Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Holdovers

This past Sunday, the local movie theater offered me the choice of Disney's Wish, DreamWorks Animation's Trolls Band Together or the latest installment in the Hunger Games franchise, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I said "no thanks" to all of them and, instead, drove a couple hours round trip to see The Holdovers, instead.

Don't get me wrong. Fun, animated movies and film adaptations of YA fantasy franchises are right in my wheelhouse. But I've never had any exposure to the Hunger Games books or movies, and based on what I know about them, I don't care for the concept. I've never watched a Trolls movie (I believe the current film is the third). And Disney has been failing to deliver anything I'm interested in for a while. So, it was the positive buzz about the quality of Alexander Payne's (Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska) movie that grabbed me, despite the fact that I hated his previous movie, Downsizing.

Leading the cast is Paul Giamatti, who has starred in a couple of Payne's movies before; I've read that he was originally intended for Matt Damon's role in Downsizing, which might have made an interesting difference. Giamatti plays an ancient civilizations teacher at his old, private, all-boys high school, who is hated by the students (who call him Walleye) and not particularly loved by his colleagues. He lives a solitary life, grades his students strictly on their merits and has a low-key grudge against entitled rich kids, which maybe is a sign he has chosen the wrong career; however, you learn as the movie progresses how he got there. As Christmas 1970 approaches, he lands the assignment of babysitting the "holdovers," the kids who are stuck on campus over the holidays. He doesn't take it very well.

At first there are five holdovers, but most of them helicopter off to a ski holiday only a few days into the break, leaving Giamatti and the school's head cook (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) along with the most cross-grained, attitude-challenged kid of all, played by Dominic Sessa in what I believe to be his movie debut. There are other people in the cast, to be sure, including Tate Donovan and Gillian Vigman (Dr. T'Ana in Star Trek: Lower Decks) as the kid's mom and stepdad. (I take it a couple of the older boys are among the teen heartthrobs of the current moment.) But these three pretty much carry the movie, becoming an unlikely family (for just a bit) and supporting each other through their concurrent rough patches.

The boy, Angus, has been pretty much given up on by his folks. He claims his father is dead, but there's a bigger story to that and it ends up changing Paul, the teacher's, life. Meanwhile, Paul has a backstory that explains a lot about his classroom douchebaggery, that he reluctantly reveals to the kid. As for Mary, the cook, she's heavily mourning her barely-grown-up son, who received a Barton Academy education as a staff member's son, but couldn't afford to go to college. So, he ended up shipping out to Vietnam, and you can guess the rest. The friction between these mismatched characters ensures that as they grow on each other, it's an interesting process to watch. And when the final crisis comes (hint: you're going to hate Angus's parents), the movie delivers a moving catharsis and a bittersweet yet fulfilling ending.

There was one scene that I had a bit of trouble understanding. Late in the movie, it depicts a hunky teenager getting out of the shower and checking himself out in the mirror, and I'm like, "Who even is that?" I almost didn't recognize the school quarterback, last seen in the helicopter scene, and that's when it hit me that his new haircut was the point of the shot – a quick, dialogue-free jab of storytelling that requires the audience to keep track of plot threads that haven't been touched in the past 100 minutes. Kind of like when Arwen shows up to marry Aragorn at the end of The Lord of the Rings and I, on my first time reading the book, go "Who?" Clearly, Payne has high expectations for his audience.

Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) Definitely the scene in which Paul takes Angus to visit where his father is, erm, buried. The consequences are emotionally stirring, both short- and long-range. (2) Mary's meltdown in the kitchen at the school secretary's Christmas party. There isn't an actor in this trio who shouldn't be collecting trophies this award season. (3) When the kid lies to a hospital nurse to protect Paul from the consequences, after he dislocates his shoulder during a foolish act of defiance.

I want to add that I'm pretty pleased with the look of this film, which takes place about one year before I was even a gleam in my parents' eyes but still evokes memories of my early childhood. You know how it is? I recently walked into a roomful of kitsch at an antique shop and was hit by a smell that made me think, "Whoa, that's the 1970s." This movie's interiors, exteriors and street scenes enfold the viewer in a palpable embrace of 1970-71, with a strong accent of My Old School, even if you didn't have an old school. It's a sense of time and place that cuts through strongly at every point. And there are many points in it that linger in your thoughts afterward.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Tacky Hymns 109

We're up to the "End Time" section in the hymnal supplement All Creation Sings, albeit with three-quarters of the book still to go ...

949 is "Keep your lamps trimmed and burning," an African-American spiritual. I appreciate ACS at this point for providing the harmony for this piece, with which I wasn't familiar. After a play-through on the piano I can say that I like the music, but also, I hear it more as a choir piece being sung at the congregation, unless this particular style of rhythm and harmony is right in their wheelhouse. Lyrics-wise, and this goes for quite a few spirituals that try to pass as hymns, it doesn't give the worshiper much in proportion to the amount of time they are asked to spend on it. Each stanza is the same line repeated three times, followed by "for this work's almost done." The refrain is "Children, don't grow weary" repeated three times, followed by "for this work's almost done." Stanza 4 is identical to stanza 1. So you could read, as a poem without repeats, everything this song gives us in literally five lines. Even at a brisk tempo, that's a significant investment of time in saying five lines worth of material, when it cries out for much clearer and deeper application. As a piece of folk art when performed by a solid musical group, three stars. As a page (plus) in a pew hymnal, 2 tacks.

950 is "Oh, when the saints go marching in," another African-American spiritual. I always got a kick out of this song when I was a kid, but I never wanted or expected to see it in the hymnal. For turning the believer's joyful anticipation of the Lord's Second Coming into a hand-clapping, foot-stomping dance (best when backed by a jazz band), it can't be beat. For having five stanzas that each consist of one line, more or less repeated over and over, with the addition of the quasi-refrain "O Lord, I want to be in that number," it can totally be beat(en) by most any hymnal-style treatment of the coming judgment. Each of the five stanzas says pretty much the same thing but with slight variations of imagery. A hymn on this subject could, and should, give us so much more. 2 tacks.

951 is "Deep river," also credited as an African-American spiritual. I would like to learn more about this piece's actual history, because (don't take this as a criticism) I have my doubts about its roots within the slaves' preliterate oral tradition. It's just too good. The musical writing is too beautiful, too sensitive, too clearly the work of an educated genius. I'd welcome evidence that proves me wrong. Also, the lyrics – only two stanzas and a refrain – run circles around the two prior numbers in richly expressing the hope of eternal life, albeit couched in biblical metaphors. "My home is over Jordan," it confesses. "Lord, I want to cross over into campground," it pleads. It tells of "that gospel feast, that promised land where all is peace," and of taking my seat in heaven and casting my crown at Jesus' feet. Compared to some End Time hymns I know, it isn't much. But for giving us a bit more than 949 and 950, I'll confine myself to 1 tack, and that's for really belonging in the choir repertoire and not the pew hymnal.

952 is "The reign of God, like farmer's field" by Delores Dufner, with the early Americana tune DUNLAP'S CREEK by Samuel McFarland (c.1816). Dufner's lyrics paraphrase four of Jesus' kingdom parables: the tares, the pearl, the leaven, the mustard seed, with the final application that in Christ, "the reign of God is here." I think I owe it 1 tack for being in the wrong section of the book, because apart from stanza 1 it isn't particularly focused on the End Time.

953 is "Before the Ancient One, Christ stands" by Susan Cherwien, with Robert Farlee's tune CHRIST CHURCH, MINNEAPOLIS bearing witness to how challenging it can be to set to music a hymn in a very long meter (10 lines of 8 syllables, here). Dramatically, structurally, the tune runs out of gas around phrase 7, only perking up a bit at the very end. Looking at Cherwien's poetic structure, I think I see a better approach to setting these words to music. Oh, boy, I want to write a tune for this hymn! But clearly, this is a "musical taste" issue of a high order. The only thing that, to my mind, detracts from the impressiveness of Cherwien's text is the final couplet of stanza 3, which could perhaps be interpreted in a postmillennialist light. Aside from that, 1 tack only for omitting the accompaniment.

954 is "You, Lord, are both Lamb and Shepherd" by Sylvia G. Dunstan, set to the French tune PICARDY ("Let all mortal flesh keep silence"). Accompaniment omitted. Right here, I might as well point out an observation that's been building up from the beginning of this ongoing review: Doesn't ACS seem to be the Ruth Duck, Delores Dufner, Sylvia Dunstan, Mary Louise Bringle and Susan Palo Cherwien show? A few other "usual suspects" in modern hymnody have shown their faces, such as Troeger, Stuempfle, et al., but we keep coming back to this handful of female contributors, some of whom are operating at a higher level than the others. Could this go some way toward answering the bedeviling question, "Who asked for this?" or, in a word, "Why?" Discuss. Dufner, who seldom disappoints, makes an argument in this hymn surrounding the paradoxes of Jesus – prince and slave, peacemaker and sword-bringer, etc. Its penultimate line in each stanza, another semi-refrain, calls Christ "the everlasting instant." Stanza 2 contrasts His power and weakness in the Passion; St. 3 explores the presence of the ascended Jesus, both "each day beside us" and sitting "in power at God's side." Stanza 4 heads into "Worthy is the Lamb" territory. Steaky stuff. 1 tack only for omitting the accompaniment.

Moving into the "Holy Baptism" section, 955 is "Come to the Water of life" (first line: "All who are thirsty for mercy"), words and music by Ray Makeever (cf. 945). The melodic shape is simple but its rhythm alternates between triplet and non-triplet groupings, giving the congregation more credit than it probably deserves for their musical prowess. It also omits the accompaniment. The four stanzas fall into a pattern with "All who are thirsty" phrases slotting in different objects of thirst and concluding with the titular refrain, so the only differences between them are whether you're thirsty for love and mercy, touch and healing, truth and beauty, or peace and justice. It isn't hard to imagine (or remember) hymns on this theme that deliver far more than this. 3 tacks.

956 is "Born, reborn", words and music by Justin Rimbo (b. 1980), accompaniment omitted. Despite the harmony being hidden from pew-book holders, the score for the two stanzas does include ossia notes for a second vocal part, echoing the first. It hits me as a decent children's hymn, saying quite a bit about Baptism in a few short words. Why it's in the pew book, as if for adults to sing, I don't know. 1-1/2 tacks.

957 is "Take me to the water" (to be baptized), an African-American spiritual crediting Horace Clarence Boyer (†2009) for the arrangement. I have no prior familiarity with this hymn, so I'm not sure what tempo it's meant to go at, but assuming a dotted quarter equals one beat, the fast part of each phrase would have to go pretty fast for this piece as a whole not to go incredibly slow. It's kind of an unusual piece, but (as with many of the spirituals so far in this book) it gives me vibes of a prepared group singing it at the congregation rather than the laypeople really participating – unless, as I've said before, this is their native musical idiom. Which, I think, still applies to a very small minority among Lutheran parishes. So, again, the question arises: Why does this have to be in the pew book? The text, meanwhile, is a lot of repetition of very thin and lightweight material, compared to many baptismal hymns I know. What it says is fine, and what it omits could more economically fill the same length of time it takes to sing it. 2-1/2 tacks.

958 is "To Christ Belong, in Christ behold" by Susan R. Briehl (b. 1952), to Farlee's tune WONDERS. It's a real pity that the accompaniment is omitted, because I feel it would help me make better sense of this tune. I have a sense it might be more effective sounding, all put together, than it is as a bare line of melody, especially with notes tied across a barline at the end of each phrase to suggest something happening in the harmony parts. And behold, Briehl's text is an example of what could be done with a Baptism hymn beyond repeating, say, "Take me to the water" a bunch of times. Stanza 1 acknowledges that we are "baptized into the death of Christ," and "drawn ... into abundant life." St. 2 confesses that the Spirit is poured with the water, and the veil of sin and death is released. Stanza 3 wraps up with an exhortation to living a baptismal life. I'm sorry to have to award it 1 tack for hiding the harmony.

959 is "God of promise, let these signs of grace" by Paul Damico-Carper (cf. 907). Again, his tune (STELLAN) is given without accompaniment. It has rests in it that suggest instrumental cues that might be helpful. It's also a fairly unusual tune with rhythms that might put it out of the reach of Grandma Smurf and the Smurfettes (if indeed there are any Smurfettes), your country parish organist and her possibly non-existent choir, to say nothing of her hard-of-hearing husband, who compensates for not singing well by singing loudly. I'm not prophesying disaster or anything, but it would be wise to prepare for one and that just might mean not choosing this hymn. PDC's lyrics are not without merit. Stanza 1 calls Baptism "life-giving water," for what it's worth after the opening refrain describing it as a "sign," and describes it as drowning our sins each day. St. 2 relates the Word breathed on the water to the Father's voice, heard at Jesus' baptism: "This is my child, my beloved." But the stanzas continue with riffs on the oil of anointing, the burning light (a candle that may be given to the baptized) and the "robe of adoption" (baptismal garment), suggesting that these optional, not-divinely-instituted ceremonials are on an equal level with water and word in whatever this hymn is saying about baptism, and that once again reinforces the impression that the word "sign" in the refrain is of driving, um, significance. Discuss amongst yourselves, but I'm giving it 4 tacks.

Going on to "Holy Communion," 960 is "O Lamb of God", a setting of the Agnus Dei with lots of extra "have mercy on us"es and, fitting the music better than the English version, the original Finnish lyrics that apparently went with Petri Laaksonen's undated tune JUAMALAN KARITSA. I googled the composer's name and found evidence of a composer by that name, born in 1962, for what it's worth. I live just up the road from a town with a higher percentage of Finnish-descended residents than probably anywhere in the U.S. outside the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I bet this piece would go over a treat there (particularly, maybe, in their Laestadian congregation). It has some nice harmony, albeit with a couple parallel perfect fifths (but hush, I just spotted some PP5s in one of my own published hymn accompaniments). I don't want to be mean, but I'm going to give this 1 tack for being in the wrong part of the book (it should be in with the liturgical settings), and I'll graciously overlook the limited range of its appeal within U.S. Lutheranism.

961 is "Come to the Table" by Jennifer Baker-Trinity (b. 1976), set to her own tune INVITATION, which is really a duet. The first part delivers, apart from repeats, exactly the following value: "Come to the table. All is now ready, come one and all. Come, oh, come." The second part repeats, as a four-note ostinato, the line "Come one, come all" four times. No accompaniment is included, if indeed any is intended. As a communion hymn, or even a liturgical chant, it really doesn't offer much – least of all, something that can be sustained throughout a significant part of the distrubtion. Moving beyond pragmatic concerns, the lyrics offer flat-out nothing for communicants to meditate on regarding the sacrament they are about to receive. 3 tacks.

962 is "In this feast of love" by Jarkko Maukonen, translated and arranged by Mark Sedio (b. 1954), and including one stanza of the original Finnish despite the page having plenty of room for all three, if the hymnal editors were inclined that way. Not that I wouldn't have dinged them for doing it; like I said, there's only so much demand for a Finnish-language hymnal in the U.S. and this book ain't it. Musically, it's a Contemporary Worship slow song styling. The three stanzas, with a repeated first line, are a very brief and condensed prayer of one receiving the Sacrament. Nevertheless, it does bear witness to the truth that in His Supper, the Lamb of God does share His blood and body; that He has promised to be with us in the bread and wine; and that the joy of the Spirit comes from the ever-living Word. That it's actually a paraphrase of the Agnus Dei is so subtle that the realization may not hit you until Stanza 3. I'm going to be a pig and give it 1 tack for blotting the page with a line of Finnish lingo that only those folks down the road from me in northern Minnesota, and over yonder in the U.P., are going to try singing.

963 is that "Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior" – translated by Martin Seltz (b. 1951) and Paul Westermeyer (b. 1940) from Martin Luther's (†1546) German paraphrase of Jan Hus' (†1415) Latin, and set to one of the two beautiful chorales wedded to it (and the one not included in LSB, at that) – of which I formerly declared that I could leave everything in this book, except this one hymn, without a qualm of regret. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you know what? I know where to find this hymn elsewhere and, besides, I'm giving it 1 tack for omitting the accompaniment.

964 is "Here would I feast" by Horatius Bonar, translated – into Spanish, mind you – by T.W. Speaks, and set to its own tune by José Ruiz (b. 1956). Three stanzas in both languages, Spanish first, set to a tune that has a repeat sign after the first stanza, and a new strain of music for the third – like one, enormous bar song (AAB form, that is), rounded off at the end by a pair of phrases similar to the beginning of the piece. As LSB numbers them, the lyrics are stanzas 2, 5 and 6 of "Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face." And the style of music reminds me of an old campfire sing, like "Bill Grogan's goat." Of course, that's based on the melody only, since the accompaniment is omitted. For the same cost, the hymnal editors could have set all 7 stanzas of Bonar's text (English only) to FARLEY CASTLE and have done. 2 tacks.

965 is "The rice of life" by J. Andrew Fowler (b. 1935), set to BÍ-NÍU by I-to Loh (b. 1936). I have three things to say about the tune. First, the accompaniment is omitted. Second, it has several notational markings that suggest a vocal technique that isn't widely taught at the level of musical education to which most Americans have attained. Third, it has ossia notes for "last time" through – a different melodic ending to the last stanza, which makes twice in this book but very nearly a first in my decades-long study of Lutheran hymn tunes. This is weird stuff. I'm not sure quite how to interpret it all (other than scooping up to some of the notes following that funny notation, and sagging down from others). This seems like the kind of piece you'd teach to a choir or a group of college students who are majoring in music, during a unit on Asian musical forms. Your little country church, with the Smurfs and all, are going to give it a sketchy try at best. As for the lyrics, the repeated phrase "the rice of life" hints at an effort to contextualize the concept of "bread of life" for an Asian audience, but what's intended by throwing that contexualization in the teeth of western Lutherans who, surely, can grasp the biblical metaphor of bread? I've already gone on long enough about this hymn and haven't really discussed what it says about "the rice of life," but let's say, there's much to discuss. I hate to leave it vague like that, but to move on, I'm giving it 4 tacks.

966 is "Loaves were broken, words were spoken" by Herman Stuempfle (cf. 937), set to Marty Haugen's (b. 1950) JOYOUS LIGHT, originally a liturgical canticle from what I know as Holden Evening Prayer (cf. also LSB 445 and 932). It's kind of the epitome of a Contemporary Worship ditty, with a refrain that goes to exactly that place you'd expect after hearing a bunch of the like. If you're looking for a definite confession of what the Lord's Supper is and does, Stuempfle's lyrics are a bit disappointing. Starting with Jesus' post-resurrection appearance by the Sea of Galilee, Stuempfle argues that in the blessed and broken bread, "Jesus, Bread of life from heaven, was their food forevermore." Then (st. 2) he circles back to the paschal meal in the upper room, where "in the bread and wine (He) gave them, Christ ... came as Light from Light." St. 3 applies these precedents to today's celebration in which "Jesus speaks across the ages: 'I am with you; do not fear.'" St. 4 is the move one expects from the sacramental theology that gave birth to Evangelical Lutheran Worship, applying the sacrament by backhandedly exhorting us (while addressing Jesus) to go forth to share bread with the hungry millions, as well as "words that tell your love and care." You're not meant to ask where the hymn actually asserts that we eat Jesus' body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sins. But I'm asking anyway, and that, as well as omitting the accompaniment, is why I'm giving this hymn 3 tacks.

967 is "This is Christ's body" by Anne Krentz Organ (b. 1960), set to her own tune BROKEN AND BLESSED, with tiny lyrics indicating an echo effect in the tenor line at the end of the phrase "Feed us with mercy and love." And now you already know half the lyrics of this hymn, which go on to say "We are Christ's body, broken and blest. Heal us and make us one." There's no harm in it, surely. But also, there isn't much of anything in it. It's a communion hymn that either has to be repeated over and over, with no more profit the 10th time through than the first, or that isn't going to occupy much of the distribution time at all, unless by way of an extended intro and outro. And meantime, it doesn't give the communicant much to meditate on, certainly when compared to some of Lutheranism's rich repertoire of Communion hymns. 2 tacks.

968 is "Feed us with hunger for justice" by Organ again – this time two phrases (the second being "Feed us with thirst for peace") that are completely beside the point of the Sacrament of the Altar and bespeak the kind of this-worldly, we-are-the-bread-given-for-the-life-of-the-world, bizarro-sacrifice-of-the-mass claptrap ELW peddles in throughout its Lord's Supper section. What use is it as a Communion hymn, anyway? It's two phraes long, double-barline. Unless you either use it as a liturgical versicle and response (choke, gag) or repeat it to the point of self-hypnosis, I don't see this serving a needful purpose in the Divine Service. Also, the music omits the accompaniment, the better (I suppose) to squeeze it in at the bottom of a page, though it does provide an optional descant. Now we're talking repeats and rehearsals. Help us, good Lord. 5 tacks.

