Just wondered whether there are any 'golden oldies' that are finding their way back into your song lists?

What kind of reaction (congregation and band) do you get if you throw an old song in the mix?

Does it completely refresh the song or does it end up reminding you why you pulled it out of circulation last time?

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Well, "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" certainly won't go away.  Every Easter, it's, like, well we have to do that one...

I'd never choose a song I couldn't stand behind, though sometimes others choose songs that I'd been happy to forget and make me flinch a little because of tune/content.

How old is 'old' in your question? Are we talking 10 years? 30 years? Lots of churches sing hymns that some could feel are well past their use-by date, so is context everything? Many hymns were as much tosh as many modern songs, and fortunately cast aside fairly quickly, with the few that remain generally being the best of the best.

'Old' new songs I've sung happily are Jesus we enthrone you, Father God I wonder how I managed to exist, Over the mountains and the sea. My list that I work from when selecting what to sing doesn't have a cut-off date: Amazing Grace rubs shoulders happily with 10,000 reasons, Ancient of days and As the deer pants for the water.

The congregation usually just sing and worship with the 'old' song. Occasionally I have a desire to re-do a song that's been around a few years in a new style, but since we tend not to follow CD tracks anyway and often adjust according to how we feel on the day then very often our rendering is a bit unique anyway.

Not necessarily looking at songs from a particular era just ones that perhaps you haven't done for a while that are drawn back into use. I'm trying All Heavens Declares (Noel Richards) at a service tonight, I haven't sung it in church for a number of years...on the other hand...songs like My Jesus, My Saviour (Shout to the Lord) we did to death in the late 90s and it hasn't shown any signs of recovery for me as yet!

All Heaven Declares is one good song and it's style has changed of late with some different chords thrown in there.

I did 'Holy Spirit we welcome You' and' Let Your living water' today and really enjoyed doing them.  Changed a few chords in Holy Spirit we welcome You which gave it a different feel, but yes, it worked well.


Joe Aiken said:

Not necessarily looking at songs from a particular era just ones that perhaps you haven't done for a while that are drawn back into use. I'm trying All Heavens Declares (Noel Richards) at a service tonight, I haven't sung it in church for a number of years...on the other hand...songs like My Jesus, My Saviour (Shout to the Lord) we did to death in the late 90s and it hasn't shown any signs of recovery for me as yet!


I'd be happy to use My Jesus My Saviour again, though probably not every week.

Thinking along those lines, I remember that we used Shine Jesus Shine a bit in the mid-late 80's before moving on, then in the mid 90s hearing complaints about how the song had been done to death. Maybe it's the context thing again, with some streams using particular songs much longer than others? There's very few songs that I chose once that I'd not choose again in the right circumstances, while songs that never worked for me then don't work for me now either (God Is Good, All The Time - I'm looking at you!).

There occasionally is a right time to sing "Open Our Eyes, Lord" (Bob Cull, Maranatha) in the Contemporary Service.  I know that "Open the Eyes of My Heart" is a fine song, but the simple, earnest, gentle plea of the first song, with just acoustic sounds - guitar, flute and such, is sometimes the only thing, or type of song, that is right. 

Now in my situation we have two services.  Some of the best Maranatha songs made their way into the Hymnbook, so they are kosher, though I often have to add the verses; and I can't string them out, Pentecostal-style, but just sing one, now and then.  The contemporary service is hooked on the loud and mighty, and the stronger-voiced people see older music as "going backwards."  Though I can't stand that philosophy, if I am in Athens, I sing in Greek.  So these wonderful songs wander around as orphans, occasionally worked into the fabric, but lonely.

Go into your music cabinet and find the old illegal spiral-bound "Praise Song" books (in the 70's, "worship" was considered a dowdy, old-fashioned term, and people preferred "Praise" as more active and involved).  You'll find all sorts of little, short, wonderful Scripture-themed songs (and even King James Scriptures, pressed, kicking and screaming, into four-measure phrases).  Lots of chaff, but lots of great treasures await you.  If someone emptied out the music closet, shame on your church board - but just go over to the Methodists or the Presbyterians, and they'll have all kinds of old books to share with you.   

