10 June, 2009

100 best hymns

A while back, Brandon at Siris pointed to a solicitation at the Semicolon weblog for nominations of best hymns. Semicolon is now going through the list of top choices and apparently there are 101 best hymns, despite my title :-)

Brandon listed his submissions here (or are they another blogger's? I don't quite understand what he means by "follow Rebecca's list") and I agree heartily with some, don't know others, but absolutely detest How great thou art. I'm sorry, but after singing that nearly every Sunday at my Baptist church as a child, it's a wonder I'm not a raving atheist. Maybe it's just the tune we used, or the molasses-like pace at which we sang it, or the sentimental way people lolled their heads as they sang it, but now that the thing's in my head again I'd like to throttle the living daylights out of someone. Brandon's lucky he lives nowhere near me.

Anyway, I thought I'd mention the list I sent Sherry, so hopefully Brandon will stop by sometime, and find one that evokes a similar mind-altering despair in him. ;-) There is an intersection among our sets. I've made no secret of the fact that I adore ancient Latin or Greek hymns, and Sherry had asked for English only, so I submitted English translations or adaptations of these. I've put the title of the original when I know it.

  1. O Sons and Daughters, Let Us Sing
    O Filii et Filiae
  2. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
    from The Liturgy of St. James
  3. Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
    Te Deum
  4. Creator of the Stars of Night
    Creator Alme Siderum
  5. O Saving Victim, Open Wide
    O Salutaris Hostia, an excerpt of Sacris solemniis I think
  6. What Child is This?
    (with the *original* lyrics, not the sanitized version sung today)
  7. Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!
  8. …and how can I ever forget
    O Blessed Creator of Light

To be honest, this list has a poverty of hymns for the Hours. My impression is that Sherry wanted hymns sung at "Sunday worship", so Te Lucis ante Terminum* stayed off my list, but I would very much have liked to add a hymn that once was so well-known among the literate that Dante could refer to its title without explanation.

As a final note: Brandon has pointed out that many hymn texts can be sung to tunes other than the usual "golden standard", so to speak, so I might like How great thou art under a different tune, who knows.

* Here is another translation of Te lucis ante but I much prefer the one I linked to, even if it doesn't follow the tune.


Brandon said...

It's a typo that never got caught; it should say, "follow Rebecca's suggestion".

Maybe you need to liven up HGTA by doing an Elvis Presley imitation whenever you sing it. Other than that, I'm not sure there's any out.

Tom L said...

Speaking of Greek hymns and one-named singers ...

Elvis has nothing on Divna

jack perry said...


I had thought that one of the prime benefits of becoming Catholic fifteen years ago was not having to sing that hymn anymore, but if you sing it maybe not… ;-)

That Elvis video has scarred me for life. The sidebar on that webpage says he liked He Touched Me too—oofa there's another one I thought buried in the blackness of the past :-(

I confess I didn't know Elvis liked, let alone sang, those tunes. Thanks for passing that on.

Tom L: WOW. She sings beautifully. Orthodox envy rises again…

Brandon said...

Another religious tune that Elvis liked to sing: Miracle of the Rosary.

jack perry said...


Sorry, I haven't looked at it yet. My computer at work quit playing sound yesterday, and I dare not interrupt a computation that is several days old. At home, I just now got sound & Flash working in Fedora 11, and after listening to Divna :-) I think my wife will kill me if I stay up any later. I will get around to it though, honest!

PS: One of my great-aunts loves Elvis.