn't be missed.

(26) O Holy Ghost, Thou gift divine (type 3) is a Bartholomäus Ringwaldt hymn set to the attractive chorale MIT FREUDEN ZART ("With high delight let us unite"). Again, it's a beautifully done hymn, rich in prayer for the Spirit's gifts.

(28) O how holy is this place (sic, type 3) – Sorry, that "sic" is my snobbish way of pointing out that "O" should be spelled "Oh" in this instance – is a Benjamin Schmolck hymn, set to Johann Crüger's beautiful chorale JESUS, MEINE ZUVERSICHT, building an appeal for God's presence in worship on Jacob's experience at Bethel: "Here we come before His face; This must be the gate of heaven," etc.

(30) Open now Thy gates of beauty (type 2), another Schmolck hymn that TLH 1 sets to UNSER HERRSCHER (a.k.a. NEANDER), ELHy here sets to the lovely Romantic-era tune AMEN, JESUS HAN SKAL RAADE by A.P. Berggreen. It might be a bit too drippy for some people's taste, and I'm one of those people most days of the week; but it is, I'll grant you, an interesting alternative.

(39) Whoever would be saved (type 3) is Harry Bartels' metrical setting of the Athanasian Creed – a versifying achievement that impresses me despite the fact that, around the date this hymnal was edited, I had also written one; cf. Useful Hymns for my effort which, I'll acknowledge right now, is no improvement on Harry B's. I've had the honor of meeting this guy, by the way, and I wholeheartedly endorse the project of teaching this hymn to a congregation, set to the well-known chorale MEIN SCHÖPFER, STEH MIR BEI.

(42) God, we praise You (type 1) is a paraphrase of the Te Deum by Christopher Idle, which I don't particularly care for, set to the tune NETTLETON, which I really don't care for. As paraphrases/musical settings go, it seems too rushed and peremptory, lacking the poetic tone and dignity I'd like to sense in a setting of this majestic canticle. I mean, I'm no fan of using THAXTED as a hymn tune (as I've repeated ad nauseam on this thread), but to the Holst tune's credit, it has a lot of what this tune lacks. In fairness, once this piece moves past the first stanza, I feel less of a sense that unintentional laughter may burst forth; but still.

(44) Thee, God, we praise (type 3), on the other hand, is a Carl Døving paraphrase of the Te Deum, set to a more sedate OLD HUNDREDTH, which I think is a very fine alternative to the chant version. There are 13 stanzas, though, so you might want to plan on having different groups (left side, right side; women, men; choir, Sunday School, etc.) sing selected stanzas.

(45) We sing Thy praise, O God (type 3, exclamation point) is Martin Luther's paraphrase of the Te Deum, notated for alternating groups (I and II) to sing back and forth – such as choir vs. congregation, left vs. right, cantor vs. all, etc. The tune is also attributed to Luther, and with varying numbers of pairs of lines being set to different strains, it can be a little complicated to learn, lead and accompany; I have experience with this. Personally, I prefer the translation I learned at the Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Ind.) chapel out of the old, red Worship Supplement (Concordia Publishing House, 1969), and the accompaniment provided in its organist's edition. The choir might also profit from learning J.S. Bach's setting, from his 371 Chorale Harmonizations. But bottom line, ELHy is the only American Lutheran hymnal I know of that has this masterpiece in it, which I think is essential for Lutheran congregations to know.

(50) Before Your awesome majesty (type 3) is an unusual instance of a hymn by Jaroslav Vajda, late of the LCMS Slovak community, making it into an ELS hymnal before anyone in Missouri has heard of it. While I'm concerned that stanza 2 could be misunderstood when it addresses the Lord as "holy, unborn One" (which, surely, doesn't apply to the Second Person of the Trinity; maybe "uncreated" would have been a better word choice), I guess it's one of those things you can understand correctly if you've a mind to. Stanza 3, however, makes the case for trying out this hymn with a beautiful description of baptism; and stanza 4 tells God, "No life is there without Your Word" and adds, "Neither might nor glory move / Us to adore You as Your love." It just gets better and better all the way to the end.

