Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why sing all the verses to every Hymn?

This comes from the Anglican-Music listserv. On other lists I've participated in, there was the debate of whether or not to sing all verses of the hymns. Some say the hymns should only serve as "travelling" music - just enough to accompany the action, whether it be the priest walking toward or away from the altar, or even when there is action going on at the altar itself, like during the Offertory period. Others say the hymns are telling a story - for example, for hymns about the Trinity, why stop singing just because the action is done when you've only sung about the Father and the Son? Why short-change the Holy Spirit?

This little story comes from Bruce of Utica, NY.
This thread reminds me of an experience in a previous church. We had always sung all verses of all hymns, but a new pastor declared the hymns should last only as long as the action they were "covering". I attempted reasoning with him over the issue, and got nowhere; so I did the job as prescribed by the boss. One particular Sunday, we were singing the opening hymn and the priest arrived on the altar in the middle of the third stanza. I concluded the hymn as instructed. The final words were: ". . . and said:" The absurdity of the situation was its own reward.
For me, my preference is always, play though the entire hymn, and I generally get my way as far as that is concerned.

A good suggestion: have your choir read through the hymn as if it were poetry. I'm sure they'll catch on to the meaning of what they're singing if they do that first, and then sing it.

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