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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Appropriate Hymn for our times

I was just trying to sing Hannah to sleep.  (Yes, I've taken a hiatus from blogging - we added Hannah to our brood two months ago!) Regarding my absenteeism from this blog - I just thought I'd mention that I don't make it a goal to just fill space on here. If I have something significant enough to say, I will - believe me, I will! Often I have lots to say but would get in trouble if I said it all. So perhaps an anonymous blog will be started soon. I can't say. It seems Hannah has a bit of colic, so I don't anticipate any regularity with blogging though I intend to at least get back to it and finish the saga of meeting Sam.
I intend also to do a hymn of the day/week/whatever blog regularly, since there are so many gems fallen by the wayside that I'd like to highlight.
I regularly make comments about how I feel about hymns, music, and worship in general. I'll just throw this out quickly because it has irritated me and I finally figured out why. It is the old line that advocates of contempo-pop-worship music people throw at me: "Well,the really good hymns stick around, and the rest, well, there's a reason no-one sings them anymore - they weren't any good - if they were we'd still be singing them, so the good ones have stood the test of time."

It's best if I don't answer people who tell me this because my red-headed temper might get the better of me. I'd like to say, 'Oh, really? You mean that to make something worthwhile it must be popular and approved by a new generation whose ears have been tuned to the equivalent of modern art as far as music goes? Since Shakespeare is so hard to read and understand why don't we just chuck his works out too - you know, let them rest on a shelf somewhere...' I get irritated because I write music and words to old words and old music (I can't seem to write both words and music in the same song), and yet, because I am un-ambitious, anti-self-promotion, and in general not the driven type, no one will probably hear my music or read much of my words, and yet I don't feel that makes them less valuable. Popularity and wide exposure and acceptance cannot be our gauge for measuring value, even when it comes to something as delicate and personal as music/lyric preferences.
So much of what has become popular has become that way because of marketing, drivenness and opportunity. What I mean is, a fairly good musician writes and plays his music well - it gets noticed - he is driven to market and manufacture his stuff - he finds/comes across appropriate opportunity for such an endeavour - he learns the ropes or has agents who do it for him and voila - popular music on the rise. It is sometimes just a lot of luck combined with personality and opportunity. (You theologians out there know I don't believe in proverbial luck - just had to clarify). So that means a depressive type who doesn't get out there to manufacture his stuff isn't going to get much press. Does that make his music less worthy?! No, of course not. And so it is with older hymns that have fallen by the wayside. Some fall out of use for good reason - they weren't that great to begin with (think: 'Climb, climb up sunshine mountain' - doesn't get more fluff than that!) But that certainly can't be said for all the older, less-known, less-popular hymns. Think of 'Depth of mercy can there be mercy still reserved for me.' How many of you knew that before some group re-made it recently? Thanks to them more of you recognize these words and I applaud such efforts. How many of you knew that 'Before the throne of God above' came out of the little Believers Hymnal and was written over a hundred years ago? If I didn't have my calling to be fully present with my kids in the home, and had spare money, time, energy and effort I could be out there manufacturing re-written hymns too - and I'd get to pick which ones! And I'd have a personal staff of musicians and administrators to do all the stuff I can't. And I'd have time to do it, and drive and energy and all of the above. But that is in dream-world. I am not about to do such a thing. And yet that does not make the old forgotten hymns any less valuable, important or artistically worthy. So, be well informed folks, don't give me the line 'we only sing the ones that stood the test of time...' or you might get wolloped in the face. Yeah right. You only sing the ones made popular by the musicians you like and follow (and I'm glad some of them bring these to life again!)

Here is the hymn I just came across and think it is appropriate for all the OWS people, and the rest of us too who watch with wonder, curiosity and puzzlement.
Whew. Glad that's off my chest. One less bee in my bonnet.
Apparently Beethoven wrote the music for this. We know the tune to other words: 'Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness.'


Where cross the crowded ways of life, Where sound the cries of race and clan, Above the noise of selfish strife, We hear Thy voice, O Son of man!

In hands of wretchedness and need, On shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
From paths where hide the lures of greed, We catch the vision of Thy tears.

The cup of water giv'n for Thee Still holds the freshness of Thy grace;
Yet long these multitudes to see The sweet compassion of Thy face.

O Master, from the mountainside, Make haste to heal these hearts of pain,
Among these restless throngs abide, O tread the city's streets again.

Till sons of men shall learn Thy love And follow where Thy feet have trod;
Till glorious from Thy Heav'n above Shall come the city of our God.

- F. Mason North

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