Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Tacky Hymns 91

Before continuing with the New Year, Epiphany and Transfiguration sections 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.)
368 (Type 2) is "Now greet the swiftly changing year," a Slovak New Year hymn that in other books appears as "Greet, man, the swiftly changing year" or "Greet now the swiftly changing year." Sometimes (cf. LBW, LW) it is set to the 17th century tune ROK NOVÝ but here, as in LSB, it is paired with Alfred Fedak's SIXTH NIGHT.

369 (Type 2) is "Now let us come before him" by Paul Gerhardt, set to The New English Hymnal's setting of the 16th century tune NUN LASST UNS that actually makes it sound more interesting than it usually does. Never a particularly striking melody, this arrangement trades out the rhythmic hemiolas (alternating bars of 6/8 and 3/4) that traditionally characterize the tune, in favor of a flowing 6/8 arrangement with some attractive passing notes added.

371 is "A child is born in Bethlehem," another selection of stanzas from the same Latin hymn that figured in the Christmas section as hymn 348. I guess the editors just separated the Epiphany-specific parts of it out to avoid confusing the two distinct holidays.

373 (Type 2) is "Brightest and best of the stars of the morning" by Reginald Heber, set in this case to the 17th century French tune O QUANTA QUALIA. Many of us know it best as "Brightest and best of the sons of the morning" and as set to John P. Harding's tune MORNING STAR, which is a tour-de-force of 19th century shmaltz. O QUANTA preserves the same rhythmic cadence but conveys a more churchly and dignified character that I think brings out the better qualities of Heber's text.

376 is "Rise up and shine" by Carl P. Daw, Jr., set to the Christmassy tune FOREST GREEN. The text is a nice paraphrase of the Isaiah 60 prophecy traditionally associated with Epiphany, hinting at an application to today's believers watching for the return of Christ.

377 is "To Jordan's river came our Lord" by former Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary professor James Tiefel, a Baptism of Jesus hymn laid out on the same two-page spread as 378, Martin Luther's "To Jordan came the Christ, our Lord." I regard the latter as a very important Lutheran hymn, and CWH sets it to the right tune (CHRIST UNSER HERR ZUM JORDAN KAM from Johann Walter's 1524 Wittenberg hymnal). This isn't to be taken for granted, since the hymn has been completely omitted from certain significant Lutheran hymnals within the past century (cough TLH cough) and others (like LSB) have made efforts to alienate it from its historic tune – which, I would argue, only creates divisions among those Lutherans who do make the effort to learn it and use it regularly. I approve of using either hymn, but I strongly recommend at least learning Luther's for the spiritual growth of the church.

379 is "Christ, your footprints through the desert" by Herman Stuempfle, another Baptism of our Lord hymn set to Amanda Husberg's tune LOVE'S LIGHT (which LSB paired with "Swiftly pass the clouds of glory"). If the general tone of my remarks on Stumpfle's hymns has, until now, been a little hostile, let there be peace now; I think this is an excellent hymn.

382 (Type 1) is "The people who walked in darkness," an Isaiah 9 paraphrase by Mary Louis Bringle, set to an original tune by Sally Ann Morris titled, like, ISAIAH 9. This is one instance where I'd like to award CWH a tack for publishing only the melody in the pew book, with no accompaniment, since it's a new hymn and those of us with the wherewithal to play it and an interest in hearing how it goes must now invest in a copy of the accompanist's edition or go home unsatisfied. My vague impression, based on the melody alone, is that it's kind of a Church Music Publisher House Style-style choir piece that finagled its way into the hymnal, and if a congregation ever successfully pulls it off, it'll probably be a big, town-gown outfit with superlative musical leadership.

