Hymnals should be open

Long-time readers will understand why I carp on hymnody, and why I return to the subject now.

  • Hymnals have been practical works of theology in churches in the modern era; hymnals shape our religious vocabularies.
  • Unitarian Universalists are theologically plural — in theory anyway. So why is there a lone denominational hymnal? Even the British Unitarians have current choices and there are scarcely more of them that show up to General Assembly.
  • The current (but not new; 1993) hymnal is a disaster for Christians, meaning Christians use it but have to supplement heavily; use extra-denominational hymnals; or (most commonly) use hymnals two or three generations old.

Add in my own conviction that such foundational ideas of worship need to be commonly controlled, liberally licensed or in the public domain and it’s clear that we need some options. But without deep pockets or a deep talent pool, the best I can offer is the bits and pieces I pick up along the way.

One of the most interesting projects I’ve found is the Open Hymnal Project, operated by Brian J. Dumont. It’s active, and what you will find there is a fine selection of public-domain Christian hymns — with a bent towards the Lutheran, which I hardly mind — downloadable as PDF or GIF scores, MIDI (and some MP3) sound files, and the ABC notation files that allow for adaptation. And this looks like a labor of love; there’s no evidence of a staff behind this work. And it’s so active that there’s a new (December 17) omnibus version that has come out since I started researching for this blog post. Thank you Mr. Dumont!

There is — and this pleases me — evidence of open-source software (particularly in how the file were originally edited and transformed for publication) and standards behind this work, my love of which coming from my belief in the liturgical commons.

Like the Hymns of the Spirit list yesterday, I’ve noted which of the hymns he’s worked on are on the Consultation on Ecumenical Hymnody list, below the fold, in bold.

Lastly, Mr. Dumont has created some derived resources, including a Lenten pack, a Christmas pack (topical, no?) and the most interesting, a service book for visitation. And there are MP3s which you can “put . . . on a cell phone or MP3 player with a little speaker when you visit the sick.” Brilliant.