969 is "Welcome table" (first line: "I'm a-goin'-a eat at the welcome table"), an African-American spiritual arranged by Mark Hayes (b. 1953). Musically, I can see how this would be an enjoyable exercise, although its rhythms aren't within the shared musical vocabulary of most American Lutherans and its harmony is, at times, tediously sedentary. (Almost all of the second system is played and sung over a C major chord.) The three stanzas of highly repetetive lyrics, with a "some of these days" thrown in now and then, might suggest something relevant to the Lord's Supper to start with, but then move onto feasting on milk and honey (not even bread and wine) and, finally, wading across Jordan's river. If that's about the Sacrament, it is figurative to the point of obscurity. How much do we want or need that, eh? 4 tacks.

970 is "We come now to your table", with words credited to "Caribbean Conference of Churches Jamaica workshop" (Kyrie eleison) and the tune LIVING BREAD credited to "St. Vincent traditional, adapt.; arr. Pattrick Prescod" (†2013). This may be a stretch, but that may be a reference to the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I'll bet it goes over great in the Caribbean Conference of Churches, but I have doubts about midwestern Lutherans, and only because I've tried teaching rhythm like this to a church choir who Just. Didn't. Get it. Lyrics-wise, there's four times as much music here as necessary to get across the message (addressed to the Lord) that "You are the Living Bread" and "Let every soul be fed." Four times as much music that's going to throw Grandma Smurf and Co. and stomp them into the dust. 2 tacks.

I quit! For the day, that is. But hey, we've made it through 22 hymns, adding another 48 tacks. So, with a running total (so far) of 128 tacks in 70 hymns, we've reached a tackiness quotient of about 183%. Google informs me that 128 over 70 is a good blood pressure, but I'm not sure what this level of tackiness in church would do to my blood pressure. Heaven help us.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Tacky Hymns 108

We resume with the "Pentecost, Holy Spirit" section of the Lutheran hymnal supplement All Creation Sings ...

940 is "Come, Holy Spirit" from the Iona Community. Sort of like Taizé, I guess. This very brief duet – the sort of canon that's easy to write because only one vocal line moves at a time – repeats the first line a couple times, then throws in the lyrics "Maranatha! Come, Lord, come." And that's it. It could, however, be extended indefinitely by the repeat sign at the end, suggesting a self-hypnotic kind of group meditation. I don't know what Lutherans are thinking, putting a song like this in their hymnal rack, but it isn't the same thought that prompted the first Lutherans to write vernacular hymns for the conregation to sing. For omitting the accompaniment and not being a hymn, 2 tacks.

941 is "Breathe on us, Breath of God" by Patrick G. Michaels (b. 1954). The second line is "Breath of God, breathe on us," and that's literally the whole thing. It would be kind of an anticlimax after the kind of lengthy introduction some organists are apt to use, building up to a hymn. For not belonging in the hymn section, 1 tack.

942 is "Ev'ry time I feel the spirit" (lowercase s), an African-American spiritual with its melody, PENTECOST, arranged by Melva W. Costen (b. 1933). Harmony is provided for the refrain but not for the verse. This and the rhythmic stylings suggest more of a choir number with a soloist singing the verses, than an actual hymn for the average congregation. Also, how the lyrics apply to the faithful escapes me; I have doubts about whether there's any interpretation of these words that make sense in the context of biblical and orthodox Lutheranism. 3 tacks.

943 is "As the wind song" (through the trees) by Shirley Erena Murray (†2020), with the tune WAIRUA TAPU by Lim Swee Hong (b. 1963), accompaniment omitted. The hymn's two long stanzas are a series of analogies leading to the repeated conclusion, "So it is with the Spirit of God". A couple brief, faint flashes of biblical truth glimmer among these vague motes of figurative language, such as "Never seen, never known where this wind has blown, bringing life, bringing pow'r to the world" in stanza 1, and "Making worlds that are new, making peace come true, bringing gifts, bringing love to the world" in stanza 2. But it holds back from getting any more specifically Christian than this. No mention of Christ or the gospel or the Spirit's place in the Trinitarian economy or the means of grace, we might as well be singing "Kum ba yah" in the smoke of a campfire. 2 tacks.

944 is "O Spirit all-embracing" by Delores Dufner, set to Gustav Holst's THAXTED, a tune on whose tackiness in the church context I have commented multiple times before. I'll spare you the repetition. Dufner's hymn, as so often in this hymnal, stands head and shoulders above the others in its section to the shame and disgrace of Lutheran hymn-writers, if any indeed are here. While it doesn't relate the Holy Spirit to the other Persons of the Trinity or His operation to the means of grace, this hymn definitely does a fine job of setting down what works of the Spirit the faithful rely on and pray for. Nevertheless, because there's still room for improvement, because the accompaniment is hidden and, by golly, because of Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity, 3 tacks.

945 is "When you send forth your Spirit" by Ray Makeever (b. 1943). His tune is titled PSALM 104. Maybe it's catchy. Or maybe it has a level of rhythmic trickiness that prices it right out of the average congregation's musical wallet. The refrain is notated for "All" and the four stanzas for "Leader or All," which suggests a certain recognition that this isn't altogether an all-together thing. The accompaniment is omitted, which is particularly irksome because of the one-bar vocal tacet at the end of each phrase, suggesting an instrumental cue that might be helpful for the singer. The text, however, actually seems to be a decent psalm paraphrase, though the refrain is the only place the Spirit is mentioned, suggesting that it doesn't really belong in this section; it isn't, after all, a hymn to or about the Holy Spirit. On musical grounds, 2 tacks.

The "Holy Trinity" section begins with 946, "The play of the Godhead" by Mary Louise Bringle, set to PERICHORESIS by William P. Rowan (b. 1951). For once the music is innocent of any cause of tackiness. However, Bringle's poetic treatment of the Trinity verges on the bizarre, depicting the "dance" of the Persons as a "sacred romance," replacing the gendered name Father with Creator (maybe to fit the meter?) – though I tend to try to attribute the title "God the Creator" to the undivided Trinity – and, again, depicting the Trinitarian economy as "a web daily spun in spangles of mystery," when to my thinking spangles are the last thing a mystery would have anything to do with. That's just stanza 1. Stanza 2 compares the mystery of the Trinity to the states of matter and the life stages of a tree – analogies that are, to say the least, susceptible to interpretation as the Trinitarian heresies of modalism and partialism. Stanza 3 relates the Trinity to mankind, made in "God's gracious image of coequal parts," also hinting at a jigger of partialism in Bringel's theological cocktail. She also puts some emphasis on mankind's dance being "in tune with the music of all living things," which sounds more like a pagan religion than the revealed Christian faith, unless my senses are being clouded by the massive swarm of tacks hovering around this hymn. In the spirit of recognizing multiple persons as one being, I'll be kind and cap my rating of this (and, for this book any) hymn at 5 tacks.

947 is "Source and Sov'reign, Rock and Cloud" by Thomas H. Troeger (cf. 920), set to Joseph Parry's (†1903) tune ABYERYSTWYTH, the tune LSB pairs with "Savior, when in dust to Thee." The hymn's three stanzas are a catalog of divine names, with a refrain that sweeps them aside, calling on the church to recall "that no single holy name but the truth behind them all is the God whom we proclaim." Though I've fallen prey to the same versifying mistake myself, in one or more of my own hymns, it pains me to point out that Troeger's rhyme scheme changes after Stanza 1. Or maybe a helpful hymnal editor tampered with his text; I don't know. For only touching on and not really exploring the impressive names of God (and, particularly, of Jesus), 1 tack.

948 is "Womb of life and source of being" by Ruth Duck (cf. 922), set to RAQUÉL by Skinner Chávez-Melo (†1992), accompaniment omitted. Based on the melody alone, I feel it's a tricky enough tune that some people might want to play through it to prepare for singing it, and it's a pity that they'd have to invest in an expensive supporting book to do so. One of the reasons I persist in sticking tacks in this book for omitting accompaniments is, frankly, to stick it to the publisher for giving off such an odor of cynical greed. For what it would cost them to include the harmony/accompaniment for every hymn, what would they lose? Space to afflict the church with more tacky hymns that nobody asked for, maybe? All that before we get to the lyrics, which, to start, feminize God from the first word. It goes on to depict our relationship with Him(?) as being held in mother's arms, gathering at the table to share "stories, tears and laughter" and be "nurtured by your care." See how misgendering God instantly pulls focus off salvation from sin and the sacrament's sharing in Jesus' atoning death. Stanza 2 on Jesus is all right (it doesn't try to misgender him), though it touches but lightly on atonement. Stanza 3's language of "Brooding Spirit" suggests again a mothering, or midwifing, angle for viewing the Holy Spirit's work, not so much to create us, birth us or transform us as children of God but to work alongside us, remind us, toward "birthing of the new world yet to be" – with enough ambiguity to make it conceivable that we're working toward that goal in the present realm. Stanza 4 doubles down on the blasphemy with a doxology to "Mother, Brother, holy Partner" before it finally says "Father, Spirit, Only Son," by which point the glob of spit has already left my mouth and my rating has maxed out again at 5 tacks.

Another section is about to begin, but I'm ready to stop for today before two of these last three hymns obliterate my resolve, kept so far, to be fair and reasonable in this review. Nevertheless, today's butcher bill stands at 24 tacks, a pretty serious count considering we only covered nine hymns. Cumulatively, that brings us to 80 tacks in 48 hymns, a tackiness quotient of about 167%. In perspective, that's enough tackiness to saturate one-and-two-thirds hymnbooks, suggesting that we think of this book as a tackiness superspreader, with bad taste in the context of Lutheran worship dripping off it like an infectious ooze. But hey, we've still got a lot of book to go. Maybe it'll clean up its act, right?

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Tacky Hymns 107

Moving on to the "Holy Week, Three Days" section of the hymnal supplement All Creation Sings ...

928 is "Pave the way with branches" (first line: "Jesus is coming") by Bret Hesla (b. 1957), written in a folk idiom with rhythms that may put it out of the reach of the average congregation; so, probably more of a choir piece. Also, its highly repetitive lyrics and the suggestion of "additional verses ad lib," including examples whose rhythm doesn't match the music, convey an impression of the type of musical event that will be somewhat improvised if not completely open to the performers winging it. This might make for a fun Palm Sunday event that could go on and on, indefinitely; but I don't see the congregation edifying itself much with this minimalistic material. 1 tack.

929 is "Blessed is the one" (who comes in the name of the Lord), literally the first line Psalm 118:26 repeated twice, set to a harmonically and rhythmically similar style of music as 929 by Nathan Houge (b. 1977). There just isn't much to it. I can't imagine choosing this in preference to an honest-to-goodness Palm Sunday hymn. 1 tack.

