About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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“It is most important that when the faithful assist at the sacred ceremonies … they should sing alternately with the clergy or the choir, as it is prescribed.”
— Pope Pius XI, "Divini Cultus" (20 Dec 1928) §9

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Hymn Tunes • What's Up With Naming Them?
published 11 August 2016 by Jeff Ostrowski

ERE is an iPhone photograph of GIA’s Worship Hymnal. The metrical index doesn’t distinguish between Trochaic and Iambic—indeed, most hymnals do not. 1 You may ask: “What’s the big deal?” Well, if you try to exchange the hymns according the GIA index, you’ll discover that they cannot be exchanged.

To illustrate this, I’ll choose two well-known hymns (although in real life I’d never recommend switching the text for PASSION CHORALE). Do you see how the wrong syllables end up being accented?

    * *  Mp3 Audio • A True Abomination

220 Trochaic Iambic


I’m currently working on a hymn project along with several people from the JP2 Institute. One problem we face is hymn melodies: they often have more than one name!

It’s a free country, so people can believe as they wish. Speaking for myself, however, I’m often bothered by hymn tune names.

Everyone’s ear is different—and many will disagree—but here’s how I distinguish:

Unhelpful & Unspecific Names:

Lovely
Easter Hymn
Epiphany
Nature
National Hymn
Shepherds in the field
Veni Sancte Spiritus
This Joyful Eastertide
French Carol
Sunrise
Harvest
Gloria
Truth from Above
Psalm 6
Simple Chant
Weird Looking Names:

Khanta Zagun Guziek
Bow Church
Duke Street
Farley Castle
Monkland
Strength and stay
Pilgrims
Metzler’s Redhead No. 66
Redhead No. 46
Unprepossessing or Inelegant Names:

Marching
Geronimo
Pike
Old Bath
Batty
My Dancing Day
Stars of Ice
Long is our Winter
Hard to Pronounce Names:

Hyfrydol
Lux Eoi
Edgbaston
Gerrans
Wallet Will Ich
Wir Pflügen
Ins Feld Geh
St Aëlred
Trochrague
Cwm Rhondda

Perhaps my list proves I’m not very educated. Maestro David Hughes—surely one of the most respected church musicians working today—once told me many of these names are towns, cities, or even street names.

When Kevin Allen composed original hymn tunes for the Campion Hymn Book, he came up with the most gorgeous names, such as:

Edgewater
Bronzeville
St Peter Claver
Oakwood
Kenmore




NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:

1   Until recently, most Catholic hymnals didn’t even list the tune name! I’m told the 1950s book by Vincent J. Higginson was one of the first to do so.