And (hiccup) now, arrhythmia

The prayer song “Savior, Breathe an Evening Blessing” offers a common rhythm mistake — one that was a regular part of my growing-up church experience.  This song was probably led a half-dozen times a year at the evening gathering, and it deserved such regular use.  Remember it?  The last line of the 1st stanza is “Thou canst save and Thou canst heal.”  The tenor and alto move in quarter-8th-8th rhythm, but wait . . . no, they don’t . . . everyone seemed to want to sing this as 8th-8th-quarter instead.

Since this song is way out of copyright protection, and since other, less authorized or defensible changes have been made in hymnals such as Great Songs or Songs of Faith and Praise, I’m not sure why the rhythmic error hasn’t been “fixed” by changing the notation.  (It was fixed in Praise for the Lord.)  It’s difficult and unnatural to sing it as it’s written, and no one does.

But that’s just one mistake.  They happen much more frequently with “today’s” musical repertoire in churches.

Take “On Bended Knee,” for example.  There are rhythmic mistakes with the syncopations in every other measure!  It’s really just another evidence that singers can’t do rhythm.  (Get a bunch of jazzers or wind instrumentalists together, and you wouldn’t have this problem!)  This “fix,” if attempted today, wouldn’t be nearly as easy.

Time was that the school-age children (and beyond) of the CofC were known for their ability to read music and to sing.  Yet rhythms tend to be much more complicated these days.  Do you ever wonder what’s going to happen to congregational singing if Jesus doesn’t return in the next handful of years?


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