Synod 2013 made decisions regarding the musical notation of the hymns. It was a smaller portion of the agenda, but a section that impact church members significantly. The Book of Praise is used at church, at school and at home. I realize that many churches and church musicians are very pleased with the decisions to have many changes undone as per their request, and I hope that the final Book of Praise will be a blessing to those, and to all of our churches.
However, the background of many of the Synodical decisions regarding the hymns I did not completely understand. Some decisions seem to be contradicting, or inconsistent. I will give a few examples of my findings:
1. Consistency with other hymnals
- In the APV the last line of Hymn 65 was changed and made consistent with other hymnals (Psalter Hymnal was mentioned; the SCBP could have mentioned the 1979 Hymn Section of the Book of Praise). However, this change was rejected by Synod 2013, citing a “well-loved” tune, reverting back to the 1984 version.
- The changes to Hymn 78 (Synod 2013) make this tune also consistent with other hymnals. (The Psalter Hymnal was mentioned by the SCBP as well as the 1967 edition of the BoP).
- To my surprise, the change to Hymn 78 was approved. Why was one change rejected and another approved? The churches did not have a chance to test Hymn 78 and provide feedback. Should the change to Hymn 78 have been approved for the final Book of Praise, without input from the churches based on them testing this change?
2. When you ask for a breath mark, you are given a fermata…
- Some churches requested that Hymn 73 and Hymn 74 be reverted back to the 1984 notation, specifically mentioning breath marks (Art. 170, 2.7.27 and 2.7.28).
- Synod 2013 has decided to add fermatas instead. We did not have fermatas in 1984 or before, and no church requested them. How do fermatas practically change our singing…?
- The SCBP was mandated to deal with the musical aspects, and in turn consults with musicians if necessary. In this case it seems that Synod 2013 made their decision to change the musical notation independently. I am wondering if Synod should be making such music-technical decisions on their own.
3. To breathe or not to breathe?
Synod 2013 considered: “The SCBP was correct in going away from breath marks, due to the varying interpretations of rests.” (Art. 180, 3.4). Yet, some churches requested that breath marks or fermatas be reinstated. In some cases their request was granted.
“…there is a legitimate need…” (Hymn 49),
“…the need for fermatas is compelling here…” (Hymn 53),
“…fermatas should be inserted for the ease of singing…” (Hymn 73/74).
In several other cases the request was denied because “it does not impact on how the hymn is sung”.
- The acts don’t mention how Synod came to these conclusions, although in Art. 170 3.4.18 and 3.4.24 there is mention of “well-loved”, which could indicate reasons of sentimental nature.
4. Two heavens…?
In Hymn 1 the word “heaven” was always treated the same.
In the 1984 edition:”…Maker of heav’n and earth…” and “…ascended into heav’n”.
In the APV edition: …Maker of heaven and earth…” and “…ascended into heaven”.
Only one church did not like this change: they wrote to Synod that they would like to (only) change line 2 back to “…heav’n…” instead of “…heaven…”. Synod turned around and granted the request of that one church (Art 169, 4.2).
- We now face an inconsistency in Hymn 1: “…Maker of heav’n and earth…” and “…ascended into heaven…”, while both words are sung on just one quarter note.
The SCBP was mandated concerning the Book of Praise. But these decisions made by Synod 2013 regarding the hymn music have sent a clear message…
Nevertheless, we have to work with these decisions. I wish the local accompanists and congregations much wisdom now what Synod 2013 wrote in Art. 180 3.4 will become a reality: “…it is more important that each congregation develops its own consistency…”.
85 Hymn Accompaniment Book – Edition 2010 and New Edition 2013
I have updated most of my new, 2013 edition hymn accompaniment book – few things to address yet. For those who have the 2010 Edition of the Accompaniment Book for the 85 Hymns, you would still be able to use this book.
I summarized the decisions and their impact on this 2010 version of the Hymnbook:
- Hymn 2 – rests to be added after line 1, 2, 4, 7, and 9. (The note values change from half notes to quarter notes as well, but that does not impact the accompaniment.)
- Hymn 12 – same as hymn 2
- Hymn 18 – back to the 1984 version of this tune. I will provide a PDF version on this website.
- Hymn 30 – back to the Augment 2007. I will provide a PDF version on this website.
- Hymn 31a – to be removed.
- Hymn 31b – becomes Hymn 31.
- Hymn 37 – back to the 1984 version of this tune. I will provide a PDF version on this website.
- Hymn 40 – add fermatas at the end of line 3 and 6.
- Hymn 48 – back to the 1984 version of this tune. I will provide a PDF version on this website.
- Hymn 49 – insert a breath mark after the second line (Synod gives an option to insert a rest, which would be problematic because of the time signature)
- Hymn 53 – add fermatas at the end of line 2, 4, and 9
- Hymn 65 – back to the 1984 version of this tune. I will provide a PDF version on this website.
- Hymn 73 – add fermatas at the end of lines 2, 4, and 6.
- Hymn 74 – add fermatas at the end of lines 2 and 4.
- Hymn 78 – change of rhythmic pattern. I will provide a PDF version on this website.
Most of these changes can be made with a pencil (adding rests, femates). Where mentioned: the PDF files will be made available here.
As soon as I send the files for the new, 2013 Edition of the 85 Hymn Accompaniment Book to the printer. At that time I will also the confirm the expected delivery date.