A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word hymn derives from Greek ὕμνος (hymnos), which means "a song of praise". A writer of hymns is known as a hymnist. The singing or composition of hymns is called hymnody. Collections of hymns are known as hymnals or hymn books. Hymns may or may not include instrumental accompaniment.
Although most familiar to speakers of English in the context of Christianity, hymns are also a fixture of other world religions, especially on the Indian subcontinent. Hymns also survive from antiquity, especially from Egyptian and Greek cultures. Some of the oldest surviving examples of notated music are hymns with Greek texts.
Ancient hymns include the Egyptian Great Hymn to the Aten , composed by Pharaoh Akhenaten; the Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal; the Vedas , a collection of hymns in the tradition of Hinduism; and the Psalms, a collection of songs from Judaism. The Western tradition of hymnody begins with the Homeric Hymns, a collection of ancient Greek hymns, the oldest of which were written in the 7th century BC, praising deities of the ancient Greek religions. Surviving from the 3rd century BC is a collection of six literary hymns (Ὕμνοι) by the Alexandrian poet Callimachus.
Patristic writers began applying the term ὕμνος, or hymnus in Latin, to Christian songs of praise, and frequently used the word as a synonym for "psalm".
Originally modeled on the Book of Psalms and other poetic passages (commonly referred to as "canticles") in the Scriptures, Christian hymns are generally directed as praise to the Christian God. Many refer to Jesus Christ either directly or indirectly.
Since the earliest times, Christians have sung "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs", both in private devotions and in corporate worship (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; 1 Cor 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13; cf. Revelation 5:8–10; Revelation 14:1–5).
Non-scriptural hymns (i.e. not psalms or canticles) from the Early Church still sung today include 'Phos Hilaron', 'Sub tuum praesidium', and 'Te Deum'.
One definition of a hymn is "...a lyric poem, reverently and devotionally conceived, which is designed to be sung and which expresses the worshipper's attitude toward God or God's purposes in human life. It should be simple and metrical in form, genuinely emotional, poetic and literary in style, spiritual in quality, and in its ideas so direct and so immediately apparent as to unify a congregation while singing it."
Christian hymns are often written with special or seasonal themes and these are used on holy days such as Christmas, Easter and the Feast of All Saints, or during particular seasons such as Advent and Lent. Others are used to encourage reverence for the Bible or to celebrate Christian practices such as the eucharist or baptism. Some hymns praise or address individual saints, particularly the Blessed Virgin Mary; such hymns are particularly prevalent in Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and to some extent High Church Anglicanism.
A writer of hymns is known as a hymnodist, and the practice of singing hymns is called hymnody; the same word is used for the collectivity of hymns belonging to a particular denomination or period (e.g. "nineteenth century Methodist hymnody" would mean the body of hymns written and/or used by Methodists in the 19th century). A collection of hymns is called a hymnal or hymnary. These may or may not include music. A student of hymnody is called a hymnologist, and the scholarly study of hymns, hymnists and hymnody is hymnology. The music to which a hymn may be sung is a hymn tune.
In many Evangelical churches, traditional songs are classified as hymns while more contemporary worship songs are not considered hymns. The reason for this distinction is unclear, but according to some it is due to the radical shift of style and devotional thinking that began with the Jesus movement and Jesus music. In recent years, Christian traditional hymns have seen a revival in some churches, usually more Reformed or Calvinistic in nature, as modern hymn writers such as Keith and Kristyn Gettyand Sovereign Grace Music have reset old lyrics to new melodies, revised old hymns and republished them, or simply written a song in a hymn-like fashion such as In Christ Alone .
In ancient and medieval times, string instruments such as the harp, lyre and lute were used with psalms and hymns.
Since there is a lack of musical notation in early writings,the actual musical forms in the early church can only be surmised. During the Middle Ages a rich hymnody developed in the form of Gregorian chant or plainsong. This type was sung in unison, in one of eight church modes, and most often by monastic choirs. While they were written originally in Latin, many have been translated; a familiar example is the 4th century Of the Father's Heart Begotten sung to the 11th century plainsong Divinum Mysterium.
