Saturday, March 12, 2011

Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories -- Book Review

For those who enjoy the old hymns, the ones “chock full of theology,” stories have abounded for years about how certain favorite hymns came to be written. Author Robert J. Morgan compiled a collection of the stories behind 150 of the world’s most famous hymns, along with the lyrics and music to each hymn, into a book titled Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories.

The book begins with the earliest hymns and progresses through the more recent offerings. “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” taken from Numbers 6: 24 - 26, begins the book, and it describes how these biblical words were set to music many times. Then Peter Lutkin wrote the classic tune, Benediction, around 1900, which is probably the composition we all know and love. The book ends with “The All Sufficient King,” by Robert J. Morgan, who describes his own process in creating a hymn and points out that you, too, can study the Bible and write a hymn.

Other old favorites included in this book are “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” “Rock of Ages,” “Just As I Am,” “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “I Gave My Life For Thee,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Standing on the Promises, “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “When We All Get to Heaven,” and “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” Mr. Morgan, a pastor at The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, covers all these and many more. He even includes a chapter describing his own experience, which he titles, “The Cure for Shot Nerves.”

When I read that, I thought, “Ah-ha! No wonder I’ve never gone off the rails.” My favorite activity when doing rote work is the singing of various old hymns. No doubt all that subconscious absorption of theology has kept me well-balanced over the years. I highly recommend hymn singing as an antidote to whatever ails you, as it’s much cheaper than a doctor and doesn’t mess with you the way prescription drugs do.

Once upon a time, when I took piano lessons, hymns were about the only things I would practice, because (1) I knew how they ought to sound, and (2) I enjoyed trying to play them. I could have used a book like this back then, because knowing the story might have inspired my practice. Alas, I was unmusical and hated practice, and about that same time my parents came to the reluctant realization that my younger brother played better than I did after two years of lessons by teaching himself out of my piano books. So he got the piano lessons and I went back to fantasizing about playing hymns and singing them rather than actually having to play them.

According to Pastor Morgan, singing the old hymns is probably the most valuable therapy that exists these days. I agree wholeheartedly!


Molly Noble Bull said...

I love hymns. This was a great topic for discussion, Katy. Way to go.
In most cases, I like old hymns better than new ones probably because of the words. The words are super important. They stick to my brain. I like words that remind me of something I can recall later when I need that information the most.
It's good to memorize scripture verses. I think it's also good to memorize the words to hymns we sing in church.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Katy,
I forgot to mention that like you, I also sing hymns during the day --mostly mentally so folks won't think I'm off my rocker. I especially like to sing hymns when I am on the treadmill. I am not a sports person and any physical exercize is a chore for me. But when I sing hymns while doing physical things like walking or doing chores, the chores becomes fun.

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Molly, what a great suggestion about singing hymns while exercising! I'll need to remember to do that when I'm out walking during my lunch break (that's when I do my daily exercise). It might make the activity more enjoyable! Katy, thanks for introducing us to this wonderful and insightful book!

Teresa Slack said...
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Molly Noble Bull said...
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