Hymnal Handbooks: The Presbyterian Hymnal Companion

Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993; 427 pp., $22.99.

This volume is Lindajo McKim's handbook to The Presbyterian Hymnal [a.k.a., Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs] (1990). As editor of the hymnal, McKim had ready access to a variety of sources as she prepared this Companion. She presents mostly the historical background of the texts and music found in the hymnal, though she also offers brief exegeti-cal or interpretive comments on the texts and sometimes a descriptive phrase on the tune or harmonization.

The structure of her Companion follows the Presbyterian Hymnal exactly—each hymn is treated in numerical order, with each article including biographical sketches of the author /translator and composer /harmonizer (cross-references are used for repeat entries of the same person or source).

Though the articles and especially the biographies tend to be short and nontechnical (and there is no bibliography except for a few references in the Introduction), this Companion is clearly laid out and is eminently accessible to anyone interested in the basic facts of hymnody. For ease of reference (also for those who wish to use this volume with another hymnal) the author, composer, tune name, and alphabetical indices from The Presbyterian Hymnal are given at the end of this Companion. One hopes that the paper binding will stand up to the repeated use that this handy volume will surely get.

Bert Polman (bdp5@calvin.edu) is a hymnologist who is a professor and chair of the music department at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.