Thursday, January 24, 2008

Other people collect baseball cards...I collect hymnals!

Ok, this is really, really cool, but I've got a lot of detective work to do yet. The short story? I just ordered an Irish hymnal (Church Hymnal, 2000, 5th ed.) from Oxford University Press in the UK and it's Companion from Columba Press.

Why? The 2008 WLA Hymn Festival is scheduled for March 17, 2008––St. Patrick's Day! When I realized that our annual hymn festival was going to be on St. Patrick's Day, I used the opportunity to start planning and researching an Irish hymn festival. However, since there are only two hymn tunes in the WELS hymnal, Christian Worship, which can claim Irish heritage (SLANE and ST. COLUMBA), I've had to do a lot of research in order to unearth other Irish hymns and tunes.

Yesterday I was doing more research when I stumbled across the website of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland. I didn't find any information about Irish hymnody on their website, so I jotted off a quick email to their secretary. Happily, he wrote back to me today! Copied below is the email that Robert Canham, Secretary of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland, just sent to me:

Dear Dale,

Thank you for your email. I have been in touch with Bishop Edward Darling who is now retired but lives just outside Belfast and was a Bishop in the Church of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland (he is also Executive President Elect of The Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland). I enclose an extract of his reponse which I hope may be of some help to you and offer further sources of information.

'....judging from his list of publications, Dale obviously has already done a certain amount of homework. He should, however, include the current edition of the [Irish] Church Hymnal (2000), for it contains a greatly enlarged number of genuine Irish hymns. He ought to contact OUP (Oxford University Press) immediately for a musical copy to be sent to him. He probably would be wise to order a copy of the Companion to Church Hymnal, because, as you know, all the Irish hymns are listed on page 976, and the commentary on many of these hymns tells of their origins and where they originally appeared etc. The publisher of the Companion would be able to send him a copy if Dale Witt were to make contact. The address is:

Columba Press, 55A Spruce Avenue, Stillorgan Industrial Park, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland. The email address that might get the quickest response is: He would then be in touch with the head of the company, Seán O'Boyle.

I know that Donald Davison has done a section on Irish hymnody for Dick Watson's forthcoming Dictionary, but that would probably not be available until the book is published.

I hope that these few comments may be of some help to him.

I hope his festival goes off well. I would be most interested to see a copy of what he eventually produces for that occasion.'

I hope the foregoing is of some help to you - although I fear it may be a little expensive getting two rather large books across to USA!

With best wishes,

Robert A. Canham
Secretary, The Hymn Society of Gt Britain & Ireland

Message -----
From: Dale Witte
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 6:19 PM
Subject: Irish Hymnody

Dear Sir:

I've been trying to find good resources (hymnals, choral settings, reference books) in Irish hymnody for a hymn festival I have planned for my high school choirs for March 17 of this year. The problem I am encountering is that most American hymnals have more German and English tunes than they do Irish. If you could, please direct me to what you think are excellent examples of Irish hymns, Irish hymn tunes, and Irish hymnals. I have already contacted the Hymn Society of North America, but was not able to find any books or collections of Irish hymns through them.

Just so you know the extent of my findings so far, I've copied my short list of tunes and books below. Any other assistance or direction you could give me would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.


Dale Witte
Choir Director-Winnebago Lutheran Academy
475 E. Merrill Ave. Fond du Lac, WI 54935
(920) 921-4930 ext. 310 (office)
(920) 251-4490 (cell)

Choir blog:
Music Technology blog:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16)

Irish Hymn Festival
(Mar. 17, 2008; St. Patrick's Day)--MONDAY of HOLY WEEK

SLANE (Be Thou My Vision)
ST. PATRICK'S BREASTPLATE (I Bind Unto Myself This Day)
ST. COLUMBA (The King of Love My Shepherd Is, arr. John Ferguson)
THE BARD OF ARMAGH (Hal Hopson, MSM-50-4501)
COLERAINE (Westermeyer, p. 116) 1681 Irish Anthology called La Santa (HA&M, 1904)
LONDONDERRY AIR aka O Danny Boy (ask Dan for the hymn text)
STAR OF THE COUNTY DOWN (Canticle of the Turning, R245 Renewing Worship--New Hymns and Songs)

DUNDEE (Westermeyer, p. 110) 1615 Scottish Psalter
CAITHNESS (Westermeyer, p. 110) 1635 Scottish Psalter The Psalmes of David in Prose and Meter (Edinburgh)
DUNFERMLINE (Westermeyer, p. 112)
CULROSS ("Kew-ross", Westermeyer, p. 115)

SONG 67 (Westermeyer, p. 112) comes from a Welsh collection of 1621 by Edmund Prys; Orlando Gibbons
RHUDDLAN (Westermeyer, 210)
AR HYD Y NOS (Westermeyer, 211)
ASH GROVE (Westermeyer, 212)
ABERYSTWYTH (R154 Fire of God, Undying Flame)
LLANGLOFFAN (R129 Bless Now, O God, the Journey)
BUNESSAN (Gaelic trad. R222)

Choral settings
The Deer's Cry, Jackson Berkey

Westermeyer, Paul. Let the People Sing: Hymn Tunes in Perspective. GIA, Chicago. © 2004.
Frost, Maurice. English & Scottish Psalm & Hymn Tunes. c. 1543-1677 (London: S.P.C.K., 1953)
Music, David W. Hymnology: A Collection of Source Readings. (London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1996)
Luff, Alan. Welsh Hymns and Their Tunes. (Carol Stream: Hope Publishing Company, 1990)

Church Hymnal, The [Irish] - Association for Promoting Christian Knowledge/Oxford University Press 1960
Irish Church Praise - Association for Promoting Christian Knowledge/Oxford University Press 1990
The Irish Presbyterian Hymnbook - Canterbury Press 2005
Psalter in Metre, The (Irish Psalter) - Oxford University Press 1975
Sing and Pray - The Sunday School Society for Ireland 1990
Glory to God - The Presbyterian Church in Ireland/Oxford University Press 1994

Wiliam Williams, Pantycelyn (1717-1791) is for Welsh hymnody what Paul Gerhardt is for German and Isaac Watts for English

Marilyn Kay Stulken's LBW Handbook-Irish hymnody

Next year the date of my high school choir program's hymn festival falls on March 17, 2008--St. Patrick's Day. My first inclination was to have an Irish Hymn Festival, but my WELS Lutheran hymnody sources don't have many Irish hymns other than SLANE and ST. COLUMBA.

I'm looking for other sources of Irish hymnody, from any denomination's hymnals. Any help or direction anyone could give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dale,
    As a youngster in Ireland we alway sang St Patrick's Breastplate to the tune 'Tara'. Much more challenging and I think joyous. Yours William Hazelton