What Makes a Hymn a Hymn? The structural elements of a hymn
What is a hymn? A hymn is a combination of doctrine(dogma) and praise(doxa) for worshipers to sing in a corporate setting.
Dogma/Doxa “Theology is Doxology. Theology must sing.” Martin Franzmann(1907-1976)
Hymns are theological “pearls” “If our theology is to be doxology, then it must be our best. Franzmann wanted no part of the everyday, sentimental poetry, which, unfortunately is so common in our churches today. In their mad rush to be “relevant,” to reach the person in the pew ‘at his or her musical or poetical level,’ to ‘give them what they want to hear,’ our churches often cast out the pearls of the church’s song for the gaudy trinkets of our modern age. This is a style which is like a river that runs a mile wide but is only a few inches deep.”—R. Brinkley Thy Strong WordThe Enduring Legacy of Martin Franzmann by Richard Brinkley
A good hymn passes two tests “A good hymn is one that passes two tests: 1. As a piece of craftsmanship in literature it must be without blemish. It must not offend against the rules of grammar or syntax. 2. It is necessary that when written the hymn shall do, precisely and in full, the thing it was designed to do. A hymn is designed to be a congregational act of praise. If therefore it is not the kind of thing a congregation can sing, being more suitable for personal devotion, it fails: and if it is not praise, that is, addressed to God and dealing with the things of God, it fails. Furthermore, if it distracts the congregation from the act of worship by obscurity, by irrelevance, or by seductive language or music, it fails, and if it offends a particular congregation by making it say what, on that day and at that time, it could not possibly be wanting to say or required to say, it fails.” Hymns and Human Life by Erik Routley (1917-1982)
Text…always primary in a hymn “The text is always primary in a Christian hymn. It is the hymn’s soul and body. The soul of a hymn is the text’s scripturally generated and controlled matter, substance, and meaning. Its body, the instrument or vehicle for the expression of its spirit and meaning, is language. For language gives external form and utterance both to the mental and emotional aspects of the text’s meaning and spirit.” (Jaroslav Vajda) Lutheran Worship, History and Practice edited by Fred Precht
To Jordan Came the Christ, our Lord To Jordan came the Christ, our Lord, To do His Father’s pleasure; Baptized for us the Father’s Word Was given us to treasure. This heavenly washing now shall be A cleansing from transgression And by His blood and agony Release from death’s oppression. A new life now awaits us. Martin Luther, trans. Elizabeth Quitmeyer(LSB 406:1)
See This Wonder in the Making See this wonder in the making: God Himself this child is taking As a lamb safe in His keeping, His to be, awake or sleeping. Far more tender than a mother, Far more caring than a father, God into Your arms we place him/her/them, With Your love and peace embrace him/her/them. Jaroslav Vajda (LSB 593:1,3)
God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ! He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price. Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any That brought me salvation free Lasting as eternity! Erdmann Neumeister, trans. Robert Voelker(LSB 594:1)
This Is the Spirit’s Entry Now This is the Spirit’s entry now: The water and the Word, The cross of Jesus on your brow, The seal both felt and heard. Let water be the sacred sign That we must die each day To rise again by His design As follow’rs of His way. Thomas E. Hebranson,(LSB 591:1,3)
O Blessed Spring O blessed spring, where Word and sign Embrace us into Christ the Vine: Here Christ enjoins each one to be A branch on this life-giving Tree. Christ, holy Vine, Christ living Tree, Be praised for this blest mystery: That Word and water thus revive And join us to Your Tree of Life. Susan Palo Cherwien(LSB 595:1,5)
Christ Be My Leader Christ be my Savior in calm as in strife; Death cannot hold me, for He is the life. Nor darkness nor doubting nor sin and its stain Can touch my salvation: with Jesus I reign. Timothy Dudley-Smith(LSB 861:3)
