A very interesting observation about shifting the downbeat so the first two syllables make upbeats. It makes for a more spacious song, and gives it a cowboy feel if ya sync'pate just a few notes and settle the tempo down a bit. Contemporary songs are generally slower in the words than the old hymns (which created rhythm through the text, so were usually sung faster). Today rhythm is created by the Band, so the poet doesn't need to be as careful to keep the beat in line (in the same way that the worship leader no longer needs to pronounce his words correctly, or pronounce them at all, as we hear on the radio - which effectively brings us back to the Hymn days, when there was often no song leader at all, just an organist, and everyone sang what felt OK).
There are other possibilities: as an experiment, try the original phrasing as-is, except syncopate the third beat, so "what" and "thing I know" are all pushed forward a half-beat. You will get a Caribbean sort of song - immediately you will want to get a conga out (don't syncopate the "cru - ci - fied", but do a conga roll on "fied.") Perhaps I become Dated myself by even suggesting Caribbean, as the island people give themselves over to hip-hop and those delightful rhythms sink into the soft southern seas and become fodder for grade-school music textbooks.*
"Thou Art Worthy" and "Majesty" are the oldest songs I can think of that we typically call choruses which have a bridge (and neither of these has a verse). Malotte's "The Lord's Prayer", while longer, is sometimes sung by congregations, and has a short bridge ("give us this day") just before its Coda. They may actually have verses; we Pentecostals have a habit of singing the chorus over so many times we memorize it and forget the verse.
While literacy rates are higher today (I just checked the statistics), those who learned poetry learned it systematically - blank verse in the 1880's was exceedingly uncommon. Scripture set directly to music was uncommon (Stainer's "God So Loved the World", Handel's "Messiah") - and in hymnals, was generally paraphrased (writers knew very well the Hebrew rhythms would not fit European metre).
I've seen uncommon number of syllables crammed into a second verse in contemporary songs (and, obversely, key words simply eliminated or changed to a meaningless word to make the metre work at all). There seems to be a move to make things theologically correct, or apologetic, resulting in verses clogged with syllables (first thing the praise team and I do is fix stuff that simply doesn't work) and pickup notes jammed against the downbeat as 16ths, or not uttered at all except as a whisper (on the recording), so some semblance of metre will be retained.
Some of the REALLY old hymns grew out of a freer style, such as "A Mighty Fortress", which has NO TIME SIGNATURE AT ALL in the original. It has vivid syncopation. Today's Lutherans have restored the original to their Hymnbook; everybody else except madrigal groups use a watered-down, strait-jacketed version made popular in the 19th century, and hold the fermatas (which were actually breath marks, not holds), or turn them into dotted halves. Bach was already using the straightened-out, low-energy versions used in German chorales, and filled those slow long notes with thousands of 16ths, the way a modern rock band fills in more, the slower the song goes.
*Perhaps the elementary-school textbooks will become the saviors of all outmoded Styles, for children love all sorts of rhythms and ways of expression, and as they grow up will remember them, and find renewed expressions for music we cannot actually imagine.
Charlie, we just gotta rant sometimes. It helps each other know what we are actually thinking.
And you also helped me find, in our Methodist hymnal, Cesar Malan's melody which I've known since a child as "Take My Life and Let It Be", which has been squeezed into another melody (#399). Now, thinking abou my newly adopted Hymnbook gets me on the subject of modernizations in gender - Methodists don't use the masculine pronoun except in the Lord's Prayer - and the strange thing it does for some hymns (and improves others). But that's a subject for another time, another place, another thread...
I'd never seen that hymn before, Charles, but when I read the words I automatically read with the emphasis on the first beat. It's almost hard-wired into the poetry.
Actually, I've really enjoyed reading the rants - not once, but quite a few times : ) I still aint got the foggiest clue for the most part, but have to admit I'm well impressed : )
This is one of the great things about a blended service in a multi-generational church. As I've gotten older myself, I've really understood what the previous generation went through with music (and is still going through). I find myself really responding to some song and when someone says "well that's a pretty old song, let's not" I'm always thinking, "but... but..."
Worship shouldn't have a cutoff date, songs don't expire. Every congregation is different though, so I can really only speak to what works for me. This past Sunday I had the honor of "guest leading" at the church I just got hired at, so I chose a set list for them based on what I knew about the people attending and it went over really really well. We opened with Kristian Stanfill's Jesus Paid It All (Oh Praise The One), then Chris Tomlin's Our God, David Crowder O Praise Him, Kari Jobe's Revelation Song, and closed out with Nothing But The Blood (just did that acoustic with the background singers). That set was a complete success and everyone seemed very responsive from beginning to end. I think it's a good example of stuff that covers OLD hymns and popular contemporary worship from the past 15-20 years and current. Handled properly, it's a great way to make sure that you're serving to engage EVERYONE in the congregation, not leaving out the younger generation or insulting the older ones. Many churches tend to lean one direction or the other and that's not right.
A lot of those Hymns and worship choruses are coming back even in the pop/contemporary circles, so if there's one you want to try out, it would never hurt to use the bridge/chorus of a newer song somewhere within an old hymn. Be Spirit led, be creative! :D
I live in the country of Latvia that used to be under the Soviet Union control and Christianity was outlawed.
So I have found pulling songs from the old Maranatha! music or old Vineyard music is very new to many of these Christians.
I was raised in America during the 1970's and 80's when praise and worship music was breaking ground in churches.
I love some of the songs that are coming out today but I also find that the songs from back then where some what a bit deeper and some what simple to teach. For many born in the 90's and 2000's they are hearing these songs for the first time.
I now travel and sing in many historical churches in Eastern and Western Europe. Many of them still sing Hymns that were written during the dark ages (I kid you not!!) So to sing "Seek Ye First" or "I love You Lord" with a guitar is very much a new thing for many of them. These high traditional churches are not open to changes. Yet because I am a pastor as well I can get away with sharing these songs. For us Americans these songs are old or öut dated. For them it is a new concept to sing a worship song with a guitar.