930 is "Three holy days enfold us now" by Delores Dufner (b. 1939), sung to ROCKINGHAM OLD by Edward Miller (†1807; cf. Chad Bird's "The infant Priest was holy born" and the second tune for "When I survey the wondrous cross" in LSB). Stanza 1 runs through the themes of the Maundy Thursday-Good Friday-Holy Saturday triduum – "in washing feet and breaking bread, in cross ... in Christ, God's firstborn from the dead." Stanza 2 finds "the myst'ry hid from ages past ... revealed in word and sign," with Jesus' story revealed as our own, namely "new life through death." Stanza 3 presents Christ lifted up on the tree, to whom every knee shall bend, etc. It's actually pretty impressive. In fact, I think it's the first hymn so far in this book that's new to me and that I would like to hear used in worship. How does that sound for 30 songs in?

931 is "Where charity and love are shown" with Spanish words and music by Joaquin Madurga (†2017), translated into English by Marin A. Seltz (b. 1951). This is a Lord's Supper hymn that does, I'm pleased to report, make mention of "the presence and the promise of God's Word," as we "receive our loving Lord". Also, it describes the gifts of God here given as Jesus' body and blood, and claims that in this meal we proclaim the mystery of Christ's suffering, who "has died, yet lives to reign." All those are positives. Under cross-examination, I would find it difficult to maintain that there's anything wrong with the emphasis that seems to run through most of this hymn's three stanzas, an emphasis on the horizontal communion of those receiving the Sacrament here and now, and how, as a result, "we give ourselves to others and ... seek our neighbor's good." I mean, those aspects of Communion are fine. What makes me leery is my recollection that the theology of the Lord's Supper represented in Evangelical Lutheran Worship's selection of Communion hymns focuses almost exclusively on this aspect, and the amount said about our communion with Jesus' body and blood, plugging us into His atonement for our sins, ranges from zero to a couple of light touches. And the sense that I should be thrilled that this hymn moves the slider to the latter end of that scale is concerning, I think. Not unlike the way Stockholm Syndrome is concerning. For having no real harm in it, I'm going to go easy on it and give it 2 tacks: one for omitting the accompaniment, and one for devoting space to the Spanish lyrics when (to re-re-re-restate the brutally obvious) this is not a Spanish-language hymnal.

932 is "Lamb of God most holy", translated by Seltz but not from the German chorale you're probably thinking of; rather, from an anonymous Spanish text, laid out alongside the English version. The tune is SANTO CORDERO by José Ruiz (b. 1956), accompaniment omitted. It took some effort, but I managed to read this hymn without comparing it line-by-line to "Lamb of God, pure and holy" and found, surprisingly, that I quite like it. It has a direct style, a clever rhyme scheme and an open admission of my guilt, on account of which I approach the Lord and implore Him, "remove my shame." Because the accompaniment is omitted and the Spanish lyrics are superfluous – unless, you know, your day school's Spanish class wants to strut its stuff, or you just like looking at them and thinking about how multicultural your church body is – I'm giving it the same 2 tacks as the previous number.

Entering the Easter section, 933 is "Day of delight and beauty unbounded" by Dufner, set to G.G. Gastoldi's (†1622) IN DIR IST FREUDE ("In Thee is gladness") – one of the few instances so far in this book of a hymn tune that J.S. Bach might have (and, in this case, actually did) composed a setting of. Dufner, a Benedictine nun, is perhaps ironically the author of some of the better texts in this book; a distinction that, I feel, should stir Lutherans with any literary talent to get up off their heels and do something. I don't want to spoil it, but her two stanzas in this resurrection hymn are rather decent, including lines that connect the water that flowed from Jesus' side with baptism, fasting turned into feasting, and "the mystery, the hope of our glory." Reluctantly, but for the sake of consistency, I'm compelled to give it 1 tack for omitting the accompaniment, though I know where to find it elsewhere.

934 is "Christ is living" (gone with sorrow), Spanish words by Nicolás Martínez (†1972), English translation by Seltz, set to the Pablo D. Sosa's (†2020) tune CENTRAL as arranged by Robert Buckley Farlee (b. 1950). The same hymn (without accompaniment) is in the pew edition of LSB; so ACS actually improves on LSB for once by including the accompaniment. I've liked the energy of this piece of music since I first tried it out, though I'm not certain it would fly with a midwestern American congregation; I think I'd try it as a choir piece first. The lyrics have some merit, too, such as the line "Why then seek the living Savior in the haunts of death and fear?" Stanza 2 recaps St. Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians 15 that our hope of resurrection is founded on Christ's resurrection: "Dust we are, to dust returning, but in Christ we are restored." And St. 3 depicts "death ... swallowed up in victory," culminating in an overflow of praise. It's an excellent Easter hymn that only troubles me on two accounts – first, the argument I've been making throughout this thread about the vanity of splashing Spanish lyrics all over a book that will never serve a Spanish-speaking congregation, and second, my ambivalence about whether I would come out of an attempt to introduce this to the congregation with my hide intact. 1-1/2 tacks.

935 is "Woman, weeping in the garden" by Donald Charles Damon (b. 1955), to the tune CEDARWOLF by Thomas Pavlechko (b. 1962). I have two bones to pick with this hymn tune: first, that the accompaniment is omitted; and second, that the last stanza goes to a different ending (final note and all). Final endings aren't all that unusual in modern hymn tunes, but usually only the harmony changes under the same melodic shape; this takes the cake. Text-wise, this hymn is a five-stanza retelling of Mary Magdalene's Easter morning encounter with the risen Jesus, told as if to her, in the second person. I'll grant that it beats "I come to the garden alone" into a cocked hat; but on second thought, it hits me more as a devotional poem to enjoy in private than the sort of thing I would choose for Easter Day worship over ever so many richer, deeper hymns. 2 tacks.

936 is "The day of resurrection", by John of Damascus by way of John Mason Neale, to a tune evidently written for it by Farlee, called ANASTASEOS HEMERA (which, being translated, reads "Day of Resurrection"). I'm not excited to see this hymn here, because it's already in ELW (hymn 361, set to the perfectly respectable tune ELLACOMBE) and because I rather like singing it to LANCASHIRE, as I learned it from the Missouri Synod line of hymnals. So despite its ancient pedigree and undeniable loveliness, and I say nothing to repugn Farlee's tune, this number again illustrates my overriding question: "Who even asked for this?"

937 is "Earth, earth, awake!" (Your praises sing!) by Herman G. Stuempfle Jr. (†2007), set to the tune STUEMPFLE by Sally Ann Morris (b. 1952). I like Morris's tune but, shucks, the accompaniment is omitted. Stuempfle's poem, with an exclamation point and an "Alleluia!" at the end of every single line, is an enthusiastic (in the positive sense) expression of Easter joy, starting by calling the forces of nature to join in. By stanza 2 it has gotten to the nitty gritty ("Christ lives ... first fruit of all the dead"). Stanza 3 implicates springtime in the conspiracy to praise the Risen Lord, and st. 4 is all doxology. So all right, this would be another fun one to try, but my, what a hymn festival it would have to be to fit all the good Easter hymns in! I guess that's what the Easter Season is for. 1 tack for omitting the accompaniment.

938 is "Christ has risen while earth slumbers" by John L. Bell (b. 1949), set to Calvin Hampson's (†1984) ST. HELENA. The first thing that strikes me about it is the tune, which (aargh, again) omits the accompaniment, though it does feature a four-bar instrumental cue that might, or might not, help the congregation make their entrance on the right note. The jury's out on that, because, frankly – and you can put this down to musical taste, so long as you admit that mine is nicely developed – I don't think much of Hampson's music. Mind you, I only have the melody and those four bars of intro to judge on. I just think this horse is going to throw its rider, if you try to put the congregation in that saddle. No doubt, I've composed unbroken maverick tunes like this, too, so Hampson's in good company. Bell's text, meanwhile, covers about the same ground as 937 but more broadly. It thoroughly explores for whom and what Christ is risen. I'd like to talk with Bell sometime about what he meant by a few of his turns of phrase, especially in the last stanza where the application turns toward present-day people. But I'll restrict my tack-slinging to the music: 2 tacks.

939 is "Touch that soothes and heals" (the hurting), by that Mary Louise Bringle from whom we have lately heard, set to Gregg DeMey's (b. 1972) CIVILITY. Again, ACS omits the accompaniment, though it would be handy to have at least an instrumental cue for the three bars of tacet at the end of the refrain. I'm not sure what kind of accompaniment to expect here. The shape of the melody leads me to suspect a Contemporary Worship styling, especially with the refrain going to that place (that "O Danny Boy" place) that pretty much every CoWo jingle reaches at some point. The text of the refrain also pivots instantly from "'See my hands and feet,' said Jesus" to "'Be my hands and feet,' said Jesus, 'live as ones I died to save.'" Accordingly, after the first refrain, everything in this Easter hymn is, shall we say, Third Use of the Law. Imperatives galore. Discuss amongst yourselves. For the musical issues noted above, 2 tacks.

Conveniently, a new section begins after this number. I say conveniently, because I'm so ready to quit for the day. That's another 15-1/2 tacks in 12 hymns, only two of which escaped untacked. That brings the current, cumulative tackiness of ACS to 56 tacks in 39 hymns, or about 144%. A lot of these tacks, I admit, are due to the cheapskate publisher choosing to withhold the accompaniment of many songs, obliging music nerds who want to play through everything in the book to splash out on the pricy accompanist edition. These church publishers can see us coming from a mile away, music nerds. My advice: hold off on ordering it until the final tacks are counted.

Tacky Hymns 106

Continuing with the Lent section in the hymnal supplement All Creation Sings ...

918 is "Now is the time of grace" by Marty Haugen (b. 1950), with a refrain that can be sung in unison or as a two-part round. The accompaniment of the refrain is omitted. Meanwhile, the verses, which are marked to be sung by "Leader," are given with no music whatsoever, not even a melody. That's 2 tacks right there.

919 is "Remember that you are dust" (and to dust you shall return), the words spoken on Ash Wednesday during the imposition of ashes, also notated without accompaniment (possibly intended to be melody only), to be sung either in unison or as a two-part round. The tune is by Mark Mummert (b. 1965). It's the epitome of what I've been saying about this entire book: "Who even asked for this?" For being completely unnecessary if not detrimental to liturgical practice, and for omitting any accompaniment that may exist, 2 tacks.