385 (Type 1) is titled "Christ Begins," first line "We stand and we watch," by Luke Thompson (b. 1981), who also co-wrote the tune (CHRIST BEGINS) with Kent Reeder. This time, CWH included the piano part, and it's really a piano part, written to accompany a contemporary Christian pop song. Mrs. Hasenpfeffer may have trouble playing dotted-eighth chords in the right hand against eighth-notes in the left (2-against-3 rhythms), and a whole bar of piano figuration again shows that this is more of a Church Music Publisher thing than a pew hymnal-appropriate piece. But enough about the music; the lyrics dwell in that fantasy land where the singers imagine themselves as characters in the story (i.e. Jesus' baptism, stanza 1; the wedding at Cana, 2; His transfiguration, 3; and if I'm reading stanza 4 correctly, His ascension). Finally, I'm not exactly sure how the phrase "Christ begins" applies. So, 3 tacks.

386 (Type 2) is "Songs of thankfulness and praise" by Christopher Wordsworth, which, interesting to note, CWH sets to Jacob Hintze's tune SALZBURG – perhaps a different tune than the one you're used to singing it to.

387 is "Arise, your light is come" by Ruth Duck, set to William Walter's († 1893) tune FESTAL SONG. It's a pretty little fanfare-like piece, with a unison broken triad in the first phrase. The text's four brief stanzas do borrow biblical imagery appropriate for the Epiphany season, but at the same time it seems to be all exhortation toward Christ-like service and proclamation, albeit without ever specifically mentioning Christ. So, while it may have its uses, I would limit them to after a thorough exposition of the gospel.

388 is "Down from the mount of glory," a Transfiguration hymn by Werner Franzmann, set to the Bartholomäus Helder chorale ICH FREU MICH IN DEM HERREN. It's a tune I like so well that I paired it with one of my own hymns in Useful Hymns. Franzmann's text beautifully depicts Jesus' transfiguration (especially in stanza 2), putting it in the context of his journey to the cross. The parallelism between the "mount of glory" and the "hill of shame" (stanza 4) is especially poignant. Truly, a superb hymn.

389 is "How good, Lord, to be here," a language update of "'Tis good, Lord, to be here," the well-known Transfiguration hymn by Joseph Robinson, with a new stanza inserted toward the end to underscore Jesus' choice to "leave this glorious hill to die." This may be a case of a book having to tart up a hymn whose popularity outstrips its merits. While the additional stanza helps, I'm not sure it really fits – cue an analogy to using new skin to patch old wineskins.

390 is "Jesus, take us to the mountain" by Jaroslav Vajda, set to Carl Schalk's tune SILVER SPRING. The text suffers from a mild case of that Vajda tendency to invite the singer to imagine himself into the story, ameliorated perhaps by the language praying Christ to reveal what he wants us to see there. It does score some palpable hits, like stanza 2's "Clothed in flesh like ours you go, matched to meet our deadliest foe." It also asks him to "take us to that other mountain," etc., like 388. It's basically a lighter version of Franzmann's poem, which some people (taste being what it is) may even prefer.

391 is "This brightness, Lord! What shall I say" by Michael D. Schultz (director of the WELS hymnal project), set to the Southern Harmony tune PROSPECT. In "I" language addressed to Christ, it professes not to want to leave the mountaintop, but after receiving the witness of Moses, Elijah and the Father's voice, it acquiesces (stanza 3) in coming down and following Jesus to the cross. Stanza 4 is an interesting profession of "the truth behind the bloody tree" – namely, that Christ "made my sin no longer mine." Stanza 5 professes faith that Christ will help "me" bear the trials and troubles of "the plains below," and stanza 6 looks forward to the vision of everlasting light in heaven. So, it's a surprisingly complete Transfiguration devotion, despite the discouraging first glance of its me-centered language; my tack dispenser was cocked to fire, but I stood down.

The prevalence of new(ish) hymns in CWH's Transfiguration section bears witness that this is not a very well-stocked topic in Lutheran hymnody, though it also shows that it may be on its way to being one. Meanwhile, excepting only a couple hymns, it continues to average out as quite a good collection. With (I believe) 4 new tacks, this segment brings our running total to 14 tacks out of 91 hymns so far – still an average of 0.15 tacks per hymn.

