Ten years ago in a series of articles published in Church Music, Erik Routley suggested, "Buy yourself a bookshelf." Routley had before him over seventy hymnbooks, ranging from small collections to hymnals of more than a thousand pages, all published between 1964 and 1973.
Since Routley made his observation, these seventy have been joined by numerous newcomers. Many of these hymnals have companion volumes, books that answer many of the questions asked by those who study hymns: What is the hymn's background? Why was this particular tune chosen? What happened to the stanza we loved best?
Routley himself contributed many volumes to our understanding of hymns. Fve provided brief descriptions of a few of his reference works that I find especially helpful.
The Music of Christian Hymns is a condensed and revised publication of what Dr. Routley presented as a thesis for his D.Phil, degree at Oxford. In the author's own words, "This appalling monster was abridged to about 40 percent of its length and published in 1957… as the Music of Christian Hymnody, by far the most tedious of the books I have written and the least typographically inviting. This went out of print years ago, and that is another sleeping dog which readers would be well advised to let lie."
The book begins with plainsong and concludes with one chapter devoted to twentieth-century hymnody in America, Canada, and Australia, and another that covers contemporary hymnody in non-English speaking regions. Included in the volume are many musical examples and a complete bibliography. line two hymnals that Routley cites as being indispensable for reference are The Hymnal 1940 and the English Hymnal (1906). They represent, he wrote, in the United States and Britain respectively, the best selection of texts and tunes to be found in a single collection.
In a beautifully bound two-volume set published by Liturgical Press, the author presents a Hymnal Guide to 888 hymns, including information on meter; texts, including translations; and tunes. Also included are the numbers at which the hymn can be found in twenty-six control hymnals: twelve from Britain, twelve from the United States, and two from Canada.
The other volume, The Panorama, provides one with the pleasure of reading hymns, in their complete form, as lyric poetry. "At the Name of Jesus," for example, appears with all eight stanzas instead of the usual five. And in addition to the familiar three stanzas of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!" Routley has included seven others. Scripture references correlating with the text of the hymn are noted in the margin. In most cases the texts, if translated, are printed in two columns, the original at the left. In one volume, then, Panorama provides teachers and students with a survey of the literature of hymnody.
The Music of Christian Hymns by Erik Routley. Chicago: G.I.A. Publications, Inc., 1981. 184 pages plus appendix.
An English-Speaking Hymnal Guide by Erik Routley. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1979.125 pages.
A Panorama of Christian Hymnody by Erik Routley. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1979. 259 pages.
My hope for the book is that it may not only prove useful in the worship of the RCA, but that it may provide a model for future Reformed and Presbyterian hymnody in this country.
—Howard Hageman (RIL)