Hymn Tunes That Are Used Too Often
  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 94
    Here is my list of popular hymn tunes that are used too much. Most of them are fine tunes, simply becoming boring from use with multiple texts.
    1. Duke Street/Truro
    2. Beach Spring
    3. Hyfrydol
    4. Austria
    5. Thaxted
    6. Abbot's Leigh
    7. Italian Hymn (Moscow)
    8. New Britain
    9. Land of Rest
    10. Tallis' Canon
    I would enjoy reading lists from others on forum.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,052
    That's a pretty good list. Every one of them is overused.
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  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,606
    Is this list supposed to be about people overusing hymn tunes at Mass or about publishers putting too many texts to the same tunes?
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  • Liam
    Posts: 3,782
    Music becomes boring for organists and choristers long before it becomes boring for congregants. On that list, I can only think of two tunes that have more than a couple of widely used non-seasonal-specific texts commonly appearing in widely used Catholic hymn resources (yeh, a lot of qualifiers), and those two tunes would be the Amurkan ones, BEACH SPRING and LAND O'REST (the latter long referred to tartly by a SSJ sister as a "hurdy gurdy tune").

    ABBOT'S LEIGH and THAXTED are vocal workouts for Amurkan Kathlick congregants. That's what makes them *tiring*, not exactly *boring*, for congregants.

    I don't share the unease (or contempt) expressed by some on these boards over the years that it's bad or poor(er) practice to have more than one text associated with a tune. (Partly it's because back in the years when I had some responsibility with programming, I kept spreadsheets and through my data-keeping I was able to correct my faulty sense memory of what we were doing too much/too little of, as it were, and I realized may others in music ministry seemed vulnerable to similar faulty sense memory issues.)



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  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 186
    Ode to Joy has to be on there too.
    Thanked by 2cesarfranck SarahJ
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,404
    I truly believe that PIP don't get bored of over-used hymn tunes. It doesn't mean they aren't overused though.
    Thanked by 3cesarfranck bdh MarkB
  • rogue63
    Posts: 405
    If ya don’t like BEACH SPRING, let’s slug it out now. Them’s my peoples’ sounds.
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  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 94
    I was approaching list from both angles. All are set to many texts by publishers. Because of meter and familiarity, the tunes I listed are all too often used in place of unfamiliar tunes published with a worthy text. Personally, I believe that no tune should be used with more than two or three texts in a hymnal. Actually, I do like Beach Spring. And, Ode to Joy should have made my list.
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  • Liam
    Posts: 3,782
    I would agree about ODE TO JOY - a problem compounded by the fact that the tune as used today rarely includes the one signature twist that made the melody as composed memorable - the anticipation of the final line (if you think of it in four lines). (Theodore Marier refused to omit it in his hymnal.) The omission of that genius moment is like settling for coal instead of a diamond. It's one of those things I would insist on "correcting" into an order of service were it left to me to decide, even though I have the strong impression that most church musicians don't even consciously register it as an alteration (unless they sing/play in secular choruses/orchestras).

    I much prefer AUSTRIA to the debased/corrupted form of ODE TO JOY. I would never complain about AUSTRIA because for decades it was functionally interdicted because of The War(s) and now that the generations who objected to it by bad association are passing from the scene, it's finally coming back out of the shade into the light it merits.

    And I love many tunes from the shape note tradition, lest anyone misunderstand my first response.

    And I'd love to sing My Country 'Tis of Thee to MOSCOW. And please find more uses for DANBY.
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  • MarkB
    Posts: 251
    I think any parish that could legitimately complain about those hymn tunes being sung too often is in an enviable position concerning music sung at Mass.

