Reviews of Hymn-Based Choral Compositions – December 2018

Reviews by Beverly Howard
All prices in U.S. dollars. 

Said Judas to Mary. David Sims. Augsburg Fortress, 978-1-5064-4571-7, 2017. SATB. $1.95.
Sims offers a creative arrangement of a text and tune by Sydney Carter, who wrote the familiar hymn “I Danced in the Morning.” Carter penned this imaginative hymn as a dialogue between Judas, Mary and Jesus, recounting the woman anointing Jesus’s feet (John 12) with a call to care for those in need. Carter composed a tune which is stylistically akin to many English folksongs. In the text Jesus refers to his impending death and Sims underlays the folk tune with the Passion Chorale. With its singable melody and interesting choral lines, the anthem is accessible to choirs of varying abilities and gives lyric expression to a biblical story not often sung.

With Sweetest Music. Adam Tice and Marty Haugen. G.I.A. Publications, Inc, G-9372, 2017. SATB, Assembly, C Instrument I, C Instrument II, Piano. $2.25.
Tice offers a text suitable for ecumenical services focusing on creation, discipleship, music and the arts. Haugen’s tune, Duckwood, is easily accessible for a congregation and the score includes a printable insert (obtain permission through and a hymn version accompaniment. The anthem follows the form of the hymn, laid out in stanzas with choral lines passing seamlessly from two to four parts. The final stanza includes a vocal descant. Guitar parts are available from the publisher.

Shepherd of Souls. Scott Atwood. Augsburg Fortress, 978-1-5064-4573-1, 2018. SAB, piano. $1.95.
This text, by Omer Westendorf, is set to the chorale tune Ich will dich lieben and is a fine contemplative anthem for Communion. The SAB voicing renders this accessible for the small choir. The chordal accompaniment supports the voices and adds rhythmic momentum.

Retuned Hymns:

Fairest Lord Jesus. Stephen Main. G.I.A. Publications, Inc, G-9160, 2016. SATB Voices divisi and piano. $2.25.
The composer sets this familiar text to a fresh new tune supported by flowing 16th-note figurations. There is textural interest throughout with the treble divisi, four-part harmonization, dialogue between treble and low voices, and changes in accompaniment in the final stanza. Although this anthem is accessible, it does provide a reasonable challenge for a choir.

O How I Love Jesus. Craig Kenath Sandford. G.I.A. Publications, Inc, G-9117, 2016. SATB and piano. $2.35.
This anthem features two nineteenth-century tunes: Geerby Henry Greatorex for the stanzas and the familiar How I Love Jesus for the refrain. Both tunes appear in 4/4, transforming the repetitive 6/8 rhythms to a setting with rhythmic interest. The stanzas distribute the melody between the low and high voices and the refrain is always in four-part harmony. The anthem passes through several keys. The varied piano accompaniment appropriately reflects the character of each stanza.

The Old Rugged Cross. Jerrell R. Gray. G.I.A. Publications, Inc, G-9047, 2016. SATB. $2.20.
Gray sets two stanzas and the refrain of this early 20thcentury gospel hymn. The first stanza uses the original tune, Old Rugged Cross, recast from 6/8 to 3/4 and with the former’s clichéd dotted rhythms smoothed out. The second stanza departs from the usual tune, expressing the text in a sensitive four-part setting. The anthem climaxes with a statement of the refrain featuring ATB divisi. The harmonies depart from the expected, tantalizing the ear.

Beverly Howard is a former editor of The Hymn and served on the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song in preparing Glory to God. She is a retired university music professor.