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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

May 12, 2011

When is a hymn book not a hymn book?

evelyn @ 11:42 am

‘Is it true that Forth in Praise is compiling a new hymn book?’

This question was put to me by a very pleasant lady in the middle of the New Mass Music Singing Day. The hall in Linlithgow was full of the 80-odd people who had come to the day. It was lunchtime, and the buzz was tremendous. Hymn book? I thought, my head full of Glorias and Sanctuses, What did she mean? Thinking she was referring to something on the lines of CH4 or Laudate, I replied, ‘Oh no, we couldn’t do anything as big as that’. The lady smiled, and disappeared back into the crowd.

It was a full day later that it dawned on me what she must have been talking about. She was almost certainly a beginner organist, and the answer to her question is yes, yes, YES!

‘Keep in time, whatever happens’ is the Organ Learning Project motto for beginners. The parish trainees very soon told me that they couldn’t do that using our hymnal. ‘The hymn book is too busy!’ complained Trainee no. 4, and I knew just what she meant. Harmonies of four or more parts and all the passing notes are difficult for beginners to read at speed, even with practice, and that’s with a good hymnal. With the not-so-good ones, editing as you go along is the name of the game, rather than straightforward reading, and for beginners that’s just about impossible. The answer for our trainees, at least for the moment, is chords. Or to put it more technically, keyboard harmony. Even the couple of trainees with Grade 6 piano have asked for the melody-and-chords version of the hymn book.

But what they all like most of all are the two little white Forth in Praise booklets containing a dozen or so out-of-copyright hymn tunes with melody, easy chords and a bass line. And this is what we are planning to expand. We now have around 80 of these hymns on the stocks, and when we reach 100 we are going to publish them. And a collection of 100 hymns will be a hymn book – of course it will!

So to the lady who made the enquiry, if she is reading this blog post, my deepest apologies. There will indeed be a hymn book, albeit a very specialised elementary one. Look out for news about it on the Playing the Organ page, which is to be revised in June.

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