Lord of All Hopefulness Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith, Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe: Be there at our labors and give us, we pray, Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day. Jan Struther(LSB 738:2)
Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense Jesus, my Redeemer lives; Likewise I to life shall waken. He will bring me where He is; Shall my courage then be shaken? Shall I fear or could the Head Rise and leave His members dead? No, I am too closely bound By my hope to Christ forever; Faith’s strong hand the Rock has found, Grasped it, and will leave it never; Even death now cannot part From its Lord the trusting heart. Berlin, 1653 tr. Catherine Winkworth(LSB 741:2,3)
Lord, Thee I Love With All My Heart Lord, let at last Thine angels come, To Abram’s bosom bear me home, That I may die unfearing; And in its narrow chamber keep My body safe in peaceful sleep Until Thy reappearing. And then from death awaken me, That these mine eyes with joy may see, O Son of God, Thy glorious face, My Savior and my fount of grace. Lord Jesus Christ, My prayer attend, my prayer attend, And I will praise Thee without end. Martin Schalling tr. Catherine Winkworth (LSB 708:3)
Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me Jesus, Thy boundless love to me, No thought can reach, no tongue declare; Unite my thankful heart to Thee, And reign without a rival there! Thine wholly, Thine alone, I am; Be Thou alone my constant flame. Paul Gerhardt, 1607-76; tr. John Wesley 1703-91 (LSB 683:1)
Union of Text and Tune Music is the servant of the text. Music either supports the text or it detracts from the text.
A Theology of Music • Music is a divine gift. • Music is a gift in which all the angels and heavenly hosts join mortals without ceasing. • Music is ordained for use by the church. • Music teaches the church. Lex orandi, lex credendi (The law of prayer is the law of belief) i.e.,the practice of the Church teaches the Church. 5. Music carries the confession of the faithful.
A Theology of Music • Music is to be a full-throated response of praise and thanksgiving to God. 7. Music heals, soothes, and drives away the devil. 8. Music is powerful. 9. Music in the church requires understanding and a proper spirit. • Music in the church is led by those who are skilled. Richard Resch, Logia, Vol. 3, No. 2 pp. 33-34
Every tune has a NAME ADESTE FIDELES; BRONXVILLE; CONVERSE; DIX; ELLERS; FARLEY CASTLE; GO TELL IT; HAMBURG; ISTE CONFESSOR; JESU, MEINE FREUDE; KINGSFOLD; LLANFAIR; MISSIONARY HYMN; NICEA; OLIVET; PICARDY; QUEM PASTORES; REGENT SQUARE; SINE NOMINE; TALLIS’ CANON; UNION CITY; VATER UNSER; WACHET AUF; YIGDAL and… ZPIVEJMEŽ VŠICKNI VESELE!
An Old Testament hymn… Here is the introduction to this Old Testament hymn: Psalm 45 For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies” Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil. A wedding song.
The Sacred and the Profane There are some tunes that are not churchly in character and best reserved for other uses.
Jesus, Our Lord and Savior Jesus, our Lord and Savior Came to us on Christmas Day And if you love the Savior, You will follow in His way. All of the rooms were taken There was no room in the inn. They wouldn’t let poor Mary, Find a place to rest within. On that starry Christmas Day, Jesus came to earth. Angels and the shepherds came To celebrate His birth. Oh how the children love Him; He takes each one upon His knee. Because all His precious children, Will live with Him eternally. Laura Cordovatune: RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER
My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; No merit of my own I claim But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. Refrain: On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand. Edward Mote(LSB 575*:1 , 576**:1) We sing this text to the tune *MAGDALEN by John Stainer. and to the tune **SOLID ROCK by William Bradbury. But what about…MELITA by John Dykes?
