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New Horizons

March, 2009: What Makes a Great Hymn?

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Contents

What Makes a Great Hymn?

What makes a hymn "good"? Is it good because we like it, because it is familiar, because it brings back pleasant memories of loved ones or special events or times? These feelings and associations are certainly very real to all of us, but they are subjective. Are there objective standards that we can use to evaluate hymns?

Music is an emotional language that conveys meaning. It is this emotional language to which most of us relate when we listen to music or participate in it. But the building blocks (elements) used to construct the music are objective and can be evaluated in a clear and thorough way for craftsmanship and effective communication. When music is paired with a text (as in a hymn), it can also be evaluated in terms of how well it matches the affect (emotion) of the text and conveys its meaning. Read more

Since Christ Is Lord of Heaven and Earth

It was Friday night—I remember it like yesterday—and we were gathered in our living room for Bible study. Usually we would begin with a prayer and a few hymns, and then my dad would open the Word, perhaps read a commentary, and teach. Then another hymn would close our time before all of us flocked to the goodies in the kitchen. My sister played the piano to accompany us, and whoever was quick enough would choose the hymns we sang.

On that evening, Frank chose "Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns," and my sister set into the music with zeal. And then we came in. Read more

The Psalter and the Church's Personality

How many times have you heard this comment: "The community church down the road seems so happy and joyous, whereas your church seems so serious and somber"? Many Orthodox Presbyterians have heard such comments—comments that address the "personality" of a given congregation.

In our defense, we do take God seriously, we do take the Bible seriously, and we do take our worship seriously. These are all indispensable hallmarks of Reformed churches that reflect our theology. But is it true that we lack joy? Must a congregation be either joyful or serious? Read more

Irresistible Grace

Irresistible Grace

Dear James, Read more

 
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