Monday, November 29, 2021


Last night I took myself back to the movies to see Disney Animation Studios' 60th animated feature, with a huge ensemble cast playing members of the magically gifted, Madrigal family. Most of them aren't familiar enough for me to call out except John Leguizamo, Wilmer Valderrama (That 70s Show, NCIS), Diana Guerrero (Doom Squad) and, apparently, the voice of Alan Tudyk as a bird. Also, songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It's really a Colombian-inflected, full-length musical with animated characters performing the songs and dances, which really opens up the choreography a lot.

It's so beautifully filmed, there were moments when I forgot it was animation. It also has some belly-laugh moments and an emotionally affecting storyline about the one girl in the family who doesn't have a special ability, and how her efforts to belong and to help her family become (in her stern abuela's opinion) a threat to the survival of their sentient house, the ever-burning candle that blesses it, and the village protected by their magic. Really, it turns out that what was really fixing to break the family was the abuela's rejection of weakness in the members of her family – including super-strong Luisa, who is cracking up under all the pressure; always-perfect Isabella, who makes flowers grow but who doesn't really want to marry the handsome villager whom abuela considers a good match for the family; Tia Pepa, who has trouble controlling her emotions and the weather they generate; and Tio Bruno, the family outcast, whose visions of the future are blamed for everyone's misfortune.

I'm gonna move on quickly to Three Scenes That Made It For Me, and because they could very easily be Three Songs That Made It For Me, I'll set those aside as a separate category. Scenes: (1) Mirabel (the hero girl) discovers the long-banished Bruno living inside the walls of the family's casita, served hand and foot by a coterie of rats. The highlight of this sequence may be the moment when the pair is dangling over a seemingly bottomless pit, until a rat pops out of his sleeve, causing Mirabel to let go of Bruno's hand. (2) Mirabel tells the secret she has discovered to her father, but cousin Dolores, who has super-hearing, hears all. What follows is some of the most entertaining ensemble acting in the annals of animation. (3) The side-eye the donkeys give each other during Luisa's rant.

And now the Songs: (1) Luisa's terrific song, "Surface Pressure," with the "drip, drip, drip" of her anxiety forming a memorable theme. (2) The spectacular ensemble piece "We Don't Talk About Bruno" (no, no). (3) Mirabel and Isabella's duet, "What Else Can I Do?" in which the "perfect" sister admits that she wants to do something different. These all have the potential to become hits, but I thought especially the first one could come up for a "Best Song" Oscar.

The main feature was accompanied by a Disney animated short, Far from the Tree, featuring mostly un-anthropomorphized animals, including a coyote, a bunch of seagulls and at the heart of the story, a family of raccoons. Despite the dialogue being limited to animal screeches, it was an effective story with a warm current of emotion in it, although I thought the color palette was a little flat and the animation didn't rise to Disney's highest standard.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

We can now offically put the 2016 gender-flipped Ghostbusters reboot (a.k.a. Ghostbusters: Answer the Call) behind us, and move on as if it never happened, and enjoy this threequel to the 1984 classic Ghostbusters and its somewhat disappointing 1989 sequel, Ghostbusters II. It features original cast members Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Bill Murray in "special appearances," and even enlists the actual ghost of Harold Ramis – albeit with the assistance of archival footage, CGI and Bob Gunton (the warden in The Shawshank Redemption) as a body double. Mainly, however, it's a vehicle for a relatively unknown cast, with the exception of Paul Rudd (lately People magazine's "sexiest man alive") and Finn Wolfhard of It and Stranger Things. Oh, and let's not forget Oscar winner J.K. Simmons, whose character comes back from the dead just long enough to say one line before being slit from guggle to zatch by good ol' Gozer the Gozerian.

I beg your pardon. You might have no idea what I'm talking about. Assuming, of course, that you've been living in a bunker since 1983 or earlier, Ghostbusters is the brilliant 1980s comedy that featured Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis and Hudson as four guys who used ray-guns to hose down ghouls and specters all over New York City, which was on the point of a paranormal apocalypse. It also featured Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts (who both make brief appearances in this flick) as well as Rick Moranis (who, alas, doesn't), and culminated in a showdown with an androgynous Sumerian god atop a creepy high-rise building, assailed by slimy revenants, dog-like demons possessing the bodies of Moranis and Weaver, and a terrifyingly cute, giant Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man. This movie's rampaging marshmallows are tinier but no less vicious, and the ghostbusters are mostly a group of kids who discover a few gizmos left behind by Ramis's character, Dr. Egon Spengler, after his death.