920 is "All things of dust to dust return" by Thomas H. Troeger (b. 1945), to Thomas Tallis' (†1585) THIRD NOTE MELODY (cf. Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis). In the first of three stanzas, Troeger extends the biblical statement that all flesh returns to the dust (Elihu in Job 34:15; see also Isaiah 40:6) to the cosmos, to cosmic dust, in addition to fish, birds, newborns and leaves that "revert to dust and clay." Stanza 2 asks God to "mark upon my brow this sign" (suggesting that the imposition of ashes is a divinely instituted sacrament) as a reminder of mortality, held up against God's immortality. Stanza 3 specifies that the mark should be cross-shaped as a further reminder that God joined us in pain and loss, "how death itself is but a flash that dies away in you." I suppose it's all right-ish, but it rather bosses God around, I think — considering that he didn't command the Ash Wednesday ritual as such — and it takes three double-period stanzas to arrive at one or two faint impressions of the atoning work of Christ, which should be clearly in focus. 1 tack.

921 is "Return to God" (first line: "In all affliction") by Marilyn Heckel (b. 1945). Its eight stanzas each consist of one phrase sung by "Leader," with a responding phrase by "Assembly," concluding with the unison refrain "return, return to God." It's notated as melody only, but the impression that an accompaniment has been omitted is borne out by a full measure of vocal tacet at the end of the refrain. And what's more, I can see how this piece could be notated to fit on the page with accompaniment. There's no excuse for the omission; for that and minimalistic monotony, 2 tacks.

922 is "When we are tested" by Ruth Duck (b. 1947), set to the Irish tune SLANE (cf. "Lord of all hopefulness," etc.), again without accompaniment. It's a hymn that metaphoricalizes Christ's temptation in the wilderness into a prayer for our times of groping for faith and being tested. And while everything it says is quite good, what it omits – the temptation narrative as such – means that to recognize the metaphor's point of reference, you have to bring prior knowledge or (gasp!) have listened to the Gospel lesson. 1-1/2 tacks.

923 is "As your Spirit in the desert" by Susan Palo Cherwien (b. 1953), to ROSEVILLE by Michael D. Costello (b. 1979), again without accompaniment. This hymn compresses Christ's sojourn in the desert into about two lines of its first stanza (application: "Let us cross into the wilderness so to walk where Christ has gone"). The next three stanzas move on to a similar application of Israel's journey through the wilderness, the wild beasts Christ encountered and the narrow gate, before a final stanza calls on "God of desert, God of promise" to "let us cross out of the wilderness to the rising of the dawn." There's some merit in it, but also a certain theme-over-details vagueness or generality and, once again, it doesn't really touch on the atoning work that, certainly in Lent, should be in sharp focus. 2 tacks.

924 is "As the winter days grow longer" by Mary Louise Bringle (cf. 901, 908) and set to SUO GÁN (cf. 901 again). Stanza 1 accents the atronomical significance of "Easter's dawning light," for which we Lenten people yearn: "God who blesses earth with springtime, shine within our world anew!" Stanza 2 turns from celestial phenomena to blossoming plants, and stanza 3 to our pilgrimage through Lent, finally asking for "sabbath joy." Again, everything it asks for is all right; but somehow it doesn't mention Christ or His atoning work. How do you forget that in writing a Lenten hymn, unless you mean to? 1 tack.

925 is "Beautiful things" (first line: "All this pain; I wonder if I'll find my way"), words and music by Michael (b. 1980) and Lisa Gungor (b. 1982). Again, the accompaniment is omitted, despite several bars of vocal tacet where it would be very helpful to see instrumental cues. The rhythm is of a pop-music persuasion and not of a character that conduces to congregational singing. It's a solo or ensemble piece to be sung at the congregation, and so I question why it needs to be in this book. Assuming that the "you" addressed in the lyrics is God, everything it says is all right, I suppose. But it says it in a casual, familiar register that could be mistaken for a secular love song, if you blur your focus on what it says "you" do (e.g. "make beautiful things out of the dust"). It has a couple lines that are meaningful to say to or about God, but the details are vague. 3 tacks.

926 is "Surely God is my salvation" by Zebulon M. Highben (b. 1979), based on Isaiah 12:2-6, set to the Hasidic melody YISRAEL V'ORAITA. Accompaniment omitted, it does have a brief descant part ("Sing hosanna!") in tiny notes. I don't know how catchy Gentile Lutherans will find its Hebrew musical stylings, such as that scale in which G-sharp and F-natural coexist. It could take a little practice, and you might have to have the little children teach it to the rest. Of course its material is biblical without being specifically Christian (like, no Trinitarian doxology or mention of Jesus), so take that for what it's worth. I'm plugging it with 1 tack for omitting the accompaniment.

927 is "Christ is the Life" (of all that is) by Cherwien, to COE FEN by Kenneth Naylor (†1991), without accompaniment. The first stanza riffs on Christ as God's creative word, arriving at the unexpected conclusion that His labor "brings all things to be and brings all things to death." The next two stanzas style Him "the death of all that is," with st. 2 tracing a strange argument about Him drawing us "from well-worn ways" to the womb(??), "past all desire and fear." Huh? St. 3 shifts its perspective to Christ as a consuming fire, demanding our prior selves for its pyre and destroying "uncreative strife." And finally, st. 4 returns to depicting Christ as the life of all, in summary, "creative force, most peaceful death, transforming burning brand," and calls on creation to bless "the Source, the living Christ" by which it lives and dies. Frankly, I think this kind of poem belongs in a volume of sacred verse to be read by Very Smart People, like the holy sonnets of John Donne and the Church poems of George Herbert, and not left lying around in a hymnal to disturb simple minds like yours and mine. 2 tacks.

I'd go on to the "Holy Week, Three Days" section but, at this point, I don't want to. We've covered 10 hymns today and stuck 17-1/2 tacks in them, and frankly, there isn't one of them that I consider really good for the catechetical and liturical purposes of hymn singing in the faithful Lutheran church. Our cumulative tackiness quotient, so far in this book, is about 113%.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Tacky Hymns 105

We move on to the hymns, I mean Assembly Song, in the ELCA hymnal supplement All Creation Sings (Augsburg Fortress, 2020), beginning with the Advent section....

901 is "Now the heavens start to whisper" by Mary Louise Bringle (b. 1953), set to the Welsh melody SUO GÁN with its rhythmically palindromic groupings. The poem uses impressive imagery to sell the idea of nature welcoming the advent of Christ, but its language is mostly pretty vague about the work He came to do and His connection to the human race. In all of stanza 1, the only thing it posivitely says about Him is calling Him "seed of promise" and "child (of) Jesse's stem"; in stanza 2, it names Him "Christ, the morning star" and in stanza 3, "eternal Sun of justice" and "the grace of wisdom's seed" who "comes to bless with fire and fragrance" (?!) and "grace the manger," and it asks Him to "teach our hearts to welcome Him." So, it joins the full number of those Christmas carols that barely, and vaguely, say anything about Jesus. For that, and for the dubiousness of some of the things it does say about Him, 2 tacks.

902 is "Come now, O God" by David Bjorlin (b. 1984), set to the Finnish folk tune LOST IN THE NIGHT. With the refrain "Come, Emmanuel," it calls on God to come in a number of contexts that are certainly in need of His intervention, such as when our faith is shaken and our hopes are mistaken, when we squander the freedom He gave us and to break the sin that enslaves us, etc. I think it would be improved by suggesting how Christ comes, i.e. His means of grace, or maybe acknowledging what He did when He came the first time. For this sin of omission, 1 tack.

903 is "Freedom is coming," words and music transcribed from some South African source. It appears written to be sung in harmony and, spread across two whole pages, its entire text amounts to repetitions of "Oh, freedom, freedom is coming. Oh, oh, yes, I know." There's a second stanza, looking rather lost at the bottom of the second page, which replaces the word "freedom" with "Jesus," in case you were asking whether this has anything to do with Jesus. It might almost be just an anthem to social justice. But even so, it seems like a lot of time and effort to spend saying only that one simple thing about Jesus. 2 tacks.

904 is "Come, be our hope, O Jesus" by Jaci Maraschin (†2009), to its own tune by Marcilio de Oliveiro Filho (†2005), with the original Portuguese relevated to block text at the top of the second page while the melody's text underlay leads off with a Spanish translation by Jorge Rorgiquez, followed by the English version. Frankly, I think those priorities are mixed up, but I suppose the compilers aren't expecting this book to see a lot of use in a Portuguese-speaking context; in which case one wonders why they devoted space to the original text at all. Text-wise, it opens with lines reminiscent of "Come, Thou long-expected Jesus," but by the end of stanza 1 it leans into the desire for Jesus to "release from ev'ry prison those who suffer in our land," which is open to interpretations at varying levels of literalness. Stanza 2 invites Jesus to "build (His) new creation through the road of servanthood," and while its further prayer to "give life to ev'ry nation, changing evil into good" has merit, the context of that is, again, open to interpretation. It concludes with a prayer inviting Christ's final coming and "joyful reign" but I can't shake off the suspicion that, perhaps by design, some singing this will have in mind a this-worldly paradise of social justice. For the linguistic jiggery pokery, 1 tack; for omitting the accompaniment, which keyboardists like me might like to try out, 1 more tack.

905 is "We are waiting for Jesus," with words and music by John Helgen (b. 1957). In two stanzas, it says that opening line plus "Jesus brings peace" six times. That leaves only 4 lines of contrasting material in all, calling on Jesus' warming and guiding presence. We're this far into the Advent section and there hasn't been any talk, yet, about the atoning work Jesus came in history to do. For repetitiveness to little purpose, and for omitting the accompaniment, 2 tacks.

906 is "No wind at the window" by John Bell (b. 1949), set to his own arrangement of the Irish tune COLUMCILLE. Musically, I'm intrigued to see a hymn tune in F-sharp minor, a key you rarely see in the hymnal, though it isn't really that hard to play at sight. Bell's four stanzas have a nice, folk-poetry ring to them. The first sort of negatively sets the scene for the angel's annunciation to Mary, eliminating a bunch of phenomena that did not attend his appearance, like "no foot on the floor," etc. The annunciation itself takes up stanza 2. Stanza 3 covers the reason for the Child's coming (finally!) – "salvation for many, destruction for some ... both message and sign; both victor and victim, both yours and divine." Actually, that's not bad. Stanza 4 is a kind of whimsical interpretation of Mary's response, leading off with more negatives (like "no wedding was dated, no blueprint displayed" and ending with the punchline, "Tell God I say yes." I could actually see people laughing as they sing this. I'm not going to stick any tacks into it, but in my opinion, this is more the kind of thing you'd sing at home or during a social gathering around Christmastide than as a hymn in public worship. Sort of in the category of Country-Western songs about Jesus, only with an Irish lilt.

