Reading the Fine Print

Have you ever looked at the fine print at the bottom of the hymns we sing each Sunday? There is a wealth of references and cross references to help you navigate the information from the indices at the back of the book.
Looking at the bottom of the book, there is the author of the text and the composer of the music. That is pretty easy to see. However, on the other side we see a name and some numbers.
Here we have the tune name. It usually means that was the name of the original tune. If you go to the back of the hymn book, on p. 1135, you will see the Alphabetical Index of Tunes. There you can look up the name of a tune you might like and see how many hymns fall under that name. For example, our current offertory hymn (Evangelical Lutheran Worship) is #691. The name of the tune is Barbara Allen. If you go to p. 1135 and look up Barbara Allen, you see there are 2 different hymns with that same name. (Just an aside, I almost named my daughter Barbara, after this tune!)
Another example is the tune Ar Hyd Y Nos, Welsh for All Through the Night. There are 3 hymns in our book with this tune. Hyfrydol, Welsh for “cheerful,” has 4 happy hymns to that tune.
The other interesting aspect of the fine print is the list of numbers under the tune name. That shows us the number of syllables in each line. Going back to Barbara Allen, you see 8 7 8 7. That means there are 4 lines, with 8 syllables in the first and third line and 7 syllables in the second and fourth lines. If you go to p. 1139, you will find the Metrical Index of Tunes. You can look up 8 7 8 7 and see that there are a number of hymns that could be interchanged. In theory, then, our tune, Barbara Allen, could be sung to 16 different hymns!
This fine print, then, gives us valuable historical references of tunes and enables us to match words and music to enrich the many aspects of our services throughout the church year.

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