(56) Ye lands, to the Lord (type 3) is one that I've recommended before.

(57) Evening and morning (type 3) is another fine Paul Gerhardt hymn that wasn't in TLH, though it was in LW and LSB. Its tune, DIE GÜLDNE SONNE by Johann Georg Ebeling, is an example of the work of one of the finest hymn tune composers I know of.

(61) My heart is longing to praise my Savior is a hymn by Princess Eugenie of Sweden, set to a Norwegian melody named after her, which I'm not sure whether to categorize as type 1 or 3. Its music is a lovely artifact of Norwegian spiritual culture, but I'm not sure how it's going to go over in a congregation that isn't saturated in said culture, except maybe as a choir piece.

(62) O Love divine, how sweet Thou art is one of a few Charles Wesley hymns consigned to a "bottom of the page text block" in this book. Again, I'm a bit conflicted about whether it's type 1 or 3. It's a very nice poem of longing to be absorbed in the love of Christ and pay rapt attention to His word; however, it's phrased in such a subjective way that I think it would serve better as a private devotion than a congregational hymn.

(67) Praise, my soul, the King of heaven (type 3) is an impressive hymn of praise by H.F. Lyte, set to the equally impressive John Goss tune LAUDA ANIMA, also known to me through the "farewell to the Alleluia" hymn "Alleluia, song of gladness." This appearance of LAUDA ANIMA is particularly important because it sets each of the hymn's five stanzas to a different accompaniment (sometimes, but not always, suitable for SATB part-singing), creating a through-composed piece of expressive majesty. I think the LCMS's Hymnal Supplement 98 had the same arrangement in its accompanist's edition. I turn to one of these books pretty much any time a LAUDA ANIMA hymn comes up when I'm at the organ.

(68) Eternal Son of God, O Thou (type 3) is another "bottom of the page text block," an 11th century Latin hymn translated by J.J. Rambach that compresses a strong theology of worship into six brief stanzas. Stanza 2: "Thy body and Thy blood they here / Receive, their fainting souls to cheer." Stanza 3: "Here in baptismal water pure / They find for sins a gracious cure." Stanza 4: "Here sin's diseases healing find." Stanza 5: "The gates of hell may here assail / Whom Christ defends, but not prevail."

(70) I see Thee standing, Lamb of God (type 3) is a hymn by Danish pietist Hans Adolph Brorson, inspired by the dying words of St. Stephen and drenched in the atoning blood of Jesus. Get this bit from Stanza 2: "With lion strength Thy nail-pierced hands / Our death the death-blow gave." Half of the hymn is a vision of heavenly glory, which I've detected (not that my remark on that went uncorrected) as a characteristic of Lutheran pietism, whose hymns (in my opinion) lean too heavily on renunciation of this world and hope for the next and not enough on the church's present vocation as light in a dark world. However, this song is beautifully done, and it may have its place in the praises of the faithful.

(73) Thine is the glory (type 1) is a ditty whose tackiness I have previously discussed.

(81) O Splendor of God's glory bright (type 3), from the Latin of St. Ambrose, is one of my favorite hymns ever, so I don't care whether I've said this before; like TLH, ELHy includes all nine stanzas in their 1904 Hymns Ancient and Modern translation and set them to the bright, sturdy chorale, O HEILIGE DREIFALTIGKEIT ("O blessed, holy Trinity"). Thank you, ELHy.

(84) Jesus, Sun of righteousness (type 3), of the "bottom of the page text block" persuasion, is an alternate translation by Jane Borthwick of the Christian Knorr von Rosenroth hymn "Come, Thou bright and morning star" (cf. TLH 539, as translated by Richard Massie). Borthwick's meter doesn't allow it to be sung to the hymn's original(?) tune MORGANGLANZ DER EWIGKEIT, so ELHy suggests using Lindeman's FRED TIL BOD instead.

The hymns starting with ELHy 87 are earmarked for times of the church year, so I guess I'll resume there in the next number. Till then, stay classy, fellow Lutherans!

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