Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Tunes for Hymns of 11 Lines

As I noted in my post about 12-line hymn tunes, there are only seven hymn tunes in my study sample that are designed to serve hymns with 11-line stanzas. As for what I mean by "my study sample," let's say it's a big whopping pile of English-language Lutheran hymnals dating from throughout the 20th century. I may have missed a few because I'm not sure I was done compiling the data on one or two of the books when I moved on to another project; and also, this data is a bit out of date, since it ignores hymnals published since the turn of the 21st century, such as Evangelical Lutheran Worship and The Lutheran Service Book.

So, with that firmly in mind, here's what these tunes look like, how they were used in that category of books and what I think about them. And for just this segment, I'm going to take them alphabetically, since most of them are indexed under the meters "Irr." (irregular) and "PM" (peculiar meter) and the three that aren't, each has a meter all to itself anyway. Abbreviations of the books cited are explained here.

I JESU NAVN (Irr.) is sourced from Kingo's Gradual of 1699. Both LHy and ELHy have it set to the hymn "In Jesus' name our work must all be done," which I learned by heart when I was a student at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minn. (where I moved within LHy/ELHy circles) and often sang to myself during a period of time when I was so unhappy with my job that I felt like singing memorized hymns to myself was the only way to stay sane. I picked up on a tradition, in those Danish- and Norwegian-American Lutheran circles, of using it to open church-related business meetings. I frankly love this hymn, but I understand that it isn't for everybody. I learned this, in fact, when I tried to introduce it to some Lutherans of my own, more German-oriented tradition, who swore it sounded like a random series of notes and couldn't make heads or tails of it. Ah, well. For those who don't mind a bit of peculiarity, it's a treasure.

LIFT EV'RY VOICE AND SING (PM) is by J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) and goes with the hymn by the same name. To me, it smacks of the type of anthem sung at Billy Graham rallies – an emotionally manipulative, commercial counterfeit of Gospel music best peformed by amplified soloist(s) and back-up choir. Oddly, it also reminds me of the Easter hymn in Cavalleria Rusticana – which is pretty trashy as operas go, now that I mention it. I'd just as soon let the evangelism rallyists keep it. The only book in my original study that carried it was LBW; however, on checking my current holdings, I find that This Far By Faith, ELW and LSB also have it – with perhaps one exception, books that I would describe as dwelling on the bleeding edge of American Lutheranism's development into a mainline Protestant group undistinguishable from any other.

MEIN HEILAND (8989 8899 888) is a tune from the book Musikalischer Christenschatz, Basel, 1745, which only TLH pairs with the excessively prolix hymn "My Savior sinners doth receive," out of the books in this study. However, Ludvig M. Lindeman's O KOM DOG HVER, seems to have been written for a Danish version of the same hymn, heroically cut down to 10-line stanzas; LHy has it as "O come, if sinner be thy name." Returning to the topic, however, I bear no malice toward the tune MEIN HEILAND, other than the fact that any hymn set to it is almost bound to be a stodgy, verbose, slow-to-get-to-the-point number. It almost seems to be challenging me, aspiring hymnwriter that I am, to do better by it. Don't look at me like that, tune.

RORATE COELI (7777 77 33337) is a 1914 tune by Herold Lewars, used in CSB for the hymn "O ye heavens, bend and see." The title is a reference to the Introit for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, which seems to go with the given text. The tune is simple and transparently written, suitable for use as a children's Christmas hymn (nudge), but in my notes on the hymn I commented that the text of each stanza is fairly good at the start and vaguely obnoxious at the end. Unfortunately, it's the latter part of the hymn tune that will most likely stick in kids' minds. My advice would be to rescue the first six lines of each stanza and set them to a 7777 77 tune.

SHIBBOLET BASADEH (PM) is a Jewish folk-melody used in CW for the hymn "Glorious in majesty, holy in his praises." Though it's a distinctive, interesting and enjoyable piece of music with an infectious, folkish energy, it's possible that the mode (similar to Aeolian), rhythm and certain intervals in this tune may put it out of the average congregation's reach. Also, for what it's worth, Jews might object to its use with a specifically Christian text. This I should worry about? Meh. But what I do worry about is that it really belongs in the choir portfolio, not a pew hymnal.

WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET (887 887 44448) is the "Queen of Chorales," by Philipp Nicolai, 1599. Its original pairing is with Nicolai's own hymn "How lovely shines the Morning Star," used as such in at least nine of the original-study-group books and more anglophone Lutheran hymnals since then. Not to be confused with it is another hymn titled "How lovely shines the morning star," notice the different capitalization, by Burkhard Wiesenmeyer (1640) and also sung to this tune in three of those books. Then there are nine that pair the tune with "He is arisen! Glorious word"; 12 with "O Holy Spirit, enter in"; eight with "Rejoice, rejoice this happy morn"; three with "All hail to thee, O blessed morn"; three with "For many years, O God of grace"; four with "Hallelujah! Let praises ring"; and one each with "Behold, how glorious is yon sky," "Lord Jesus, who didst consecrate," "O God, whom we as Father know," and "O wondrous Conqueror and great." Whether or not some of those are duplicates by dint of different translations, I'm not going to check at this point. It would be ridiculous if your congregation didn't already know, love and regularly sing this tune.

WONDROUS STORY (PM) is credited to a certain J.A. Theiss, undated, in ALH with the hymn "O have you heard the wondrous story" – a text, also undated, by a certain G. Schaller. That's all I know about it, from an isagogical standpoint. Musically, I find it to be a long, rambling, unsignposted landscape full of soughing, sighing, and miserable sentimentality. With parts actually designated for "Solo" and "All" (which may as soon mean "choir" as "congregation"), it frankly admits that it isn't designed as a hymn for the folks in the pews. In my original study notes, I put it down as "the German answer to 'Christians, awake, salute the happy morn' – a pedestrian, prolix, overwrought bit of Christmas tidings draped in a penny-dreadful semblance of German folksong." I think I'll stick with that, adding only that it has a fabulously wide melodic range, too. People could hurt themselves on this tune.

If I get around to it, the 10-line hymn-tune post will be a good deal longer than this. Worth it, do you think?

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