And again….and again….and again

Many of our hymns have a refrain which follows every verse. Now this a surely a strange word to use, considering the other meaning which is …to NOT do something!….).

It is actually an organist’s nightmare! To keep me in touch with where I am in accompanying a hymn, I keep listening to the words of the last line of each verse, just before the refrain comes along. I remember once losing the place, and was unsure where I was in the hymn. Luckily I guessed correctly and stopped at the right place.

On one other occasion, I started playing another verse and when I noticed, I just took the opportunity to extemporise, and was complimented later for it….talk about serendipity!

But why do we have refrains?…….I don’t think a refrain, when repeated so often, adds anything to the value of the wordage, and smacks slightly of Sunday School Choruses….but maybe someone has other ideas!

2 thoughts on “And again….and again….and again

  1. Harry says:

    This was received by e-mail from a friend….I’m sure he doesn’t mind part of it appearing as a comment…………….

    Dear Harry,

    Read your new entry regarding hymn tunes. I agree with what you say. It is, of course, not all modern hymns that are dross. “All things bright and beautiful” is pretty crass. Eric Idle (ex Monty Python) wrote an excellent set of alternative words. One cannot argue with the logic here! It is easy to look at the world through rose coloured glasses as in Alexander’s case. The words are pretty ‘twee’!

  2. lordjabez says:

    You are right in that sometimes refrains dumb down a hymn. But a well-written refrain can often enhance a hymn by giving the singer a chance to “catch his breath” when trying to digest the oft-theologially dense stanzas. When I use hymns in corporate worship these days (especially when rearranging them in a “full band” setting, but sometimes even when giving them a more traditional treatment), I’ll sometimes only insert the refrain between every other stanza. This helps alleviate the repetitiveness without making the whole song one unbroken theological treatise.

    On a sidenote, oftentimes a refrain was added to a hymn much later than it’s original writing. In the strictest sense a lyric with a refrain isn’t even hymn at all, but that’s a pretty pedantic view.

    On another sidenote, I got here from my blog thanks to WordPress’s “possibly related posts” feature. I think it did a decent job in this case, don’t you think, given my post: http://brokenisbeautiful.com/2009/09/21/glorious-day

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