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[Entered at Stationers' Hall.]

Mico 494 tot gosta



MAY 24, 1939

2136 .073 1905


N times past there seems to have been a strange lack of

principle in allying tunes to the words of hymns. One tune apparently was supposed to do for any number of hymns, if the metre would fit, whether such music chanced to be suitable or not. For example, the tune to the funereal “Brief life is here our portion," had to do duty also for the marriage hymn, “The voice that breathed o'er Eden,” and “Melcombe” was used again, in spite of a false accent, for “Spir-IT of mercy, truth and love.” Certainly the sense of the congruous must have been somewhat restricted. Then, not infrequently, the exigencies of the music forced the accent the wrong word, sometimes even on the wrong syllable. Who has not been obliged to sing, against his better judgment, “In-Fl-nite day excludes the night,” or “Hark, THE glad sound the Saviour comes”? to say nothing of this choice couplet from “The sun is sinking fast”:


“ Thus would I live yet now.

Not I but Hem
Here are some more very flagrant examples :-

“ Hail To the Lord's anointed,

Great David's greater Son !

Hail IN the time appointed,” &c. Notice the false accent on the verb:

“ He SHALL come down,” &c. Or again, on these syllables in another hymn :

“ From the overshadow-ING

OF Thy gold and silver wing."

may be.

The well-known tune to “A few more years shall roll” is perhaps more perverse.

There we have :--
“Then, O my Lord, prepare (three beats)

My soul for that glad day,” when of course it should be :-

“ Then, O my Lord, prepare my soul

For that great day.” And what are we to think of this ?

JE-rusalem on high

MY song and city is,
MY home whene'er I die,
THE centre of


bliss." Adaptations also are unsatisfactory, however excellent the music

The hymn, Glorious things of Thee are spoken,” is usually sung to the Austrian National Anthem, which has very different associations.

In any case, this sort of thing in the first verse is to be deplored :

“On the Ro-ock of

Ages fou-ounded,” &c. To remedy false accents such as these, many of the accompanying hymn tunes were written, and probably most people will agree that in such cases radical changes are desirable.

But in regard to the style of the greater number of these tunes, I am well aware that there are sure to be differences of opinion. Many musicians advocate diatonic harmonies for hymns and only the simplest melodic progressions. With


may say at once I disagree totally, for in nine cases out of ten it means intolerable dulness a dulness, indeed, which nothing but long habit would endure for a moment. And I think we may take it as an axiom that in music of any sort dulness is the unpardonable sin, unless we except vulgarity, which is perhaps more distressing.

The harmonies of these hymn tunes are often chromatic, and purposely so. They are written with the definite intention of expressing certain emotions, and to ears accustomed to modern music, I take it that chromatic harmonies are absolutely necessary for this purpose, also that a certain freedom in pro




gression is permissible. But, some may ask, is that really “sacred” music? Speaking generally, I answer that music is either good or bad (though of course bad music is not music at all, but is merely a distracting and disagreeable noise), and I doubt if any true distinction can be drawn between secular and so-called sacred music. If it is merely a matter of association, then some music intrinsically bad, may become at once “sacred ”--through frequent use in church. People sometimes think that tunes wholly consisting of variations on the common chord constitute sacred music, or that anything by Handel,

opera, if played slowly enough, comes under the same category.

To my mind, it is utterly absurd to write or to use any hymn tune without a distinctive and interesting melody, and the sooner stodgy Gerinan tunes give way to something more melodious, the better.

I am afraid people often like a poor tune, merely because they are accustomed to it. By a poor tune, I mean one consisting of a savage directness of rhythm, coupled with absolute commonness of melody and harmony. A good tune, in my opinion, is distinguished by a certain subtlety of rhythm, some departure from the ordinary melodic groove, and now and again an unexpected touch of harmony not always to be taken in at first hearing.

For a mission service or for unison singing, such music as the excellent and respectable tune usually associated with “ Rock of Ages is all that can be desired, but not, I submit, for a choir or indeed a congregation, with cultivated voices. For one thing, boys' voices at the present time are often properly and scientifically trained, and their high notes are their best ones. Many of us can remember how, in childhood's days, certain hymn tunes were ruled out because they


to F.” Nowadays, boys can sing A and B flat with ease, and the pitch is altogether higher. Any choirmaster will bear me out when I say that it is not desirable for boys' voices to be kept down perpetually on the low notes, of which this tune is entirely composed. Of course, I am writing from a musical point of view, and “in

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