Friday, April 21, 2023

'Bountiful Hymns' Is Go

A huge swath of corrections have been made. There were goof-ups everywhere, from the title page to the preface to the back cover blurb, from the table of contents to the indices, from the hymns themselves (all but a small handful required some amendment or other) to the appendix with the hymn tune harmonizations (mainly because of missing tunes). It was a thorough and time-consuming overhaul, but at last it's done and I've approved Bountiful Hymns for distribution.

Full title: "Bountiful Hymns for the Lutheran Church, School, and Home." It's a continuation (with sequential hymn numbering and all) of Useful Hymns and Edifying Hymns. Like the previous two, it will eventually (soon) have a companion book, an accompanist's edition with just the harmonized hymn tunes in ABC order.

To promote my previous two hymn-books, I wrote essays answering questions like "Is 'Useful Hymns' useful?" and "Is 'Edifying Hymns' edifying?" Accordingly, I can briefly answer the question "How bountiful is 'Bountiful Hymns'?" BH has 392 pages and includes a series of hymns keyed to the Lutheran Service Book three-year lectionary. That includes feast-day hymns as well as a hymn for every Sunday of a three-year cycle. Plus, it has a few additional hymns such as a versification of the Sermon on the Mount and parodies of the Stabat Mater and the Dies Irae.

Most of the hymn tunes in this book are culled from historic hymnody across the centuries and from a variety of cultures and traditions, with emphasis on the historic German and Scandinavian chorale. There is one translated hymn, plus a handful of original tunes set to existing hymns (including one by a contemporary hymn-writer) and original Anglican- and Gregorian-style chant settings of selected psalms. The 180-ish original hymns in this book bring my personal output, as a hymn-writer, just past the 500-hymns mark. And besides the usual first-line index, tune index and metrical index, the book also features a table of contents listing the hymn titles with reference to their place in the church year. And finally, there's a Scripture index that documents the biblical references cited by my original hymns not only in BH, but also UH and EH.

A more becoming question may be "How useful and edifying are the hymns in BH?" Perhaps this is a question best answered by a disinterested reviewer. But if I'm to be the judge, I'd start by saying that I set out to write a bunch of hymns that serve a purpose, and to write them with a skill that comes from experience. I can't absolutely guarantee that every hymn hits the target dead-center and I'll admit that my creative juices flowed more freely in some than in others. But to write such a massive set of hymns in a constrained time-frame (from August to January) required a lot of discipline, and to do it without taking the easy route and churning out trite rhymes and same-old, same-old, meant that I had to be intentional about not saying the expected thing in the expected way. And to make it a meaningful gloss on the 3-year series also meant that the hymns had to be very textual, each one responding directly to the lessons for the day.

Like the lectionary itself, BH's hymns imbibe a broad sample of biblical revelation, teach many articles of the faith, and strike a variety of tones from penitential prayer to exhortation, from praise to polemic, from confession of faith to encouragement during trials. Christ is at the center, with cross and atonement in full display. The worldview is sacramental, frequently emphasizing the gracious gifts of God to mankind and especially to believers. Bible stories are not merely versified but applied to present believers' concerns. Warning and challenge are issued to the complacent. Blessing and hope are preached to the afflicted. Yeah, I think that if taken in the sense I intended, the hymns in BH will prove quite edifying and useful to the faithful and those who struggle in their faith – whether they sing them or read them as devotional verse. God grant it, amen.

Mammon time: The book is priced to net me $1 in revenue per copy, which will likely never come close to covering my expenses. I don't want to hear anyone complain that I shouldn't be angling for any revenue at all. I don't know what I would have done without the $35 in net revenue my books earned last year. (I actually had to report that number in my tax filing.) Advice: order it on Lulu at the link above for the best price, though your shipping options may be better via Amazon or whatever global distribution partner Lulu shares it with.

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