Since the events of GB2, apparently, Spengler became estranged from his fellow ghostbusters and his family. Skip to the present day, when his broke daughter (Carrie Coon) and her two kids (Wolfhard and a female "young Sheldon" type played by Mckenna Grace) are being evicted from their apartment in the city, so the only place left for them is Egon's abandoned dirt firm in Oklahoma. Joined by a couple other local kids and a science teacher (Rudd), they start to investigate how the town's daily tremors might somehow be connected with an impending ghost apocalypse, which explains why Egon went AWOL all those years ago. He's been trying to hold back Gozer's return. But one thing leads to another and by the end, it's all hands on deck to keep Gozer from unleashing hell on earth. Again.

All in all it's a fun movie, with some slow parts to develop the creepiness and give the characters time to accept what's going on around them. They do accept it, surprisingly smoothly, although I still can't remember what happened to the uncooperative sheriff (played by Bokeem Woodbine). There's a lot of fun action in it, good character based comedy, and a certain emotional warmth that might moisten a cheek or two (on your face, dummy) toward the end. And of course, it builds up to a spectacular climax. Be advised, there's not only a bonus scene in the middle of the end credits, but a second one at the very tippy-tail end, hinting at another sequel which, to spite the 2016 movie, I'm going to call Ghostbusters IV.

Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) Podcast (don't ask, he's one of the local kids) comes up with an outside-the-box strategy for liberating the kids' ghostbusting equipment from a police evidence locker. Hint: "Muncher" seems to be a relative of the original movie's "Slimer." (2) A plague of marshmallow men gradually leads Rudd to realize that his late-night trip to Walmart isn't going to end well. (3) The mother of all jump scares happens, I won't say when. After all these years and who knows how many creepy movies, it still got me.

Bonus scene: Any time a character (mostly Grace or Coon) calmly accepts the fact that Egon's ghost is communicating with them. Without a line of dialogue like the painfully obvious (but never spoken) "Oh my God, I'm spending time with grandpa's ghost," Grace observes out loud that two whatsits are missing from a gizmo, and a drawer shoots open revealing replacement whatsits. She says, "Needlenose pliers," and the lamp turns to illuminate one sticking out of a jar. This casual acceptance of magic, even in its daftest forms, is one of the charms of this entire franchise. I really do hope they cook up another sequel.

One more thing ... I noticed that the music in this movie was really interesting, quality stuff. For what it's worth.

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity

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

Constance Verity has been having constant adventures since she was seven years old. Now in her 30s, she's sick of it and she wants to settle down to an ordinary life. The trouble is, a fairy godmother's blessing (or curse) set her on a path to a life both ordinary and extraordinary, only the ordinary never panned out. All her boyfriends have either been the love-her-and-leave her type, like a certain ninja thief who left her dangling over a crocodile pit, or regular guys who ended up getting eaten by giant snakes or trampled by dinosaurs. She spends so much time thwarting alien invasions and rescuing her childhood best friend, Tia, from singing pirates that she hasn't even had time to unpack the boxes of cursed artifacts stacked in her living room. And now there's a guy – a lovably average guy – that she doesn't want to let slip away. So what does she have to do? Kill her fairy godmother, for starters.

From that unheroic beginning, Connie – with plucky sidekick Tia in tow and a fairy godmother's ghost tucked into her shirt pocket (dont' ask) – embarks on an adventure that's all about refusing to have adventures. Instead of letting herself be lured off to a quiet corner of the universe to chase red herrings, or yellow aliens, she plunges headlong into conspiracy within conspiracy within conspiracy, in search of the chewy center of it all. Her escapes from inescapable dungeons, her uncovering of one secret identity after another, her hazarding the existential horror that is Kansas, hardly begin to prepare her for the grim truth that behind everything is an insane, super-intelligent computer that controls the multiverse, and her unwanted gifts as the caretaker of reality is the last thing standing in the way of a terrible plan that began when creation was young. And by "terrible plan" I don't mean an dastardly plot; I mean a really bone-headed idea that's about to come back and bite the universe where it sits.