    I attended a Confirmation Mass a couple weeks ago at a friend's parish and was subjected to OCP and praise and worship dreck. Bob Hurd's "Envia tu Espiritu"? Please spare me.
  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 94
    Liam, Many years ago in the hymn playing portion of my audition to be organist at my parish, Ode to Joy (#376, TH82) was the first hymn requested. I was told later that if I had not played the last line as written, the interview would have come to a halt. And, Austria is much preferrable to AL for "Glorious things of The are spoken.". AL is set well to several other texts, just does not seem to hold up with "Glorious things."
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  • Liam
    Posts: 3,782
    In an audition, when coal instead of a jewel is on the menu, one gives the lump demanded. It's in the nature of the audition.

    And here's a PS on the origins of NEW BRITAIN which I find helpful in considering how tunes evolved in the early ages of cheap mass printing 200+ years ago: https://www.shenandoahharmony.com/2015/did-lucius-chapin-write-the-amazing-grace-tune/
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,052
    My biggest objection to multiple texts with the same tunes doesn't originate from boredom. When there are several such texts, it occurs to me the publisher could have used fewer texts and settings and included some other worthy hymns in their places.
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  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 94
    CharlesW: Absolutely!
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,132
    As is my wont in such matters, I went to my favourite and beloved source, The Hymnal 1940, and found (I wasn't surprised):

    Fifteen tunes with three different texts
    Lancashire
    Melcombe
    Mendon
    Moscow (a.k.a. Italian Hymn)
    Nunc Sancte
    Pange lingua
    Puer nobis
    St. Agnes
    St. Catherine (a.k.a. St. Finbar)
    St. Thomas (Wade)
    Salva festa dies
    Stuttgart
    Vetter
    Wareham
    Winchester New

    Three tunes with four different texts
    Old 100th
    Regent Square
    St. Flavian

  • Liam
    Posts: 3,782
    And, for a different context for one of the offenders, from 2013:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeqcKKviqZY
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  • Carol
    Posts: 470
    One advantage of multiple sets of lyrics for the same tune is that the choir can quickly learn a new set of lyrics since they already know the harmony. This is great when most of the choir can't really read music. The danger is that we once had "Ode to Joy" for the entrance and recessional hymn. When this was pointed out, the person who chose the music said "I meant to do that."
  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 94
    Carol, I suppose "Ode To Joy" was the Alpha and Omega for that Sunday!
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  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,825
    .

    (Sorry, I carelessly pushed a wrong key and my comment dissappearedl
    I don't feel like reconstructing it just now.
    I do not love computers.)
    Thanked by 2cesarfranck Carol
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,782
    I dislike LAMBILLOTE but given its one-time-per-year use I can't agree that it's overused in any meaningful way other than musician boredom contrasting with Why Not Do Something Better? syndrome, which illustrates my initial point. I am not a fan of LLANFAIR either, but it usually only appears once or twice in Eastertide to variations on two basic text themes.

    I strongly dislike RVW's Hail Thee Festival Day in its iterations. Organists tend to have orgasms over it and those who are allowed to program it get tempted to work its iterations over the liturgical year (sigh). It's a vocalise for everyone else. Not one of RVW's better efforts from a congregational singing perspective. (Festival Canticle is a pale modern echo of its more-frustrating-than-fun where-the-heck-are-we? structure, mercifully to only one text, and I am glad that my years of being in a parish that sang it seven Sundays in a row - to "unify the season" - are long past. Another creature adored by organists more than singing PIPs.)

    I disagree about GROSSER GOTT. I don't tire of the latter as it's only got one good text normally associated with it, and it's sung much less in the past generation than it used to be as best I can tell from my travels. Maybe it's overused in traditional Low Masses or communities that still program it on the second Sunday of most months (I can remember those days), but not so much in the Northeast USA for a long time.

    There may be a prosaic (pun intended) reason for overuse of non-iambic metered tunes: well known English(ed) hymn texts seem to be dominated by iambic meters and a treasury of tunes developed around that lode of texts. Not so much with other meters.
  • liampmcdonough
    Posts: 61
    I get bored of In Babilone before reaching the end of the first line.
    Which is the same as the second.
    And the fourth.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,825
    Looking for an Easter hymn which is not over used? (And is in no danger of ever having been.)

