A Conversation for Wrestling Jacob: Smash Hit of 1742

Hymns as popular music

Post 1


Hymns were always intended to be popular hits. St Augustine (400 CE) said that a boy singing a hymn in the marketplace would inadvertently do his soul good -- implying that the boy heard it simply as a catchy tune. Luther put sacred words to the popular songs of the 1500s, saying "Why should the devil have all the good tunes?"

Well, perhaps not always. The po-faced approach to church music is perhaps properly blamed on the Victorians.

Hymns as popular music

Post 2

Dmitri Gheorgheni, Post Editor

smiley - laugh That's so true. Benjamin Franklin drew attention to the Philly street corner boys singing hymns after Whitefield had been staying at his house. (I'd draw a parallel to more modern Philly street singing, but I'm afraid of that filther.)

Even though the Victorians stuffed up the singing, there were a lot of popular gospel song writers during the late 19th Century, particularly over here in the US. Thinking of Fanny Crosby and others. They gave us rousing stuff sometimes.

Consider 'Dare to Be a Daniel' by Philip Bliss:


Of course, the Mennonites here are keeping it pretty staid. But I'll bet the originally Temperance Union singers put some punch into it. smiley - winkeye (I always liked 'Hold the Fort'.)

This past Sunday, for a prelude, the local praise leader gave the congregation a vocal version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' (with suitably altered lyrics for Christmas, no kitchen chairs were involved). The choir spontaneously joined in with backup (how could we resist?). The congregation applauded. This is not your grandmother's Baptist church, but hey...


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