Hymn Tempos


What's the easiest way to get no one to sing?

Play a hymn too slowly.

Our organist for the wedding told me it's a widespread problem here in RI.

Aside from taking away the charm and life from some great hymn tunes, it forces the congregation to do something they aren't used to: hold their breath for a long time while they sing. The slower the tempo, the longer the phrases. Even folks with no vocal training know that they have to hold their breath with singing and only get to breathe between phrases. You can cheat if you breath half-way through a phrase, but then you just feel like you can't sing. If you go ahead and sing the long phrase, you might feel some discomfort in your torso. That's your abdominal muscles working to hold your breath. And that just gets more and more uncomfortable for people who aren't used to long phrases.

So - push your tempos! You'll know when you're playing something too fast, it won't feel right. Faster, without comprimising the musicality of the hymn tune makes everyone feel better about singing.

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You'll know when you're playing something too fast, it won't feel right.

Foo: what feels just fine for John seems too fast for me; but then I want to actually think about the words of hymns while singing them. Well, provided they're worth it. :-)

I'd like "Holy, Holy, Holy" in 4/4, at 60-65 beats/min, with a slightly slower tempo on the last verse.

There is indeed a horrible tendency to make hymns into dirges -- I don't know why. It's especially bad with chant, for some reason. Chant != "slow", at least not necessarily.

RC - beat it in eights at allegro and it's a whole different song. :)

My big problem with hymns is being a gravely low baratone when everything's keyed for mezzo-sopranos. It's really annoying to try and find the right tune two ocataves lower than the choir when you have not talent to begin with.

Come to think of it, I think I misstated the tempo above: that's what I get for not looking up the music first.

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On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

John Schultz

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This page contains a single entry by John Schultz published on May 15, 2006 4:59 PM.

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