Time again to point out the Open Hymnal Project, which has a special PDF booklet of public domain Christmas hymns, (direct link) and a ZIP (archive) file GIF (image) files of individual files that should make it easier for you to put individual hymns in an order of service, downloadable from the main page.
See this page for an index of available hymns, Christmas or not, from which you can download related files, including single PDFs and GIFs.
I had some site problems this last week. My old main blog, BoyintheBands.com, was badly hacked and in the process of hardening the other sites against attack, I ruined the WordPress install for my homage site to the 1937 “red hymnal” HymnsoftheSpirit.org.
I had to trash the old system and completely reinstalled it. Easy, but I misplaced the theme (no great loss) in the process. So the site is there, if plain.
Did you know there’s a Hosea Ballou hymn still in current use? Of course, not among us. It’s kept alive by shape-note singers.
Come, let us raise our voices high,
And form a sacred song,
To Him who rules the earth and sky,
And does our days prolong.
Who through the night gave us to rest,
This morning cheered our eyes;
And with the thousands of the blest,
In health made us to rise.
Early to God we’ll send our prayer,
Make haste to pray and praise,
That He may make our good His care,
And guide us all our days.
And when the night of death comes on,
And we shall end our days;
May His rich grace the theme prolong
Of His eternal praise.
Here’s a video, from a singing convention in Ireland.
I took a course in hymnology during my Master of Divinity program at Brite Divinity School around 1996, when the Hymn Society will still housed on campus. The textbooks were written by esteemed hymnologist and minister Erik Routley (1917-1982) with the lectures supplemented by recorded lectures by Routley, helpful because hymns need to be heard and sung, and he was prone to sing fragments.
I loved that class, but I hadn’t heard the recordings again until a couple of days ago, when I discovered his Christian Hymnody series — originally issued on tape — playable online.
It covers the history of Christian hymnody though the end of the nineteenth century, and if you don’t have a background in hymnology it’ll probably help deeply. A bit of a caveat there, as I’ve not replayed it all: it runs about three hours.
Later notes: It runs in a conversational style,like having dinner with a very knowledgeable person who dominates the conversation. But don’t expect to learn anything about the Eastern church. Or is it six hours? A tape has two sides, you know.
The Services of Religion associated with the red Hymns of the Spirit drew from many sources. One was Devotional Services for Public Worship (1903), an example of English Congregationalist liturgy; it represents a parallel strain to Free Christianity within English Dissent.
Each evening, for vespers, I “sing” the Bonum Est Confiteri, Prasm 92:1-4 as it read in the rubrics, and included in the Coverdale version:
¶ Then shall be sang the following Psalm:
Bonum Est Confiteri.
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord: and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most Highest;
To tell of thy loving-kindness early in the morning: and of thy truth in the night-season;
Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the lute: upon a loud instrument, and upon the harp.
For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy works: and I will rejoice in giving praise for the operations of thy hands.
Do I sing it? No. But there a different ways congregations can use this (and other psalms and canticles):
Read in in unison.
Read in by alternating verses or half verses; alternating between a worship leader and congregation, or between halves of the congregation.
Read in unison, but book-ended with a sung antiphon. More often seen in newer hymnals.
Chanted: plainsong or Anglican chant being two options.
A hymn to Nikkal, a Ugarit and Caananite goddess of fruit and wife of the moon god, Yarikh (and namesake of Jericho.)
All I know from memory about the Ugarit language is that it’s an ancient Semitic language that you could learn in the religion department at my alma mater, UGA (University of Georgia) and the co-incidence made me laugh.
But no youthful trifles here. This is a beautiful work, and fitting at high summer. If I only had grapes and figs and apricots. I am entranced by this music, nearly three and a half millenia on. (Thanks to hymnologist and Esperatist Leland “Haruo” Ross for posting this on Facebook.)
They’ve been in for a while, truth be told. Not ready to review them, but each is larger that I thought it might be. There is the words-only edition of the United Church of Canada’s Voices United and the Church of Scotland’s Church Hymnary 4 (purple) with the words-only Unitarian and Free Christian Hymns of Faith and Freedom, Church Hymnary 3 (melody edition) and Church Hymnary Revised (pocket words-only) for size comparison.
This small 1865 American Unitarian Association assortment of rousing songs and Bible readings (arranged for unison or responsive reading, and with headings like “Those who turn from Holiness are condemned”) isn’t explicitly for Union soldiers, but songs like “Arise, New-England’s Sons!” and “The Massachusetts Line” weren’t likely to appeal to Johnny Reb.