Thursday, 17 May 2007

John Bell's Songs

Over on my usual blog (Sentire Cum Ecclesia) there is a discussion of John Bell's theology/ideology and his songs. Some commentators felt a little less positive than me about the merits of his songs and have given several caveats--especially about "Will you come and follow me" and "Sing Hey for the Carpenter).

Yes, all these caveats I share. Nevertheless his songs are not universally awful and and his poetry is regularly brilliant even if you don't agree with his sentiments. Especially clever is the way in which he uses traditional folk tunes that are very singable (compared to your average Haugen or Haas composition anyway).

I like (and I give Together in Song references):

+ "In you, O Lord, I found refuge" TIS 19 (A version of Psalm 31, and one of the only tunes I know to which the Hail Mary can be sung)

+ "Just as a lost and thirsty deer" TIS 26 (a version of Psalm 42, and a brilliantly plaintive tune)

+ "Clap your hands all you nations" TIS 29 (a good one for Ascension, a version of Psalm 47)

+ "Sing to God with joy and gladness" TIS 92 (a version of psalm 147)

+ "No wind at the window" TIS 287 (An annunciation hymn to a traditional irish tune)

+ "Christmas is coming" TIS 289 (An Advent Wreath lighting song--great for the kids)

+ "Who is the baby an hour or two old?" TIS 325 (a good Christmas carol)

+ "Pull back the viel" TIS 326 (A Christmas/Easter song that is a little bit daring, but not heretical, and has a terrific tune)

+ "Funny kind of night" TIS 329 (I don't recommend the words, which are a bit "funny", but the tune is tops and I have arranged the proper words of the Gloria in Excelsis to it -- email me if you want the full score -- for Christmas eve which works a treat)

+ "God beyond glory" TIS 678 (quite a good wedding hymn)

Then, of course, there are those that I wouldn't go near with a 40 foot barge pole, such as "She sits like a bird" TIS 418, a Pentecost Hymn that images the Holy Spirit in feminine form. Just too heterodox for words (It's a great tune, though.)

Interestingly, Together in Song has neither "Will you come and follow me" nor "Sing Hey for the Carpenter".