907 is "Filled with hope and gratitude," words and music by Paul Damico-Carper (b. 1981), "based on Luke 1:46-55," i.e., a paraphrase of the Magnificat. Here it's unfortunate that ACS omits the accompaniment, because there's a three-beat vocal tacet right in the middle of this hymn, and a six-beat rest at the end, suggesting some instrumental fill that a singer like me would like to see. I rather like the phrase "filled with very God," repeated in stanzas 1 and 4. However, I'm a little dubious about the author's decision to go fully into character as Mary in the last lines "her own sweet milk to Christ," etc. 1-1/2 tacks.

The Christmas section begins with 908 "In a far-off place, Jesus comes" by Bringle, set to TENTH NIGHT by Sally Ann Morris (b. 1952). Again, bad show, omitting the accompaniment! Stanza 1 sets a scene with sheep, cattle and angel songs, and Bringle's beloved imagery of "the whisper of the wind" (cf. 901). Stanza 2 links the shepherd with the theme that Jesus came for the poor in heart, e.g. "each homeless infant born," etc. Stanza 3 adds the imagery of the "star to light our way" to the pastiche, adding that Jesus comes "with a warm and loving will, to a world that needs him still," and that's it. Jesus comes, but what He comes to do is left to prior knowledge or, failing that, the imagination. 2 tacks.

909 is "Where shepherds lately knelt" by Jaroslav Vajda (†2008), to Carl F. Schalk's (b. 1929) MANGER SONG, a hymn already known to me from Lutheran Service Book (LSB). I've previously dished on this hymn a couple times, notably here; and my complaint here about it being printed in Christian Worship: Hymnal (CWH) without accompaniment also applies in this instance. I gave it 4 then, but I'll let it off with 2 tacks now – one each for the lyrics and the (lack of) music. See? I can be ruthless, but I don't have to be. Or maybe it's just that I didn't re-read the hymn this time, so I didn't get worked up.

910 is "A stable lamp is lighted" by Richard Wilbur (†2017), set to David Hurd's (b. 1950) ANDÚJAR. That I don't mind this Christmas poem (with its refrain "And ev'ry stone shall cry") is evident from the fact that I wrote my own tune for it (cf. Useful Hymns); though it's also evident that I thought I could improve on Hurd's melody. 1 tack (for omitting the accompaniment). However, let me add that including this hymn doesn't alter my statement, in Post 104, that I could walk away from this book not regretting anything in it except "Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior." While this is a lovely Christmas hymn, it's also more likely to be heard as a choir piece or a spoken poem than a congregation-sung hymn, I think. And that holds true even with the music I wrote for it.

911 is "Glory to God," words in Spanish and tune by Marcus Venestra (no dates), translation "composite" and arrangement by Greg Scheer (b. 1966). A footnote explains that this piece is based on the angels' song in Luke 2:14, i.e. the Gloria in excelsis. It only "improves" on the biblical text as far as expanding "peace on earth" to "peace to you, peace to me, peace to all the earth." No goodwill toward men. For its minimalism and the impression that it will most likely be sung by a choir (possibly in Spanish to an English-speaking congregation), 2 tacks.

912 is "Night long-awaited" with Spanish lyrics by Félix Luna (†2009), English translation by Adam M.L. Tice (b. 1979), tune by Ariel Ramírez (†2010) and arrangement by Carlos Colón (b. 1966). Three stanzas in each language, which is all right if you have a bilingual parish or a school attached to your church where the kids are learning Spanish, but which still (in case I actually need to say this) doesn't make this a Spanish hymnal. I blush to say this, but if I were to hold this carol up alongisde "Silent night," I think this hymn would get the better of the comparison. Though they have a similar way of romanticizing the night of Christmas (cf. stanza 1, "blooming like roses ... still in the starlight," etc.), stanza 2 identifies the child in the manger as "born for our dying; bearing our cross." Stanza 3 calls us to live in the light of God's promise. I actually regret having to give it 1/2 tack for that reminder, above, that a few stanzas of Spanish lyrics do not a Spanish hymnal make.

913 is "While shepherds watched their flocks" by Nahum Tate (†1715), to WINCHESTER OLD. While I find no tackiness in this hymn, I'm frankly surprised it has to be in the supplement rather than the pew book. I'm still not repenting my "except for 'Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior'" remark. Reason no. 1: It's abundantly available elsewhere. Reason no. 2: Despite its charming paraphrase of the shepherds' encounter with the angels announcing Jesus' birth, among so many marvelous Christmas hymns that I know it absolutely is one that I could forget about for long periods of time without feeling a deep sense of loss.

Moving on to the "Epiphany, Time after Epiphany" section, 914 "Jesus, the Light of the world" actually begins with the words "Hark! the herald angels sing." That's because its stanzas are drawn from Charles Wesley's hymn, with a completely gratuitous refrain by George D. Elderkin (†1928), set to Elderkin's setting of the traditional tune WE'LL WALK IN THE LIGHT. Rather than adding to Wesley's text, Elderkin's refrain takes away, cutting it down to 8 lines amongst a total (over four stanzas) of 24 lines of Elderkin blathering, "We'll walk in the light, beautiful light," etc. For subtraction by addition and just inferior music, 2 tacks.

915 is "When a star is shining" by Sylvia G. Dunstan (†1993), set to Bob Moore's (b. 1962) WHERE THE PROMISE SHINES. Its three-stanza argument is a bit impersonal, only hinting at the historical Epiphany in the last line of Stanza 2 ("incense, myrrh, and gold") and, in stanza 3, calling on the Daystar to "Show us in a manger our redemption's sign." The last stanza and refrain also call on someone (I suppose Jesus) to "lead us on to a morning where the promise shines." For omitting the accompaniment, and for impersonal vagueness, 2 tacks.

916 is "Down Galilee's slow roadway," also by Dunstan, with MERLE'S TUNE by Hal H. Hopson (b. 1933). It's a Baptism of Our Lord hymn that, in stanza 1, describes Jesus as a stranger who went down to the river to be baptized like any "soldier, scribe, and slave," interestingly adding that "there within the river the sign was birth and grave." After an account of the Holy Spirit's descent as a dove and the Father's voice speaking in stanza 2, the third stanza moves on to "we too" – e.g. "have had to travel in search of hope and grace," then applies the voice saying "You are my own, my chosen, beloved of your Lord" to all the baptized. Grudgingly, I'll give it 1 tack for omitting the accompaniment.

Concluding this section is the Transfiguration hymn, 917 "Dazzling presence on the mountain" by Paul E. Hoffman (b. 1956), set to WAVERLY by Karen E. Black (b. 1950). There's some good stuff in this hymn, drawing John's "Word made flesh" language onto the mountaintop in stanza 1; replacing Moses and Elijah with the two thieves who "Christ's wings adorn" on the cross in stanza 2 and describing Jesus' response to the penitent thief as "transfiguring assurance"; moving on to the new creation in stanza 3, where "justice, mercy, and compassion" are "the booths he bids us build"; and calling for "praise (to) ring from each mountain" in stanza 4 and concluding with a Trinitarian doxology. This hymn is OK. Would I pick it for the next Missouri Synod hymnal? Sure. Am I going to give it 1 tack? Yes, because the accompaniment is omitted.

Nevertheless, let the record show that 17 hymns in, there have been about 5 really decent hymns and 23 tacks. So, even though I'm dispensing tacks at a lower volume than I've previously done, that's a good-hymn ratio of 29% and a tackiness quotient of 135%.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Tacky Hymns 104

This supplement to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW), published in 2020 by Augsburg Fortress, is (to put it succinctly) the hymnal supplement no one wanted, needed or asked for.

OK, I have no way of knowing that, because I'm so out of touch with the Ev. Lutheran Church in America that I only discovered the book's existence when, by chance, a state university music department's graduate conductor program threw a Messiah singalong at a local ELCA church a couple months ago. I brought along an out-of-practice voice, an out-of-date vocal score of The Messiah, and an impression that ELW was the last gasp of hymnal publishing in the ELCA. I didn't order an updated vocal score of The Messiah; but I ordered this. And I've gone through it, one page at a time, one hymn at a time, and concluded more or less what I said above. As far as Lutherans formed by the Lutheran Church's hymn-singing heritage are concerned, there is scarcely one thing in this book that's worth adding to the repertoire already in hand. You don't know what it cost me not to include a "@#$%" in that last sentence. And the word "scarcely" is only in it because I noticed one, and exactly one, hymn that I was happy to see: 963 the Luther/Hus communion hymn "Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior." If I see another high-value hymn on this run-through, I'll beg yor pardon.

Now, as hymnal supplements go, I get it. These are opportunities to introduce good new things, potentially to grow the church's repertoire, or to reintroduce good old things that have unfortunately slipped into a crack. I can't seriously fire a fusillade of tacks (for tackiness) at them just because of their novelty. I'm not such a stick-in-the-mud as that; and I call to witness my own three books of original hymns with some additional music written for existing hymns. I'd also like to anticipate the "who are you to go off half-cocked" objection by pointing out that those three books feature over 500 original hymns and that this thread bears witness to a small corner of my broad and deep study of the literature in English-language Lutheran hymnals. My comments may sometimes be bitchy but they're not ignorant. The reasons for which I will award tacks to the hymns below are not mere matters of personal taste, and though I may frame them in terms of "bad taste," that's to be understood in the context of a theologically trained Lutheran worshiper who takes the practice and transmission of the holy faith very, very seriously. If it doesn't clearly and faithfully bear witness to that faith, it's going to get tacked.

Besides the introduction and table of contents, All Creation Sings (ACS) begins with two more settings of the Holy Communion service in addition to the 10 already present in ELW. Setting 11 is bilingual with Spanish and English text in parallel columns, though Spanish is not equally represented throughout the book. "OR" options abound. The service may begin either with Confession and Forgiveness OR a Thanksgiving for Baptism. The confession is preceded by either a Trinitarian invocation that names all three Persons OR one that blesses "the Holy Trinity, one God, who creates, redeems and sustains us and all of creation." There are two options for the confession of sins, and two options for the declaration of forgiveness. The Gloria in excelsis goes on and on with three stanzas and lots of Alleuias and Amens, but never gets to "We praise you, we bless you," etc. The Nicene Creed adheres to the modern vogue of using plural pronouns (We believe...) despite the historic Credo being singular (I believe...), and puts the faithful to the trouble of learning an updated translation of the creed. The translation of the Apostles' Creed puts "descended into hell" in a footnote in favor of "descended to the dead." There are two options for lengthy eucharistic prayers. The Aaronic blessing is but one of two options for benediction, with a final dismissal and response following the "sending song" after the benediction.