Greg, I agree, I never think that doing older songs is going backwards and think it is very narrow minded to view music in this way.  'Open our eyes Lord' is a beautiful, meaningful song that has a lovely melody.  Again, as I mentioned in my previous reply, it is one of those songs you can mess around with and add some juicy chords and change the style if you wish to give it a different feel. 

 


Greg Moore said:

There occasionally is a right time to sing "Open Our Eyes, Lord" (Bob Cull, Maranatha) in the Contemporary Service.  I know that "Open the Eyes of My Heart" is a fine song, but the simple, earnest, gentle plea of the first song, with just acoustic sounds - guitar, flute and such, is sometimes the only thing, or type of song, that is right. 

Now in my situation we have two services.  Some of the best Maranatha songs made their way into the Hymnbook, so they are kosher, though I often have to add the verses; and I can't string them out, Pentecostal-style, but just sing one, now and then.  The contemporary service is hooked on the loud and mighty, and the stronger-voiced people see older music as "going backwards."  Though I can't stand that philosophy, if I am in Athens, I sing in Greek.  So these wonderful songs wander around as orphans, occasionally worked into the fabric, but lonely.

Go into your music cabinet and find the old illegal spiral-bound "Praise Song" books (in the 70's, "worship" was considered a dowdy, old-fashioned term, and people preferred "Praise" as more active and involved).  You'll find all sorts of little, short, wonderful Scripture-themed songs (and even King James Scriptures, pressed, kicking and screaming, into four-measure phrases).  Lots of chaff, but lots of great treasures await you.  If someone emptied out the music closet, shame on your church board - but just go over to the Methodists or the Presbyterians, and they'll have all kinds of old books to share with you.   

It's more about songs being "dated" for me.  If I were to do most Maranatha songs from the early 90's just as they were arranged in my church today, most people would immediately recognize them as dated because of the music, maybe because of the lyrics and structure, even if they had never heard the songs before.  There is nothing wrong with these songs, but it would cause a disconnect with people if I were to ask them to sing along.  But, that's where it's a joy to be a creative musician.

A real difficulty in our present world is the concept of things being "dated".  Now I suppose all generations have a set of younger folks who consider the older ones "old hat".  When Bach and Handel died in the 1750's, proponents of The New Music couldn't wait to toss the Old Music out (a lot of it was lost due to the carelessness of some of his own sons).  But advertising culture puts an ultimatum on anything that can be sold, such as a song, and has accelerated and aggravated the process to where anything that is Dated is, therefore, Bad, or as Nathan notes, "causes a disconnect."  

The odd thing is, there are a LOT of young people who do not care for the Concert Hall atmosphere of the megachurch, and long for worship to be a more genuine, intimate and simple thing.  I picked up this week's Worship Leader magazine, which spoke to situations such as "datedness."  One, by Stan Endicott, who works with revitalizing small churches, described a real difference (enough to cause a "dated" feeling) between many of today's songs, which are ballads and soloistic songs that give a concert-hall atmosphere, and the Maranatha-type song, which gives you the Living-Room sort of feeling.

This emboldened me to stay true to a song I had included in worship for May 22.  "Open Our Eyes, Lord" (Bob Cull).  One of the singers kept asking me about the way the quarters and eighths went - that sometimes, as a leader, I was making them equal, sometimes not.  So I said, "Well, here, I'll probably use a hard 8th-note, but over here a soft 8th-note feels better (desperate to describe how 8ths really work, I thought of calling them "hard", "soft" or "exact").  But not necessarily.  It really doesn't matter on this song.  What matters is for us to simply begin to sing and worship God, and let the song be itself, not a performance."

Maybe this reveals the most difficult time I have - that some who don't want church to be a "performance" have latched on to the videoed commercial recordings of worship songs and demand something that is so close to the "original" that people will not be "confused" by anything "different."  This is like, uh, bondage, man, being sold as freedom.  But these are confusing times, when it is becoming difficult to tell where a machine ends and a human being begins.

Back to my earlier posts, I wonder what makes songs dated in a negative sense? Hymns are incredibly dated, yet many here seem to use them without update, and I know of many younger Christians that did not come out of the older traditions who have actively sought out and practiced ancient liturgies 'as is'.

