Dec 16, 2007

Hymn Pet Peeves

Today we sang "Behold, The Great Redeemer Die" in sacrament meeting and it has prompted a post that has been brewing for years, as posts about pet peeves often do, festering and eating me away until I finally must expose it to the eyes of others, in hopes that this will somehow ease the pain. For some reason, and I know this is ridiculous, I have more pet peeves when it comes to the singing of hymns than with nearly any other subject. Here is my list of grievances:

1. First, I must discuss the leaving off of the last verses simply because they are not in the actual music part of the page, as this prompted this post. Those of you who are not familiar with the way hymns are set up in a typical Mormon hymnal, you can view a page here. As you can see, four of the verses are in the music, but then, to save space, two of the verses are down below. Unfortunately, people often only sing (as happened in our sacrament meeting today) the verses that are in the music, as if the ones below are optional. This makes no sense whatsoever. Do people read the first four stanzas of a poem and figures that's good enough to get the message because the other two stanzas are on the next page in the book? No. Especially as the last stanza is often the most important. In the case of "Behold the Great Redeemer Die" all of the verses are about Christ's death until the last, which starts out "He lives--he lives." The whole point of Christ's death is that it wasn't the end and he saved mankind by conquering death. It makes so much more sense to end the hymn with the expression of desire "to do his will and live his praise," than more about death (Christ saying to the Father, "receive my spirit unto thee"). Now, I can understand cutting out verses occasionally to save time. For example, "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" with its seven verses, can sometimes be a little cumbersome. However, if you look at the words, the last verse is by far the most important. It would make more sense to say, for example, "Let's sing verse one, then five through seven"...or whatever. Singing just the first three verses of this hymn is ridiculous. I've seen it done several times, though.

2. In every ward, somehow, there is always a Descant Girl. Single's wards often have several of them. This girl makes a huge production of her singing and sings some sort of harmony above everyone else. It drives me nuts. The point is not to show off your range. Nobody is impressed, just uncomfortable when you do this, Descant Girl. Please, for yourself and the sake of others, just sing the normal soprano line. Thank you.

3. I hate when people say, "Well, I know the words, so I'm not going to open up the hymnal." This is often accompanied by looks of disdain at those that are looking at the music. I personally have a hard time appreciating the hymn without looking at the lyrics and notes on the page. I know this one shouldn't bother me as much as it does, as it's generally people being lazy rather than snooty, but nonetheless, it irks me every time

4. People sing in parts all the time when the music says "Unison". There are always people who try. Nobody's impressed with your attempts at harmony. Even if it fits well, which is most of the time, as there'll be music in the alto, tenor, and bass areas to work with in this case (unlike in the case of Descant Girl) , the music says "Unison". I'm rarely a stickler for rules like this, but, again, as hymns are inexplicably just a horribly touchy subject for me, this drives me berserk.

5. I hate when people close the hymnal before the end of the song. Often, when it's a song where everyone knows the last chorus, or if they've just read the last line and know they can sing that last bit without needing the book in front of them, you hear people all around you putting their hymnals away during the last bit of the song. This distracts from the spirit of the hymn and kills the last bit, which as we've discussed before, often includes the most meaningful lines in the song.

It seems like there are more, but I can't think of any at the moment and my fiancé apparently needs attention, as he keeps peeking around the corner and making faces at me.

Edit: Rachael brought to my attention the most important one except perhaps the last verse skipping thing, and it was definitely one I was thinking of when I said "It seems like there are more...", but I just didn't think of it at the moment. See her comment for more on the all important hating of people who say "page number" instead of "hymn number". I always want to count the pages and see what song is on the page number they said and start singing that loudly over whatever the hymn they actually meant was, but a) it's far too much effort, and b) I'm not quite that much of a jerk.


Rachael said...

1. Amen sister! The last few verses are often the best/most meaningful, and generally my favorites.
2. Would she just shut up?
3. Ok, this one I disagree with, kind of. Looks of disdain, I hate. But I memorize quickly, so I _don't_have to look at the book, and since there are never enough hymnals to go around in my ward, it's convenient, most of the time.
4. Yes!
5. AMEN! It's like leaving during the benediction.

May I add one? Saying "We're going to sing "Hymn Name" on page X". The hymns are numbered, not the pages in our hymnal! It should be "The closing hymn is number X, "Hymn Name."

Trev said...

I'm so cute. Also, I agree with Rachael about the memorization thing. For those of us with quick-memorizing minds and lazy hands, it is extremely convenient and, for me at least, doesn't really take away any meaning. I could see your point, however, as I am the king of absurd pet peeves and so I respect that.

James said...

Well, I did make two posts (in case you missed it), and the first one is nontechnical. Also since I haven't gotten a chance to say it yet - Congratulations! For the obvious of course. Not for having hymn pet peeves.

Anonymous said...

They finally revised our Lutheran hymnal so that the page number is identical with the hymn number. Perhaps you should suggest this to the Mormon powers-that-be.


Allison said...

I'm glad that you didn't list "alternates singing soprano and alto parts by verse, line and then measure" or I'd owe you a big apology for many such occasions. As it is, I'm sorry for causing any undue peevishness (if that is a word and if it works in this context) as a result of being guilty of at least points 3 and 5 from time to time.

Valerie said...

I can't stand it when the tempo drags, especially when the song is supposed to be upbeat. It makes the slower songs--like sacrament hymns--that much more snail-paced.