Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday Hymnody

After going to church services this morning, I thought I’d update my earlier thoughts on the canon of Palm Sunday hymnody.

Everyone’s Standard Palm Sunday Hymns

Both four years ago and two years ago, I noted the two preferred Palm Sunday hymns:
In the earlier posting, I also noted how a LCMS pastor-blogger listed these as the preferred processional and recessional for this day. Not surprisingly, the Lutheran Service Book provides the same (Lutheran) tune for the former, but a different (German) tune for the latter.

As is often the case, the text of H82 has problems, while the text of H40 is more consistent with the original text.

The other problem with Hymnal 1982 is that it uses King’s Majesty as the tune “Ride on” — a tune that is hard to sing. Meanwhile Hymnal 1940 provides the easier Winchester New — mimicking the earlier CoE hymnals, The English Hymnal (#620) and Hymns Ancient & Modern.

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name

In the three year rotation of the RCL, the Liturgy of the Palms (rather than the Passion) uses three different gospels are used to mark Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem:
To introduce these gospels, each would seem to suggest as a gradual “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” (H40: 355.1; H82: 450). This is based on an 18th century American text, set to the tune of Coronation:
All hail the power of Jesus' name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all!

Crown him ye martyrs of your God,
who from his altar call:
Praise him whose way of pain ye trod
and crown him Lord of all!

Hail him, the heir of David's line,
whom David Lord did call,
the God incarnate, Man divine,
and crown him Lord of all!
At the Name of Jesus

A similar theme is called out by one of the Epistles assigned for this date. In the RCL, all three years (for the Liturgy of the Passion) assign Philippians 2:5-11. This passage concludes (in the KJV):
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This is the basis for “At the Name of Jesus” (H40: 356.1; H82: 435):
At the Name of Jesus
every knee shall bow,
every tongue confess him
King of glory now;
'tis the Father's pleasure
we should call him Lord,
who from the beginning
was the mighty Word.
The text was published by Caroline Noel in 1870.

Since 1925 — with the publication of Songs of Praise by Oxford University Press — this hymn has been sung to the tune King’s Weston by Ralph Vaughan Williams. (RVW coincidentally, helped edit this hymnal). This is the tune used both by Hymnal 1940 and Hymnal 1982.

Together, this suggests four standard (and very familiar) hymns for Palm Sunday. The latter two were not commonly used 70 years ago, but match the latest fashion in liturgical readings for this feast day.

Hymnal 1940 and other guides may recommend the use of Good Friday hymns — such as “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded” (H40: #75) and “Ah, Holy Jesus” (H40: #71.1). And they certainly may be appropriate for supporting the Liturgy of the Passion on Palm Sunday. However, in my opinion, it seems like these hymns are more suitable to be saved for Good Friday, or to used on other days in Lent (such as Lent V).