Later hymnody in the Western church introduced four-part vocal harmony as the norm, adopting major and minor keys, and came to be led by organ and choir. It shares many elements with classical music.
Today, except for choirs, more musically inclined congregations and a cappella congregations, hymns are typically sung in unison. In some cases complementary full settings for organ are also published, in others organists and other accompanists are expected to transcribe the four-part vocal score for their instrument of choice.
To illustrate Protestant usage, in the traditional services and liturgies of the Methodist churches, which are based upon Anglican practice, hymns are sung (often accompanied by an organ) during the processional to the altar, during the receiving of communion, during the recessional, and sometimes at other points during the service. These hymns can be found in a common book such as the United Methodist Hymnal. The Doxology is also sung after the tithes and offerings are brought up to the altar.
Contemporary Christian worship, as often found in Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism, may include the use of contemporary worship music played with electric guitars and the drum kit, sharing many elements with rock music.
Other groups of Christians have historically excluded instrumental accompaniment, citing the absence of instruments in worship by the church in the first several centuries of its existence, and adhere to an unaccompanied a cappella congregational singing of hymns. These groups include the 'Brethren' (often both 'Open' and 'Exclusive'), the Churches of Christ, Mennonites, several Anabaptist-based denominations—such as the Apostolic Christian Church of America—Primitive Baptists, and certain Reformed churches, although during the last century or so, several of these, such as the Free Church of Scotland have abandoned this stance.
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Eastern Christianity (the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches) has a variety of ancient hymnographical traditions.
Byzantine chant is almost always a cappella, and instrumental accompaniment is rare. It is used to chant all forms of liturgical worship.
Instruments are common in Oriental traditions. The Coptic tradition which makes use of the cymbals and the Triangle (musical instrument). The Indian Orthodox (Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church) use of the organ. The Tewahedo Churches use drums, cymbals and other instruments on certain occasions.
Thomas Aquinas, in the introduction to his commentary on the Psalms, defined the Christian hymn thus: "Hymnus est laus Dei cum cantico; canticum autem exultatio mentis de aeternis habita, prorumpens in vocem." ("A hymn is the praise of God with song; a song is the exultation of the mind dwelling on eternal things, bursting forth in the voice.")
The Protestant Reformation resulted in two conflicting attitudes towards hymns. One approach, the regulative principle of worship, favoured by many Zwinglians, Calvinists and some radical reformers, considered anything that was not directly authorised by the Bible to be a novel and Catholic introduction to worship, which was to be rejected. All hymns that were not direct quotations from the Bible fell into this category. Such hymns were banned, along with any form of instrumental musical accompaniment, and organs were removed from churches. Instead of hymns, biblical psalms were chanted, most often without accompaniment, to very basic melodies. This was known as exclusive psalmody. Examples of this may still be found in various places, including in some of the Presbyterian churches of western Scotland.
The other Reformation approach, the normative principle of worship, produced a burst of hymn writing and congregational singing. Martin Luther is notable not only as a reformer, but as the author of many hymns including "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"), which is sung today even by Catholics, and "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" ("Praise be to You, Jesus Christ") for Christmas. Luther and his followers often used their hymns, or chorales, to teach tenets of the faith to worshipers. The first Protestant hymnal was published in Bohemia in 1532 by the Unitas Fratrum. Count Zinzendorf, the Lutheran leader of the Moravian Church in the 18th century wrote some 2,000 hymns. The earlier English writers tended to paraphrase biblical texts, particularly Psalms; Isaac Watts followed this tradition, but is also credited as having written the first English hymn which was not a direct paraphrase of Scripture.Watts (1674–1748), whose father was an Elder of a dissenter congregation, complained at age 16, that when allowed only psalms to sing, the faithful could not even sing about their Lord, Christ Jesus. His father invited him to see what he could do about it; the result was Watts' first hymn, "Behold the glories of the Lamb". Found in few hymnals today, the hymn has eight stanzas in common meter and is based on Revelation 5:6, 8, 9, 10, 12.
