Friday, September 4, 2009

Hymnals: A Comparison

I spent the afternoon with my Mom at the nursing home yesterday. There were a lot of fun activities, but my pick for Activity of the Day was the 2:00 p.m. Sing Along. Many of the residents had their wheelchairs parked around the wall by 1:00 so as to have the best seats. Mom and I arrived a few minutes after 2, but we were still able to get well-positioned before she joined about half the other participants in falling asleep.
Without fanfare (or introduction), singing guy and his piano playing wife launched right into "What a Friend We have in Jesus" segueing into "Amazing Grace" and "Rock of Ages". Then things got tricky. He started asking residents if they could identify the songs. They could, and sang them by heart. Wait a minute....I don't know any of these songs! I used to sing in the choir....I should know SOME of these.
Feeling, hymnally illiterate, I started flipping through the pages. Then I noticed them: The Notes. I remembered the voice of my music appreciation professor in college: "Baptist hymns have eighth notes and quarter notes. Episcopal hymns have half notes and full notes." There were all those perky little black eighth notes and quarter notes skipping and tripping all over the pages. No fat, full circles embracing entire measures to indicate their decorum and civility. Nothing to indicate any relationship to the Bachian hymns of my short-lived stint as a member of the choir. And one more reminder of my half-baked Liberal, Southern status as little old ladies who could not remember where they were from minute to minute sang all the words, joyfully, to songs I had never heard.


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  2. Your post brought a smile. As a pastor for 40 years (now retired) I've had similar experiences many times. Even Alzheimer patients, who rarely spoke at all, we able to sing along with the hymns. Something had been planted deep in their memories that music helped them articulate. (Ya gotta get more familiar with your hymn book. Never know when you might need it in old age...if not before!)

  3. Robert: You made me smile also. I'll make it a point to attend more sing alongs at the nursing home. My mother is only 22 years older than I, so I might need to know those songs sooner than I think. I want to get some of those "Name that tune" questions correct!