If you have a hymnbook, this is a great exercise. Thumb through it, page by page, and make a list of your favorites. One of the casualties of “singing off the wall” (words projected onto a screen) is the hymnbook in the home. I’m such a dork, I took a hymnbook with me on my honeymoon.
The two hymnbooks I use the most these days are Trinity Hymnal and Cantus Christi. If you like old hymns in minor keys (e.g. O Sacred Head Now Wounded) you will find more in Cantus than in any other hymnbook. They are not all dirges, oh no. Invariably when people visit our church, they comment on the singing. It is full-bodied, exuberant and, as it were, one voice. One of our women has a gorgeous and powerful voice; she said this is the first church where her voice didn’t stick out.
I’m going to post my top 10. As I find time I will add more favorites in increments of ten. It is painful not mentioning other favorites. The names in SMALL CAPS are the hymn tunes.
1. Doxology OLD HUNDRETH In my opinion, this should be the first praise song every toddler learns. And perhaps the last song with the last breath of life. Our church sings this, a capella, at the end of every service. It’s a classic (shows up in Tom Sawyer, not that that matters ) which remains fresh and solid.
2. Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing NETTLETON Did you know there are more verses than the three we normally sing? I so relate to the wandering heart theme in this hymn.
3. My Soul Now Bless Thy Maker (Psalm 103) NUN LOB, MEIN SEEL The truth is that many of my favorite hymns are based on Psalm 103. Unfortunately this one is obscure. How do I translate to you the joy and thrill it is to sing this? Almost every audio version I’ve found has a slow, dreary tempo when this is a vigorous and confident tune. So here’s the best combo I can find: Listen to this version (click on 519) after you’ve opened a window with the words.
5. Only Begotten, Word of God Eternal ISTE CONFESSOR There is a majesty and mystery in this ninth century hymn. I’m sorry for the gymnastics, but the tune is here and the words are here (pause the music that automatically starts). “Hallowed this dwelling where the Lord abideth, this is none other than the gates of heaven.” chills go up my arm. I’ve added to my list of songs for my funeral. The praise to the Trinity in the final verse makes hard lumps in my throat every time.
6. Jesus Shall Reign DUKE STREET Besides loving ancient hymns in minor keys I love triumphal anthems. Tune here and words here. I love to modulate up a half key on the last verse. I also love the idea of sitting during the first four verses and rising for the fifth verse: Let every creature rise and bring peculiar honors to our King.
7. O Sing A New Song to the Lord (Psalm 98) LYNGHAM / DESERT A family sings this here. The four parts weave in and out, making a tapestry of tones. To hear a room full singing this is glorious. True story: yesterday a group of five teenage boys were throwing a frisbee on the lawn belting this one in parts.
8. O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus EBENEZER The music matches the words in this piece better than any other hymn I can think of. I hear the ocean currents. And no one (not even Selah [!]) does this piece better than Stephanie Seefeldt. Worth the price of the album A Little Less Than More.
9. Praise To the Lord, the Almighty LOBE DEN HERREN How oft in grief, hath not he brought thee relief? If you don’t know this hymn, please learn it. Every phrase is rich, solid, steady.
10. In Christ Alone Music and lyrics here. What is it about this modern day hymn that is so potent? The words speak to the core issues of life and death. It’s normal for me to choke up on this one. The music with its soaring intervals grabs me too. Combined it is powerful.
Okay, it is your turn. Do you have a favorite hymn? Three you love? Favorite five? Top ten? Leave your answers in the comments. If you are so inclined send them on to Sherry.