Connie's adventure is loaded, like sardine-tin loaded, with gags, fantasy and folklore in-references, personal soul-searching and relationship drama, and tantalizing glimpses of high-concept adventures. It bursts with so many weird characters and situations that its episodic graininess threatens to bring down the plot soufflé. There are a couple of character discussions that continue past the point where you'd expect them to stop, which is either a flaw in Martinez's usually spot-on comedic timing or an indication that he's taking his storyline seriously and giving it the full treatment it deserves; I think different readers will land in different places between those poles. But what I can't deny is that it had multiple, like evil-genius-lair minion-cloning-machine multiple, moments where I had to put the book down until I could get my laughter under control – not just punchlines but entire paragraphs or groups of paragraphs that struck something that kept resonating, so that I only had to think about them to start laughing again – and at least one page where I felt compelled to phone a friend to read it to them, because it was too perfect not to share. At the risk of restating what is probably a theme with my reading of Martinez's novels, much can be forgiven an author who makes us laugh that hard.

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.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Gone Tomorrow

Gone Tomorrow
by Lee Child
Recommended Ages: 15+

In New York City, Jack Reacher is sharing a 2 a.m. subway car with five seemingly random strangers when he spots all the signs, based on a secret Israeli checklist, of a suicide bomber. He gets up to talk to the woman in a desperate hope to save his life. But when she pulls her hand out of the bag at her side, it's holding not a bomb trigger but a gun ... which she then used to kill herself. Reacher, on his way from nowhere in particular to ditto, doesn't plan to stick around after being questioned by the city cops, then some federal agents, then some rather sketchy private eyes. But the situation keeps growing more and more suspicious.

Everyone seems to be after the top-secret contents of a flash drive that the dead woman was supposedly carrying, but that wasn't found on her body. Everyone seems to think Reacher is involved somehow, even though (as it eventually turns out) he was the only really random passenger on that train. The brother of the victim doesn't seem particularly worried about the fact that her son, all the way over on the West Coast, is also missing. A beautiful foreign woman and her mother are somehow involved, but Reacher knows every word they've told him is a lie. And then there's the up and coming Congressman, now making a run for the Senate, who seems desperate to keep some secret buried. Fishiness on every side, and by the time Reacher uses his skills as a former military policeman to figure out what's really going on, everyone from the cops to the feds is after him.

It may seem like too subtle a problem to solve with a blunt instrument like Reacher, but at the bottom of it are some pretty vicious people. Reacher moves up and down the eastern seabord with a complete lack of tech savvy, delicate manners and roots to tie him down, and somehow that seems to be what it takes to stop a terrorist cell from getting what they want. And finally, crucially, he beards the lioness in her den – which is to say, he knowingly walks into a deathtrap, faces the perpetrators of a literally stomach-turning evil, and ... well it's hardly a spoiler to say that he proves to be the bigger S.O.B., since we're talking about the 13th of now 26 Jack Reacher novels.

This review is based on an audiobook read by Dick Hill. It went by pretty fast, mostly in one round trip to what we in the state where I live call the big city. But it packed a punch. I'm not kidding about that stomach-turning part. I almost couldn't listen to that, and a Reacher book is nothing if it's not violent. Maybe the most disturbing thing about it is the seductive, feminine vibe that goes with it. On the other hand, the book also offers (right up front) that really interesting insight into spotting a suicide bomber, as well as one of the biggest belly laughs a book has given me this year – a scene I won't spoil at this point, but maybe you'll laugh at it, too. The cleverness of the joke, the intelligence of the intrigue, the sense of reality, the cheerful violence, and the sickening evil spritzed with a scent of eroticism are all of a piece with the unreconstructed manliness of Reacher and the fantasy he represents – of an indestructible outsider, drifting around the country with nothing to tie him down. And so, even given the negligible literary value of this book and its series, they maintain a strange appeal.