Post the second - hymns numbered 1008-1014 in Singing the Journey. The first post is below, and comments are open. Speak up!
1008: When Our Heart Is in a Holy Place
I can’t say I hate this song, but I can’t say it’s to my taste, either. I find the lyrics insipid (”We are blessed with love and amazing grace, when our heart is in a holy place…”), and melody simply boring, though it still finds itself stuck in my head a few hours later. It’s just that much more dishwater with no real substance. The accompaniment at the end is overly contrived, with a swoopy embellished melody line and single-note bass. There’s another D.S. al Coda in the notation, but it at least includes a helpful note to assist those who don’t read music to find the end of the song. Altogether a non-event - how did this end up in the short list of 78 from over 1500 submissions?
1009: Meditation on Breathing
I loved singing this at G.A., and it hasn’t lost its appeal since then. A simple melody with simple accompaniment, but a great meditative piece. The descant and drone added here are very accessible, so I can see a congregation pretty easily breaking into three parts during repetitions. I love the words: “When I breathe in I breathe in peace; When I breathe out I breathe out love.”
I have two gripes. One, I wish this was about a fourth higher. The main melody line is very low (starting on G below middle C), which is tough for sopranos *cough*, but also for kids. The descant only starts an octave above middle C, so taking it up a 4th would give sopranos that shiny F that we love. Second, I thought this would easily adapt to guitar accompaniment, but I haven’t been able to figure out a way to transpose this so that I wouldn’t have to play a bar chord. I’m sure a better player could do it, but then they’d be able to play the bar chord to begin with! I know, I’m a wimp.
1010: We Give Thanks
I was all set to write a stellar review for this hymn. I love the melody, which can be sung slowly and contemplatively, or lively and on-your-feet-clapping, and the words are simple without being simplistic.
Then I tried to play the piano part. It’s as if someone took a very straightforward arrangement, one adaptable to many styles, and added extemporaneous runs and ornaments that only serve to muddle an otherwise pleasant melody. There are harmony parts written for the voice, but when coupled with the piano they stop making sense. It’s two songs - the melody with harmony, and this disjointed accompaniment. A good pianist could just read the chords and improvise something workable, but improvisation is not the point when it comes to singing hymns. It’s such a pity, because the arrangement we did at G.A. was fantastic.
1011: Return Again
This is okay - it will need teaching, but any round does. (I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to mind being taught a round nearly as much as having to go through an entire hymn line by line. Probably something to do with length, and the song leading needed in anything divided into groups.) It’s formatted so that each group only sings half of the song, which I really don’t like. The first part has a 1st and 2nd ending, the 2nd causing the piece to end with the two parts right next to each other. I think this would sound really cool if done well, but I don’t see that happening in congregational singing. As it is, I think the multiple endings are unnecessarily confusing.
1012: When I Am Frightened
Pure schmaltz. Some people like this; I find it insultingly insipid. I want more substance in my lyrics, for one thing, and I just don’t care for the melody. It sounds like a bad showtune, not any kind of a hymn.
1013: Open My Heart
This has lovely words, but it’s an odd little minor tune with an odd sounding accompaniment. I feel it’s too complicated to sing as a congregation - the end of the first phrase needs a lift or a breath, and it’s just not there. It would be interesting to hear it done by a choir in four parts, but I found that it felt wrong even though I was singing it correctly with the piano. A round shouldn’t feel like that.
1014: Standing on the Side of Love
This is the ultimate “seeker” song. I want to like it, I really do, but it shouldn’t be in a hymnal. It’s in 4 sharps, which is really hard to play, and requires a “moderate rock feel.” The chorus is catchy, and yet not insipid, but the verse is rhythmically tricky and will lose a lot of people as it’s not really something that can be learned by “feel.” It’s one of those songs that needs a song leader who sings the verse solo and a more than competent pianist/”praise band” - which, of course, is how it was done at G.A. This is not a hymn for a congregation of less than 100.
That’s it for now, boys and girls… let me know how I’m doing and if any of you are finding this commentary useful.