What’s Up With the Hymns?

Apparently, this whole “Lutheran Hymn” thing puzzles quite a few people, so I thought I might write a little post about it.

First off, I grew up in a small town in South Western Wisconsin which was mostly populated by Norwegian and Lutherans. I grew up singing these hymns every Sunday. When I was old enough, I joined the children’s choir and continued in church choirs through most of high school.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs and interviews with musicians, and a lot of them talk about their very early inspirations.

Many of those musicians were lucky enough to have grown up going to African American Gospel churches or to belong to some ethnic group with an interesting folk music tradition.

However, as mentioned, I grew up going to a Lutheran church in Wisconsin. That is my tradition, and in a lot of ways, my “folk” music. That, and “Old Tyme Gospel Music”. But perhaps more about that later.

I find the basic harmonies and melodies of these old hymns, especially the more open ones, to be quite moving and powerful.

When I was looking around for some music to learn and play on the clarinet, I thought to myself, “Hey self! It might be funny to track down a Lutheran Hymnal, and learn those old hymns on the clarinet.” Get re-in touch with the memories and feelings of my youth, good and bad.

As a bonus, the hymns are neither particularly challenging nor long, which is, in fact, a big bonus for someone with a full time job who is also trying to (re) learn Jazz and to play the clarinet and sax.

I can transcribe, transpose, and record all 4 parts of the hymn in a few hours, and it is good for me to learn the recording, mixing, and arranging software. Most important, I am re-learning to play harmony parts with other instruments, even though I am playing all the instruments myself.

So, that’s what’s up with the hymns.

I hope you enjoy them a little bit, and that they might remind you of something of your past or present, good or bad.

032.RejoiceRejoiceThisHappyMorn

Please turn to number 32 and join with the clarinets in, “Rejoice, Rejoice This Happy Morn.”

Name: WIE SCHöN LEUCHTET.
Meter: Irregular.
Tempo: With movement
Music: Phillipp Nicolai, 1556-1608
Text: Birgitte Cathrine Boye, 1742-1824
Tr. Carl Doving, 1867-1937

Like our previous Phillipp Nicolai Hymn, “Wake, Awake“, I find the harmonies in “Rejoice, Rejoice This Happy Morn” very powerful. This is one of several hymns which use this melody, the most famous of which is the original, number 404, “How Brightly Beams the Morning Star”.

Here’s the clarinet arrangement: 032.ServiceBookAndHymnal

I doubled each part and applied the usual tweaked audacity “Church Hall” reverb effect.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

025.HarkTheHeraldAngelsSing

Please turn to hymn number 25 and join with the clarinets in “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.

Name: MENDELSSOHN
Meter: 7 7, 7 7, D.
Tempo: In moderate time
Music: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy 1809-47
Text: Paul Gerhardt, 1607-76
Tr. Catherine Winkworth

Another oldie, but goodie.

First off, famous composer alert!

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (German: [ˈjaːkɔp ˈluːtvɪç ˈfeːlɪks ˈmɛndl̩szoːn baʁˈtɔldi]; 3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847), born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn,[n 1] was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period.

From the wikipedia article regarding “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is a Christmas carol that first appeared in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, having been written by Charles Wesley. Wesley had requested and received slow and solemn music for his lyrics, not the joyful tune expected today.

In 1855, English musician William H. Cummings adapted Felix Mendelssohn‘s secular music from Festgesang to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” written by Charles Wesley.[12] Wesley envisioned the song being sung to the same tune as his Easter song “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today“,[13] and in some hymnals that tune is included for “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” along with the more popular Mendelssohn-Cummings tune.[14]

Also, from the wikipedia article on Mendelssohn:

The hymn tune Mendelssohn – an adaptation by William Hayman Cummings of a melody from Mendelssohn’s cantata Festgesang (Festive Hymn) – is the standard tune forCharles Wesley‘s popular hymn Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. This extract from an originally secular 1840s composition, which Mendelssohn felt unsuited to sacred music,[93]

Funny, so neither the text’s author nor the music’s composer liked what eventually became the most popular version of the song! There’s probably a lesson there about popular taste.

Here’s my arrangement for 5 clarinets: 025.ServiceBookAndHymnal

There were some alternate melodies, so I actually ended up with 1 Clarinet playing the “soprano” part, 2 Clarinets doing the “alto” parts, 1 Clarinet playing the “tenor” part, and 2 Bass clarinets doing the “bass” parts in the final recording. Total of 6 clarinet parts. I’ve been tweaking the Audacity “Church” Reverb effect presets so that it has less effect on the levels of the tune.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

024.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Please turn your Service Book and Hymnal to number 24 and join with the clarinets in “While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks by Night”.

Name: BETHLEHEM.
Meter: C.M.D.
Tempo: Joyfully
Music: Gottfried Wilhelm Fink, 1783-1846
Text: Nahum Tate, 1652-1715

“Wow, dude, like when the Angel of the Lord came down to announce Jesus’ birth to the Shepherds, man, SHEPHERDS! they must have been like, quaking in their boots and totally freaked out!”
“Oh man, you’re so right! They must have been OUT of their minds!”
“Give me another toke, I’m going to write a poem about it!”

