Sunday, April 22, 2012

A favorite hymn day, but not a favorite hymnal

At the ACNA parish I attended on Palm Sunday, we had a great collection of hymns. The opening hymn was the obligatory processional — “All glory, laud and honor” — that combines a 9th century text and a 17th century Lutheran tune (H40: #62; H82: 154). Since this time we started outside the building, I ended up acting as de facto cantor: all those years as a High Church (PECUSA) choir boy came rushing back.

The second hymn was the other obligatory Palm Sunday hymn “Ride on, Ride on in Majesty.”  The Hymnal 1940 Companion says it was written in the 1820s by Henry Hart Milman, an Oxford poetry professor. As it turns out, on Holy Monday the Issues Etc. (unofficial) LCMS radio show reposted their earlier interview with Pastor Will Weedon on this Passiontide favorite.

On Palm Sunday, we used the tune King’s Majesty — composed for Hymnal 1940 — which is the only tune given in Hymnal 1982 (H82: #156). While it is a wonderful stately tune — suitable for a Cathedral choir — I had forgotten how hard that was to sing: it’s out of my range, the voice leading is difficult, and this year the rest of the congregation clearly didn’t know it well.

Hymnal 1940 (H40: 64) gives an alternate choice, the familiar (and much easier) Winchester New, a 17th century German tune also used for the Advent hymn “On Jordan’s bank.” This is also the tune used with this text in my 1876 edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern. Oremus implies that this is the only tune that Church of England worshipers would know.

H40 also has a third option, St. Drostane, but I’ve never heard that sung. However, it was the first tune for the US Hymnal 1916 (#125), with Winchester New listed as second tune. The Hymnal 1940 Companion says “St. Drostane was composed by John B. Dykes for this hymn in Chope’s Congregational Hymn and Tune Book, 1862,” which implies it is a familiar American but not Anglican tune. (Unfortunately, I don’t have music in any of my 19th century PECUSA hymnals.)

So Hymnal 1982 made life difficult for our small parish by omitting the easier (and more Anglican) of the two melodies. But that’s not the only problem with H82. While singing the hymn, I also noticed their trademarked bowdlerization of the text. Even Oremus (written by a hymnal modernist) lists the original text for the second verse:
The company of angels
are praising thee on high;
and mortal men and all things
created make reply.
This is also the text in Hymns Ancient & Modern. However, that’s not good enough for the PC authors of Hymnal 1982:
The company of angels
is praising thee on high;
and we with all creation
in chorus make reply.
I guess they’re proud of themselves for only changing two phrases, but it’s neither a subtle change nor faithful to the original text:
Coetus in excelcis te laudat caelicus omnis
Et mortalis homo, cuncta creat simul.
Even with my complete lack of formal Latin training, I know that “Et mortalis homo” does not mean “we.”

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