    A marvelous hymn which is apparently unheard of outside the 1940, a profound hymn at the procession on Easter Day, is '"Welcome, Happy Morning!" Age to Age Will Say', sung to Fortunatus, a grand tune with processional gravitas. The text is by St John Damascene, and is rich in biblical references.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,052
    I have used that.
  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 94
    We sing it most years. Also, it is in TH82.
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  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,825
    Another tune, Moscow, was over used the first time it was sung, nay, even when it was thought of, even before being written down.
    Another such tune is Galilee, which a friend of long ago referred to as Ass's Bray.
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  • Whatever the tune is for "Bring Flowers of the Fairest"
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,802
    Alas, "Hail Thee Festival Day" is not even used minimally in the churches I frequent, let alone overused.
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  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,825
    I must disagree with the honourable Liam about Salve festa dies. When I was younger I didn't like it at all and thought it a fine example of confused dis-unity. As years have turned to decades, though, I have come to like it very much. I've even written challenging descants for all sections of it (and will mail them to anyone who might wish to use them).

    However! I do believe that once a year, on Easter Day, is enough! It was certainly enough for its VIIth century author, none other than Venantius Fortunatus, whose focus was entirely on the absolute uniqueness and power of the Paschal feast. It should not be made into a multi-festal extravaganza. It is this unfortunate custom (over use) which has earned for it undeserved opprobrium. Repeating it on Ascension, Pentecost, etc. etc. is indeed extreme over use.
    If our hymnals had more than two or three or four Ascension and Pentecost hymns with the same text rehashed for each, and all of which lack any festal gravitas or literary depth, we would not need to opt for yet another offering of Salve festa dies for a hymn and a tune of any real substance.

    Incidentally, one of The Hymnal 1982's better offerings (at no. 219) is the Ascension hymn by A.T Russell, 'The Lord Ascendeth up on High', to a tune by Praetorius, Ach Herr, du allerhochster Gott. I even have a recording of this sung by King's and, taken at an elegant pace, it is grand. I commend it to all. It would even make a fine anthem for village choirs.

    Finally: it has been noted that Hyfrydol is on (if not over) the borderline of being over used. A really beautiful alternative to it would be Blaenwern, a tune with an elegant sway which may be over used in Britain but is virtually unheard of on these shores and their hinterlands.
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  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 64
    .
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,825
    .
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,559
    "Bring Flowers of the Fairest"


    Under great protest, I programmed this for our group's May Crowning. I made myself perfectly clear that I am not a fan of this tune - especially since we would be processing whilst singing this. The irregular rhythms plus the roller-coaster range of this song make it hard enough, without adding walking to it. And above all - it sounds like something a drunken John McCormack would sing in a pub before crying about how much he loved his mother.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,052
    I retired from teaching in 2012 - school May crowning was the last time I played the flower song.
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  • Carol
    Posts: 470
    We used to do "Bring Flowers of the Fairest" at the school where I taught for May Crowning, which always seemed to become an extravaganza (even involving dancing Kindergartners the last few years.) Those poor kids were terrorized by that teacher and I provided the accompaniment! It's hard to sing while biting your tongue!
  • stulte
    Posts: 244
    It's not a hymn, but Palestrina's Sicut Cervus needs to spend some quality time on the shelf while his many, many other motets get a chance to shine.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,825
    ...Sicut Cervus needs to...
    Much as I love it, the same can be said for 'If Ye Love Me'.... Tallis did write other things.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,445
    My choir does "It Ye Love" once a year on the Sixth Sunday of Easter--because it is the proper communion text in the Roman Missal.

