Some changes will also be made to the notation of the hymns. Most of the changes made in the APV will be undone. Interestingly, the greatest number of complaints the committee received on one issue had to do with the elimination of rests to some hymns and the introduction of a new tune. In its report to synod the SCBP had written:
By way of introduction the Committee would like to point out that in some cases the changes to hymn melodies were simply corrections of errors (example: Hymn 65, last line). In a number of other cases, however, the changes were inspired by an appreciation for the original musical notation. An example is the melody of Hymn 30 (Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands) which represents a notation that is more original than the melody which the churches had been singing from the 2007 Augment.
The SCBP included a number of these more original notations because they were considered beautiful and because it was expected that these melodies would enrich the ministry of praise in the churches. The Committee was convinced that, with some effort, the churches would be able to sing these original versions and learn to appreciate them over time. Judging by feedback received, this has indeed happened in a few congregations. However, in most churches the changes were not appreciated and in a number of churches no serious effort appears to have been made to introduce the changes.
Looking back over developments, the Committee now recognizes that it had underestimated the challenges of trying to implement changes to well-known melodies. It is also recognized that what the Committee believed to be improvements, were not received as such by various church accompanists. As a result, some accompanists may have resisted and/or ignored the changes.
The Committee recognizes that melodies and musical notation should not be a cause of unrest or unhappiness in the churches. In the present situation the Committee feels that the best solution will be to revert to the previous versions of a number of hymns that were changed. Clearly, the majority of churches find the ‘old’ versions to be more singable. Unfortunately, this means that those congregations where the changes have been introduced will be asked to change back to the old version of the respective hymns.
These are the changes of note as decided by synod upon the suggestion of the committee:
- Hymn 2 (“In God, Our Heavenly Father, I Believe”): Reinstate 1984 musical notation (old Hymn 1B) with the exception of breath marks.
- Hymn 12 (“The Song of Moses”): Reinstate 1984 musical notation (old Hymn 8) with the exception of breath marks.
- Hymn 18 (“The Song of Zechariah”): Revert to 1984 melody.
- Hymn 30 (“Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”): Revert to Augment music notation.
- Hymn 37 (“Hallelujah! Praised Be the Son”): Revert to 1984 notation (old Hymn 29).
- Hymn 40 (“The Lord Ascended up on High”): Reinstate fermatas at the end of lines 3 and 6.
- Hymn 53 (“A Mighty Fortress is our God”): Reinstate fermatas at the end of lines 2, 4, and 9.
These changes will also be made, according to the instruction of synod.
- Delete Hymn 31A (“Christ Has Risen! Hallelujah”).
- Hymn 31B (“Christ Has Risen! Hallelujah”) becomes Hymn 31.
- Hymn 48 (“Come, Praise the Holy Spirit”): Revert to 1984 version of this melody (old 37).
- Hymn 65 (“If You but Let the Father Guide You”): Revert to 1984 version of the melody (old 48).
- Hymn 73 (“Lo, What a Glorious Sight Appeared”): As APV but fermatas should be inserted after lines 2, 4 and 6.
- Hymn 74 (“Our Outer Nature Wastes Away”): As APV but fermatas should be inserted after lines 2 and 4.
It is regrettable that Hy. 31a will be eliminated as this original and beautifully rhythmic form of the melody supports better the joyful theme of the resurrection than does the isometric version.
It is also regrettable that the strong and beautiful tune known as “Thornbury” will be eliminated for Hy. 48 and the beautiful, but ill-suited, Passion tune of “Ick will mij gaen vertroosten” will be reinstated for this Pentecost hymn.
The instruction to revert back to the 1984 version of Hymn 65 (old 48) is hard to comprehend since the committee was correcting an error. The last line of the 1984 version incorrectly switches to the tenor voice.
Those are the significant changes to be made to the musical notation of the hymns. Some will be happy about them and others will be sad, but, regardless, most will agree that the Book of Praise is a treasure. What we have in the Psalter is, really, quite incredible. Under the grace of God a Dutch immigrant church, in short order, produced an English Genevan Psalter. As well, over the years, we have accumulated a collection of strong and Biblical hymns. The Book of Praise has been improved over three revisions and, in a matter of months, we will, the Lord willing, publish a great songbook from which we will be able to sing for many years.
We thank the Lord for what he gave in the persons of our fathers, many of whom have gone to be with Him. Their vision and courage was stunning! In a following post I will publish a brief history of the Book of Praise.
May the Lord be enthroned on the praises of Israel!