Wednesday, December 1, 2010

They Sang a New Song

Using the tune BEECHER the other day reminded me of something I had intended to write about a few weeks ago. That tune was named for Henry Ward Beecher, pastor of the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn NY, and was composed by John Zundel, who was the organist there for many years.

I attended a service at the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims (as it is now known) at the end of October. The church still looks similar to the nineteenth-century illustration here. The occasion of my visit was the dedication of the congregation's new hymnal, Hymns of Faith and Light. The service was constructed around the theme of congregational singing, an important part of that church's history. Beecher and Zundel produced the Plymouth Collection of Hymns and Tunes (1855) which was the first major hymnal anywhere to include the texts and the tunes of the hymns on the same page.

That book (acknowledged in the present-day service) was originally intended for use in their own church, but went on to be used in many other congregations over the next several years. Today, in a kind of reversal, they are singing from a new hymnal that was originally produced in another church for their own use (the First Congregational Church of Houston) and has also spread to many congregations.  The title of this post came from the title of the sermon preached by Senior Minister David C. Fisher recounting an overview of congregational song from its earliest days (alas, no longer available online).

One Year Ago: World AIDS Day

1 comment:

Leland Bryant Ross said...

That's a very good newish hymnal out of Houston that they're using. A fair amount of good new material and most of the good old standards, lovingly modernized/inclusivized a bit less assiduously than your "alt."s and much more gracefully than the New Century. And I love the inclusion of the "Litany of the Beautiful Names of Allah" from Islamic tradition.