Meredith Henne on Old Musical Wine & the New Wineskins
When perusing the bulletin from a pew one Sunday a few years ago, I happily noted a hymn—a hymn!—in the weekly song lineup of the church I then attended. It was some old classic, like “Rock of Ages” or “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” and a welcome reprieve from newer songs with endless rain references and a kindergarten vocabulary. Unfortunately, when the music began, I belted out a tune very different from the song leader’s and quickly petered out in embarrassment. The new melody was lovely, just unknown—confusion being the price of having a hymn in an Evangelical service these days, I suppose.
That morning was an awkward first taste of what is actually an overall encouraging trend, at least to this traditionalist and long-time church pianist. Churches that have for years relied on modern choruses are taking another look at hymns, and their musicians are returning to the content and style of time-honored religious anthems for inspiration. Over the past ten years, groups of young musicians disenchanted with shallow praise songs have increasingly formed themselves into sacred music rescue squads, dusting off poetry and tunes long forgotten in their local congregations. These musicians tend to be Evangelicals with liturgical or traditional leanings.
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