Friday, October 30, 2015

Breathing new life into old songs

A quirky take on a forgotten favorite.

Although my wife is a classically trained singer with a degree in performance, sometimes it can be hard for us to figure out from the notes in a hymnal or chord chart how to sing a particular "psalm, hymn, or spiritual song."

Especially when these songs are largely forgotten. And especially when you only have a living room full of voices to mask the fact that none of you really know how to sing them!

Recently, we have been enthralled by the lesser-known hymns of Charles Wesley (no surprise, given my theological leanings). A hymnal I bought for a couple of bucks as Lillenas Publishing Co. was going under provided much inspiration but many questions on how to best interpret the bar notes on its pages.

So I took to YouTube. Over the course of several days, I found many performances of these "lost" classics (see one of my favorite renditions at the top of this post). The United Methodist Church had many of them already downloaded.

For most the ones I could not find performances of (particularly the ones with ... shall we say, terse subject matter), I was able to find the tunes. Thanks to YouTube's ability to create a channel and place notes on the videos you add, I was able to note which tunes match which songs from the book. (My playlist, in the off-chance anyone reading is interested, is titled "Wesley Hymns.") Some are good. Some are ... not so good. Some are just a guy on a keyboard. Some are contemporary renditions on guitar, some are traditional on piano, and others are done on historic church-building organs. But the idea, again, is to help a small church without much in the way or resources sing these neglected songs.

Several of the hymns in the book had tunes that were either proprietary to the publishing company or are relatively obscure. I'll list them at the bottom of this post -- we may have to reconstruct them and risk copyright infringement by recording our own performances!

Another handy resource I look forward to getting into: The Seedbed Psalter. And, trust me, none of the source material is copyrighted.

It's basically a new take on an ancient church concept put forth by the folks at Asbury Seminary: a directory of the Psalms, but with suggested tunes, arrangements, etc., for a church to sing along to. If all Scripture is good for “teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness," then what better hymnal to sing from than the Bible itself?

And here's another old favorite -- a Calvinist group that is out there making (get this) NEW hymns conducive to public singing:

We'll keep this blog posted to any developments in how we sing together.


Wesley Hymns we're looking to find performances of (or may perform ourselves!). If you know of any, drop us a line. Several of these, I've noticed, have MIDI files on
O Jesus Full of Truth and Grace (HOLY FAITH)
AWay With Our Fears! (NEW SONG)
O What Shall I Say? (NEW SONG)
Now I Have Found the Ground Wherein (REVIVALIST)
But Can It Be, That I Should Prove? (HULL)
Faith, Mighty Faith, the Promise Sees (FAITH)
Thee, O Lord, I Will Obey (EVERLASTING LOVE)
O My All-sufficient God (EVERLASTING LOVE)
Shall I, for Fear of Feeble Man? (BIRSTAL)
Except the Lord Conduct the Plan (ANNALEE)
I Am Healed, I Am Healed! (AYJAY)
Far Off We Need Not Rove (FREYLINGHAUSEN)

1 comment:

  1. I might have "Far Off We Need Not Rove" on CD. I'll get back to you