ALTERNATE HYMN TUNES
Alternate hymn tunes can refresh old lyrics. Have you ever tried singing a hymn to a tune other than the one used in your hymn book? If this is done carefully--and not too often--it can have a useful purpose.
What do you do if a hymn is unfamiliar? By using an already familiar tune, you can enable your congregation to sing and enjoy the unfamiliar piece. Well-known hymns benefit also. The difference in phrasing provided by another melody can lead to a fresh look at the lyrics. Suddenly, the words will take on new significance.
If you try this a few times, you may also discover that many people "like" a particular hymn because of the tune. (Ask for "favourites," and try singing one to a different tune and you will see!) While it is fine to enjoy the melody, that is not our first priority. The tune is like the frame of a picture. It does its job when it enhances the words and enables us to understand them better. If another tune will facilitate this, that is a good thing.
At the back of many hymn books is something called a "Metrical Index," a listing of tunes according to the lines of poetry they will accommodate. It can be used to select a different tune for a particular set of words.
For now, here are several hymns with suggested tune changes for you to try as alternate hymn tunes. (Many tunes have their own names, and many hymn books list them for you.)
¤ "How Firm a Foundation." In most books, this great hymn is combined with a tune called "Foundation." But try it to "Portuguese Hymn" (the tune used for "O Come, All Ye Faithful").
¤ "In Heavenly Love Abiding" is a paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm using the tune "Seasons." Try using "Aurelia" ("The Church's One Foundation").
¤ "O Jesus, I Have Promised" (tune: "Angel's Story") is another hymn that works well with "Aurelia" ("The Church's One Foundation").
¤ "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" (tune unnamed) works extremely well with "Hyfrydol," ("Jesus, what a Friend for sinners"). So much so that some newer books set it to the latter tune.
¤ O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" uses "Passion Chorale." If your congregation is not accustomed to Bach, you might try "Aurelia" for this too ("The Church's One Foundation").
¤ "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Instead of the tune "Converse," try "Holy Manna" ("Brethren, We Have Met to Worship"), or "Beecher," ("Love Divine, All Love's Excelling"), or "Blaenwern." (The latter is a little trickier to find.)
¤ "Arise, My Soul, Arise!" uses a fine tune ("Towner") which is somewhat difficult to sing. Instead, you could try "Darwall" ("Rejoice, the Lord is King").
¤ "Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart" uses the tune "Morecambe." Try it with the tune "Eventide" ("Abide with Me").
¤ "Jesus Loves Even Me" (tune unnamed) is worth trying to the tune "Slane" ("Be Thou My Vision").
¤ "And Can It Be" uses the tune "Sagina." Try it to "Sweet Hour" ("Sweet Hour of Prayer").
¤ "Come Thou Almighty King" was originally sung to the tune for "God Save the Queen" ("God Save the King" in that day). It works well.