Hymnal: The Hymnal 1982 According to the Use of the Episcopal Church

New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1985. The Hymnbook 1982, home edition, 1,070 pages, $12.95 (hymns only). The Hymnal 1982, pew edition, 960 pages, $9.95 (melody-only edition of hymns and service music). The Hymnal 1982, accompaniment edition (in two volumes), 1,769 pages, $27.50.

The Hymnal 1982, released in 1985 after a ten-year production period, is an expanded version of the venerable 1940 edition of the Episcopal hymnal. Texts for the hymnal were approved at the convention of 1982, after which the Standing Commission of Church Music selected tunes for the hymns and the service music.

The hymn selection in The Hymnal 1982 is generous and striking in historic and inter-cultural inclusiveness. Texts from every century (second to present) and every major era of church history are used. Ancient Greek and Latin hymns, songs from the Reformation and following eras of European traditions, American folk hymns, Afro-American spirituals, two Ghanaian work songs, a Hispanic folk song (with Spanish/English texts), an Israeli round, and a Dakota Indian chant all join together to lift up praise to God. A large number of the hymns in this book are very current—written by authors who either are living or have died recently.

It's interesting to compare Hymnal 1982 and Rejoice in the Lord (RIL), a hymnal produced by the Reformed Church in America—especially since the two hymnals were released at about the same time. The hymnal committees for the two hymnals chose the same recent or living authors as favorites: E Bland Tucker, E Pratt Green, Brian Wren, and James Quinn (37 texts in all for Hymnal 1982 and 35 for RIL). The Episcopalians also feature Carl E Daw as a favorite; eleven of his texts appear in Hymnal 1982 compared to just one printed in RIL.

Of the 720 hymn numbers in Hymnal 1982, 111 of them (by my count) are alternate tunes for a text on an adjoining page. This high number of duplications is justified in part by the large number of plainsongs and new tunes by contemporary composers that are included.

The tunes come from as many diverse backgrounds as the hymn texts do. Beginning with the tenth century, all the major streams of worship-music contribute to the music of this wealth of hymns. Included are more than fifty plainsongs, all with tasteful and practical settings for modern use.

The hymnal also includes an expanded service-music section, 288 musical selections for the liturgy. Such selections are marked with an "S" to differentiate them from hymns, and often appear in only one key for unison singing.To accommodate the expanded service-music section (without excluding helps for musicians), the hymnal has been published in two editions: pew and accompaniment. (The Hymnbook, for home use, contains all of the hymns, including harmonies, but none of the service-music.)

The accompaniment edition contains, in addition to the keyboard settings, a service-music appendix that includes 156 additional chants. Altogether (including the appendix), the service music section has more than tripled its size since the previous edition. Also noteworthy is that the service music has been placed first in this edition rather than last as it was in 1940, indicating that this part of the liturgy has a higher priority today than it did a few decades ago.

Unfortunately, not all the changes in the service-music section are improvements. In the previous edition all the parts of one setting were located together; in the current edition all the settings of one part (the Kyries, for instance) are grouped together. This new arrangement requires far more searching for page numbers than the previous edition did.

However, in spite of some shortcomings, Hymnal 1982 offers wonderfully vital contemporary church music. This hymnal will surely become a standard for excellence (first-printing editorial slips like "Eric" Routley notwithstanding). Church musicians from other traditions will profit much from it, both for study (may a companion soon appear!) and for resource material.