Thanks to everyone who left a comment on why it’s helpful to update hymns. Lots of helpful thoughts.
I said I’d pick 4 random winners, but I lied. I decided to pick 10, using a random number generator. I listed them below with their comments. In the near future, I plan to do a post on updating hymns, and the comments I received definitely gave me a head start.
If you see your name here, please send your mailing address to bob at worshipmatters.com and I’ll make sure you get your Man of Sorrows Glorious King CD.
The movement to updating hymns has caused many great lyrics, which would have been otherwise lost, to be brought back to our attention. While there are some good lyricists out there writing great new songs, these hymns lyrics are time tested and written from a different perspective.
I think it’s important for churches who appreciate hymns, but they have an updated worship style. As a drummer for my church, I typically don’t play when we do hymns in a traditional way, it’s really hard to play along. When hymns are updated musically, it’s much easier for a whole worship band to play.
I grew up singing the traditional hymns-many of which are lyrically/theologically great. I still enjoy singing many of those songs today set to fresh, updated tunes.
The best hymns have a development of thought as you move through the verses of the song that engages both the mind and the affections of the singers – they “stretch” us, if you will. Putting these songs to modern instrumentation opens that stretching up to new generations. (Plus, many of the old hymns don’t have any music at all, and I love to see when groups like Indelible Grace bring those old beauties out for all of us to share!)
I love old hymns updated I feel that many times those old hymns theologically are more sound than many of the music that is created today but but reworking the music to make use of more recent music style and techniques allows you to reach a new audience with those great old hymns of the past
I think it’s important to update hymns because music draws our attention! And if the music is not updated, or well preformed, then maybe we won’t be paying attention to what the song actually expresses!! So, updating the music is a great idea when it comes to hyms, cause they already have WONDERFUL lyrics, and most important: they’re biblical!
I think it can be helpful to update hymns because, although the truth is timeless and transcends all cultures and styles, melodies do not. Truth is truth no matter how it is packaged; but melodies represent different styles of music and have different associations. Sometimes changing a melody is helpful to make it work with a different instrumental set up or to reflect a different mood or to engage with a certain culture, etc. The important thing is getting the truth right.
If the goal of congregational singing is to use music to affectionately exalt in the truth of Jesus Christ, then I think it makes a lot of sense that worship music (including hymns) needs to be updated over time. I would ask the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” crowd if they really think the original music for many of these hymns has the same affect on us today as it did the original singers. Music (and the way we engage music as a culture) has changed so much in 20 years (let alone 200 years), that I think a lot of these tunes, while lyrically sound, are musically “broken” because of the subjective relationship between music and the affections. I’m not trashing the hymns-I love them. I want people to sing them with the same vigor and passion as the original worshipers did decades or centuries ago. That tradition of heart-felt, passionate, lose-everything-for-His-sake worship of Jesus Christ is so much more important to me than the tradition of melody and four part harmony, which for many (though certainly not for all) produces yawning instead of exalting.
I think the melodies to the old hymns are often awkward and distracting. Modern music isn’t so “rigid” rhythmically – so it’s harder to sing hymns that are. It’s hard to articulate or define what I mean without sounding wishy-washy, I’m afraid! Worship should be thoughtful, for sure. But with hymns for me, often it’s *only* cerebral. When the music is more fluid, not so stilted, it’s easier to reflect more deeply on the words and engage my heart/emotions, somehow.
For younger folks like me – it’s good to hear “where we’ve been” and hear the great truths our fathers/grandfathers discovered and wrote down in hymns. Updating the melodies and making new recordings of these hymns with modern technology and voicings can help highlight words we had not noticed before.