Your Questions and Comments regarding Grant me, God, the Gift of Singing, 2nd Edition

by Mogens Lemvig Hansen

If you have more questions, please ask. You may also want to look at the errata.

I cannot imagine using such a long name.

Nor can we—for daily use. The official name distinguishes our hymnal in the context of the multitude of other hymnals out there. In our church we will probably call it the new hymnal for a while; then it’ll be the English hymnal when Hymnal for Church and Home is but a distant memory.

I think that Grant me, God, the Gift of Singing is an exceptionally good name for a hymnal. In addition, Grundtvig wrote the hymn with that name and Laub wrote the music; you can hardly send more signals of Danish hymn tradition.

Why print the music?

To make the hymnal more useful. Useful for those members of the congregation who can read music; useful for the organist who this way has a chance to read the text and understand what we are singing; useful for a choir who does not have hold the music in one hand and the text in the other. (I have tried that for rehearsal; it is not easy.)

Yes, your congregation can read music. Surprisingly many people learned to play the piano as children. Besides, hymn singers need to know very little to make use of the music:

Some have suggested alternatives: One could save space by printing only one line of text with the music but that would make life difficult for singers. One could have printed only the melody line but that would leave the hymnal useless for organists, choirs, and those members of the congregation who, like me, like to sing the tenor part.

The hymnal format with music is by far the most common in North America. I have visited countless churches of all denominations (Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, …, Unitarian) over the last ten years, and I have only once seen a church using a text-only hymnal. When in Rome, do as the Romans.

Why print the text of the first stanzas again after the music?

To make the hymnal more user friendly. The large font used after the music is easier to read than the small font we had to use for the text typeset with the music. To have the entire text printed after the music was a strong wish from our congregation.

Can I buy a text-only version?

No. We considered making a text version, an organist’s version, a choir version, but our market is too small. That a hymnal like ours is financially possible at all is a miracle of computer technology and volunteer work.

Let me then buy an electronic version; then I can print the hymns I want the way I want them.

I have volunteered two years of my life making this hymnal, and now you expect me to help you make pirate copies so that you do not need to buy sufficiently many copies of the real thing?!

If you copy from our hymnal, you steal from the Danish Lutheran Church of Vancouver. If you copy one of the hymns that have a copyright notice, you also steal from that third-party copyright holder. You may feel that stealing somebody’s intellectual property is a small crime but those publishers and individuals who make their living producing religious material are of another opinion. Also, the penalty was rather stiff when somebody stole from the Tree of Knowledge.

If you would like to volunteer your time contacting all the copyright holders, and if you can raise the funds to pay them, and if you know—or can find out—how to make an electronic version, then we can probably find a way to provide you with the raw material.

Why do you use so many different fonts?

All the fonts are from the Computer Modern font family by Dr. Donald E. Knuth.
  1. I set the hymn texts in Computer Modern Sans Serif because it is easy to read.
  2. However, Computer Modern Sans Serif is not particularly pretty, especially in large font sizes, so I chose Computer Modern Roman for the titles, footnotes, and front- and back-matter.
  3. I set the names of authors and composers in Computer Modern Text Italic to visually separate them from the titles.
  4. Likewise, I set the running heads in Computer Modern Roman Caps and Small Caps to visually separate them from the titles.

Was that many fonts? O, I almost forgot, I also used bold in the indexes, and of course the music uses a few fonts of its own.

You use apostrophes, slurs, and accents to indicate concatenated syllables. Why not choose a system and be consistent?

I sacrificed consistency for aesthetics and usefulness. Here is the problem: In our hymnal, the word power is sung on two syllables 33 times but on one syllable 50 times; the question is what to do about that. Four solutions present themselves:
  1. You can do nothing. This solution is the aesthetically most pleasing, but leaves the singer in agro Domino and leads to mumble hymns since nobody knows when to sing what.
  2. You can replace a silent ‘e’ by an apostrophe, pow’r. This is the most common solution—also in plain prose. However, many apostrophes leave the text almost undecipherable.
  3. You can place a slur under the syllables to be concatenated, power. Slurs are better than apostrophes in that the spelling of the word remains unchanged, but slurs are more intrusive.
  4. You can use accents to indicate that a usually silent syllable is to be pronounced, powér. Accents are the positive counterpart to slurs, but silent syllables are more common than accented ones.

I have tried to choose in each case the best over-all solution depending on how many times each version of a word is used. For example: pow-er 33 times, pow’r 50 times, ev-ery 176 times, ev-é-ry once, glo-rious 43 times, glo-rí-ous four times.

You have many unnecessary widows and orphans.

