Jul. 8, 2016

Hymns, Part VI

(con't from Part V)
Another step to fine tune your hymn usage is to choose which verses of the hymn are the most appropriate for contemporary worship or fraternal use.
There's no law that says you have to do every verse of a hymn; you can choose the best verses that are meaningful to the modern worshiper or fraternal member, and cut it down to just 2 or 3 verses (photo) if the result is better.
For example, there might be a verse or two that has antiquated language where it might work out better to leave it out; at the same time, verses should never be cut simply to save time; some hymns, in fact, tell a story, and in this situation all verses should be sung.
Most hymns have a different thought for each verse where it's possible to cut one, let's say, and not destroy the continuity; however, if, let's say, all 4 verses of a hymn are so good you can't leave one out, then absolutely all should be sung, with the organist injecting some kind of variety into the sound each time, such as by changing the stops with each verse, taking the bass in the left hand for one verse instead of in the pedal, soloing the hymn tune in one of the verses, etc.
The more verses we do, the more variety we need to infuse into the hymn leading at the organ.
We have to be very careful however, about cutting verses; the text writer obviously had a reason for his or her text; we're compromising the integrity of the hymn to some extent when we start adding our own editorial thoughts on the hymn.
Hymn texts also differ a good bit between denominations; lyrics are changed, and verses are shuffled or omitted.
Hymnal editors have been revising verses and lyrics for literally hundreds of years, and your favorite hymn might sound a little different if you visit another worship center.
Struggling to keep everyone happy with the hymn playing can be a daunting task at times for the sensitive musician.
There may be members of the congregation, institution, or organization who one day want you to play the hymns differently, maybe even slower or faster, louder or softer, with or without cuts, so they can perhaps show off their lovely voice, or maybe just to complain.
We can't let this complaining bother us; in truth, the way we're already doing it is usually as good as it gets and, almost certainly, they couldn't do any better.
(con't in Part VII)