Greg's point about advertising is so true: nothing is as 'old hat' and repugnant as the styles that have just recently passed, even in this age of the mash-up, before they eventually acquire a patina of nostalgia (after a sufficient period has passed) before finally being hailed as wonderful in the style that was so great at the time.

I'm really aware of the likelihood of sounding judgemental on this (about who sees stuff as dated) so started asking myself what sounded dated to me. The answer is most stuff from the first half of the 20th century, but especially the sort of music and songs used in 'sunbeam mission' tin hall type meetings.

The wartime stuff I understand what turns me off, but the Ira Sankey types it's harder to figure, and wonder if it's more to do with the setting and types of people I associated with it as much as the actual music and words themselves. I'd probably reject 'Jerusalem' and similar too, because it smells of empire more than Kingdom.

Okay, I spent a while writing this and now I'm thinking that maybe I shouldn't even post it, but, hey, believe it if you need it, if you don't, just pass it on...

All right, I'll jump back in... when we talk about songs "sounding dated," I think that's a mostly musical thing.  Yeah, we've gotten rid of many of the "thees" and "thous" but I don't know that the messages or the imagery in worship songs have changed that much - in fact, that's one of the things that disappoints me a little bit, is that when you look at a lot of the most recent worship songs, it's still about fields and lakes and boats and gardens and sunshine... images that haven't really changed much in 2000 years.  And it seems to me like there are plenty of brand new worship songs that are still  about "how we are claiming this city in the name of Jesus," which strike me as being as "empirical" as many of the old hymns.

But music styles have changed a lot, and they have been changing at a faster and faster rate.  The whole concept of putting the emphasis on the "2 and the 4" as opposed to the "1 and the 3" is... I mean, I get that I'm comparing white church music to gospel music here, and that it's not exactly something "new," but it's something the white church has appropriated relatively recently.

Example: I was just looking at a song from our Methodist Hymnal, "Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know."

The way this tune works (the way it's written out, anyway) is that the 1 beat is on "Ask" "thing" "That" "stirs" "What" "-ward" and so on.

But try reading it through shifting the emphasis by two beats, so that the emphasis, the 1 beat, the place where the chord change would happen, is on "what" "know" "-lights" "so" "high" and so on.  It sounds less "dated" just by shifting the rhythm.

And what also seems to happen with a lot of these old hymn melodies is that when you shift the beat like that... then you can make your chord changes on the new "1" beats and they fit the melody a lot better.

And then note in the lower right corner the "77.77" thing.  That indicates that each verse of the song is seven syllables long.  Nowadays, one of those 7s, in one verse, might have five syllables or nine syllables, and it wouldn't be consistent from verse to verse.

And it's a pretty strict AABBC rhyme scheme all the way through, every verse.

And there's no bridge.  Some of the old hymns might have a repeated chorus, but a bridge is mighty rare in the old hymns.

And then... we don't have very many recordings of how they used to actually sing these songs back int he 1850s, but they are certainly notated in pretty much straight quarter and eigth notes, with no syncopation (I'm gonna guess that at the time this was written, syncopation was probably one of the devil's tools).  Very few of the old church hymns were in a "swing" rhythm (probably also satanic), and if they were, they were notated in 9/8 or 12/8 and nobody sang them because it was too tricky :-)

And even just the singing style.  If you hand this music to a choir today, they will sing the quarter and eighth notes as written... a trick I learned from a choir director years ago - and I think she was referring mostly to contemporary songs (which would have been songs of the 1980s) - was that you sing the lyrics so that the first vowel hits on the beat, not the first consonant of the word.  With the old hymns, the idea of singing ahead of the beat or behind the beat, it's just not done.  Well, maybe Elvis did it, but not on Sunday morning in the Presbyterian church.

So I've been looking at this particular old hymn, thinking about what it might sound like if I applied a few of these things to it.  Change "Ye," in this case, to "me" (the meaning of the sentence is the same), shift the rhythm by two beats, maybe swing it a little... and it's not so "dated," I'd like to think.  I would be tempted to rephrase a few lines - "what the high reward I win" could probably flow better if otherwise phrased.

What does bug me is when somebody takes a song like this, strums the guitar double time (which usually means that the singing actually goes a bit slower) and thinks that makes it "contemporary."  But I've probably ranted about this several times here already...

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