I have just discovered that there is a Renaissance Faire going on in my town today. This is astonishing to me. I mean, is it some kind of private Faire, or are they just bad at publicity, or what? In any case, I am going to try to persuade my kids to join me in attending it. I’ll clean and grocery shop first, of course, but then we’ll be off to see the jousting. If they will not come with me, I may even go on my own.
I realize, since I am back here, that there is another topic I told someone I would post about and didn’t. Not that I think you are checking back hourly, cursing under your breath when you see that I haven’t written about it yet, but since I have the day off and all this leisure…
It is the question of using hymnals in church. Church is where most people who use hymnals at all use them, but many churches nowadays do not. The church I currently attend is one of those. There is a PowerPoint, and the words to the hymns are projected there. People look at the screen and sing.
Now, this custom first began for the sake of praise choruses, those little snippets of song which are designed to be sung over and over, in a sort of meditative fashion. They weren’t in the hymnals at the time, and also people wanted to be able to clap or raise their hands or dance or whatever, unhindered by hymnals.
Once folks got all the equipment and someone to make the PowerPoint and all, it was just a small step to putting the hymns up as well. However, the copyright issues involved in this ended up making it much more expensive to put up the music as well as the words, so it is normally just the words that are displayed.
People quit opening their hymnals. They also, since the music wasn’t visible, quit singing parts. They often quit trying to sing new and unfamiliar songs. With everyone singing melody, the mainstream hymnals lowered the starting pitches of most of the songs. This lowered the other parts as well, of course. Supposedly alto harmonies in current hymnals are often best suited to first tenors. Other hymnals have just rewritten the alto parts, so that they are comprised of an E with the occasional thrilling jump up or down one note.
The once beautiful congregational music of the church is frequently now just a bunch of people singing the same few songs over and over, in unison.
Where’s the fun in that?
I hope there are madrigals at the Renaissance Faire. #1 son got up, and has grudgingly agreed to go with me if #2 son can also be persuaded and if his dad will furnish the spondulicks.
3 thoughts on “Saturday October 27, 2007”
Good ( or perhaps discordant) heavens — I had no idea this congregatinal-music revolution had taken place! What it makes me think of is the “Follow the Bouncing Ball” features at the movies (called “picture shows” in those days) when I was a child. The words to the song would appear on the screen, and a bouncing ball would indicate which word to sing at which point. I don’t remember there being any musical notation — just words, and the bouncing ball. But it did not in any way keep people from singing in harmony, since nobody sang harmony parts in church (or other choir situations) by sight-reading the parts from the printed music. You sang harmony “by ear.” And it sounded wonderful.
I haven’t been to church in years, but I loved singing from hymnals. We didn’t have power point, but we did have a lot of praise songs on transparencies displayed on the overhead projector. Boring! I have some tattered old hymnals that I inherited from my great-grandfather the baptist preacher. I don’t read music well, and don’t understand all of the technical language you wrote there, but I could read well enough to sing songs I’d never heard before and the harmonies were the best part. My daughter’s 5th grade choir just performed a three part harmony Thursday night and it was so sweet and beautiful. I hope we don’t lose that kind of music just because the rest of us are incapable of performing it.
see, every time i say anything about the direction of current church trends (blue jeans! loud praise music! no hymnals! scriptural illiteracy!), i am afraid i just sound like an old lady.
first i tried to remedy the problem by attending the “traditional service” that begins at the lovely hour of seven AM. then they messed about with that format as well, and i don’t attend anymore. the church i used to attend has torn down their lovely brick romanesque building, and have put up a glass and steel BOX. where is my narthex? whither the traditional vestments?
i really, really miss the church of my youth and the crackle of missals and hymnals.
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