On my other blog: Analysis of National Liturgical Music Board’s List of Approved Hymns and Songs

I have begun my analysis of “Hymns Titles from Australian Resource Books – Rated ‘Yes” by the NLC Music Board” on my hymnody blog “Sing Lustily and With Good Courage”.

The discussion includes:

Hymn titles rated “Yes” by the National Liturgical Commission Music Board

Hymn titles from “As One Voice” rated “NO” by the National Liturgical Commission Music Board

Songs in Word of Life’s “Top 100” Not approved by NLCMB review of “As One Voice”

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11 responses to “On my other blog: Analysis of National Liturgical Music Board’s List of Approved Hymns and Songs

  1. Harry

    This is the criteria for Lutheran hymns which comes from Chad L. Bird’s book “Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing”.
    1. A Lutheran hymn is congruent with Biblical doctrine.

    2. A Lutheran hymn aims not to create the right atmosphere or mood for worship, but serve as a vehicle for the Spirit-filled Word of God,

    3. A Lutheran hymn is not entertainment but proclamation.

    4. A Lutheran hymn is shaped by the theology of the cross.

    5. A Lutheran Hymn is not bound merely to paraphrase the Biblical text; rather, it interprets the Scriptures in reference to Christ.

    6. A Lutheran hymn is bound to no culture save the culture of the Church catholic.

    • You will find my own criteria for choice of liturgical song here: http://singlustily.blogspot.com/2007/02/my-10-commandments-for-forming-parish.html

      I do find number three in Bird’s list above odd – and it demonstrates something completely missing from the list as a whole, namely the understanding that the purpose of hymnody is worship: ie. “praise” and/or “adoration” of God.

      There is an aspect of “proclamation” to “praise” (“praise” is when I tell someone how good you are), but hymns are not ultimate preaching or teaching (although again, of course, it is important that what they say about God is true, because when someone sings something it really gets into their head!).

  2. Tony

    David,

    I may have missed it, if so mea culpa, but what criteria was used in their determinations?

    • I gave it on the first link above, but here it is for those who have fatigued their left-mouse clicks!

      MUSICAL EVALUATION CRITERIA

      1) The music should enable the fostering of participation
      2) The Technical aspects of musical language – melody, rhythm, pitch etc. / instrumentation/ and
      accompanimental styles must enable participation.
      3) Musical style must promote a sense of the “sacred” and avoid profane;
      4) Music must reflect the ideals of true art and beauty.
      5) Music must properly support text being sung-proper relationship of verbal and music accents etc.
      6) Maintenance and promotion of traditional sacred repertoire – including chant and melodies
      especially where they remain in the collective consciousness of catholics

      TEXT EVALUATION CRITERIA

      Several criteria were proposed to guide judgements about the suitability of texts, ie that they be:
      · scriptural
      · apt for the season
      · theologically robust
      · thematically and linguistically coherent
      · in ‘modern/classical’ language (rather than in archaic or temporarily contemporary
      language)
      · in common possession and with likely appeal
      · with poetic power.

      Those versions have been preferred which:
      · use ‘you’ rather than ‘thou’
      · do not include words or phrases with an obsolete or archaic ring
      · use inclusive rather than exclusive language in reference to human beings
      · do not conflate verses
      · have more effective rhyme.

      LITURGICAL EVALUATION CRITERIA

      1. Liturgically related to Scripture: A= Strongly Scriptural… B = Based on Scripture i.e. used as a departure point for poetic reflection
      2. General Seasonal Suitability
      3. Not Liturgical
      Refer: Not specifically for the specified season– but liturgically suitable for another
      Pastoral Judgement:
      1 widely used ; 2 sometimes used 3 rarely used

      I must say that I think “robust” is an interesting criteria for evaluating the theology of a piece!

      And I think that sometimes basing pastoral judgement on how often a song is used (ie. how popular it is) is not always the best criterion of a piece’s pastoral helpfulness…

      In addition, the requirement that the language not be archaic (a good criteria for new or translated songs, but a little unfair on songs from the English-language heritage) means that some old treasures are left out. For eg. Crown him with many crowns (TIS) misses out. And, ironically, it is a song that was written for the Rosary by an English Catholic priest.

  3. Tony

    Thanks for that David.

    It all seems so vague to me.