Relying heavily on Scripture, Watts wrote metered texts based on New Testament passages that brought the Christian faith into the songs of the church. Isaac Watts has been called "the father of English hymnody", but Erik Routley sees him more as "the liberator of English hymnody", because his hymns, and hymns like them, moved worshipers beyond singing only Old Testament psalms, inspiring congregations and revitalizing worship.
Later writers took even more freedom, some even including allegory and metaphor in their texts.
Charles Wesley's hymns spread Methodist theology, not only within Methodism, but in most Protestant churches. He developed a new focus: expressing one's personal feelings in the relationship with God as well as the simple worship seen in older hymns. Wesley wrote:
Where shall my wondering soul begin?
How shall I all to heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
A brand plucked from eternal fire,
How shall I equal triumphs raise,
Or sing my great deliverer's praise.
Wesley's contribution, along with the Second Great Awakening in America led to a new style called gospel, and a new explosion of sacred music writing with Fanny Crosby, Lina Sandell, Philip Bliss, Ira D. Sankey, and others who produced testimonial music for revivals, camp meetings, and evangelistic crusades. The tune style or form is technically designated "gospel songs" as distinct from hymns. Gospel songs generally include a refrain (or chorus) and usually (though not always) a faster tempo than the hymns. As examples of the distinction, "Amazing Grace" is a hymn (no refrain), but "How Great Thou Art" is a gospel song. During the 19th century, the gospel-song genre spread rapidly in Protestantism and to a lesser but still definite extent, in Roman Catholicism; the gospel-song genre is unknown in the worship per se by Eastern Orthodox churches, which rely exclusively on traditional chants (a type of hymn).
The Methodist Revival of the 18th century created an explosion of hymn-writing in Welsh, which continued into the first half of the 19th century. The most prominent names among Welsh hymn-writers are William Williams Pantycelyn and Ann Griffiths. The second half of the 19th century witnessed an explosion of hymn tune composition and congregational four-part singing in Wales.
Along with the more classical sacred music of composers ranging from Mozart to Monteverdi, the Catholic Church continued to produce many popular hymns such as Lead, Kindly Light, Silent Night, O Sacrament Divine and Faith of our Fathers.
Many churches today use contemporary worship music which includes a range of styles often influenced by popular music. This often leads to some conflict between older and younger congregants (see contemporary worship). This is not new; the Christian pop music style began in the late 1960s and became very popular during the 1970s, as young hymnists sought ways in which to make the music of their religion relevant for their generation.
This long tradition has resulted in a wide variety of hymns. Some modern churches include within hymnody the traditional hymn (usually describing God), contemporary worship music (often directed to God) and gospel music (expressions of one's personal experience of God). This distinction is not perfectly clear; and purists remove the second two types from the classification as hymns. It is a matter of debate, even sometimes within a single congregation, often between revivalist and traditionalist movements.
African-Americans developed a rich hymnody from spirituals during times of slavery to the modern, lively black gospel style. The first influences of African American Culture into hymns came from Slave Songs of the United States a collection of slave hymns compiled by William Francis Allen who had difficulty pinning them down from the oral tradition, and though he succeeded, he points out the awe inspiring effect of the hymns when sung in by their originators.
Hymn writing, composition, performance and the publishing of Christian hymnals were prolific in the 19th-century and were often linked to the abolitionist movement by many hymn writers. Surprisingly, Stephen Foster wrote a number of hymns that were used during church services during this era of publishing.
Thomas Symmes[ clarification needed ] spread throughout churches a new idea of how to sing hymns, in which anyone could sing a hymn any way they felt led to; this idea was opposed by the views of Symmes' colleagues[ who? ] who felt it was "like Five Hundred different Tunes roared out at the same time".[ citation needed ] William Billings, a singing school teacher, created the first tune book with only American born compositions. Within his books, Billings did not put as much emphasis on "common measure"[ clarification needed ] which was the typical way hymns were sung, but he attempted "to have a Sufficiency in each measure"[ clarification needed ]. Boston's Handel and Haydn Society aimed at raising the level of church music in America, publishing their "Collection of Church Music".[ when? ] In the late 19th century Ira D. Sankey and Dwight L. Moody developed the relatively new subcategory of gospel hymns.
