A religious song or poem in praise of God is a hymn.
A writer of hymns is a hymnist.
A collections of hymns is a hymnal or a hymnary, which may or may not include music.
The music to which a hymn may be sung is a hymn tune.
The singing of hymns is hymnody.
A student of hymnody is a hymnologist.
And, finally the scholarly study of hymns, hymnists, and hymnody is hymnology.
Dr. Jeannine Jordan, church musician and hymnologist, is also the creator and performer of the organ and multi-media concert experiences, Bach and Sons and From Sea to Shining Sea, as a concert organist.
The hymn tune TON-Y-BOTEL (tune in a bottle) also known as EBENEZER is a Welsh tune that first appeared in hymnals in 1890. Often a composer will choose a hymn tune name based on a scriptural reference in the case of EBENEZER. The tune name TON-Y-BOTEL came from a legend about the tune being picked up by a peasant on the coast of the Lleyn Peninsula in a sealed bottle which washed ashore. The title ST. PETERSBURG was probably chosen by the composer Bortnianski because that is the city in which he resided at the time he composed the melody.
You can find a list of the Tune Names included in our 1982 Hymnal on page 1045. You may find more than one page number listed with some titles which means several different texts can be sung to this tune. (Example: TON-Y-BOTEL, pages 381 and 527).
A wonderfully complete website to discover more about hymn tunes and their composers and texts and their writers, is www.hymnary.com. Enjoy!
Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Church and Concert Organist
With the New Year, why not take time to look really carefully at the amazing book we use every Sunday in worship – the hymnal. Did you know at the bottom of each hymn page is a wealth of information about each hymn? Why you can discover who wrote the text and when that writer lived and died; who composed the tune or melody of the hymn and when that composer lived and died; what the name of the tune is; what the poetic meter of the text is; and even how quickly the hymn should be played.
For example, let’s look at the most well-loved Epiphany hymn, known by the first line of its text, We Three Kings of Orient Are. Checking the bottom of the page we discover the words were written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. who lived between 1820 and 1891. As it happens Mr. Hopkins also composed the melody (music) to this favorite text. Listed to the right of the word Music is Three Kings of Orient. Every composer names his/her tune and this is the title Mr. Hopkins gave to his now-famous tune/melody. To the far right of the page are a rather strange set of numbers – in this case 88.446 with Refrain. These numbers refer to the poetic meter of the text, i.e. 8 syllables in the first phrase, 8 in the second, 4 in the third and etc. The notation directly above these numbers tell a musician about how quickly this hymn should be played.
With all this information, hymns can take on new personalities and “come alive.” Take time to learn a bit about the hymns so carefully chosen for your worship. You’ll be amazed at what you will discover.
Dr. Jeannine Jordan, church and concert organist