Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Tunes for 12-Line Hymns

It's been years since I've added to this thread, where I meant to go through the hymn tunes that I found in 20th century, English-language, Lutheran hymnals in a systematic way, with critical comments. I previously covered hymn tunes with two or three phrases of melody and tunes with 13 or more. A key to hymnal abbreviations is here. With allowances for my survey of all the hymnals in my possession still being incomplete (I've been very busy!), here's what I've discovered so far about hymn tunes with exactly 12 phrases. Spoiler alert: With only a few exceptions, this isn't a very distinguished bunch, in my opinion. I guess you could call it a case of music avenging itself on poets' prolixity.


Salve festa dies (not counting repeats)
This is the tune to "Hail thee, festival day," which I already covered in the 13+ size category, because with repeats, it comes to 16 lines. Or something.

Nyt yløs, sieluni
This "irregular" melody is paired with the hymn "Arise, my soul, arise" in SBH, LBW and CW. Also known as Suomi, it's a striking and memorable Finnish folktune with a strong, confident character, somewhere on the serious side of jubilant. While I'm sure it would make a smashing choir piece, I think it could also be learnable by the congregation, and I don't think its ethnic color detracts from its churchliness. By the way, that's a customized Amen at the end.


Luther League Hymn
This 1893 tune by George C.F. Haas is technically in the 7675 7676 7686 meter, but I guess that's unique enough to qualify it for the "Peculiar Meter" designation. On the other hand, a lot of the tunes below also hang out in a meter of their own, so ... Anyway, this relic of a youth organization of yesteryear went with the hymn "O Christians! leagued together" in CSB, ALH and SBH. Full of tricky intervals, chromatic shlurps and rhythmic complications, it's structurally loose, sprawling and complex. Yet it's also pompous, poppish, shmaltzy and trite. So, I don't consider it worth the challenge of teaching it to a congregation. A glee club maybe, if they feel like singing the Horst Wessel song for Luther's youth.

Carl Schalk's tune, dated c. 1969, goes with Jaroslav Vajda's communion hymn "Now the silence, now the peace" in LBW and CW, and (cue impious laughter) a post-communion hymn also in CW, also by Vajda, called "Then the glory, then the rest." About the "Now" side of this "Now / Then" dyad I have previously vented my feelings. Regarding the tune, I don't see a future for it apart from the Vajda hymn(s), such as it/they is/are. Sorry, Vajda's text seems to be interfering with my ability to write a coherent sentence. While it's the lyrics that really bring out my mean side, I'll give Schalk's tune its due and say I've never cared for it, either. It's a strange, ambivalently churchly, ambivalently cheerful, ambivalently attractive thing that might be too far-out for the congregation to catch on in just one run-through, and not interesting enough to make multiple repeats worthwhile.

Judas Maccabæus
Adapted from a theme in Georg Frederick Handel's oratorio of the same name, this tune goes with "Thine is the glory, risen conquering Son" in SBH, LBW and (a departure from its editors' otherwise sound judgment) ELHy. It's a mess of notes for the congregation to navigate, so it'll probably be performed slowly, with ponderous dignity – perhaps by choir or soloists; perhaps with brass instruments, if available. It resonates with coronation marches and Baroque theatre music; in the churchly context, with carillons pealing over the roofs of Presbyterian and Episcopal churches. It's written for virtuoso performers, not Grandma Smurf and Uncle Shmedly. In the past, I've repeatedly referred to a law that I totally made up, but still consider binding: a law against butchering themes from classical composers as hymn tunes. This is the parade example, and I use the word "parade" advisedly.

Harre, meine Seele
This 1827 tune by Henri A. C. Malan is set to the hymn "Wait, my soul, with patience" in LHA. It has a certain modest appeal, though its long, halting succession of short phrases may test the patience of a congregation trying to learn it. Nevertheless, I've warmed to it since I first looked at it decades ago – I then described it as "meandering and totally uninspired ... an embarrassment" – and I wouldn't rule out giving it a shot sometime. D

Also known as Smart, this tune by Henry Smart (1813-79) is paired with "Forward! be our watchword" in SBH. It's a cheerful, rambling melody with a certain motivic unity that keeps it just this side of collapsing into an unstructured mess. One vote against using it in congregational singing will come from those people who find the melodic range taxing; though it could be transposed down a step or two.

