Monday, July 21, 2008

Singing Loud With Cheerful Voice

So I'm back home again. My trip was to the West Coast, the Northern California Bay Area where I attended the Annual Conference of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada. It was a remarkable experience that I'm still sorting out in my head and will probably provide some more material for the blog in the weeks and months to come. It was my first time there, though I had thought about going several times in previous years.
If you can imagine 300 or so people coming together every year to sing hymns for four days, it was just as good as that. They'll sing anything, and if the music or the words are a little tricky at first, they'll keep trying, determined to get it right by the last verse. We sang hymns in all different styles and from many different traditions, from Morning Prayer at 8:30 am to Night Prayers at 9:30pm. Every day included a 90-minute hymn festival around a different theme, as well as numerous other opportunities to sing from new hymnals and smaller hymn collections, often led by the editors, text writers, and/or composers. The schedule was packed!

Meals became a great opportunity for further conversation on the events of the day - you never knew who you might be sitting beside - a fellow enthusiast, the editor of a major denominational hymnal, a writer or composer whose work you've admired for a long time or one whose work you just encountered half an hour before.

I thought I didn't have one particular favorite thing we sang (there was a lot to choose from!) until the last morning, when I found it. The final hymn festival was on The Greening of Hymnody, new and old hymns and songs about God in Nature and our responsibility for the care of the earth. I had never seen or heard this hymn but I loved it immediately.

All things praise thee, God most high,
Heav'n and earth and sea and sky,
All were for thy glory made,
That thy greatness, thus displayed,
Should all worship bring to thee;
All things praise thee: God, may we!

All things praise thee: night to night
Sings in silent hymns of light;
All things praise thee: day to day
Chants thy power in burning ray;
Time and space are praising thee;
All things praise thee: God, may we!

All things praise thee; round her zones
Earth, with her ten thousand tones,
Rolls a ceaseless choral strain;
Roaring wind and deep-voiced main,
Rustling leaf and humming bee,
All things praise thee: God, may we!

All things praise thee, high and low,
Rain and dew, and seven-hued bow,
Crimson sunset, fleecy cloud,
Rippling stream, and tempest loud,
Summer, winter, all to thee
Glory render: God, may we!

All things praise thee: gracious Lord,
Great Creator, pow'rful Word,
Omnipresent Spirit, now
At thy feet we humbly bow,
Lift our hearts in praise to thee;
All things praise thee: God, may we!

George William Conder, 1874; alt.
James Frederick Swift, 1903 (?)

George William Conder was an English clergyman who helped compile the Leeds Hymn Book and wrote a number of hymns for a later supplement of that hymnal. I'll be looking through that one for more of his work. The best-known tune of James Frederick Swift was not a hymn, but the secular song Sailing, sailing over the bounding main. I haven't quite nailed down when he wrote this hymn tune.
I'd bet that several people took this hymn home with hopes of using it in worship. More to come on the festival...


Leland Bryant Ross said...

I deeply envy you. I hope to make a HS convention before I die. Maybe see you there.

I have just got hold of The Covenant Hymnal: A Worship Book, as well as volume 2 of Sydney Carter's Present Tense.

Leland aka Haruo

Dorothy said...

Sounds like a wonderful time! And I love your new "find!"

C.W.S. said...

Dorothy, I definitely hope to get to sing this one again in a crowd.

leland, I hope you get to attend one of these years too. The next two are in Minnesota and Alabama, neither place one where I would be likely to find myself otherwise, but we'll see.

Among the samplers and flyers we received was one for a new Baptisi hymnal coming in 2010. There's a website at

Leland Bryant Ross said...

Yes, there are two major new Baptist hymnals coming out soon. Next month the Southern Baptists will bring out the 2008 version of The Baptist Hymnal, and then in 2010 Mercer University (catering primarily to those Southern Baptists who have left the Convention for the Fellowship) will bring out Celebrating Grace. I expect the latter to be somewhat more interesting for such as you and me; the "new, or at least new to me" stuff in the SBC book I expect to be mostly rather lightweight, and I would anticipate a rather marked disinclination to modernize or inclusivize even many texts that practically demand such attention, let alone to admit anything the SBC would consider heterodox like women in ministry or GLBTs.... The interest of that book will lie more, I think, in its electronic components, and in the way that the print hymnal is integrated into an online and projectable system for churches with a few thousand bucks extra to spend on the stuff.

I made a lot of suggestions to the Celebrating Grace folks, but I got in on it near the end of the process and don't expect many of my odder-looking suggestions to have got much of a hearing. Still, I'm sure there'll be good stuff in it, including probably much of the contents of For the Living of These Days, a hymnal supplement put out by the CBF-aligned Smyth & Helwys. We northern Baptists remain hymnalless (at least eight different pew hymnals are in use by the 30-odd English-singing congregations of my ABC region).

Leland aka Haruo

Singing Lessons said...

ove singing the old Hymns. So much depth. Very unlike a lot of modernd worship today.

top singing lessons said...

Singing songs of praise is sometimes the start of someone to be interested in singing.