Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gimme that old-time religion

Some of my readers may be scratching their heads after reading about Crimond Airfield in the link in the previous post, wondering why the name rings a bell. Well, Crimond is a very famous hymn tune:

It's one of a class of hymns properly known as metrical psalms. As a child (and well into my teens) I sang in a church choir (Episcopal, in England) and all I knew about these hymns was that the word order seemed utterly bizarre:

All people that on earth do dwell
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell -
Come ye before Him and rejoice!

The Lord ye know is God indeed
Without our aid He did us make
We are His folk; He doth us feed
And for His sheep He doth us take!

O enter then His gates with praise!
Approach with joy His courts unto!
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always
For it is seemly so to do

For why...The Lord our God is good
His mercy is for ever sure
His truth at all times firmly stood
And shall from age to age endure!

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
The God Whom Heaven and earth adore
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore

"Him serve with fear"? "Approach with joy his courts unto"? WTF? To this day I find it hard to read most of the metrical psalms without an urge to giggle nervously.

But the best thing about metrical psalms - and for this I am indebted to my wife who grew up in the Presbyterian tradition - is that the words were long considered too sacred to be sung other than in services on the Sabbath. So how did choirs rehearse? They used sets of made-up nonsense lyrics (practice verses), which in many cases are frankly better than the drivel they replace:

How lovely is thy dwelling-place,
Sir Archie Grant, to me;
The home farm and the policies,
How pleasant, Sir, they be.

I found a lovely "metrical hymn" on a Buddhist topic(!)  here, which would fit nicely to Crimond.

I did wonder whether I should produce a Crimond Airfield: the sort of thing the WW2 airmen might have sung. You know, "The Lord's my wingman, I'll not crash / He helps me down to fly", that sort of thing. No? Maybe not.