Hymn Tune Names
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,353
    Hymn tune naming conventions, and specific names for tunes, have settled into a standard, but looking through old hymnals you can see:
    - some tunes have very different names ("O du Frohliche" instead of "SICILIAN MARINERS")
    - or slightly different names ("SICILIAN AIRE")
    - some hymnals describe tune rather than name them ("A Sicilian folk song")
    - some don't name tunes at all (" ")

    It's clear that tunes based on folk songs usually, but not always, got names from the folk song. There seems to be a point where newly composed tunes were not given discreet names. But now, composers almost always name tunes. (This happens, sometimes, even when the tune is paired with a text in a way that makes the tune not really a discreet musical thing.) And the convention has become that tune names are written in ALL CAPS (or, ideally Small Caps), though that is recent and not entirely universal.

    Is there a written account of this history and development in general (as opposed to the single-tune stories in Hymnal Companions etc.)?
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,082
    My running assumption has been there have been multiple coexisting strands, the oldest seeming to me to be:

    1. Ordinal - the Psalter itself, and then local collections of vernacular psalters having tunes associated with ordinal enumeration, and also hymn/prose/anthem sets following that pattern (Genevan Psalter; Tallis' Tunes; Gibbons' Songs; et cet.).

    2. Incipit/first line - this goes back to Latin ritual books, and to Scriptural canticles, and then transferred to vernacular metrical psalter paraphrases and hymns

    3. Non-sacred songs, as you note.

    4. Honorific/commemorative/associative with places or persons, which seems to be more of a thing from 18th century onward, though there are examples going back to the 16th century, even if it's not clear to me that the naming was contemporary (WINCHESTER OLD).
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,383
    The tune we know today as WINCHESTER OLD was presumably arranged by George Kirbye (b. Suffolk, England, c. 1560; d. Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England, 1634) from a melody in Christopher Tye's Acts of the Apostles and published in T. Este's The Whole Book of Psalmes (1592) set to Psalm 84. As late as 1918, the tune was called (in some hymnals) simply WINCHESTER. The name OLD WINCHESTER also appears as the name in some hymnals around 1890, and the earliest printed use of WINCHESTER OLD that I've seen was in 1880.

    On the other hand, the tune we know as WINCHESTER NEW was based upon a melody (of a different metrical structure) which appeared in Musikalisches Handbuch der geistlichen Melodien, published in Hamburg, Germany, in 1690 by Georg Wittwe, with the text “Wer nur den lieben Gott." Also used by John and Charles Wesley (PHH 267) for their texts, it was reworked by William J. Havergal as a long-metre tune in his Old Church Psalmody (1864) and subsequently named for the cathedral city of Winchester, and subsequently named WINCHESTER NEW to distinguish it from the older tune above (although it was also known simply as WINCHESTER as late as 1873, as well as the name CRASSELIUS).
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,082
    ESTE'S EIGHTY-FOURTH would work....
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 355
    I have also seen in older hymnals tunes identified by their meter, example in the 1905 Arundel Hymnal: 6.5.5.6.6.5.5.6, then the hymn number(s) with that meter. Another example is the 1888 Catholic Hymnal compiled by Rev. A. Young, the first line of the hymn is given then the meter (Daily, Daily, Sing to Mary....87s. D.) sometimes they are listed as C.M.D. or L.M. I want to say that the metrical index proceeded the use of tune names.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,119
    As another data point, Praetorius' Musae Sioniae (1605-1610) indexes many items by "Kirchen Melodey", with mostly geographical abbreviations like "Schwer. Franck." & "F. Braunschw." for the two Aus tiefer Noth melodies.
  • Drake
    Posts: 108
    @CHGiffen, and here I was thinking that Winchester Old was lever-action while Winchester New was semi-automatic.
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 142
    @Drake, how much can it repeat until your ears are blasted out?
  • Drake
    Posts: 108
    @m_r_taylor, You'll have to ask the music director. He's calling the shots! (okay, that hurt).
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • But what does he call them?
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,383
    Then there's the organist who composed the hymn tune WINDCHESTER.
  • Drake
    Posts: 108
    @Nathan_the_Organist, That sounds like a Victor Borge line in a skit where his son says he calls the lights (as stage manager).
  • Drake,

    I wasn't intending to make a Victor Borge reference, but I think I know which skit you are referring to. I was just retelling a rather bad joke that my dad has made too many times.
    Thanked by 2Drake CHGiffen