While Shepherds watched their flock by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
‘Fear not,’ said he, for mighty dread
Had Seized their troubled mind;
‘Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind

‘To you, in David’s town this day
Is born of David’s line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord;
And this shall be the sign:
The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid’

Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song:
‘All glory be to God on high,
And to earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease!’

I’m pretty sure that’s how this poem happened.

Arranged for 4 clarinets: 024.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Anyway, I was playing the melody and thinking, jeeze, this seems familiar, I feel like playing it faster, it seems kind of ‘folky’. I paced it at 90, then felt compelled to play it double time.

After recording it, I realized, “Oh right, wait, isn’t this melody REALLY similar to Hymn 14, ‘Rejoice All Ye Believers”?’ Huh, I guess Gottfried Wilhelm Fink was also familiar with “Swedish Folk Melody”. Nice to know my instincts are based around melody.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

023.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Please turn you hymnals to number 23 and join with the clarinets in “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”.

Name: Caron.
Meter: C. M. D.
Tempo: With movement, sweetly
Music: Richard Storrs Willis, 1819-1900
Text: Edmund Hamilton Sears, 1810-76

You might be familiar with this one!

Arrangement for 4 clarinets: 023.ServiceBookAndHymnal

I haven’t been super please with the Bass Clarinet on the tenor parts. That range of the Bass Clarinet is just a little too assertive for a tenor part. This time I transposed it down and octave and played it on Soprano Clarinet. I did play the Bass Part on Bass Clarinet.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

022.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Please turn your hymnals to number 22 and join with the clarinets in singing “From Heaven Above”.

Name: VON HIMMEL HOCH
Meter: L.M.
Tempo: In flowing style
Music: Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Text: Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1829-78

I really hadn’t been paying attention when I was younger, but I guess Martin Luther also wrote some hymns!

022.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Standard operating procedure, record all 4 parts on soprano clarinet, then record the tenor and bass parts on bass clarinet. I applied the Audacity Large Room Reverb Effect.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

021.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Please turn your hymnals to number 21 and join with the clarinets in “All Praise to Thee” aka “Tallis’ Canon”.

Name: TALLIS’ CANON.
Meter: L.M.
Tempo: With dignity
Music: Thomas Tallis, cir 1505-85
Text: Latin Hymns of XI cent.
German Hymn of XIV Cent.
Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Tr. Anonymous, 1858

I got a little obsessed with the arrangement of Tallis’ Canon and ended up with a fairly complex thing. Basically, the Canon is running against itself at two speeds. (I was really tempted to run another melody at 2x the faster speed, but that would be bebop.)

First I did the round with 4 beats per half note in two parts at a very slow tempo, basically half note equals 40 bpm, and recorded all the parts on bass clarinet.

021.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Then I added the same parts, but with 4 beats per half note. In the end, the score ended up being for 7 bass clarinets and 3 soprano clarinets.

021.ServiceBookAndHymnal.canon

Here’s the translation of Luther’s text:

All praise to thee, Eternal Lord,
Clothed in a garb of flesh and blood;
Choosing a manger for thy throne,
While worlds on worlds are thine alone.

Once did the skies before thee bow,
A Virgin’s arms contain thee now;
Angels who did in thee rejoice,
Now listen for thine infant voice.

A little child, thou art our guest,
That weary ones in thee may rest;
Forlorn and lowly is thy birth,
That we may rise to heaven from earth.

Thou comest in the darksome night,
To make us children of the light,
To make us in the realms divine,
Like thine own angels, ’round thee shine.

All this for us thy love hath done,
By this to thee our love is won,
For this we tune our cheerful lays,
And shout our thanks in ceaseless praise.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

020b.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Please turn your hymnals to number 20 (Second Tune) and join with the clarinets in “From East to West”.

Name: CHRISTUM WIR SOLLEN LOBEN SCHON
Meter: L.M.
Tempo: With dignity
Music: Geistliche Lieder, Wittenberg, 1525
Words: Coelius Sedulius, cir. 450
Tr. John Ellerton, 1826-93

A second, slightly more sensible, and modern, setting for the words of “Coelius Sedulis” is a bit easier to interpret. Ahem, if modern equals the mid-1500s. Interestingly, it does remind me of the incidental music from a Shakespeare play at the American Players Theater in Spring Green. Apropos.

Here’s the pdf arrangement for clarinets: 020b.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

020a.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Please turn your hymnals to number 20 (first tune) and join with the clarinets in singing, “From East to West”.

Name: A SOLIS ORTUS CARDINE
Meter: Plainsong, Mode III
Tempo: Unison
Arr. by E. T. Cook in the BBC Hymn Book
Text: Coelius Sedulius, Cir. 450
Tr. John Ellerton, 1826-93

It’s weird, the older the Hymn, the more work it is and the weirder the harmonies. This one ends on what is, more or less, a minor chord.

Here’s the pdf of my arrangement: 020.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Anyway, I worked on this last night for several hours and I’m still not entirely happy with my performance of the melody. I think I failed to get myself into the proper headspace for the performance of “Plainsong, Mode III”.

I tracked the melody five times and placed it across the stereo landscape. Then I played all three accompaniment parts on Soprano Clarinet. Finally doubled the Tenor and Bass parts on Bass Clarinet. Added the Audacity “Large Room” Reverb Effect.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal