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).
See how the wrong syllables end up being accented?
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:
Shepherds in the field
Veni Sancte Spiritus
This Joyful Eastertide
Truth from Above
Weird Looking Names:
Strength and stay
Metzler’s Redhead No. 66
Redhead No. 46
Unprepossessing or Inelegant Names:
My Dancing Day
Stars of Ice
Long is our Winter
Hard to Pronounce Names:
Khanta Zagun Guziek
Wallet Will Ich
Ins Feld Geh
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:
St Peter Claver
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.