I've been involved in the Music of the Anglican church now for nearly 30 years, and over the course of that time I've managed to compile a list of hymns that have made it into favourites. It's a running joke with my choir now that every time we sing a hymn that I like, I say that it is in my top 10, when in fact, if they have been keeping track, the top 10 might include as many as 100 hymns.
So here, in no particular order, is a list of my top 10 favourite hymns, and for the sake of clarity, I'll try to keep it to 10!
1. All My Hope on God is Founded (Michael)
2. For All The Saints (Sine Nomine)
3. Praise My Soul The King of Heaven (Praise my Soul) - it was our Wedding processional, after all!
4. Jesus Lover of my Soul (Aberysthwyth)
5. O Jesus I have promised (Thornbury - PLEASE not Wolvercote!!)
6. Love Divine (Hyfrydol - again NOT Blaenwern or, God forbid, Love Divine)
7. The Day Thou Gavest (St. Clement) - which reminds me - we are way overdue for a good choral evensong at our parish!
8. Once to Every Man and Nation (Ebenezer) I mean really - who wouldn't love a hymn tune named after the Scrooge himself?
9. Come Down O Love Divine (Down Ampney and no other tune please!) Actually, you can add any RVW tune to this list safely I think.
10. I Feel the Winds of God Today (Kingsfold) to which the words have been completely demolished in the new Hymn Book.
So that's the list ... for today ... tomorrow it would probably contain different ones. Maybe I should do a top 10 by season. Although, when we get into Lent, the list would be changing everyday! (this list may become a regular feature!) Noticeable absences include Melita and Ewing.
So, if these are some of my favourites, what are my least favourites? Let's see if I can think of 10. None of these are horrible hymns - but they all trigger some kind of memory to me, that helped nominate them to this list.
1. Lord of the Dance (Lord of the Dance) - "They Whipped and they Stripped" was once misprinted in our leaflet as "Whiped and Striped" - it was a good moment, but otherwise, I'll leave this tune with the Quakers and Michael Flatley (with a certain amount of respect and appreciation for Aaron Copland as well)
2. How Great Thou Art (How Great Thou Art) - Yes he's great - but the hymn - not so great. One too many Catholic funerals, with one particularly horrid cantor, who took the pause at the end of the refrain (see #7) way too long. Funny thing is, I can't hear this hymn now without smelling incense.
3. Now There is No Male or Female (Omni Die) I have nothing against the tune - but really -
what was the poet thinking?
4. Pretty much anything with the tune Beach Spring attached to it. I think it was because of a bad youth group experience WAY back when our Pastoral Vicar sat us down to listen to sermons of Herbert O'Driscoll. I have nothing against the guy, but I cannot remember at that age (15?) being so mightily bored. The next time I saw his name, it was attached to the hymn "Come and Journey" to Beach Spring, so that's my rationale.
5. Jesus Loves Me (Jesus Loves me) - memories of Catholic Sunday School.
6. Take up your Cross, the Saviour Said (Breslau) - actually, this isn't really one of my least favourites, it's just that, thanks to a friend, I can't sing this hymn without thinking of Foghorn-Leghorn singing "Camptown Races" ... and so it goes "Take up your Cross the Savour Said .. doo dah.... doo dah ..." Forever ruined it is.
7. All Things Bright and Beautiful (All Things Bright or Royal Oak). Too many "Blessing of the Animals" services. In general, (sine nomine aside), any hymn with a "refrain" makes this list. We did however have 26 dogs this year at the service - and they all barked on cue for the Alleluia's in "All Creatures of our God and King" - Reminds me of this part of "Mr Bean Goes to Church".
8. Just As I Am (Woodworth) - memories of a Catholic church in Ottawa that I played for, with a very bad funeral choir - who sang this at EVERY funeral I played.
9. Pick up your "Gather" book or some equivalent - find a hymn - nine times out of ten, I won't like it. If it has guitar chords - the chance of me not liking it goes up tenfold.
10. Holy, Holy, Holy (Nicaea) - Ok, here's a touchy one. Nothing against the hymn, but I was once organist at a United church where it was the "call to worship" EVERY Sunday. The saving grace for me is that in our hymnal, they printed Godfrey Hewitt's descant - one of Canada's finest! It's also the hymn that is best suited for Trinity Sunday, which is our Patronal Feast Day, so there's no getting around it really.
Have you any to add to either list?