AACH1957: All-American Church Hymnal, 11th ed.

This is a rather strange hymnal, I think. It claims to be the 11th “edition”, but I wonder if they just mean “printing”. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about it, so my comments will mostly be in the way of picking nits, or on the positive side, mentioning a few items this one carries that most don’t and that I wish more did.

Negatives: The print is small and a bit bleary, probably from having been photoreprinted 11 times. The publisher, Benson, is one I generally admire more when the notes are in seven distinct shapes than when, as here, they are all roundish. The contents are not “All-American” (which to me would mean avoiding Watts and Wesley and Luther as assiduously as possible), though they include all four stanzas of “The Star-Spangled Banner”! The copyright date is given as 1957, but very few of the hymns are more recent than the 1930s. There’s no CWM RHONDDA (“Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah” is set to ZION, and “God of grace and God of glory”). No “How great Thou art” even. The last two musical numbers in the book are settings of the “Gloria Patri”: Meineke, which is labeled GLORIA PATRI First setting, and then the “Old Scottish Chant”, which is labeled GLORIA PATRI Third setting. So what happened to Second setting, presumably (but not certainly) Greatorex? It’s got the lamest Christmas section I’ve seen in years. And cultural diversity it ain’t got much of.

As one who takes hymnology seriously, I prefer either to see tune names given where possible, or completely eschewed except perhaps where a text is being set to more than one tune. AACH1957 just gives tune names sporadically, and they put their three settings of “All hail the power of Jesus’ name” in three completely disparate locations: CORONATION is #1, DIADEM is #246, and MILES LANE is #308, but none carries the tune name, nor is there any “See also” note to help the poor congregant who wants to request his favorite but doesn’t read music well enough to choose one of the three if he can find them…

Now the good points: as is almost always the case, this hymnal has some songs I really like and rarely see. #261 “Sail On!” (Gabriel) I’ve rarely seen before, and I’m glad to have it come up when I’m looking for maritime hymnody. #239 “Hallelujah, we shall rise“; #206 “Angel Band“; #349 “Ye Christian Heralds“; #301 “Dare to Be a Daniel“; #281 “Stranger of Galilee“… and y’know what? I like STATE STREET, which has almost disappeared from view, and I also like Samuel F. Smith’s baptismal numbers, “Down to the Sacred Wave“, and “With willing hearts we tread“, which AACH1957 conflates, and which STATE STREET carries well. There are others. But boy am I glad this is not the only hymnal I own!

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