Ancient and Modern: Hymns and songs for refreshing
worship John Barnard, Gordon Giles, Anne Harrison, Stephen
Rogers, Tim Ruffer, Christine Smith, editors
Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd £30 (Full Music
HYMN books need to change with the times, and the old favourite
Hymns Ancient and Modern, first published in 1861, has
once again been transformed. Since 1861 there have been many
editions, and the words Ancient and Modern featured only
as a subtitle to the book published as Common Praise in
2000; Sing Praise followed in 2010.
The latest volume, a very fat one in bright-red covers, has the
rather cumbersome full title Ancient and Modern: Hymns and
songs for refreshing worship; but that title accurately
reflects the editors' intentions, to provide a book that retains
the greatest hymns of the past 700 years, but also to embrace the
best of the recent and new material.
There are nearly 400 items here that are not in Common
Praise, and these have been drawn from a variety of
contemporary sources and traditions. With a total of 847 items, the
volume is a little on the bulky size, but it is a wonderful
treasure-store, reflecting the truly catholic tastes of today's
With an eye on communities, large and small, of worshippers, the
book contains family-friendly music for all ages, and continues a
trend established in Sing Praise of including short
chant-like melodies from the Taizé and Iona communities for use in
eucharistic, regular, or occasional services.
The Celtic Alleluia is here in various sections
(Easter, Canticles. and Affirmations of Faith and Sending Out) but
there are also the Kyries (Lord, have mercy) from the Mass of
Blessed John Henry Newman by James MacMillan.
In the case of the modern numbers, care has been taken to
provide sensible accompaniments, some of which have been specially
commissioned; and there are new descants to well-known hymns, to
help revitalise the traditional repertory. Some accompaniments
definitely call for piano rather than organ, including "Colours of
day" (Light Up The Fire). Parry's Jerusalem
appears both in its original form, with Blake's words, and an
elaborate accompaniment, as well as in the section of Gathering
Hymns, where it is married to words by Michael Perry ("Bring to the
Lord a glad new song") and has a simplified accompaniment.
"Amazing grace" has a simplified vocal line, harmonised by John
Barnard, but I am not sure that I agree with the rather intricate
rhythmic notation that Anders Nyberg has chosen for the South
African song Siyahamba ("We are marching in the light of
David Evans's "Be still, for the presence of the Lord" is here
in two versions: one with accompaniment, and one suitable for
four-part choir. Among the descants is Malcolm Archer's to Cwm
Following the Common Worship lectionary, the hymns are
arranged seasonally; but the editors have provided significant
sections focused on liturgical use. There are also useful
collections of hymns for Marriage, Justice and Peace, Sorrow and
Lament, Creation and the Environment, and the Church's Ministry and
Mission. There are indexes to help choose hymns in every possible
context, including a thematic index, a biblical index, and a list
of hymns suitable for all-age worship. There are also suggestions
of five hymns for every Sunday and major festival of the liturgical
year, as defined in Common Worship.
Inevitably, in a book such as this, the more profound items rub
shoulders with the prosaic. There is room for "He's got the whole
world in his hand" and "This little light of mine", as well as John
Ireland's Love Unknown, which appears three times to
different words, and in two different keys. "While shepherds
watched their flocks by night" comes with its traditional melody,
as well as the tune we sing to "On Ilkla Moor baht 'at".
The tune that we know as The Holly and the Ivy is given to
a Christingle text by Basil Bridge ("It's rounded like an
orange"), and another Christmas tune, the Sussex
Carol, comes with words by Brian Wren suitable for a marriage
service ("As man and woman we were made"). The hymn tune
Bunessan, which we associate with the words "Morning has
broken", is pressed into service for four sets of words, while the
tune Highwood crops up five times.
The folk song O waly, waly comes with three different
sets of words. So does the Londonderry Air, appearing in
two guises, harmonised by Donald Davison and John Barnard.
There is only one available tune given for "Lead, kindly light",
and that is Harris's Alberta; gone are the two others that
appeared in previous volumes - by Purday (Sandon) and
Dykes (Lux Benigna); but many other Victorian
tunes have survived, including Richard Redhead's Petra for
"Rock of Ages".
Crimond is here with Brother James's Air as
alternative tunes to the familiar version of Psalm 23. The modern
songs by Kendrick, Inwood, and Sydney Carter which have become
standard favourites are joined by numbers by Maggi Dawn, Keith
Getty, Stuart Townend, and Marty Haugen, among others.
A small number of plainsong tunes are retained, and are
presented in unbarred quavers, although the familiar Advent hymn "O
come, O come, Emmanuel" is given in a four-square
I was surprised to find some hymns at a lower pitch than usual,
including "Once in royal David's city", "Silent night",
and "The first Nowell", the latter with a descant by David Iliff. I
am also not yet used to seeing so many lines of text without
capital letters. But, whatever quibble one might have about detail,
this is a significant volume, and a tribute to its
The Revd Ronald Corp, an assistant priest at St Alban's,
Holborn, in London, is a composer and conductor.