Saturday, September 20, 2008

Feeling Listless

I'm a pretty easy girl to read. If I wear a dress to work, it means that I haven't done laundry in three and a half weeks and have no clean jeans or socks. Or if I start rapidly pushing my hair behind my ears, it means I see a balloon nearby and am terrified that it's going to pop. And if I post a list on this blog, it means that I have nothing thoughtful or creative to say but still feel that I should post something. Thus, here are my TOP TEN FAVORITE HYMNS.

10. Hallelujah! What A Savior. Words and Music by Philip P. Bliss. Of all the hymns in this list, I think I've loved this one the longest. It's succinct and beautiful and I think we should sing it at every Good Friday service.

9. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. Words by Charles Wesley. Music by Rowland H. Prichard. "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" is one of those hymns with fifty alternate melodies and I think Prichard's lilting tune is not only the loveliest of the bunch but also one of my favorites in all of hymnody. And Wesley's lyrics aren't bad either.

8. And Can It Be?. Words by Charles Wesley. Music by Bob Kauflin. Remember that horrible Michael Jackson song, "Heal the World?" I remember that my mom would always laugh at the lyric, "There are people dying" because the melody was so cheery. The original version of "And Can It Be?" suffers from the same problem: weighty lyrics and a sugary sweet tune. Thankfully, Bob Kauflin fixed this when he inserted a more contemplative melody and the result is incredibly moving.

7. For The Beauty Of The Earth. Words by Folliot S. Pierpoint. Music by Conrad Kocher. I tend to worry about the future, so lately I've tried to focus on the present and relish each of God's gifts moment by moment. A cup of 72% cacao hot chocolate. A crystal clear blue sky. The birds that like to chirp outside my window at 2:00 a.m. "For The Beauty of the Earth" is a wonderful reminder of God's daily blessings and "the beauty of each hour." And it's gorgeous acapella (watch "Little Women" and you'll agree.)

6. I Sing The Mighty Power Of God. Words by Isaac Watts. Music arranged by Ralph Vaughn Williams. This may be my favorite hymn about the sovereignty of God and there are three things I particularly like about it. 1. It's originally from the hymnbook, "Divine and Moral Songs for Children." It's heartening to think of children singing lyrics like "I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day; the moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey." 2. The old English tune was arranged by Ralph Vaughn Williams, who's like the king of old English tune arrangements. 3. It ends with this amazing lyric, "While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care; and everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there."

5. The Hymn From "Jupiter." Music by Gustav Holst. All right, so this isn't a hymn in the traditional sense. But the middle section from the "Jupiter" movement of Holst's "The Planets" practically begs for us to write lyrics and sing it in church.

4. Arise, My Soul, Arise. Words by Charles Wesley. Music by Bob Kauflin. Here's another Wesley hymn suffering from "Heal the World" syndrome that's revitalized by a gorgeous Bob Kauflin tune. There's a reason that nearly half of my favorite hymns were written by Charles Wesley. He's a master lyricist and his lyrics in this hymn are poignant without being sappy, theological without being dry, and simple without being trite. It's a brilliant song.

3. All Creatures Of Our God And King. Words by Francis of Assisi. Music by Peter Von Brachel. I believe that a majority of musical problems could be solved if composers simply wrote everything in 6/8. I always liked this hymn, but it jumped into a whole new category when I heard it in 6/8. And I love the concept of all creation praising the Lord.

2. The Master Has Come. Words by Sarah Doudney. One of the most inspiring hymns I know. I'm encouraged to fight the good fight each time I hear it.

1. Hark The Herald Angels Sing. Words by Charles Wesley. Music by Felix Mendelsshon. It's a crime that we only get to sing this song once a year. We should seriously sing it every Sunday. Lyrics don't get much better than "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Diety" and "Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die."

That's my list. What are your favorite hymns?


Michael F. Bird said...

I concur with your #1 pick! But do you know the hymn "In Christ Alone"?

Anonymous said...

Great list! - I think I know all but 3, (and that's with no musical talent whatsoever) and I heartedly agree on Wesley. My ultimate favorite is "It is Well With My Soul", and for Christmas, we love "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" - John Michael Talbot's version on his Christmas album is just breathtaking if you ever have the chance to hear it.