Frances Ridley Havergal's 1871 tune has been used with "Golden harps are sounding" (CSB, ALH, TCH and SBH), "On our way rejoicing" (TCH, SBH and LBW) and "Who is on the Lord's side?" (LHA). It's an interestingly structured hymn, though most of that structure becomes evident in the last third of it, which reprises phrases from the first two-thirds. It could end at the 2/3 point, but then it would be completely through-composed, with no repeated phrases; a bit of a trade-off, in terms of structure. Anyway, it's a cheerful little tune, full of childlike simplicity, though perhaps a bit pedestrian. Whether you need this hymnal will depend, I guess, on how much you care about those texts. In my devotional life, I've lived without them quite comfortably.

Named after its composer, a certain F.A. Mann, this tune went with "Standing at the portal of the opening year" in ALH – a first line that doesn't particularly grab me. The tune doesn't cop much of a feel, either: uninspired, over-long and dull, with a subtle militancy and an odor of rustic pietism. The New Year's text by Frances R. Havergal actually isn't bad. Someone might do it a favor and write a new tune for it, and deliver it from this tune's sepia-toned image of 19th century Protestantism.

John E. Roe wrote this tune c. 1870, and CSB paired it with "From the eastern mountains," a children's hymn for Epiphany whose refrain, for some reason, pronounces "shines" with two syllables. It's a nicely structured tune with attractive material, blending childlike innocence with a touch of majesty.

Prince Rupert
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) adapted this tune from an old English march, and LW paired it with the Easter/Ascension/Pentecost anthem "Welcome happy morning" (see also the next tune and, in a different translation, Salve festa dies). I'll grant that it would sound wonderful with a trumpet doubling the melody line. But folks who are used to a hymn beginning and ending in the same key (or its parallel minor/major) may be thrown off a tich by this tune's ambivalence between G minor and its relative major, B-flat. Very martial in its pomp and circumstance, it comes with an accompaniment that veers widely from hymnal norms and that many organists may find difficult; similarly, its instrumentally conceived intervals may go over better, vocally, with the choir than the congregation. I think the great composer law (or curse) applies again.

Sei du mir gegrüsset
TLH and CW pair "Welcome happy morning" with this tune, which I think may be the happiest pairing of the lot. Though the melody is a little square and perhaps on the stiff side, it is also transparently simple and free of off-putting surprises, and therefore most approachable for congregational singing. It also has a bright energy and an air of pride, not quite tipping over into pompousness, well suited to this hymn. Parts of it may remind you of the tune Old 124th (think, "Draw near and take the body of the Lord").

St. Gertrude
Everybody seems to know this 1871 tune by Arthur S. Sullivan (yes, he of "Gilbert and" fame) as the tune to "Onward, Christian soldiers." At least, that's the consensus of CSB, TLH, ALH, SBH, LHA, LBW, LW and CW, to name only 20th century books that I've been through from cover to cover. Additionally, TCH pairs it with "Christian Leaguers, rally" – which, I guess, harks back to another youth organization similar to the Luther League and the Walther League. It's a catchy enough tune, but it's too late to worry about whether it would be hard to teach to your congregation; they already know it. Some days, you might wince at its tones of theatricality and militaristic triumphalism, especially arrangements with an oom-pah bass line. It has a secular appeal, even when used with a "Christian warfare" hymn, like a children's musical game or vehicle for mass propaganda. I'd like to get rid of it, personally, but it's here to stay.

6. 12 lines

O Seigneur
This tune comes from Trente quatre pseaumes de David (Geneva, 1551), and LBW threads the hymn "When morning gilds the skies" into it – a hymn that, in shorter stanzas, I'm accustomed to singing to Laudes Domini. The phrases glom together in groups of three, an organizational scheme that may help impress this rather long tune on the memory. Suitably cheerful and energetic in character, it nevertheless has something prayerful about it. I'd like to suggest pronouncing the word "praised" at the end of every third phrase with two syllables ("praisèd") rather than slurring the last two notes; but, of course, that would make the meter designation D. D

The Ash Grove
I knew this Welsh folktune from a book of children's songs that I played out of as a young piano student. One of my music theory profs in college said she couldn't hear it without thinking of Girl Scout campfires. Nevertheless, LBW, LW and CW (again, speaking only for the 20th century) set it to the post-communion hymn "Sent forth by God's blessing," and LBW and CW also use it with "Let all things now living." It's an attractive, exuberant little tune that's fun to play and sing, though organists need to think hard about their tempo before they start playing it because it has a tendency to go too fast. D

This hymn tune appears without citation in ALH, set to "All glory, laud and honor." This arrangment, of course, requires the stanzas to be broken up differently than with, say, Valet will ich dir geben. Is it worth that? I wonder. It has a solid structure, but it's bland and uninspired; some of its intervals, including wide leaps and chromatic shlurps, could make it challenging for the congregation to learn; and although it has that pomp-and-circumstance aspect to it that jives with a Palm Sunday procession, I just don't love the smarm factor it brings with it. Stick with Valet, mkay?

