MWM: hymns — definitions, and one good example

Posted: 08/20/2012 in Amer. Rest. Mvmt. (Stone-Campbell), Hymns & church music, Monday Music, Worship
Tags: ,

[The MWM initials stand for "Monday Worship and Music.”  Once upon a 'blog, for a year, I endeavored to post every Monday on the lyrics of hymns and other worthwhile Christian songs.  The series, then called “Monday Music,” was almost always positive and/or inspirational, and archives may be accessed here.]

Having recently re-subscribed to Worship Leader magazine after a lengthy lapse, and having been paying new attention to a persistent, inner passion for strong worship content in church music, I’m reviving this series, sort of, in a new iteration — now with the moniker MWM.

Before resuscitating the series by sharing thoughts on a standard hymn from my younger days, I’ll begin with a brief, textual definition of “hymn”:

  • a song of praise to God (Merriam-Webster)
  • a song or ode in praise or honor of God, a deity, a nation, etc. (Dictionary.com)
  • something resembling [the above]

Musically, on the contrary, a hymn might be well understood as 1) being somewhat less  harmonically static than a typical “gospel song,” conceived with four harmonic parts, 2) being formally simple, and 3) lacking a chorus, a/k/a “refrain.”

Therefore, in the Christian milieu, songs that are not addressed to God and songs that do include a chorus (e.g., “At the Cross” and “Blessed Assurance”) are not hymns, strictly speaking.  The “harmonic rhythm” of these songs is also relatively slow, i.e., the chords don’t change too often, making them harmonically more static.  Regardless of common parlance that labels anything a “hymn” that seems “well-worn” to a given person, I’ll be continuing to use the word “hymn” a good deal more specifically.  I’m a stickler for word meanings.  Now, on to a meaty morsel or two!

~ ~ ~

A true hymn textually speaking, “Jesus, Thy Name I Love” is a standard to me—in that it appeared in the hymnal I grew up with and was sung several times a year in my congregation as well as in others I would visit from time to time.

I was saddened that this song apparently fell so far out of favor as not to be included in the Paperless Hymnal until Volume 10.  This is no indictment of the prolific, responsive James Tackett, who does dedicated work for the sake of congregational singing; rather, it is an slam on us — on our cheapening taste and weakening literacy — since congregations had apparently not earlier requested that this worthwhile song stay available.

The words of this hymn reach to Jesus adoringly, lovingly — with ardent expressions such as these:

“Jesus, thy name I love, all other names above”

“O Thou art all to me; Nothing to please I see, Nothing apart from Thee”

“. . . then Thine own face I’ll see; then I shall like Thee be”

The hymnologists out there are doubtless aware of cyberhymnal.org, a site that has cataloged more than 10,000 public-domain Christian songs and made the words (and music, in many cases) available.  I would point out that the poetic meter of this song makes it a little unwieldy, tune-wise.  Neither tune referenced on the cyberhymnal.org website is the one I learned as a child, but the second one, “Braun,” seems a better match for the text than either the one I know or the one named “Stobel.”

No matter the tune, the likelihood of singing this song anytime soon in congregational worship is slim.  While this fact does sadden me, since the song diet to which many of us are accustomed is far less nutritive, there is no death knell for the worship easily stimulated by this song:  I can use the song privately!  (And so I did.)

About these ads
Comments
  1. I, too, sang, “Jesus, thy name I love,” today. He heard us singing, Brian. : )

  2. […] song or a song from a hymnal.  This blog is not about that fallacy.  (See Song Book Content or Hymns — definitions, and one good example for more on this […]

Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s