Hymnbook Trivia: Some Information for the Curious

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(This is an excerpt from the book Our Latter-day Hymns.)

Here are some random facts about the 1985 hymnal. They will be of interest to those who wish to know more about the format and history of this hymnbook.

From a total of 358 contributors, 168 are Latter-day Saints, and at least 67 are women. Several contributors have only a first initial, and no other information is known. More may be women.

The composer with the greatest number of hymn tunes to his credit in the 1985 hymnal is Evan Stephens, who wrote sixteen of the tunes. The author whose name is linked with the greatest number of texts is William W. Phelps: he wrote or adapted fifteen of the texts in the hymnal.

The total number of hymns is 341; however, the book actually con-tains 323 different hymn titles. Eighteen of the hymns are printed twice, seven in arrangements for women's voices as well as for congregation, eight in arrangements for men's voices as well as for congregation, one with two different settings for men's voices, and two with two different settings for congregation. As hymnals go, 341 hymns is not considered a large hymnal. Many of the standard Protestant hymnals have twice as many hymns.

Three hymns are for women's voices only and are not arranged as congregational hymns. Five hymns are for men's voices only, and six hymns are for men's choir only. No hymns in the 1985 hymnal are labeled as choir hymns; however, the First Presidency's preface encourages "choirs to use the hymnbook as their basic resource."

It is somewhat unusual for the principal hymnbook of a church to include children's hymns, because in many churches children do not attend the adult worship service. But Latter-day Saint families attend sacrament meeting together, and thus a group of favorite children's songs has been included in our hymnal.

From the 1950 hymnal, 249 hymns were retained in both words and music. Ninety-two hymns were newly created or newly borrowed for the 1985 hymnbook:

• Thirteen texts that were retained from the 1950 hymnal were paired with new tunes (newly composed or newly borrowed).

• Forty-four new compositions by Latter-day Saints, created since the publication of the last hymnbook, were added.

• Fourteen Latter-day Saint hymns and children's songs came from previous Latter-day Saint music publications.

• Five new Latter-day Saint texts were paired with newly borrowed non-Latter-day Saint tunes.

• Sixteen newly borrowed texts and tunes came from non-Latter-day Saint sources. (For a complete list of titles in each of these categories, see Hymns Newly Added, p. 18.)

Many of the hymns that were retained underwent some editing—in both text and music—for the 1985 hymnal. The Hymnbook Committee tried to avoid unnecessary tinkering; most of the changes are minor improvements and do not draw attention to themselves. Some, however, are more noticeable.

Of the musical changes perhaps the most noticeable is in key signatures. So that a worshiper who wished to sing the melody could reach the highest notes, 163 hymns were transposed to a lower key. Many of these lower keys have the additional advantage of being easier for the keyboard accompanist.

Time signatures were changed on twenty-three hymns. Most 12/8, 9/8, 4/2, and 3/2 hymns were changed to 4/4 and 3/4. Common time and cut time hymns were changed to 4/4 and 2/4.

Other examples of musical changes include the removal of rests at the ends of some phrases; the "beaming" of dotted rhythms rather than printing them as separate, unconnected notes with flags; and the occasional removal of duet passages in favor of four-part harmony.

Changes in the text were prompted by various motives. Many of the comments in this volume outline several kinds of changes and the reasons they were made. Examples of typical changes are as follows:

• Omission or revision of verses because they center too directly on North America at a time when we are becoming more conscious of ourselves as a worldwide church. For example, see the discussions of "Father, Thy Children to Thee Now Raise" (no. 91) and "Rejoice, Ye Saints of Latter Days" (no. 290).

• Changes because of awkwardness. For example, see the comments on the revision of "you who unto Jesus" in "How Firm a Foundation" (no. 85).

• Changes because a particular thought was expressed in a way that might be misunderstood. For example, see the discussions of "Have I Done Any Good?" (no. 223) and "Today While the Sun Shines" (no. 229).

• Changes because the hymn's language gave unnecessary emphasis to thoughts of violence or revenge. For example, see the discussion of "Up, Awake, Ye Defenders of Zion" (no. 248).

• Omission of a verse or verses to improve the effect and unity of a hymn. For example, see the commentary on "Ye Who Are Called to Labor" (no. 321).

• Changes in wording because a word or phrase in a hymn borrowed from another Christian denomination did not quite fit with Latter-day Saint belief. For example, see the discussion of "Our Father, by Whose Name" (no. 296).

• Alteration of titles, rather than using first lines as titles. Sometimes the first line did not really communicate the message of the hymn. For example, see the discussions of "Joseph's Smith's First Prayer" (no. 26) and "Scatter Sunshine" (no. 230). (A complete list is given in Hymns with New Titles, p. 24.)

Most hymnals of other denominations do not include metronome markings. But because music directors in Latter-day Saint congregations have varying degrees of musical training, some appreciate the specific metronome markings rather than just general indications of mood. The metronome markings in the 1985 hymnal show a range of tempos (_=69-84, for example), rather than just a single metronome marking as in the 1950 hymnal.

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