Amazing Grace Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see! John Newton(LSB 744:1) We sing this text to the tune NEW BRITAIN by J. Carrell and D. Clayton
Amazing Grace But what about two stanzas joined together and sung to… THIRD MODE MELODY by Thomas Tallis? Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; His grace has brought me safe so far, His grace will lead me home. Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail And mortal life shall cease, Amazing grace shall then prevail In heaven’s joy and peace. John Newton(LSB 744:3,4)
How Firm a Foundation How firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He has said Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled? John Rippon(LSB 728:1) In LSB we sing this text to the tune FOUNDATION by J. Funk. Was this an improvement over the tune FIRM FOUNDATION by Bernhard Schumacher, TLH 427?
The Tree of Life The tree of life with ev’ry good In Eden’s holy orchard stood. And of its fruit so pure and sweet God let the man and woman eat. Yet in this garden also grew Another tree, of which they knew; Its lovely limbs with fruit adorned Against whose eating God had warned. Stephen P. Starke(LSB 561:1) Inspired by and written to the tune WEXFORD CAROL. Sung to the tune TREE OF LIFE in LSB 561 Other recent tunes: ST. PETER’S NORWALK,WILTON
God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ! He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price. Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any That brought me salvation free Lasting as eternity! Erdmann Neumeister, trans. Robert Voelker(LSB 594:1) In ELH, sung to JESU MEINES LEBENS by W. Weissnitzer In LSB, sung to BACHOFEN by Johann Caspar Bachofen
Sing, My Tongue Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle; Sing the ending of the fray. Now above the cross the trophy, Sound the loud triumphant lay; Tell how Christ, the world’s redeemer, As a victim won the day. Venantius Honorius Fortunatus,6th cent., tr. J. M. Neale(LSB 454:1) Tune: FORTUNATUS NEW by Carl Schalk much better than: PICARDY (United Methodist Hymnal) much better than : PANGE LINGUA plainsong chant (Yale hymnal)
Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me O grant that nothing in my soul May dwell, but Thy pure love alone; Oh, may Thy love possess me whole, My joy, my treasure, and my crown! All coldness from my heart remove; My ev’ry act, word, thought be love. Paul Gerhardt, tr. John Wesley (LSB 683:2) Tune: RYBURN by Norman Cocker Tune from LW: VATER UNSER by Martin Luther
Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying “Wake, awake, for night is flying,” The watchmen on the heights are crying; “Awake, Jerusalem, arise!” Midnight hears the welcome voices And at the thrilling cry rejoices: “Oh, where are ye, ye virgins wise? The bridegroom comes, awake! Your lamps with gladness take! Alleluia! With bridal care Yourselves prepare To meet the Bridegroom, who is near.” Philipp Nicolai, trans. Catherine Winkworth, alt. (LSB 516:1) Tune: WACHET AUF by Philipp Nicolai
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, Of Sabaoth Lord And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever. Martin Luther, tr. composite (LSB:656:2) Tune: EIN FESTE BURG by Martin Luther
Rhyme and Stress A hymn text rhymes. (It is dogmatic and doxological poetry under very strict discipline.) The textual, syllabic stresses must match the musical stresses within the tune.
3 Vows for a Writer of Hymns (Brian Wren) Clarity: Though the hymn may have hidden depths of meaning, it should be clear enough to catch the meaning in a moment. (As a person sings a text, there is no time in that instant to ask for additional information!)
3 Vows for a Writer of Hymns (Brian Wren) Simplicity: “verbal economy” Choose your words very carefully.
3 Vows for a Writer of Hymns (Brian Wren) Obedience to rhythm: Hymns are a form of poetry in which rhyme, meter, and stress are all very important. Some syllables have a greater emphasis over others. (The natural “drumbeat” of the words.)
Poetry is organized into “feet” Poetry “walks” or “marches” A “foot” consists of two or more syllables with one accented and the others unaccented. (In classical poetry the number of feet was important, i.e., iambic pentameter meant five groups of feet with the pattern of “weak-strong”.) Today we count the number of syllables in a line rather than feet, and we call that group of numbers which make up a stanza the meter.
