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1:44 p.m. - April 30, 2006
Hymns!
I wanted to start music week on a Sunday this time, not because Sunday IS the beginning of the week, but because I thought it was apt to write about this particular subject on a Sunday.

Thanks to a much older brother and sister, my life has been filled with the hip sounds of today since I was three (or even before, but three is the critical juncture in my life). It was at that age that I received, along with a toy drum set, the 45 RPM version of ďIncense and PeppermintsĒ by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Oh, I was in heaven. I used my Close and Play and played the death out it, drumming along to the song, especially my favorite part (at about 1:41 into the song, after the guitar solo by Ed King (later of Lynyrd Skynyrd, believe it or donít) the drummer does a simple fill and then hits the high hat twice). I played the heck out of that record and my drum set. Unfortunately both met an untimely demise during my fourth year.

So my life was filled with the sounds of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Dave Clark Five, Grand Funk, Steppenwolf, Sly and the Family Stone, and Led Zeppelin.

And as I grew older, I branched out, acquired my on music, and well, here I am today.

However, as a child, I also grew fond of the music I heard in church.

Now, I grew up a Methodist, and we had a pretty traditional church. Even though it was the 70ís, we didnít have acoustic folk masses, nor high-falutiní electric guitar combos. Nope, we had an organ and a small choir, and that was it.

Maybe it was the organ, with its powerful, majestic tones that resonated through the building and into your soul and spirit, that drew me to the hymns, but something did.

There was something about that sound of the organ, but also of the masses of people standing and singing, that made certain of these hymns compelling to me.

As I grew older, and started the trumpet, and thus started to read music, I really was intrigued by the different arrangements, tempos and meters of these hymns. Hearing the beats and meters of these hymns made me understand the difference between four and eight, and hit home the difference it makes when you make a note sharp or flat.

Of course, I didnít follow through with my trumpet playing (thank you, braces, for shredding my lips all to heck when I tried to hit anything about a high C), but that rudimentary music reading ability helped me understand the concepts and the harmonies in the hymnal.

(I still canít read a bass clef for crap, though, but put me on the treble clef and Iím all over it.)

Many of my favorite hymns were definitely old school hymns.

ďHow Great Thou ArtĒ really spoke to me. I loved the way that it was quiet and reflective in the verses, then built up to a crescendo in the chorus. (They did the soft, then loud thing way before the grungers did it!)

ďRock of AgesĒ was also one of my favorites. (Though now when thatís part of the church service, I turn to Liz and start speaking in German to her as an introÖ) The odd thing is that itís in 3/2 time, which isnít a very common time signature, I gather.

My favorite religious song is probably ďAngels We Have Heard On HighĒ, just because of the ostentatious use of Gloria, In Excelsis Deo!

Back when I was a kid, each hymn concluded with a simply sung ďAmenĒ, and I always thought that gave me peace as well.

Sure, some of the older hymns have fairly impossible melodies, or they try to jam in a whole bunch of words into a familiar (at the time) melody. I always look and see when the words and music were written, and many times the words were written and they found a tune to fit the words around (sort of like the ďStar Spangled BannerĒ)

When I was out of the church game for these past 20+ years, I did miss the hymns. I didnít miss the politics, the false messages and some of the other things about it, but I did miss the songs.

Some people at work wondered why I didnít turn to Christian Rock if I really liked the music at church. Well, thatís different. For a while, contemporary Christian was awful, taking the blandest MOR pop schlock and marrying that with very trite, corny lyrics that were either too preachy or too gushy.

And while I was at church camp a couple of years, we were attacked by acoustic guitar wielding counselors, who tried to sing about Jesus like Seals and Crofts or England Dan and John Ford Coley. So a lot of the folky Gospel stuff didnít really reach me, though there was one song that I really liked.

I do know they have modernized that genre, but still, I think a lot of them try too hard. It limits the scope of songwriting, I think, if you pigeonhole yourself into that one area. Plus, you may turn into Creed or Stryper, and we wouldnít want that, would we?

So when we came back to my home church, I was happy to find that there were at least four hymns, plus a message from the choir.

The sound of the organ was uplifting. I just really missed that sound, so when I heard the prelude for the first time, it filled me with good memories.

I did notice they changed the hymnal. Obviously, you need change, as change is good for the heart and soul and mind. They took out some old songs, and put in some more contemporary tunes, and they also have an alternate hymnal with some more Ďmodern soundsí.

I noticed that my old church camp favorite, ďLord of the DanceĒ was in the hymnal.

This struck me as very odd. First off, it seems like it was put in there for congregations who once in a while decide to get Hippie Dippie for Jesus. Second, itís really kind of fast, and third, itís about five minutes long. There are a lot of words thrown in there.

We also have an older congregation, so I just canít see most of them lighting candles and singing along, even in imperfect harmony.

But hey, now I know all the words, and donít have to try to remember them from 1978 or so.

So Iím glad for the hymns. Iím still a seeker, I suppose, and always will be. But I really appreciate the music.

Thereís something about singing a song to make your heart fill up with peace and joy, no matter if you are religious or not. No matter what your faith, or even if you donít have one, singing out loud and singing out strong is good for your soul.


 

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