    On my quick squiz there are quite a few hymns that are regulars in our parish and I suspect a lot of people will be upset to see them ‘ditched’ and will be hard pressed to be convinced that they offend any guidelines.

  4. “Crown Him with many crowns” is an ineffable hymn!

    😉

    I think that one criterion – to “use inclusive rather than exclusive language in reference to human beings” – is itself suspect and reprehensible. After all, the new translation of the Missal isn’t going along with this sort of pseudo-virtuous nonsense about “man” being a bad word!

  5. Harry

    One more thing about hymn tradition in our church, the LC-MS Lutheran Service Book has a triangle which placed at the verse that has the Trinity in it, we stand for that verse out of respect for the Trinity.

  6. Tony

    Today I attended the ordination of two Deacons in the Cathedral. As you might expect the place was crawling with priests and bishops including +Wilson.

    Some of the hymns were accompanied by some African drums (which didn’t work that well musically IMHO) and one of the hymns was ‘Our Supper Invitation’ which is on the ‘hit list’.

    I simply can’t see how this hymn and some of the others we regularly sing in our parish, offend these guidelines.

    It seems to subjective and arbitrary!

    • I think you will find that “Our Supper Invitation” did not make the list of the National Music Board. Perhaps they should send a copy to the Archdiocese of Adelaide…

      • Tony

        My point was that hymns like ‘Our Supper Invitation’ are not obviously ‘offending’. Again, an ordination is a major event in a dio. The liturgy goes through all sorts of ‘expert’ filters.

        Beyond that music engages people on an emotional level and I am concerned that hymns will be unceremoniously dropped without giving people some sort of reason that they can understand.

        It’s obviously not the most transparent process now, but people will eventually hear that favourite hymns can no longer be sung.

        If ‘Our Supper Invitation’ and others have not been a problem up to now, what’s changed?

  7. Peregrinus

    As David says, “the practical usefulness of such a list is really as a basis for a future resource to be published”. (And he notes that we [i]need[/i] a new hymnbook; all the major ones are out of print.)

    And, of course, you have to have [i]some[/i] criteria for compiling a general hymnal. The ones used by the NLC music board don’t look bad to me.

    Yes, in many respects they’re quite subjective, but how can they not be? Music should be beautiful, stirring, etc, but this language describes human responses to the performance of the piece. “Beauty”, for instance, is the quality of being attractive, so if people are attracted to something, it’s beautiful, and the more people that are attracted, and the more strongly they are attracted, the more beautiful it is. The fact that [i]I[/i] may find the piece revolting doesn’t mean that it’s not beautiful; only that I don’t find it beautiful.

    So when trying to judge whether a particular hymn “reflects the ideals of true art and beauty”, I hope (with a reasonable degree of confidence, I have to say) that the Commission members were not simply taking their personal responses to the hymn and assuming that God’s aesthetic sensibilities were the same as theirs. No, they would have been looking at how choirs and congregations respond to the hymn – whether they like it, whether they are inclined to join in, whether it is regularly scheduled in many parishes or largely neglected, etc.

    When it comes to the text, I think we should note that they lyrics of songs are not received and understood as other texts are. I recall a survey a few years ago which looked at how opera was understood by audiences. The conclusion was that audiences could understand almost nothing of the lyrics, even when listing to opera in their native language. Yet this did not stop them having powerful emotional responses to the singing, and to the story which it told. (Like massgoers, opera audiences already know what is going to unfold before it unfolds.) And, if you think about the secular songs that most powerfully move you (and that you sing along to when alone in the car or the bathroom), odds are that you only know the lyrics in patches. We respond to, remember, and are moved by particular words or phrases in song lyrics, but most not to the text as a coherent whole. “Theological robustness” may be wasted, to be honest, if it involves a theological concept that takes more than two lines to articulate.

    We also need to recall that in a liturgical context we usually do not hear hymns in full. They are ancillary to the liturgical action. A Trinitarian hymn which takes three long verses to unfold has a sporting chance of rarely being sung in full.

    There’s a reason why song is used only to each the most basic of concepts, like the alphabet. (Though Tom Lehrer, I concede, did set the period table of the elements to music.) Hymn lyrics may serve to evoke concepts with which congregations are already familiar, but they are not catechesis, and should not be mistaken for catechesis.