We made a design choice for two balanced columns of text. Balancing short columns is difficult, and the cost has often been a single line of a stanza ‘left behind’ or ‘pushed ahead.’ I looked again at widows and orphans when preparing the second edition, and in a few cases I could squeeze things around.

In English, one capitalises the first word of each line of poetry.

That is a convention we chose not to follow. We feel that the hymn is easier to read when we capitalise as in plain prose.

Modern hymnals do not capitalise He, His, etc.

We feel that capitalising pronouns referring to God makes the hymn is easier to understand.

This is the first hymnal I have seen in years that uses choir brackets around the music.

True, I am from a choir background, and I think they look nice, so there you are.

Why all the metre changes in the music? They are confusing.

Confusing for whom? Many Danish hymn tunes, even modern ones, have irregular metres. I suppose that is what Bielefeldt considers a sign of quality when he writes that the Church’s own tunes have a spirit and being different from everything else. If you grew up with the Danish tunes, the changing metres sit in your fingers, and you can just play. However, our current organist is from Transylvania and her predecessor is from Taiwan. To them, the secret metre changes are very confusing. I therefore decided to post the metre changes as they happen. If that confuses Danes by making them think, I think no great harm has been done.

The tune of hymn doesn’t sound quite right.

Some hymn tunes have developed differently in Denmark and North America. In most cases I have resolved that problem by typing the North American version in small notes. The harmonies are unchanged, so nothing bad happens if a congregation sings the two versions simultaneously.

In a few cases we had to choose:

Awake, O Spirit of the watchmen
We chose the Danish version of the tune and adapted the text. This tune (Dir, dir, Jehova) is also used for Arise, my soul, this New Year’s morning and a number of Danish hymns. Singing different versions of the same tune on alternating Sundays is just too confusing.
Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands
We chose the North American version of this tune (Christ lag in Todesbanden). We rarely sing that tune, so confusion is unlikely.
Dearest Jesus, we are here
I chose the Danish version of the tune (Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier). The North American version is metrically equivalent to the Danish but otherwise very different, so typing in the English version in small notes was too messy. The hymns Dearest Jesus, at Your word and Pray to God, and you’ll be heard also use this tune.
A mighty fortress is our God
Two different versions of this tune (Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott) are used in Denmark. To add another would be unbearable, so we chose the most common Danish version. The hymn God’s word is our great heritage also use this tune.

Hymn 7, stanza 3, line 1: Shouldn’t that be all whom life was given?

The verb, gave, in the sentence God gave life to all is double transitive. You can therefore turn the sentence into the passive voice in two ways; either must then be manipulated to fit the context and metre of the hymn:

God gave life to all.
All were given life by God. Life was given to all by God.
All were given life. Life was given to all.
All who were given life. All to whom life was given.
All who life were given. All whom life was given.
Subject: All Subject: Life

Either sentence gives emphasis to its subject. The context of the hymn is that all should step forward. Hence the first version is most correct.

We are Lutherans; we can argue about fine points of grammar.

Hymn 27, stanza 2, line 3: a leaflet is a printed sheet of paper.

My dictionaries state that leaflet also means a small leaf. That interpretation is clearly the translator’s intention. Leaflets are also found in Hymn 196, stanza 3, line 2.

Hymn 90, stanza 1, line 6: Shouldn’t that be flounder?

No! Flounder means show confusion in thought while founder means fill with water and sink. We flounder while the Church on Earth may look like it is about to founder.

The indexes are not sorted right.

The indexes are sorted alphabetically:

I don’t think hymn is a children’s hymn but you have listed it as such in the topic index.

Some hymnal listed it as a children’s hymn or as a children’s choir selection, so somebody had success with children singing that hymn. Take a second look.

Why did you not make this change in the second edition?

We feel our original design choices are still right.

We also feel that that the two editions should be usable together. Improving a little here and there would quickly leave the two editions incompatible. Small changes could also easily introduce intolerable page breaks in the music.

Who is that kid, anyway, making a hymnal?

Thank you, but I’m not that young. Sometimes I feel old as Methuselah; I think children do that to you.

And I did not make that hymnal alone. I did a lot of technical work; Pastor Folmer Johansen of Granly did a lot of creative work polishing old translations and coming up with new ones; Pastor Kai Glud did a lot of practical work obtaining funding and copyrights and instigating the hymnal in the first place; and a host of other volunteers contributed their efforts. Have a look at the Hymnal Committee.

Now, if you still want to know about me, then I have a homepage and I have written an article about me in the 2001 conference book of the Federation of Danish Associations in Canada.