Setting 12 is more of the same, only there isn't an option for Confession and Forgiveness that offers an actual absolution. In place of the Gloria in Excelsis, there's a choice of two songs of praise. One, "Glory to you, God, for yours is the earth," is an apparently original, three-stanza-with-refrain ditty which includes the theologically dubious line, "Yours the hosannas, the dying, rebirth." Um, rebirth? Choice 2 is a Marty Haugenish setting of the Magnificat. I'm not going through the eucharistic prayers in detail, but I'm noticing that there are two versions of the Lord's prayer and in this setting, it's the updated-language one that gets set to chant. The Agnus Dei has an either/or as well, the alternative being a musical setting of the words "Be known to us, Lord Jesus, in the breaking of the bread. Alleluia." The benediction in this service is either the Pauline "peace of God, which suprasses all understanding" one or the sexlessly trinitarian "God, the Source of glory, God, the Word of life, God, the Spirit of truth, bless you all, now and forever."

The Service of Word and Prayer (p. 42) opens, not with a Trinitarian invocation, but with a choice of three biblical blessings, followed by opening prayer, silence, a song, then "Word" (where a rubric dubiously claims that "God speaks to us in scripture reading, silence, reflection, and song." Dubiously, I say, because where is it promised that God speaks to us in silence? There's a further paragraph of explanation that tries to make sense of this but I'm still doubtful. Then there's prayer, more silence, song, and a choice of three blessings.

Next (pp 46 ff) is a section of "Prayers, Thanksgivings and Laments." Then "Thanksgiving at the Table" (p. 56), meaning additional eucharistic prayers; "Thanksgiving at the Font" (p. 59), "Prayer of Lament" (p. 61), "Lamenting Racism" (p. 62), "Service After a Violent Event" (p. 64), and finally the major section "Assembly Song," which is New-Fangled Church Jargon for hymns. Because the terms people are accustomed to using for things just aren't used anymore, you know.

Skipping to the end of the book – because we'll be going through the hymns at length enough to make for more than one whole post after this – are "Additional Resources," including a treatise on Scriptural Images for God, acknowledgments, copyrights, a topical index of hymns, a source index, an alphabetical and then metrical index of tunes, and a first-line index of hymns, all doggedly sticking to the terminology of "assembly song," I suppose, because the easiest way to reprogram how people think is to force them to use the words of your choosing.

But now, before we take a breather and plunge into the hymns in detail, let's look at what Assembly Song has in store for us from 10,000 feet up. Going by the table of contents, they include hymns for Advent (901-907), Christmas (908-913), Epiphany and the Time after Epiphany (914-917), Lent (918-927), three days of Holy Week (928-932), Easter (933-939), Pentecost and the Holy Spirit (940-945), Holy Trinity (946-948), the End Time (949-954), Holy Baptism (955-959), Holy Communion (960-970), the Word of God (971-976), Gathering (977-982) – which I guess means "opening of service" – and Sending (983-991) or "close of service"; Morning (992-994) and Evening (995-999), Vocation and Ministry (1000-1003), Grace and Faith (1004-1006), Confession and Forgiveness (1007-1012), Healing and Wholeness (1013-1021), Hope and Assurance (1022-1035), Community in Christ (1036-1044), Witness (1045-1048), Lament (1049-1055), Justice and Peace (1056-1062), Creation and Stewardship (1063-1072), Prayer (1073-1079), Trust and Guidance (1080-1084), Commitment and Discipleship (1085-1086) and Praise and Thanksgiving (1087-1100).

Are you excited to see what hymns are in those sections? What amazing new treasures they will add to the Lutheran church's heritage of hymn-singing? I don't want to spoil it for you, but I've already given notice that I could walk away from everything in this book except, perhaps, one hymn and not miss it at all.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Tacky Hymns 103

A short while ago, I ordered two hymnal supplements at about the same time. One of them is a supplement to the ELCA's Evangelical Lutheran Worship titled All Creation Sings (hereafter ACS), published by Augsburg Fortress in 2020; I didn't notice it existed until I found myself singing in a torso of Handel's Messiah at a local ELCA church. The other is The Augustana Service Book and Hymnal 2022 Supplement (TASBH) from the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA), published by Repristination Press of Malone, Texas. The first time I ordered it, I made the mistake of going for what seemed to be a good deal on Thrift Books and, despite the listing having the title given above and an image of its front cover, what I got was actually the Ev. Lutheran Augustana Synod's The Hymnal and Order of Service, Lectionary Edition (Rock Island, Ill.: Augustana Book Concern, 1930), a copy of which I already had, thank you very much. Oh, well; more material for a future Retro-Tacky Hymns thread.

Long story short, one of these hymnal supplements is tackier than the other.

I'm going to save ACS for a future post, or more likely, series of posts. There's just so much material in there. Meanwhile, I'm going to give the lie to the title of this post right off the bat. I find no cause of death in TASBH, other than (as one might expect from ELDoNA and an outfit named Repristination Press) it is More Conservative Than God. The typesetting betrays a "do it yourself" ethic, but I've seen worse (and been threatened with a lawsuit by the compiler of the book). After a foreword, it goes right into The Order of the Divine Service, which is very similar to the Holy Communion service in The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH), only with the pastor's chant notes made explicit in the text, rather than reserved for a rarely-seen accompanying volume. The roll-backitude of the setting is such that it even transposes the music back up after recent hymnals across American Lutheranism took it down a step.

Given TLH's two musical settings of "Create in me a clean heart" (one each in the Communion and Non-Communion services), TASBH plumps for the non-Communion one, which rather rubs against the grain of adaptation from TLH to subsequent hymnals. Inserted before the service of the Sacrament is a page-long exhortation to the communicants, concluding with a lavabo prayer (prayed silently while the pastor washes his hands at the credence table), so despite everything, this book is not without its innovations. Considerable space is devoted to the musical settings of all the Proper Prefaces. If, like me, you grew up in a TLH church with a pastor (my dad, for instance) who chanted his part of the Communion liturgy, the notes to the Lord's Prayer and Words of Institution (etc.) may be familiar, but other TLH-bred-and-raised folks may incorrectly perceive them as another innovation.

The next thing in the book, pp. 39-40, is the Athanasian Creed, laid out in paragraphs (i.e., not to be spoken responsorially). Then there are Sentences for the Seasons, which look like Hallelujah Verses for before the Gospel lesson, with chant melodies. (They're probably meant to be antiphons for psalms.) Then comes the ELDoNA's liturgical calendar, restoring those good old Pre-Lenten Sundays (Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima) and returning what recent hymnals have dubbed the Pentecost Season to its prior designation as the Trinity Season. The list of festivals includes, among more widely celebrated occasions, St. Henry of Finland (Jan. 19), St. Cyril of Alexandria (Feb. 9), Martin Luther (Feb. 18), St. Patrick (March 17), St. Joseph (March 19), Philipp Melanchthon (April 19; a personage I'm told one does not bad-mouth in the presence of Bishop Heiser), St. Athanasius (May 2), St. Boniface (June 5), David Henkel (June 15), St. Olaf (July 29), St. Lawrence (Aug. 10), St. Ignatius of Antioch (Oct. 17), St. Martin of Tours (Nov. 11; Luther's nameday, don't cha know), St. Nicholas (Dec. 6), St. Ambrose (Dec. 7), St. Lucy (Dec. 13) and St. Thorlak (Dec. 23). Spoiler alert: Some of these names will come up again toward the end of this post.

Starting on p. 45, the propers for the church year are laid out, service by service, starting with the First Sunday in Advent, each including a Gregorian chant tone (in modern notation, thank God), the Introit, Collect, Lessons and Gradual with the Hallelujah Verse included in the Gradual, as in TLH. The Lessons are the Epistle and Gospel, with an apparently optional "additional reading," usually from the Old Testament; also like the TLH lectionary. Already, the front parts of this book are more useful and inclusive (despite only having one order of service) than those of Lutheran Service Book (LSB). This section continues until p. 174, where we find a section on "Collects for Various Occasions," making an Altar Book-type supplement unnecessary for a minister using this book to lead worship. Luther's Small Catechism, complete, begins on p. 201, even including the Preface. There's an order of adult baptism on p. 221, an order of private confession and absolution on p. 225, a service of corporate confession on p. 227, examination and confirmation on p. 231. Ceremonially, it's a one-stop shop.

The next big section of the book – really, the last half – is titled "Office Hymns," but this is a misnomer. I take "Office Hymn" as a designation of the main hymn for a prayer service, such as Matins or Vespers; the long-standing terminology for the main hymn of the Divine Service is, rather, "Hymn of the Day." Just sayin'. And that's what this section is: the main hymn, or Kernlied if you will, selected by the ELDoNA divines for every Sunday of the church year, plus some bonus observances at the end. And because I find this terribly interesting, I'm going to bore you with the whole list. But first, a word about the afterparts of the book. Starting on p. 397, there's a section titled "Sources for Hymns" that starts with a key to their shorthand for various sources. Then it simply lays out, in numbered order, the titles of the hymns and what books they came from; mainly the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book, TLH or the Lutheran Hymnary (1913; incorrectly credited as Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary), with a handful of other sources (including a 1925 edition of the book I mistakenly ordered when I first tried to get my hands on TASBH). The fact that there are only 77 hymns in this supplement makes it possible for this entire index to fit on a 2-page spread. And it also raises the, for me, disappointing issue that there is nowhere an alphabetical index of hymns or hymn tunes, nor a metrical index of tunes, which I consider to be essential apparatus for a hymn-book. There, 3 tacks; one for each missing index. I trust (looking at you, Heiser) this issue will be rectified when the full TASBH, of which this is merely a taster, eventually comes out.

