O LITTLE TOWN: HYMN-TUNES AND THE PLACES THAT INSPIRED THEM
Lulu: 171pp. P/B 978-1-326-29701-5 £10.00
‘Do you sing it to Richmond, Gerontius, Billing or Chorus Angelorum?’ is the kind of question that would be instantly recognizable to many church musicians. Congregations usually know that there are different tunes for hymns but are often blissfully unaware of the fact that these tunes are traditionally identified by names, and that many of these are names of places. There are many books explaining the origin of hymn texts and tunes and so one might ask whether there a need for another that deals with already well-documented tunes? Hymn aficionados will no doubt seek advice from The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology but there is certainly a place for a slim volume such as this most engagingly written book, even though it only looks in detail at 11 tunes. Written in the narrative style of a tour around the UK, the author takes us through the unsolved mystery of who really wrote the tune Crimond, to the pubs where folk tunes were collected and recounts the Murder in the Red Barn (Kingsfold).
This book, written with an enthusiasm that spills out of the pages, could well whet the appetite of many readers to look in further detail at some of the other tens of thousands of hymn tunes in British hymnals. Thank goodness that the tune Llanfair was composed in 1817 and not 50 years later when it would have been called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, a nightmare of a name for hymn book publishers!
A THOUSAND BLENDED NOTES: MUSICAL TALES OF THREE CITIES
Roseberry Press: 112pp. P/B 978-0-9933825-0-5 £7.50
Ronald Watson, best known as a composer and winner of the very first RSCM Harold Smart Competition for composers in 1989, was a pupil of Conrad Eden at Durham Cathedral. He served as organist of St John, Middlesbrough and then at St Giles, Norwich from 1969 until 1991. Like many church musicians today, his day-job was outside music and he lectured in construction management at the City College in Norwich until retirement.
The sub-title of his memoir refers to ‘three cities’, these being Durham, Norwich and York. From these three places the names of Conrad Eden, Francis Jackson and Fred Pratt Green loom large from many pages with a wealth of anecdotes. Largely autobiographical, this modestly priced book gives considerable pleasure.
O SING UNTO THE LORD: A HISTORY OF ENGLISH CHURCH MUSIC
Profile Books: 454pp. H/B 978-1-78125-247-5 £20.00
This is probably the most significant book to be reviewed for CMQ readers this year. For church-goers, clergy, musicians and anyone interested in British social history over the last 500 years, this History of English Church Music ‘does what it says on the tin’. Until now, the best all-round non-academic historical survey on the subject has been Andrew Wilson-Dickson’s The Story of Christian Music, though the scope of that book also included Europe and America. The latter is now a little dated whereas this new book brings the story on into contemporary times.
There will be few professional church musicians and clergy who will not learn something from these pages. Even though there is a fair amount of personal conjecture in the interpretation of historical events by the author, Andrew Gant, his experience as both musician and academic makes him an authority to be viewed with great respect.
The 120 pages dealing with church music from the Reformation through Elizabethan times to Oliver Cromwell are far from dry and showcase the author’s readable and entertaining way with words and his enthusiasm for the subject. While there are some printed musical examples and a little musical analysis, the non-musician can be assured that most of this book is a good read for them also. By the end, the reader cannot help but feel optimistic that the marvellous heritage of English church choral music, which has survived so many and various changes and onslaughts, will not perish but will survive and develop through whatever liturgical and stylistic earthquakes are to come.
SING TO THE WORD – revised and expanded edition
Church of Ireland Publishing: 780pp. H/B 978-1-904884-53-8 £25.00
THANKS AND PRAISE – Music edition
Hymns Ancient & Modern: H/B 978-1-84825-763-4 £27.00
COMPANION TO THANKS AND PRAISE
Church of Ireland Publishing: 259pp. H/B 978-1-904884-56-9 £10.00
Bishop Edward Darling’s Sing to the Word has had a special place on my bookshelf since its first publication in 2000. Although it is a list of suggested hymns for Sundays and feast days according to the Revised Common Lectionary specifically taken from the (Church of Ireland) Church Hymnal fifth edition, that hymn book has such breadth and Bishop Edward’s suggestions are so well-informed that his lists have proved a useful supplement to the suggestions published each quarter in Sunday by Sunday. No one book or publication has all the answers. This latest edition of Sing to the Word is enhanced by including material added in the supplement Thanks and Praise (see below) and also by having suggestions for the Second Service Lectionary, thus complementing the RSCM’s own Sunday by Sunday: Music for the Second Service Lectionary. Both books deserve to be consulted by those choosing hymns for a Second Service on a Sunday – their suggestions enrich each other.
Thanks and Praise itself is a book of 227 hymns, songs and liturgical settings forming a supplement to Church Hymnal 5. Users of that main book will certainly know the supplement by now as it was launched a year ago. However, of wider interest outside Church of Ireland congregations will be the Companion to Thanks and Praise. Peter Thompson, who compiled it, wrote for biographical information to all the hymn- and songwriters who had been included and has published a wealth of detailed information especially about contemporary song writers, details of whom are often difficult to track down. Readers who consult hymn book companions should add this one to their collection.