Wir pflügen
This 1800 tune by Johann A. P. Schulz has been misattributed to Laurentius Laurentii (c. 1700), probably because he authored the hymn "Rejoice, all ye believers," to which ALH sets this tune. However, it is more widely and (judging by its title) originally paired with "We plough the fields, and scatter," as witnessed by CSB, SBH, LHA and LBW. (It is also, by the way, superior to a tune caled "We plow the fields" by R. Bay, in the D meter, used with the same text in TCH.) There are drawbacks to this tune, however. It has an extremely wide melodic range (an octave and a fifth); its long succession of musical phrases are unevenly inspired and through-composed, without a repeat; and different hymnals disagree, perhaps confusingly, about exactly how it goes. (Some variants are shown above.) So, it has pros and cons. Beware, however, of SBH's performance direction ("briskly"); the organist needs to take the congregation's skill level into account when setting a tempo.

William Gustavus Fischer (1835-1912) wrote this sentimental favorite, known to generations of Sunday School kids as the tune to "I love to tell the story." Besides children's hymnals, the hymn (with this tune) is also in TCH, SBH, LBW and CW. I must admit that I liked it when it was taught to me in kindergarten, though I'm no longer in love with its sentimentality or the fact that Katherine Hankey's text fails to actually tell the story that it professes to love telling. The lyrics are man-centered, vapid and self-congratulatory to a degree that, I think, condemns the tune by association. Quoting myself writing decades ago: "It's a shame that so much time and trouble is wasted teaching this difficult, through-composed, and worthless hymn to little children. Its persistent popularity (perhaps on the wane these days, but not necessarily for good reasons) makes it especially dangerous to Lutheranism." There. The I's have it.

Nun lob, mein’ Seel’
Also known as Kugelmann, this 15th century tune was published in Hans Kugelmann's Concentus Novi, Augsburg, 1540. It is set to the eponymous hymn "My soul, now bless thy Maker" in at least ELHb, ALH, TLH, LHA, LBW, LW, CW and ELHy, as well as "I know my faith is founded" (TLH, LW, CW, ELHy), "O living Bread from heaven" (TLH, ELHy), "One is our God and Father" (LHy, LHA) and "To Thee all praise ascendeth" (LHy). (Two of these last three may actually be centos of the same hymn by Johann Rist.) It has also received the chorale prelude treatment from (among others) Buxtehude, Pachelbel, J.G. Walther and Jan Bender, for what it's worth. Worthy of such musical luminaries, it's a fantastic piece that touches base in more keys than the average hymn tune and actually implies more than one home key (G major and its relative, E minor). For all its great length and adventurousness, it's tightly organized and falls under the voice well, moves with grace and energy and sticks in the memory. Again, organists need to stop and think before starting to play it: in this case, because of a tendency toward morbid slowness; it should be played with a light touch.

Min sjæl, min sjæl, lov Herren
Also known as "My soul, now bless," this is an alternate tune to Nun lob (immediately above) by Ludvig M. Lindeman (1812-87). LHy and TCH set it to "My soul, now bless thy Maker" and TCH also pairs it with "To Thee all praise ascendeth." It's an admirable effort to set a long, challenging text to music, and fairly successful; I just don't think it holds a candle to the Kugelmann piece. However, as an alternative tune, there might be some life in it yet. In its favor are its unremittingly bright cheerfulness and a rhythm more given to taking it quickly. However, I would recommend transposing it down a couple steps from its current, throat-straining key. D

Maple Leaf Forever
Amazingly enough, TCH features the song "In days of yore, from Britain's shore," set to this 19th century tune by Alexander Muir. The facing page has "The Star Spangled Banner," to which I reckon this song is the Canadian equivalent. Since it's presumably well-known to Canadians, I won't belabor any of its technical challenges; after all, it's made of simple enough material. I'm a bit at a loss to stammer out how I feel about the tastefulness of putting patriotic songs in the hymnal, whether American or Canadian; but I'm especially struck by the bugly sound of this tune. (I said "bugly," not "fugly," right?) In my mind's ear, a brass band joins in. Forget you saw this.