    The Tallis we are currently working on is "Verily, Verily, I say unto you"--a very courageous text for a Recusant to set...
  • Jackson,

    I'm fond of "Welcome happy morning", but haven't heard it in decades, except when I play it. It needs to be played in a stately manner to avoid sounding like chipmunks, but I think it would be a welcome recovery.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,445
    I have a difficulty, in that I need to supply music for daily Masses (without choir), which includes the proper antiphons and hymns (aka stuffed Mass) to keep everyone happy. We always conclude with the seasonal Marian antiphon--one could perhaps say that they are over-used, but since one could also say that they are a prescribed liturgical text, and that they change seasonally, I don't think they are. We also have a perpetual novena to St. Jude, which includes a hymn (replaced only when days such as Christmas fall on a Wednesday) set to Aurelia. Suffice to say, my "over use" of hymns might be far different from someone else's. We use the Adoremus Hymnal, and I am confining my list to Ordinary time...by the end of Christmas-tide if I have to hear Adeste Fideles one more time I might not be responsible for my actions...

    1) AURELIA
    2) LOBE DEN HERRN
    3) ELACOMBE
    4) RENDEZ A DIEU
    5) OLD HUNDREDTH
    6) ST. ANNE
    7) LAUDA ANIMA
    8) LOURDES HYMN
    9) EISENACH
    10) O DU FROEHLICHE/SICILIAN MARINERS
    11) NICEA
    12) TRURO
    13) ST. THOMAS
    14) WERNER

    Many of these are excellent tunes, and the other side of the coin for my thinking them "over-used" is that they are generally sung extremely well by even a small Daily Mass congregation--so well, in fact, that I can often ornament the tune and play alternate harmonizations without throwing them off. So, six of one, half-dozen of the other.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,825
    ...many, many other...
    I think that people who have the resources, human, literary, and talent-wise, to have a larger repertory don't repeat SC and IYLM as much as do those who are less well endowed. The appeal of these to the less proficient is that they are both astoundingly good music, absolutely glorious little gems, and yet they are relatively easy as polyphony goes (they practically sing themselves!) and for some represent a 'major work' in their repertory. Bravo for them! And, for those who are more proficient, don't neglect to do these at least once or twice a year!

    Congratulations on VVISUY, Salieri. It is indeed a gem that is too little heard - or even head of.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,865
    I would guess Verily, verily isn't so much Tallis' second best piece as much as his next-to-least-tricky-for mixed-voices piece. I feel a little guilty about not doing more Josquin than Ave…serena (which no one tires of twice a year) but we probably esteem it higher than 15c musicians did for that same reason: the real jewels are Praeter rerum, Benedicta es and Pange lingua, which I can't bring myself to attempt SATB.

    Hymn overuse varies from job to job (I rather miss AURELIA these days) but one that's always made me recoil is The First Noel. I finally put my finger on it: the refrain is the same as the verse.
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  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,825
    ...put my finger on it...
    Ha! Perhaps my sentiments about TFN would be better expressed in another thread of a year or two ago, namely, 'Guilty Pleasures'. I have always liked 'The First Nowell' precisely because it is so awful. With its mangled English (a sin to which renaissance Englishmen are entitled and which is, yes, fun to sing and make sense of [and fun to fit to the melody!]), and a wildly exuberant melody, it is almost Gilbert & Sullivanesque. Somehow it works as a very grand hymn of no little literary substance (though less than scholarly expressed). It is the perfect 'recessional' for Christmas at midnight or Christmas Day. It's not too bad for the Epiphany, either. And! It should never be rushed but should be sung at a very dignified pace.

    Whilst on Christmas hymns, I have always thought that HHAS (with Mendelssohn) was the most theologically significant of all. For that reason I prefer it as an offertory when there is no anthem. This hymn-carol should never never ever be rushed, but sung at a stately and elegant tempo.

    And, to be faithful to the topic of this thread, I have always thought that Es ist ein Ros entsprungen was very overdone. It is so over done that it should only be allowed once every three years. The text, of course, is very good and sound, as is the melody. But, there is just something tiring about it as a 'must do' Christmas carol. Cranham and ITBMW, on the other hand, I could never tire of - it is so good and excellent a marriage that other settings of that text should be prohibited - except perhaps Darke's once in a while.
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,052
    I remember our smart aleck days from high school when we sang the dyslexic version, the first leon instead of the first noel. But we made fun of everything back then. Sometimes, still do.

