Rewriting hymns

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Rewriting hymns

Postby Haruo » Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:05 pm

The Hymn Society posted a link to this article: John Piper Changed ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.’ Experts Weigh In. I was reminded of the way Celebrating Grace was forced to drop one of the Getty hymns they had contracted for because they did a little revision, without permission, to make it a little less ... Calvinistic or bloody ... I forget which. At Fremont yesterday, saw our current Offertory Doxology (to OLD HUNDREDTH) was

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Whose constant love and grace we know.
Bless now, O Lord, these gifts we give
That others may in your peace live. Amen.

Would Thomas Ken object? The John Newton who wrote "Amazing Grace" didn't live long enough to see the "When we've been there ten thousand years" stanza tacked on the end of it, and several of his verses left out to make room for it.

I prefer "What Child is this?" with the "nails, spear" part intact, not dumbed down into a refrain.

I also tend to prefer more stanzas rather than fewer. "How firm a foundation" should be seven verses. Ditto "O come, O come, Emmanuel". "All creatures of our God and King" should have the death verse. Etc. And I don't insist on it for really long songs, for example I'm happy with five or six stanzas of "O for a thousand tongues to sing", no need to do the whole eighteen...
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Re: Rewriting hymns

Postby Haruo » Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:05 pm

Your preferences and positions?
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Re: Rewriting hymns

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:50 pm

Not sure offhand which denomination is Celebrating Grace. I remember awhile back one hymn committee wanted to rewrite substitutionary atonement out of one of the stanzas, but Getty and Townend wouldn't give them permission.

In general, I think it is best to not rewrite someone else's hymn without their permission. A sort of "do unto others" based philosophy. As a songwriter I think I've tried to keep my edits to "meter" -- that is, changes to make hymn meter fit tune meter (though at times I've gone a bit farther). Even in doing that with meter, you have to be careful to not upset the apple cart, so to speak. On the other hand, if it is public domain and one is upfront about it being an edited/adapted version, I suppose there may not be too much harm. Without doing some research it is hard to know whether the old hymns have come down to us intact anyway. Lots of little errors, changes, etc. in transmission. Nevertheless, back to the general rule -- less is better than more. Leave them alone as much as possible.

In The Sacred Harp we often use only a stanza or two in order to leave time for other leaders, especially in larger conventions. But in church, I like singing all the stanzas of a hymn. In a good hymn there is usually a progression and a story that is lost somewhat by dropping stanzas.
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Re: Rewriting hymns

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:54 pm

But, yes, 18 stanzas might get you kicked out of most churches!
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Re: Rewriting hymns

Postby Haruo » Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:10 pm

Rvaughn wrote:Not sure offhand which denomination is Celebrating Grace. I remember awhile back one hymn committee wanted to rewrite substitutionary atonement out of one of the stanzas, but Getty and Townend wouldn't give them permission.

That's it. I couldn't recall the specific issue, but that was it. Celebrating Grace is a product basically of CBF-type Baptists, probably some ABC types too, but in any case more liberal than the SBC but from the same tradition if you go back two or three generations. The top editors were mainly people who had been involved in the 1991 Baptist Hymnal, I think, but who had subsequently severed the SBC tie. I think they put out a sampler of hymns they were planning to include and it had the Getty hymn in question in their revised, non-substitutionary wording, and when the Getty folks saw it they said, no, you can't do that, but the unedited text was too substitutionary for them to stomach so they ended up leaving it out.
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Re: Rewriting hymns

Postby JE Pettibone » Mon Aug 13, 2018 10:38 pm

Ed: Celebrating Grace was publicly introduce at the 2010 CBF assembly. Each attendee was asked to take the copy found on their chair home with them. The Publisher is Celebrating Grace INC., Macon Ga.

My only complaint is the weight. My Arthritic hands rebel.

See; https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CGH2010

for
Indexes
Authors
First Lines
Tune Names
Topics
Scripture References
Meters
Elements of Worship
Page Scans
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Re: Rewriting hymns

Postby Rvaughn » Tue Aug 14, 2018 2:14 pm

Haruo wrote:That's it. I couldn't recall the specific issue, but that was it...I think they put out a sampler of hymns they were planning to include and it had the Getty hymn in question in their revised, non-substitutionary wording, and when the Getty folks saw it they said, no, you can't do that, but the unedited text was too substitutionary for them to stomach so they ended up leaving it out.
I didn't think the Celebrating Grace book sounded familiar to the story as I first heard it. I went back and looked, and the first time I heard about a controversy over this song was re a Presbyterian hymnal. A committee of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had the same issue as Celebrating Grace. The PCUSA committee requested permission to alter In Christ Alone’s lyrics. They proposed “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified" in place of “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” The authors of the hymn would not authorize this change in wording, and the song was not included in this hymnal.

About this same time a UK Methodist committee for their 2011 hymn book Singing the Faith was conflicted by the Townsend/Getty song “In Christ Alone.” Unlike the PCUSA, the British Methodists did include the song in their hymnal. Despite their objections they decided (1) this represented “a view of the atonement…held by some within the Church and can be found in Charles Wesley’s hymns” (2) “where we would have preferred sin’s power…rather than sin’s curse…was not felt to be critical” and (3) even though “diametrically opposed to Church policy on inclusive language” it was judged that an exception could be made for such a song that was “deeply meaningful to many in the Church.”

These types of discussions with living songwriters probably should give us pause when considering rewriting hymns by long-dead songwriters.
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Re: Rewriting hymns

Postby Haruo » Tue Aug 14, 2018 3:10 pm

I think I must have blamed Celebrating Grace for a sin committed by Glory to God. In fact, I'm sure now, because I don't think I ever saw a sampler for Celebrating Grace. Brain flatulence. Sorry all, and especially David Music et al.
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Re: Rewriting hymns

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Aug 14, 2018 8:49 pm

Odd for Piper to talk about grace. But then, I think he means something different with the word than I generally do.
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Re: Rewriting Crown Him with many Crowns

Postby Haruo » Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:11 am

Crown Him with Many Crowns is one of the most notable cases of rewriting hymns by writing theologically divergent additional stanzas. Matthew Bridges wrote the hymn, eight stanzas, I think. He was a Roman Catholic, though, or soon to become one, though, and some of his stanzas were objectionable to Protestants. Rev. Godfrey Thring, a couple of decades after Bridges'song came out, wrote a number of stanzas (I think he published a version of the hymn where only v. 1 was by Bridges. Nowadays it's not uncommon for hymnals to include a version of the text where it's mostly by Bridges, but one or, rarely, two of Thring's are mixed in.
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Re: Rewriting hymns

Postby Jim » Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:20 pm

About 20 years ago, I was asked by a magazine editor to prepare an article on the subject of rewriting hymns in order to remove masculine references or probably violence. I did so but she and I agreed that it would be better not to publish it. In any case, it is found here: http://clarkscorner.org/hymntextart.html.
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Re: Rewriting hymns

Postby James » Sat Aug 18, 2018 5:07 pm

My Favorite example of poor rewrites comes from "Eternal Father Strong to Save." Some English editors for one of the dissenter denominations wanted to eliminate archaic language and the strident tone of the final couplet. It came out as "O hear us when we pray to you for those who sale the ocean blue." This does not serve or satisfy
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