2011 04 02
I have some more reactions to the new hymnal Songs for Worship and Praise by Taylor Publications.
Our congregation has adopted this hymnal by Robert J. Taylor and the congregational receptiveness to it has generally been warm. The song leaders have received it not unlike children in a candy store. We have had to exercise strong restraint in our song selections in order to keep the majority of the songs selected from the traditional core church-of-Christ liturgical canon.
This book features an exceptional selection of songs - from old classical to American classics; from centuries ago right up to this year.
The arrangement of songs is highly topical... to the extent that singing them in numerical order can often feel redundant. On the other hand it definitely facilitates preparation of a song service based upon a theme.
I own several song books that feature only contemporary songs. They are neat but I can't think of much use for them. You sure cannot use them in a church building auditorium. Songs for Worship and Praise is useful in the general church worship. I have to admit I was a was a bit leary that the book pulled a number of selections from Alton Howard's hymnal Songs of Faith and Praise. Howard's hymnal is so bad it is difficult to imagine that there are any merits to it. After I sang through the new hymnal - sight reading the unfamiliar songs - I decided Howard's hymnal does in fact have some gems and when they are taken together without the hymnal's drawbacks, they make a nice collection. I have never seen a perfect hymnal; but this one comes the closest. Examples of songs that should have been cut: "Heaven Came Down (and glory filled my soul)," and all of the Alton Howard songs. There are just a few songs I think should have been included: "O God of Infinite Mercy," "Let All That Is Within Me" (a song that is in Songs of Faith and Praise), "Look Away From the Cross to the Glittering Crown," "Wonderful City of God." I would love to have seen some of the songs from Jack Boyd's hymnal Great Songs of the Church (Revised) but I realize my love for classical hymns is not shared by many in the church. Boyd's hymnal would work in a congregation located near a university where many members are college educated, have studied classical music and can read music. The truth is this does not describe very many congregations; so I'll have to do without.
What I have noticed about the Taylor hymnal is that, excepting some "core" songs that Taylor probably felt forced to include, all of the songs are musically very good. Not every song includes good poetry; so I sneakingly suspect the music held a bit higher priority than the words in the selection process. Consider this poetry:
I will bless the Lord at all times,
bless the Lord at all times.
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
I almost skipped this song because of the bad poetry but I gave it a shot. Musically, it is a pretty decent song.
Some of the music is very difficult to read - that is, it is complicated. In some cases the reason for the hard music seems to be connected with it having perhaps been transcribed from a performance of an entertainer. I found the song "Above All Else" nearly impossible to sight read. It would take a music major with a minor in percussion to count this out.
I suspectected this song started out as a contemporary Christian radio pop song but best as I can tell, it was originally written to be an acapella song. Anyway, after struggling through the music I actually like it. It's just hard to learn if all you have is the music.
Incidentally, since this book is currently in first printing status, you should expect some technical errors. There are several misspelled words and typographical errors. There are some musical (little) problems. For example, in the same song there is a measure in which the soprano notes don't add up to the number of beats in the measure.
I found a couple performances of this song on the 'Net and it seems most people perform this measure as follows.
I am a big fan of this book. I hope it finds its way into the worship services of many churches.