    We do 'Noel' once a year at Epiphany and the congregation sings it enthusiastically. Once a visiting priest would not leave the sanctuary until we sang all 6 verses. Several people commented that they had never heard six verses to that carol. I will think about it at the next Epiphany. Probably not before then.
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  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 214
    I think “Bring Flowers of the Rarest” is a beautiful hymn and people do like to sing it and would sing it if it were used more often. It first appeared under the title “Our Lady, Queen of Angels” in the Wreath of Mary hymnal. I can’t think of any other hymn that uses this tune and so I don’t know how anyone could say the hymn tune is over used.

    It’s very easy to sing and once you hear the tune it sticks with you all the day! Well, for me it does. I can sing it when I'm driving, shopping, or walking. It's anything but hard to learn. So if I sound like a drunken fool so be it, I'm not alone! I could never love Our Mother more than Jesus does.

    Some people only see the tip of the iceberg and not what lies beneath it. Many of the saints including St. Louis De Mondfort, referred to Mary’s Psalter and the Rosary beads as flowers, particularly roses and even more so as the prayers we offer up. It’s not the earthly flowers we bring from our gardens and place at our Mothers altar or crown Her with but those flowers/prayers we bring from our spiritual garden. Some are fair, perhaps those we say in haste and some are the rarest, those we say on the spot or that come devoutly said from our hearts and minds.
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  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,559
    Many of the saints including St. Louis De Mondfort, referred to Mary’s Psalter and the Rosary beads as flowers, particularly roses and even more so as the prayers we offer up.


    No arguments there. I've often thought of Mary as having received from Her Divine Spouse a bouquet beyond measure and beauty when she accepted His proposal.

    So, no quibbling from my end about the theology of the hymn. As for the tune itself - perhaps your choir/congregation has greater facility with it than ours. I'm pretty sure it first appeared to out choir under the title "Invitation to Scoop".
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,052
    Off topic, but I was just wondering if our Houston friend Jackson is being flooded out again. He went through this not that long ago. If one can believe the Weather Channel, it is a bit wet there. Hope all is well.
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  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,260
    Amazing Grace needs to be expunged for all time along with How Great Thou Art
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,052
    Yeah, I know. Yet they are the two most requested for funerals. I don't think I want to die on that hill.
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  • oldhymnsoldhymns
    Posts: 119
    The hymn tune assigned to "Bring Flowers of the Rarest" in St. Paul's Hymnal (2015) is "Crowning Hymn." Like Don9of11, I know of no other hymn utilizing this melody, so how can it be overused?

    One thing for sure, though--it was the most popular and well-loved hymn to Our Lady in the English language prior to 1970 or so. Nearly every graduate of a Catholic school for three quarters of the 20th century would have known the hymn.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 64
    The O Filii et Filiae I am used to (the one that simply harmonises the chant without changing the melody) I find a tad overused, but this version was a nice variation that I sung today - perhaps familiar to you all but not to me: https://hymnary.org/hymn/PH1990/116
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,825
    About Taylor's version of O Filii et Filiae - I've encountered this a few times before and have always wondered why someone just had to sharpen the F. As if this were not enough, we have added eighth note passing tones in the second 'alleluia' and changed the melody altogether for the third 'alleluia'. While Taylor speaks of not 'changing the melody', all this does, in fact, change the melody, destroy the modality, and really sounds quite eccentric. Otherwise, I don't see that it's different from the 'urtext'. This is the sort of thing that was done to chant in renaissance and baroque times. Surely, we have outgrown such presumptuous tinkering with our plainchant heritage.
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  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 64
    You may have misunderstood me, I do realise this variation does change it. With all due deference to the chant, I thought it quite nice as something a little different every once in a while - it reminds me of the Coventry Carol. That being said, I don’t think I could get tired of the original chant as long as it isn’t harmonised every single time...
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