Frederick C. Maker's 1876 tune is paired with "Christ is risen! Alleluia!" in CSB and LBW. Written in a really high key, I could see it being transposed down, like, a third. Maybe even a fourth. Again, it's a tightly structured tune, which may help sell it to the congregation, but its theatrical pomp makes me question whether I want to do that. The score includes such markings as "unison" and "harmony," "rit." and "a tempo," which suggest that it may work better for the choir. D

O Mensch, bewein
Also known as "Es sind doch selig alle," "Old 113th," "Psalm 36," and "Psalm 68" – my goodness! – this tune comes from Matthias Greitter's Kirchenamt (Strasbourg, 1525). Except for one note being raised a half-step, its first phrase is identical to that of the better known tune "Lasst uns erfreuen." However, the rest of the tune is quite distinctive and, I think, very handsome and expressive. I wish it was more widely used. In 20th century anglophone Lutheranism, it only turns up twice that I know of: with "Here at Thy cross I hail Thee now" in LHA, and "O sinner, come thy sin to mourn" in ELHy. The latter is the hymn that gives the tune its name, a marvelous penitential Passion hymn that inspired beautiful chorale preludes by Jan Sweelinck, J.S. Bach, Johann Pachelbel, Max Reger and Helmut Walcha. Bach also used it in his St. Matthew Passion. I'm super-convinced that this is a hymn that must be taught to English-speaking Lutherans. 12 lines

Den store hvide flok (1)
This piece by Lindeman was the first tune to "Behold a host, arrayed in white" in LHy. It's a nice number, lacking the excesses of the more popular second tune (below), though perhaps erring on the side of dullness. It sounds like a typical Norwegian chorale, but it pales next to the heart-string-tugging folktune everyone knows and loves. Somebody really should write a hymn to go with it (and not as a never-used alternate tune) before it vanishes entirely.

Den store hvide flok (2)
Also known as "Great White Host," "Behold a host" and "Symphony," this 17th century Norwegian folktune owns "Behold a host, arrayed in white," so far as LHy (second tune), ALH, TCH, TLH, SBH, LBW, LW, ELHy and CW are concerned. It's a bit of a workout; and LHy dangerously employs repeat signs in its page layout, on which I blame a disastrous error I made one time when I lost track of whether I had played that repeat in the last stanza during a live service. If looks could kill, that congregation would have fried me to a crisp. Many hymnals have Edvard Grieg's harmonization of the tune, which is a bit on the barbershoppy side. All the same, it's an unforgettable piece that I've heard many a congregation sing with more than their usual gusto on All Saints' Day.

Wachet auf
Philipp Nicolai wrote this tune in 1599, together with his hymn "Wake, awake, for night is flying." If you want to know how important this hymn is within Lutheranism, observe that it's known as the King of Chorales. (Nicolai also wrote the Queen, but that's a story for another day.) ELHb, LHy, CSB, TCH, TLH, SBH (with two versions), LHA, LBW, LW, CW and ELHy all have this text-tune combo. But wait; there's more! Nicolai's tune also goes with "Blessed are the heirs of heaven" in LHy and LHA; "By the holy hills surrounded" in the same two books; "Christians, prayer may well employ you" (LHy, ALH, TLH LHA, LW, CW and ELHy); "Glorious Majesty, before Thee" (SBH and LBW); "Gracious God, our heavenly Father" (LHA); "Holy Jesus! Fountain streaming" (LHy and ALH); and "Praise the Lord through every nation" (LHy and ALH). Across all those hymnals, there are many variants of the melody, which I tried to represent in the two versions above. The rhythmic version, especially, poses some musical challenges for the singing congregation; it has some pretty wild intervals in it and an unusual meter that every organist approaches in his or her own way. SBH and ELHy feature arrangements harmonized by J.S. Bach. Nevertheless, it is a uniquely powerful, nay, stunning hymn, expressing tremendous courage and exultant praise. The fact that so many different hymn-writers wrote lyrics to go with it, to the point where Wachet auf became all but a standard meter for Lutheran hymnwriting, testifies to its appeal. It has been used in symphonies, ballets and cantatas, entering the popular consciousness on a level that explodes misconceptions about the accessibility of even a difficult chorale.

And there I gladly leave the subject of 12-line hymn tunes. Funnily enough, when we skinny down to 11 phrases, we find only seven tunes to deal with. So, maybe I won't be so intimidated, and the next installment on this thread won't hang fire for quite so long.

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