The Music of Praise
Through the Church Year with the Great Hymns
ISBN 1 84101 237 8
BRF, Oxford, 2002, £12.99
(price at publication
For lovers of hymns, this book is a real treasure. For each Sunday of the Christian year we are given the text of an appropriate hymn, sometimes with extra verses which are found in the original but omitted in most hymnbooks. Each hymn is followed by a 'meditation', which includes background notes, a brief commentary, and information about the tune (or tunes) to which the hymn is usually sung. Each 'meditation' ends with a short prayer. The author has given us 53 hymns. We all have our favourites, and this selection could not possibly satisfy everyone, though hymns have been chosen from a wide variety of sources, ranging from the fourth century to a hymn which was written as recently as the year 2000.
If this book is used each week through the year, as intended by the author, the reader will absorb a great deal of Christian doctrine, set forth in the context of contemporary life. For example, the importance of seeing God as the creator of all things is emphasized 'in an age that has witnessed the cloning of Dolly the sheep.' Even Harry Potter finds a mention! Many of the musical notes tell us of little known facts, such as that the hymn 'Onward Christian soldiers' was originally set to a melody in Joseph Haydn's Fifteenth Symphony.
Gordon Giles is Succentor of St Paul's Cathedral, and he tells us about the preparations for a special service to follow the events of 11 September, 2001, and of the hymns that were used on that occasion.
There is a good deal of general knowledge in the book, too, and this gives some indication of the research which must have gone into its writing. In fact, there is something for everyone in this excellent and interesting book.
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