Monday, August 20, 2012

Yesteryear... Bring Back the Hymns

Ok. Perhaps I should point it out nice and early. I mean, it is likely to come up a bit. Few things provide as many old-fashioned mannerisms as Christianity and in particular the 'religion' side of Christianity. (Yes I do believe Christianity to be more than a religion - I have a set of beliefs that extend much more than purely why I would go to church on Sunday - I'll come back to those in more detail I'm sure.) 

To get to my point. I love hymns. I don't know if you are familiar with church. Even if you have never set foot in a church (might I suggest you try it there'll be no lightning I promise) you likely know of the tradition of singing as part of a church service. Once upon those were... well actually to be honest Psalms I'm sure at one point, in more reasonable history (a few hundred years) they are hymns. Contemporary church music is most generally simply called 'songs' to differentiate them from their more senior siblings.

Church songs have their advantages. Hundreds of years have gone into perfect the sing-ability of church music. Without question I can go into a church and sing along to 90% of a song I've never heard before without messing up the melody. A melody I have never heard before. I love hymns for their complexity. They come from a time when, to a large extent, they shared melodies with pub songs. They forgo initially sing-ability in the name of memorability. My own church averages about one hymn a week and - with the exception of Be Thou My Vision - it is often like a mini quiz to see if you can remember how to follow it.

Church songs come in a wide variety of lyrical content. Ranging from the exceedingly fluffy right through to the hardcore 'trying to fit the entire message in the 3 minutes of lyrics'. Different churches typically take different stances on the level of 'fluffiness' they want in their lyrics. Hymns tend to sit towards the 'hardcore' end of the spectrum yet still manage to have better flow than most newer songs. The words just mean more - though sometimes you feel the need to have somebody explain some of them like 'Ebenezer'.

My favourite hymns in recent weeks?

And Can It Be
How Great Thou Art
It Is Well With My Soul

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