Some “Common” Meters Common Meter (CM) 8 6 8 6 Long Meter (LM) 8 8 8 8 Short Meter (SM) 6 6 8 6 D indicates “Double” thus: CMD is 8 6 8 6 8 6 8 6 LMD is 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 Other frequently used meters: 8 7 8 7 10 10 10 10 11 11 11 5
The King of Love My Shepherd IsST COLUMBA 8 7 8 7 a b a b The King of love my shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am His And He is mine forever. Henry W. Baker (LSB 709:1)
Salvation Unto Us Has ComeES IST DAS HEIL 8 7 8 7 8 8 7 a b a b c c d What God did in His Law demand, And none to Him could render Caused wrath and woe on ev’ry hand For man, the vile offender. Our flesh has not those pure desires The spirit of the Law requires, And lost is our condition. Paul Speratus tr. The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941 alt.(LSB 555:2)
No Temple Now, No Gift of PriceKIRKWOOD 8 8 6 8 8 6 a a b c c b No temple now, no gift of price, No priestly round of sacrifice, Retain their ancient pow’rs. As shadows fade before the sun The day of sacrifice is done, The day of grace is ours. Timothy Dudley-Smith (LSB 530:1)
Greet the Rising SunLE P’ING 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 a b c b d e f e I hope today will be good Lord, I will today relying on Jesus every moment, On Your love rely; above me the blue sky, Let no evil thought, in my heart no evil thought, Cloud the clear blue sky. so joyful that thin clothes warm me, Joyful and content that coarse grains to eat do not vex me;With life’s simpler things, in all and every task,Knowing all I need may the Lord aid me. From Your kindness springs. Chao Tzu - chen, English version: Stephen P. Starke (LSB 871:3)
At the Name of JesusKING’S WESTON 6 5 6 5 D a b c b d e f e At the name of Jesus Ev’ry knee shall bow, Ev’ry tongue confess Him King of glory now. ‘Tis the Father’s pleasure We should call Him Lord, Who from the beginningWas the mighty Word. Caroline M. Noel (LSB 512:1)
God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say ItBACHOFEN 8 7 8 7 8 8 7 7 a b a b c c d d God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ! He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price. Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any That brought me salvation free Lasting as eternity! Erdmann Neumeister, trans. Robert Voelker(LSB 594:1)
Saints, See the Cloud of WitnessesWOJKIEWIECZ 11 11 11 5 a a b b Saints, see the cloud of witnesses surround us; Their lives of faith encourage and astound us. Hear how the Master praised their faith so fervent: “Well done, My servant!” These saints of old received God’s commendation; They lived as pilgrim-heirs of His salvation. Through faith they conquered flame and sword and gallows, God’s name to hallow. Stephen P. Starke (LSB 667:1,2)
Lord of Our LifeISTE CONFESSOR 11 11 11 5 a a a b Lord of our life and God of our salvation, Star of our night and hope of ev’ry nation: Hear and receive Your Church’s supplication, Lord God Almighty. Matthäus A. von Löwenstern, tr. Philip Pusey (LSB 659:1)
Come, Thou Fount of Every BlessingNETTLETON 8 7 8 7 D a b a b c d c d Oh, to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be; Let that grace now like a fetter Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above. Robert Robinson (LSB 686:3)
This Is the Threefold TruthACCLAMATIONS 12 12 12 a a b This is the three-fold truth on which our faith depends And with this joyful cry worship begins and ends: Christ has died! Christ has risen! Christ will come again!! This is the three-fold truth which, if we hold it fast, Changes the world and us and brings us home at last: Christ has died! Christ has risen! Christ will come again! Fred Pratt Green(HS 863:1,5)
Imagery and Freshness of Language A hymn is a form of poetry. Poetry uses image-drenched words to help people see something in a new and fresh way. In the case of a hymn, vivid imagery and fresh language can help the worshiper see a truth about God in a new way or consider the work of God from a different perspective.