Earlier in the 19th century, the use of musical notation, especially shape notes, exploded in America, and professional singing masters went from town to town teaching the population how to sing from sight, instead of the more common lining out that had been used before that. During this period hundreds of tune books were published, including B.F. White's Sacred Harp , and earlier works like the Missouri Harmony, Kentucky Harmony , Hesperian Harp, D.H. Mansfield's The American Vocalist, The Social Harp, the Southern Harmony , William Walker's Christian Harmony , Jeremiah Ingalls' Christian Harmony, and literally many dozens of others. Shape notes were important in the spread of (then) more modern singing styles, with tenor-led 4-part harmony (based on older English West Gallery music), fuging sections, anthems and other more complex features. During this period, hymns were incredibly popular in the United States, and one or more of the above-mentioned tunebooks could be found in almost every household. It isn't uncommon to hear accounts of young people and teenagers gathering together to spend an afternoon singing hymns and anthems from tune books, which was considered great fun, and there are surviving accounts of Abraham Lincoln and his sweetheart singing together from the Missouri Harmony during his youth.
By the 1860s musical reformers like Lowell Mason (the so-called "better music boys") were actively campaigning for the introduction of more "refined" and modern singing styles, and eventually these American tune books were replaced in many churches, starting in the Northeast and urban areas, and spreading out into the countryside as people adopted the gentler, more soothing tones of Victorian hymnody, and even adopted dedicated, trained choirs to do their church's singing, rather than having the entire congregation participate. But in many rural areas the old traditions lived on, not in churches, but in weekly, monthly or annual conventions were people would meet to sing from their favorite tunebooks. The most popular one, and the only one that survived continuously in print, was the Sacred Harp , which could be found in the typical rural Southern home right up until the living tradition was "re-discovered" by Alan Lomax in the 1960s (although it had been well-documented by musicologist George Pullen Jackson prior to this). Indeed, "the most common book on . Since then there has been a renaissance in "Sacred Harp singing", with annual conventions popping up in all 50 states and in a number of European countries recently, including the UK, Germany, Ireland and Poland, as well as in Australia.Today "Sacred Harp singing" is a vibrant and living tradition with thousands of enthusiastic participants all around the globe, drawn to the democratic principles of the tradition and exotic, beautiful sound of the music. Although the lyrics tend to be highly religious in nature, the tradition is largely secular, and participation if open to all who care to attend.
The meter indicates the number of syllables for the lines in each stanza of a hymn. This provides a means of marrying the hymn's text with an appropriate hymn tune for singing. In practice many hymns conform to one of a relatively small number of meters (syllable count and stress patterns). Care must be taken, however, to ensure that not only the metre of words and tune match, but also the stresses on the words in each line. Technically speaking an iambic tune, for instance, cannot be used with words of, say, trochaic metre.
The meter is often denoted by a row of figures besides the name of the tune, such as "87.87.87", which would inform the reader that each verse has six lines, and that the first line has eight syllables, the second has seven, the third line eight, etc. The meter can also be described by initials; L.M. indicates long meter, which is 88.88 (four lines, each eight syllables long); S.M. is short meter (66.86); C.M. is common metre (86.86), while D.L.M., D.S.M. and D.C.M. (the "D" stands for double) are similar to their respective single meters except that they have eight lines in a verse instead of four.
Also, if the number of syllables in one verse differ from another verse in the same hymn (e.g., the hymn "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God"), the meter is called Irregular.
The Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Punjabi : ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬPunjabi pronunciation: [ɡʊɾu ɡɾəntʰ sɑhɪb] ), is a collection of hymns (Shabad) or Gurbani describing the qualities of God and why one should meditate on God's name. The Guru Granth Sahib is divided by their musical setting in different ragas into fourteen hundred and thirty pages known as Angs (limbs) in Sikh tradition. Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708), the tenth guru, after adding Guru Tegh Bahadur's bani to the Adi Granth affirmed the sacred text as his successor, elevating it to Guru Granth Sahib. The text remains the holy scripture of the Sikhs, regarded as the teachings of the Ten Gurus. The role of Guru Granth Sahib, as a source or guide of prayer, is pivotal in Sikh worship.
Gospel music is a genre of Christian music. The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of gospel music varies according to culture and social context. Gospel music is composed and performed for many purposes, including aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, and as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Gospel music usually has dominant vocals with Christian lyrics. Gospel music can be traced to the early 17th century, with roots in the black oral tradition. Hymns and sacred songs were often repeated in a call and response fashion. Most of the churches relied on hand clapping and foot stomping as rhythmic accompaniment. Most of the singing was done a cappella. The first published use of the term "gospel song" probably appeared in 1874. The original gospel songs were written and composed by authors such as George F. Root, Philip Bliss, Charles H. Gabriel, William Howard Doane, and Fanny Crosby. Gospel music publishing houses emerged. The advent of radio in the 1920s greatly increased the audience for gospel music. Following World War II, gospel music moved into major auditoriums, and gospel music concerts became quite elaborate.
A doxology is a short hymn of praises to God in various forms of Christian worship, often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. The tradition derives from a similar practice in the Jewish synagogue, where some version of the Kaddish serves to terminate each section of the service.
Shape notes are a musical notation designed to facilitate congregational and community singing. The notation, introduced in late 18th century England, became a popular teaching device in American singing schools. Shapes were added to the noteheads in written music to help singers find pitches within major and minor scales without the use of more complex information found in key signatures on the staff.
Isaac Watts was an English Christian minister (Congregational), hymn writer, theologian, and logician. He was a prolific and popular hymn writer and is credited with some 750 hymns. He is recognized as the "Godfather of English Hymnody"; many of his hymns remain in use today and have been translated into numerous languages.
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling is a Christian hymn by Charles Wesley with a theme of "Christian perfection." Judging by general repute, it is among Wesley's finest: "justly famous and beloved, better known than almost any other hymn of Charles Wesley." Judging by its distribution, it is also among his most successful: by the end of the 19th century, it is found in 15 of the 17 hymn books consulted by the authors of Lyric Studies. On a larger scale, it is found almost universally in general collections of the past century, including not only Methodist and Anglican hymn books and commercial and ecumenical collections, but also hymnals published by Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, Brethren, Seventh-day Adventist, Lutheran, Congregationalist, Pentecostal, and Roman Catholic traditions, among others including the Churches of Christ. Specifically, it appears in 1,328 of the North American hymnals indexed by the online Dictionary of North American Hymnology, comparable to Newton's "Amazing Grace" (1,036), Wesley's "O for a Thousand Tongues" (1,249), and Watts' "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" (1,483), though still well short of Toplady's "Rock of Ages" (2,139) or Wesley's own "Jesu, Lover of my Soul" (2,164).
A singing school is a school in which students are taught to sightread vocal music. Singing schools are a long-standing cultural institution in the Southern United States. While some singing schools are offered for credit, most are informal programs.
A metrical psalter is a kind of Bible translation: a book containing a metrical translation of all or part of the Book of Psalms in vernacular poetry, meant to be sung as hymns in a church. Some metrical psalters include melodies or even harmonizations. The composition of metrical psalters was a large enterprise of the Protestant Reformation, especially in its Calvinist manifestation.
Anglican church music is music that is written for Christian worship in Anglican religious services, forming part of the liturgy. It mostly consists of pieces written to be sung by a church choir, which may sing a cappella or accompanied by an organ.
Church music is music written for performance in church, or any musical setting of ecclesiastical liturgy, or music set to words expressing propositions of a sacred nature, such as a hymn.
"Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" is a Christian hymn associated with Easter. Most of the stanzas were written by Charles Wesley, and the hymn appeared under the title "Hymn for Easter Day" in Hymns and Sacred Poems by Charles and John Wesley in 1739. The hymn eventually became well known for the "Alleluia" sung as a melisma after each line, which was added by an unknown author, probably to fit the commonly used hymn tune of "Easter hymn". It remains a traditional processional hymn on Easter Sunday.
Kingdom songs are the hymns sung by Jehovah's Witnesses at their religious meetings. Since 1879, the Watch Tower Society has published hymnal lyrics; by the 1920s they had published hundreds of adapted and original songs, and by the 1930s they referred to these as "Kingdom songs" in reference to God's Kingdom.
Decisions concerning the conduct of public worship in the Church of Scotland are entirely at the discretion of the parish minister. As a result, a wide variety of musical resources are used. However, at various times in its history, the General Assembly has commissioned volumes of psalms and hymns for use by congregations.
Exclusive psalmody is the practice of singing only the biblical Psalms in congregational singing as worship. Today it is practised by several Protestant, especially Reformed denominations. Hymns besides the Psalms have been composed by Christians since the earliest days of the church, but psalms were preferred by the early church and used almost exclusively until the end of the fourth century. During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther and many other reformers, including those associated with the Reformed tradition, used hymns as well as psalms, but John Calvin preferred the Psalms and they were the only music allowed for worship in Geneva. This became the norm for the next 200 years of Reformed worship. Hymnody became acceptable again for the Reformed in the middle of the nineteenth century, though several denominations, notably the Reformed Presbyterians, continue the practice of exclusive psalmody.
Shiromani Namdev Maharaj, also transliterated was an Indian poet and saint from Narsi, Hingoli, Maharashtra India who is significant to the Varkari sect of Hinduism. Bhagat Namdev's writings were also recognized by the Gurus of Sikhism and are included in the holy book of Sikhism, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Namdev worshipped Vithoba, one of the many forms of lord Vishnu but Ronald McGregor states that in the larger context of Rama, Namdev was not referring to the hero described in the Hindu epic Ramayana, but to a pantheistic Ultimate Being.
A hymn tune is the melody of a musical composition to which a hymn text is sung. Musically speaking, a hymn is generally understood to have four-part harmony, a fast harmonic rhythm, and no refrain or chorus.
Hymnology is the scholarly study of religious song, or the hymn, in its many aspects, with particular focus on choral and congregational song. It may be more or less clearly distinguished from hymnody, the creation and practice of such song. Hymnologists, such as Erik Routley, may study the history and origins of hymns and of traditions of sung worship, the biographies of the women and men who have written hymns that have passed into choral or congregational use, the interrelationships between text and tune, the historical processes, both folk and redactional, that have changed hymn texts and hymn tunes over time, and the sociopolitical, theological and aesthetic arguments concerning various styles of sung worship.
Lining out or hymn lining, called precenting the line in Scotland, is a form of a cappella hymn-singing or hymnody in which a leader, often called the clerk or precentor, gives each line of a hymn tune as it is to be sung, usually in a chanted form giving or suggesting the tune. It can be considered a form of call and response. First referred to as "the old way of singing" in eighteenth-century Britain, it has influenced twentieth century popular music singing styles.
"What Wondrous Love Is This" is a Christian folk hymn, sometimes described as a "white spiritual", from the American South. Its text was first published in 1811, during the Second Great Awakening, and its melody derived from a popular English ballad. Today it is a widely known hymn included in hymnals of many Christian denominations.
Hymnody in continental Europe developed from early liturgical music, especially Gregorian chant. Music became more complicated as embellishments and variations were added, along with influences from secular music. Although vernacular leisen and vernacular or mixed-language Carol (music) were sung in the Middle Ages, more vernacular hymnody emerged during the Protestant Reformation, although ecclesiastical Latin continued to be used after the Reformation. Since then, developments have shifted between isorhythmic, homorhythmic, and more rounded musical forms with some lilting. Theological underpinnings influenced the narrative point of view used, with Pietism especially encouraging the use of the first person singular. In the last several centuries, many songs from Evangelicalism have been translated from English into German.
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