Cumbrian Society of Organists

Review : Hymns Old and New : 19 January 2013

On a wintry Saturday afternoon we made our way to Crosthwaite Church, Keswick where Ian Hare and Laurence Durston-Smith explored hymns old and new along with Worship Songs. After refreshments we were welcomed by Ian and he started by explaining how the hymn developed from plainsong to the modern hymn.

Firstly the plainsong was harmonised and then after the Reformation the psalms and canticles were set to Anglican Chants and Chorales and hymns were composed. The 17th and 18th centuries were the cradle of the modern hymn and this continues today.

Some suggestions for playing hymns:

1)  Introduce other instruments
2)  Different harmony for the last verse
3)  Soloist
4)  A verse unaccompanied
5)  Change of key
6)  Include hymns from different periods in    a Service
7)  Choice of registration
8)  The organ must lead

Some of the different styles of hymns were heard from a CD.

We were then introduced to Laurence who has been Director of Music at a school in Maidenhead and also a Church Organist and Choirmaster. We sang a small number of Worship Songs, helped along by Alison singing and Laurence accompanying. This was a most interesting and helpful session.

It was suggested that hymns are objective with a big statement whereas songs are more responsive to God. In a Service both hymns and songs to be included starting and finishing with the traditional hymn.

1)  When playing songs use a piano where possible, play with flexibility as songs tend to be more rhythmic.
2)  Accompaniment could be percussive or cantabile.
3)  Be ready to adapt by omitting occasional notes, adjusting tempo, filling in during held notes.
4)  Play the interlude or introduction: it helps with the start.
5)  Add extra notes in the left hand.
6)  Go up a semitone if the words require it.

All these points were vividly brought out as Laurence accompanied the singing. Many Thanks to Ian and Laurence for their input and to Ian for arranging the event.