Now, the full list of "Office Hymns," some of which are surprising choices but none that I would consider tacky, with a few brief notes:
  • 1. Advent 1: Savior of the heathen, come, to NUN KOMM, DER HEIDEN HEILAND. Yes, we're rolling "nations" back to "heathen."
  • 2. Advent 2: The day is surely drawing near, to ES IST GEWISSLICH.
  • 3. Advent 3: The only Son from heaven, to HERR CHRIST, DER EINIG GOTTS SOHN. 1 more tack for not including the tune name in the layout (though often the first line of the original German text is provided). I won't keep reapplying tacks for this, but it becomes an ongoing issue from here forward; I'm drawing on my own knowledge of hymn tunes to supply their titles.
  • 4. Advent 4: To Jordan came our Lord, the Christ, to CHRIST UNSER HERR ZUM JORDAN KAM. It's good to see this hymn prominently used. It was a sad omission from TLH.
  • 5. Christmas: O Jesus Christ, all praise to Thee, to GELOBET SEIST DU, JESU. The TLH translation was "All praise to Thee, eternal God."
  • 6. Christmas 1: To God the anthem raising, to VON GOTT WILL ICH NICHT LASSEN (Erfurt).
  • 7. Circumcision & Name of Jesus: To the Name of our salvation, to DULCE CARMEN.
  • 8. Christmas 2: The newborn Child this early morn, to ICH KOMM AUS FREMDEN LANDEN HER.
  • 9. Epiphany: Now sing we, now rejoice, to IN DULCI JUBILO.
  • 10. Epiphany 1: Praise God the Lord, ye sons of men, to LOBT GOTT, IHR CHRISTEN.
  • 11. Epiphany 2: Happy the man who feareth God, to WO GOTT ZUM HAUS.
  • 12. Epiphany 3: Why art thou cast down, my soul?, to JESUS, MEINE ZUVERSICHT.
  • 13. Epiphany 4: Lord, hear the voice of my complaint, to ICH RUF ZU DIR. Another important hymn that TLH omitted!
  • 14. Epiphany 5: In heav'n is joy and gladness, to AU FORT DE MA DETRESSE.
  • 15. Transfiguration: O wondrous type, O vision fair, to ERHALT UNS HERR. This tune choice is a surprise after I've learned to know this hymn to DEO GRACIAS.
  • 16. Septuagesima: Salvation unto us has come, to ES IST DAS HEIL.
  • 17. Sexagesima: May God bestow on us His grace, to ES WOLLT UNS GOTT.
  • 18. Quinquagesima: If Thy beloved Son, O God, to NUN FREUT EUCH.
  • 19. Ash Wednesday: When o'er my sins I sorrow, to HERR CHRIST, DER EINIG GOTTS SOHN. Another slight surprise, given that this hymn has at least two chorales written expressly for it (both titled WENN MEINE SÜND).
  • 20. Lent 1: O Christ, who art the light and day, to LEONBURG.
  • 21. Lent 2: O faithful God, we worship Thee, to WENN WIR IN HÖCHSTEN NÖTEN.
  • 22. Lent 3: A mighty fortress is our God, to EIN FESTE BURG (rhythmic).
  • 23. Lent 4: Christ, the Life of all the living, to JESU, MEINES LEBENS LEBEN (Darmstadt).
  • 24. Lent 5: Lord Jesus Christ, true man and God, to VATER UNSER.
  • 25. Lent 6: Lamb of God, pure and holy, to O LAMM GOTTES.
  • 26. Maundy Thursday: The death of Jesus Christ, our Lord, to HERRNHUT.
  • 27. Good Friday: O sacred Head, now wounded, to HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN.
  • 28. Holy Saturday: Ere yet the dawn hath filled the skies, to GELOBET SEIST DU.
  • 29. Easter: Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bands, to CHRIST LAG IN TODESBANDEN.
  • 30. Easter 1: Ye sons and daughers of the King, to GELOBT SEI GOTT.
  • 31. Easter 2: The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want, to BELMONT.
  • 32. Easter 3: Zion mourns in fear and anguish, to ZION KLAGT. How interesting to see the Easter season take on such a Reformation-tide note of lament.
  • 33. Easter 4: Look down, O Lord, from heav'n, behold, to ACH GOTT VOM HIMMEL.
  • 34. Easter 5: Our Father, Thou in heav'n above, to VATER UNSER.
  • 35. Ascension: Dear Christians, one and all rejoice, to NUN FREUT EUCH.
  • 36. Sunday after Ascension: Had God not come, may Israel say, to a tune somewhat similar to WO GOTT DER HERR NICHT BEI UNS HÄLT, which Hymnary-dot-org somewhat dubiously identifies as GUD, DU AF INGA SKIFTEN VET.
  • 37. Pentecost: Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord, to KOMM, HEILIGER GEIST.
  • 38. Trinity: We all believe in one true God (the Apostles' Creed one), to WIR GLAUBEN ALL AN EINEN GOTT, VATER. Given this hymnal's adherence to Luther's hymns, I'm surprised his Nicene Creed paraphrase isn't here. In fact I'm tempted to give this supplement 1 tack for the oversight, though I'm sure the full hymnal will rectify it.
  • 39. Trinity 1: From God shall naught divide me, to VON GOTT WILL ICH NICHT LASSEN (Erfurt).
  • 40. Trinity 2: The mouth of fools doth God confess, to ES SPRICHT DER UNWEISEN MUND. Another solid Luther hymn that other major American Lutheran hymnals have overlooked.
  • 41. Trinity 3: In Thee alone, O Christ, my Lord, to ALLEIN ZU DIR, albeit an isometric version that I almost didn't recognize.
  • 42. Trinity 4: Lord Jesus Christ, Thou highest good, to ADORATION.
  • 43. Trinity 5: My inmost heart now raises, to AUS MEINES HERZENS GRUNDE.
  • 44. Trinity 6: That man a godly life might live, to IN GOTTES NAMEN FAHREN WIR.
  • 45. Trinity 7: Wondrous King, all-glorious, to WUNDERBARER KÖNIG.
  • 46. Trinity 8: The will of God is always best, to WAS MEIN GOTT WILL.
  • 47. Trinity 9: Oh, blest the house, whate'er befall, to WO GOTT ZUM HAUS.
  • 48. Trinity 10: My Jesus, as Thou wilt, to DENBY. I cocked my tack gun when I saw the title at the top of my page, but when I realized the tune wasn't JEWETT, I eased my finger off the trigger.
  • 49. Trinity 11: All mankind fell in Adam's fall, to WENN WIR IN HÖCHSTEN NÖTEN.
  • 50. Trinity 12: O Christ, our true and only Light, to O JESU CHRIST, MEINS LEBENS LICHT.
  • 51. Trinity 13: Jesus, priceless Treasure, to JESU, MEINE FREUDE.
  • 52. Trinity 14: Show pity, Lord! O Lord, forgive, to ERBARM DICH MEIN.
  • 53. Trinity 15: Why art thou thus cast down, my heart, to WARUM BETRÜBST DU DICH, MEIN HERZ.
  • 54. Trinity 16: Now lay we calmly in the grave, to NUN LASST UNS DEN LEIB (Wittenberg).
  • 55. Trinity 17: In Thee, Lord, have I put my trust, to IN DICH HAB ICH GEHOFFET.
  • 56. Trinity 18: Thee Lord, our God, we praise, to HERR GOTT, DICH LOBEN WIR. Luther's Te Deum paraphrase, which most American Lutheran hymnals (saving the Ev. Lutheran Hymnary) egregiously omit. It's good to see it here.
  • 57. Trinity 19: We all believe in one true God, exactly the same as No. 38 and still, not Luther's Nicene Creed paraphrase. ELDoNA, you're asking for it: 1 tack.
  • 58. Trinity 20: How lovely shines the morning star, to WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET, the "Queen of Chorales." Strangely, this book omits the "King of Chorales," Wake, awake, the night is flying / WACHET AUF. A strange oversight that I trust (ahem) will be repaired in the full hymnal.
  • 59. Trinity 21: By grace I'm saved, grace free and boundless, to O DASS ICH TAUSEND (Dretzel).
  • 60. Trinity 22: From depths of woe I cry to Thee, to AUS TIEFER NOT (Walther; rhythmic).
  • 61. Trinity 23: For help, O(h) whither shall I flee, to AUS TIEFER NOT (Walther; isometric).
  • 62. Trinity 24: In God, my faithful God, to AUF MEINEN LIEBEN GOTT.
  • 63. Trinity 25: When in the hour of utmost need, to WENN WIR IN HÖCHSTEN NÖTEN.
  • 64. Trinity 26: Now thank we all our God, to NUN DANKET ALLE GOTT.
  • 65. Trinity 27: The Bridegroom soon will call us, to ACH GOTT VOM HIMMELREICHE. Note there is a break in the numbering after this hymn, the first of several; I'm guessing the lights of ELDoNA plan to keep these numbers locked in, even as they add more hymns to their hymnal-in-progress.
  • 67. St. Lucy: Rejoice, all ye believers, to HAF TRONES LAMPA FÄRDIG. I don't remember seeing this commemoration assigned a hymn in a Lutheran book before.
  • 72. Holy Innocents: Sweet flowerets of the martyr band, to DAS WALT GOTT VATER.
  • 73. St. Henry of Finland: Zion stands by hills surrounded, to ZION.
  • 75. Conversion of St. Paul: O Thou, who dost accord us, to INNSBRUCK, a.k.a. O WELT, ICH MUSS DICH LASSEN.
  • 76. St. Titus: Lord of the Church, we humbly pray, to PURLEIGH. Here's another celebration I didn't expect to have its own assigned hymn.
  • 77. Presentation of our Lord: In peace and joy I now depart, to MIT FRIED UND FREUD.
  • 81. St. Patrick: Look from Thy sphere of endless day, to ST. CRISPIN.
  • 83. Annunciation: All glory be to God on high, to ALLEIN GOTT IN DER HÖH.
  • 90. Presentation of the Augsburg Confession: My Church! My Church! My dear old Church, to ATHENS. My trigger-finger itched.
  • 101. St. Michael & All Angels: Lord God, we all to Thee give praise, to ANGELS' HYMN.
  • 106. All Saints: Christ is our Corner-stone, to DARWALL'S 148TH.
  • 109. Jesus calls us; o'er the tumult, to STUTTGART.
For Lutherans who lament the latitudinarian trajectory of recent synodical hymnals, this supplement may hold great promise. With a few exceptions, it adheres doggedly to the chorale tradition of classic Lutheranism, with some representation from earlier centuries of church history. It provides a one-year, hymn-of-the-day cycle that no lover of the Lutheran church's hymn-singing heritage should be ashamed of. If it omits anything, that's likely due to it being just the spine of a larger book still to be published, and that'll be an interesting book to look out for.

Bottom line, I'm very irritated with this book for not providing tune titles or useful indices, and also for omitting Luther's Nicene Creed paraphrase despite two(!) golden opportunities. But for these reasons alone (despite a couple of unfortunate omissions and typos in the credit lines, etc.), this hymnal comes away with a total of 5 tacks. Brace yourself for ACS, though. This thread is about to get turbulent.