03 February 2011

A friend of mine...

...commented on another forum about how our hymnal was filled with hymn that are hard to sing and quite depressing (referring to the tunes).  This honestly amazes me.  I have to ask if that is how others have experienced Lutheran Service Book?  It is categorically NOT how I've experienced it.  It is true that there are somber tunes in the book - and they often are attached to somber texts dealing with the day of judgment, the confession of sins, the suffering of afflictions and cross-bearing.  But there are also a multitude of hymns that dance for joy:  "God's Own Child" and "Thine the Amen" dance in both text and tune.  The thing that strikes me about our hymnal is that it encompasses the whole range of the Christian experience.  There are hymns for when the sun shines and things are going swimmingly in your life; hymns for the tragic and unutterably sad moments; hymns for when life's a drudgery; hymns that pull us out of ourselves (like Pr. Hess pointed out recently 880 does:  "and we this marvel seeing / forget our selfish being/ for joy of beauty not our own" as we behold the stars at night); hymns that celebrate every single facet of our Lord's life from conception through death; from resurrection through Ascension; from the session at the right hand to the Appearing in glory.  Hymns to celebrate the gifts of Baptism, Holy Absolution, the Eucharist.  Hymns for praising; hymns for thanking; hymns for morning and for evening.  Tunes tend to match the joy or sobriety that each of these call forth.  I love my friend, but I think he is dead wrong about his characterization of our hymnal.  It's a treasure trove of hymns that can be learned and loved and will see you through life and through death, singing as you go:  "In thee is gladness, amid all sadness, Jesus, sunshine of my heart!"


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I find that one's appreciation of a hymn depends highly upon the congregation one is at. Organists vary, and congregational enthusiasm (or lack thereof) can be contagious. I've heard organists slay hymns that I love. I've heard some organists almost convince me to like hymns I didn't care for. Some of my favorites... eh, they don't work so well here. And then, with some hymns, I'm tempted to stare at my congregation and think, "Well, where did that come from?"

Our congregations are all different -- I'm sure many might suck the joy out of the hymnal... but if that is the case, they either give some other good nuance, or they'd suck the joy out of anything.

And the word verification is "undeny" - almost seems like it should mean something.

Steven Goodrich said...

I agree with Rev. Brown. I have heard an organist play every hymn the same. They all drug.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by the comment, too. I think the LSB is fantastic, and your point about the appropriateness (at times) of solemnity is so true - that may very well be a reflection of the presence of solemnity in so many of the Psalms. I think the LSB strikes up a wonderful balance. We use it daily at the dinner table and are teaching the kids to love it. They even relish the "challenge" of chanting. Already the "Phos Hilaron", the "Nunc Dimittis" and the song of Zachariah are memorised as a result.
A very valuable tool.

Jeremy Loesch said...

Rev. Brown and Mr. Goodrich are correct, that the playing/accompianament can greatly affect whether a hymn is "liked" or not.

But my view of LSB is that it is a tremendously realistic hymnal. And if I may echo some of your comments Will, there are hymns for every occasion.

I know that my life roller-coasters from bad to good to awful to joyful, very often in short spans. Often I want to sing and cry and sometimes I want to sing and laugh. That is why I consider LSB "realistic".

And isn't that what Christianity is? Realistic? God declares us to be His children. We are His children when we sin. We are His children when we are sinned against. We are His children when in all our works God is glorified. You get my point.

I've been following that discussion too Will. Some good comments. Thanks.


Dan at Necessary Roughness said...

Perhaps said pastor needs a Time Out. Or a few.


Anonymous said...

The way you describe it, Pr. Weedon, the LSB is very much like Jesus' hymnal. I think that's a good thing.

Tom Fast

Past Elder said...

Seems to me the hymn section of LSB is really outstanding, not just in selection, but restoring many of them which had been surgically altered for political correctness in some recent hymnals.

If one were going to change anything, dropping all the Vatican II For Lutherans stuff would have left plenty of room for Collects etc.

Anonymous said...

In our parish the choir is used to
introduce a "difficult" hymn.
Usually they will sing the first
two stanzas and the congregation
joins in on the third. It is not
fair to dump all this on the parish
organist and say he or she is to

tehazy said...

I believe this pastors and church musicians often hear comments as you posted. One probably could answer with questions as, "Could you give me some examples from the hymnal so I have a frame of reference to adequately respond?" "Tell me about the type of music you listen to and what you like about it?" "In what ways can a tune carry the mood of the text, like joy, sorrow, hopefulness, anxiety, comfort, elation?"
These are only a start and probably can be improved upon, but profitable dialog takes place where understanding the other's frame of reference can be helpful.
I believe that when the mood of the lyrics and melody fuse into a singular thrust, one’s body, mind and spirit are affected. I find that many Americans have a very narrow range of musical style preferences. Fascinatingly, while many detest classical music, yet I don't hear many object its inclusion in background music for movies.

Pastor G said...

As a pastor, I've heard it too. I've heard other pastors say it and I've heard my people say it. I very much appreciate LSB -- there are few hymns that I find difficult, but that's me in my office trying to sight-sing it myself. Although I'm a good sight-singer, I may have short-changed the hymnal even there.

However, I have a miserable organist who can't keep time, so I assume that if I can't sight-sing it the congregation will never be able to do it. I mean, if you can make Jesus loves me hard to sing, what will you do to "Thee We adore, o hidden savior" (640)?

