From the Bench: Hymnody, Tunes, & Text

Notes About Sunday’s Music

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June 17th, 2018 - The 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time


You might have noticed that from time to time the music that we sing at Mass does not line up with the notes on the page, but somehow, the words still work. The concept of singing a text to different tunes is not new, in fact, this practice can be traced back hundreds of years to medieval times in Europe. Hymnodists would often write new words to familiar tunes, and vice versa. Because the reproduction of musical scores was expensive, it was common for hymn texts to be printed by themselves. Texts with the same meter (the number of syllables in each line of a stanza) could be sung interchangeably with melodies of the same meter. I’ll give you an example: both “Alleluia Sing to Jesus” (953) and “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You” (611) have the same meter. If you look at the bottom of the page, the hymn tune aka melody is listed in all capital letters, in the case HYFRYDOL and ODE TO JOY.  This is followed by the meter, which in this case is 8 7 8 7 D. There are several other Hymns that share this meter but are set to a different melody such as number 854 “God of Day and God of Darkness” to BEACH SPRING, or number 599 “God We Praise You” to NETTLETON. You can sing the words of any of these songs to the tunes of the others. Give it a try! We use this concept regularly here at St. Ben’s to sing a variety of beautiful texts to familiar hymn tunes. For the next several weeks we will be adding a new tune to our repertoire called RUSTINGTON. Today’s entrance is set to this tune, and it is one of my favorites. It might not be familiar at first, but we will be learning it together over the next several months.


Summer is when our choirs take a much needed break. I just wanted to extend a word of thanks to our outstanding choirs for all of their hard work this year. You have helped our congregation to pray well and have truly enhanced our liturgies. Thank you! I will also be taking a vacation for the next two weeks and traveling to Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore. Please pray for me as I embark on this adventure! I will not be writing for the next couple weeks as I travel. Please check back again in July for more "from the bench"!


592 God Has Spoken Through His Prophets


Mass of the Spirit Wind




Land of Rest Mass


938 Bread of Life from Heaven


578 How Great Thou Art

Want to know what we're singing next week? Click here for the latest congregational music schedule.