A Mighty Fortress
Abide with Me
Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended?
All Creatures of Our God and King
All Glory, Laud and Honor
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
All My Heart This Night Rejoices
All People That on Earth Do Dwell
All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night
All Things Are Thine, No Gift Have We
Angels from the Realms of Glory
Angels We Have Heard on High
As with Gladness Men of Old
At Even, Ere the Sun Was Set
At the Name of Jesus
Away in a Manger
Before Jehovah’s Awful Throne
Blessed Jesus, At Your Word
Blest Are the Pure in Heart
Bread of the World, in Mercy Broken
Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light
Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning
Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation
Come Down, O Love Divine
Come Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire
Come, Thou Almighty King
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
Come, Ye Thankful, Raise the Strain
Crown Him with Many Crowns
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
Deck Thyself, My Soul, with Gladness
Eternal Father, Strong to Save
Eternal God, Whose Power Upholds
Eternal Ruler of the Ceaseless Round
Fairest Lord Jesus As Beautiful Savior
Faith of Our Fathers
Father Eternal, Ruler of Creation
Father, We Praise Thee Now the Night Is Over
Fight the Good Fight
For All the Saints
For the Beauty of the Earth
From All Who Dwell below the Skies
From Heaven Above to Earth I Come
Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
Go to Dark Gethsemane
God Moves in a Mysterious Way
God of Grace and God of Glory
God of Our Fathers
God the Omnipotent
Good Christian Men, Rejoice
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise
Hail Thee, Festival Day
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face
Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
Holy, Holy, Holy
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds
If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
In Christ There Is No East or West
In Heavenly Love Abiding
In the Bleak Mid-winter
In the Cross of Christ I Glory
Jesus Christ Is Risen Today
Jesus Shall Reign
Jesus, Priceless Treasure
Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee
Joy to the World
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
Judge Eternal, Throned in Splendor
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Let All the World in Every Corner Sing
Let Us with a Gladsome Mind
Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates!
Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
Look Ye Saints, the Sight Is Glorious
Lord Jesus, Think on Me
Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Make Me a Captive, Lord
May the Grace of Christ Our Savior
New Every Morning Is the Love
Not Alone for Mighty Empire
Now Thank We All Our God
O Come, All Ye Faithful
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
O Gladsome Light
O God of Earth and Altar
O God, Our Help in Ages Past As Our God, Our Help In Ages Past
O Holy City Seen of John
O Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts
O Little Town of Bethlehem
O Lord of Heaven and Earth and Sea
O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright
O Perfect Love, All Human Thought Transcending
O Sacred Head Surrounded As O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright
O Worship the King
O Ye Sons and Daughters, Let Us Sing
Of the Father’s Love Begotten
On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry
Open Now the Gates of Beauty
Praise God from Whom All Blessing Flow
Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens
Praise to the Living God As The God of Abraham Praise (variant hymn)
Praise to the Lord
Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven
Ride On, Ride On in Majesty
Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name
Shepherd of Souls, Refresh and Bless
Silent Night
Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above
Son of God, Eternal Savior
Spirit Divine, Attend Our Prayer
Strong Son of God, Immortal Love
Sun of My Soul
Take My Life and Let It Be
The Church’s One Foundation
The Day of Resurrection
The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended
The Duteous Day Now Closeth As Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow
The First Nowell As The First Noel
The Head That Once Was Crowned with Thorns
The King of Love My Shepherd Is
The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns
The Lord Will Come and Not Be Slow
The Strife Is O’er
There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy
This Is My Father’s World
Thou Art the Way, to Thee Alone
Thou Whose Almighty Word
Through All the Changing Scenes of Life
Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying
Watchman, Tell Us of the Night
We Gather Together
We Plow the Fields and Scatter
Were You There?
What Child Is This?
When All Thy Mercies, O My God
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
When Morning Gilds the Skies
Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Ye Servants of God
Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

2 Replies to “Hymnals should be open”

  1. Scott — I don’t know if you’ve seen this web site:


    It’s a useful resource for smaller congregations who don’t have a pianist or organist. It’s also useful for smaller UU fellowships who also lack keyboard players (many of the grey hymnal melodies can be found here as well).

    A close friend who found herself in charge of leading congregational singing in her small East Texas UU fellowship has used the church music web site listed above along with recorded music suggestions from the UUA CLF to have about 50 different UU grey hymnal instrumental accompaniments on hand for worship. All she has to do is create a playlist in iTunes or other mp3 software and burn a CD for the sound technician to use.

  2. Universalist minister Kenneth Patton pioneered the concept of a “loose-leaf hymnal” at the Charles Street Meeting House in the 1950s, using the then-cutting edge technology of mimeograph printing. Today, we should be using today’s cutting edge technology — music notation software, which can output a MIDI file, which can be manipulated in software like GarageBand to sound like piano, organ, guitar, etc., which can then be played as accompaniment, or as a tool for teaching hymn tunes.

    Music notation software is the key component, though. Once I learned how to use it (and the learning curve is somewhat steep), I started creating hymn inserts on a regular basis, adapting new words to familiar tunes, or introducing completely new hymns and tunes to the congregation. Right now, for example, we’re playing with the idea of singing Old 100th at every worship service, but with varying words — today, for example, we sang Christmas words by H.W. Longfellow to Old 100th. Next step — using variant versions and harmonizations of Old 100th, e.g., modern form, original version, shape note version, a contemporary version by UU composer Susan Conant, etc.

    From the denominational perspective, what I’d like to see is an online resource with tons of downloadable hymns, available at no charge for public domain works and for a modest licensing fee for copyrighted works. Perhaps the so-called teal hymnal will be the last printed hymnal we ever see. Instead, from here on out, we could go with an updated version of Patton’s looseleaf hymnal.

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