With hymns, unfamiliarity begets contempt. This, I think, can be especially true for pastors who loved all the hymns of TLH and can't see any need for change. It's also true of congregants who can't read music and aren't led well by an organist who can/cares to play in a manner that helps the congregation learn.

jgernander said...

As you know, Wil, I'm very partial to -- and still passionately in love with -- our Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, even after 15 years.

But this morning at our school's chapel, teaching prayer, while we opened with their hymn of the week, Luther's Our Father hymn, we ended by my teaching them "The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended," out of LSB, to teach that "the voice of prayer is never silent." I sang the 1st verse and they joined in on the remainder. They were all humming it. Beautiful, uplifting melody and beautiful words, and a consciousness of the communion of saints. I'd say that's a nice contribution by your hymnal.

Jerry Gernander

Father Robert Lyons said...

Pastor Weedon,

I don't really have any comments on the music of the LSB so much as I have comments on Church Music in general.

I grew up contemporary RC. We used organ, piano, guitar - all three in good measure. When I began attending Church, up through to my middle-school years, we had a wonderful organist who knew music, knew timing, and knew how to make an organ assist in proclaiming God's praise.

My family switched parishes for a short time due to my grandmother's dislike of the bread being used for Communion (yes, petty, I know!). The other parish used strictly piano at the time, and the pianist was nothing short of gifted.

When my family stopped attending Church and I went back to my original parish, things had drastically changed. The guitar was rare (though, admittedly, I was an early Mass-goer) and the organist had moved on. The new organist couldn't keep time, but she could always make even the cheeriest song sound like a dirge. Worse still, she played so loud, and with such vibrato, that you couldn't hear yourself sing, more the less anyone else.

From that day forward, I have rarely experienced an organ that I actually cared for. I much prefer a piano and, indeed, have a supreme preference for guitar, piano, woodwinds, violin... anything, save an organ. I have several CD's I bought in the hopes of finding some good choral music with organ backing... we're talking professionally produced pieces of work here... and all of them stink.

The few times I have experienced a genuinely gifted organist, it has been a great blessing... but those times are few and far between. Generally, I would rather experience a so-called 'praise band' than an organ. I hate to say it, but it's true.

It has nothing to do with the songs... it has everything to do with who is playing them.

I miss a good organ. :sigh:


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

@Pastor G

I agree with you with one exception... no one loved *all* the hymns in TLH -- you can't love and use 660+ hymns a year in the normal Sunday + Advent/Lent Midweek. It just can't be done. I bet most places really used no more than 150 (and that's probably generous).

Now, are all those 150 in LSB -- that ends up being the question. And how much effort do people want to put into finding the new hymns that should be added to their 150... that is the other hard thing.

Past Elder said...

Nobody ever agrees on music. That's why when I was performing I never took requests. I'm the pro, I decide. Want something else, hire a different pro.

Some of the newer hymns in LSB do lot lend themselves to part singing. Then again, I don't hear anyone any place I have been sing in parts on anything anyway. Everybody's a soprano, or at the octave. None of the stuff in LSB is Cage or Penderecki. Sheesh.

Anon's comment is quite good. Having a choir introduce things makes sense; presumably they have more musical training than the parish as a whole.

The human voice is a musical instrument. The congregation is amateurs at best. Proceed accordingly.

Pastor G said...


Totally understand your point. No one actually liked everything in TLH. Some people, however, will go to the grave professing to love everything in it, and will therefore criticize any change from TLH.

I have heard negative comments regarding obvious improvements in wording of hymns. I have heard people say they were "duped" when LSB came out because the confession and absolution of DS3 is no longer chanted and the Pax no longer says "the peace of the lord be with you alway."

What can you do?

Matt said...

A couple of observations from the pew. You pastors should remember that the average layman is nowhere near as familiar with the hymnal as you are, and as he would like you to think he is. Its like how he can't own up to how little of scripture he has actually read himself (I speak from personal experience).

There is no way to come to love even the best hymn if you only hear it once a year. Factor in the fact that the average layperson has a 50% attendance factor (that's probably a high estimate, and I'm chief of sinners in this regard). He's not paid to be there every week so he's not. He didn't go to graduate school to study these things like you did. You love it. He puts up with it because his wife drags him to church every other Sunday (the ones without the boring communion). You get the picture.

So, you gotta take a great hymn and play it 10 weeks in a row in order to get Mr. Knucklehead's attention. Better yet, break it down for him in Bible Class (if and when he chooses to show up). Better yet, get him listening to Issues, Etc.

No joke: I'm an LCMS lifer and a "confessional" and I never heard "Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels" until Fr. Weedon broke it down on Issues. Now its on my iPod and I pester my pastor and organist to play the good stuff once in a while. Still, 5 out of 6 hymns that I sing on a given Sunday I'm totally unfamiliar with. During Lent, Advent and Easter, maybe 50% are familiar.

And I'm one of the "good" parishioners. It only goes downhill from me.

Look. We're what you have to work with: goofy, kind of ignorant, lazy, no taste in anything, thinks CCM is pretty okay, trying to stay awake by thinking about the Packers for an hour, forgot-to-bring-his-offering-for-the-fourth-week in a row.

If you wanted to deliver Christ to appreciative saints every Sunday, you're in the wrong business. You are stuck with a roomful of knuckleheads like me who desperately need what Our Lord sent you here to deliver. Someday we will surely be grateful!