Hymn of the Month

The Hymn of the Month features old as well as new hymns for worship. Some hymns are presented simply, others in festive arrangements for choirs, congregations, and instruments.

If a hymn is new to your congregation, you may want to sing it once every Sunday during the month so that the people become familiar with it. On the other hand, hymns that are already familiar to the congregation may be sung only once during the month or saved for another occasion.

Background information on the hymns for October through December is printed below. You may wish to reprint some of this information in your bulletin on the Sunday on which the hymn is introduced.

October, 1986: All Glory Be to God on High

When singing this hymn, we are truly joining our voices to those of the church of the ages. On the night Jesus was born the angels sang "Glory to God in the Highest" (Luke 2:14). Ever since then Christians have been praising God with these words. The early Greek–speaking church expanded the angel’s song into a morning hymn. That hymn was then translated and expanded into the Latin "Gloria in excelsis Deo," which is still sung as the "Greater Doxology" in some traditions. After many centuries, Decius translated the "Gloria" into German and composed a melody for it. Written in 1523, this was one of the earliest songs of the Reformation. The recent English translation by Tucker is faithful to both the Latin and German texts.

The first stanza of the song is a hymn of praise to almighty God for his "good will ... to his people given" (Luke 2:14). The second and third stanzas are addressed to Christ, the Lamb of God. Here we confess our faith in Christ with the church of the ages.

The tune, which has a small range of six notes, is simple and strong. Like many German melodies, the first line is repeated.

The hymn opens with praise and invites a full, large sound. The meditative second stanza is arranged from an organ trio by the German composer Arms–dorf, a young contemporary of Bach. We’ve provided a trumpet descant to lend an even greater note of praise on the third stanza. The chorale harmonization and descant were composed by Dale Grotenhuis, conductor of the Dordt College Concert Choir of Sioux Center, Iowa. He also conducted this arrangement on the recording We Come, 0 Christ, to You (available from CRC Publications, 2850 Kalamazoo SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560).

November, 1986: Psalm 98

The Genevan Psalter, completed in 1562, stands as the greatest contribution to church music from the Reformed branch of the Protestant Reformation.

Calvin introduced congregational singing to the church at Geneva and used a children’s choir to teach the songs. Before long the sounds of psalms were heard on the streets and in the fields as well as in church. The Psalter was soon translated into many languages, and the tunes became the material for thousands of choral and organ works by many composers throughout Europe. The entire Genevan Psalter has been maintained without a break to this day in Reformed churches in Hungary and the Netherlands.

The biblical text of Psalm 98 is neatly divided into three parts of three verses each. In the first part the psalmist invites everyone to sing a new song to the Lord because of his mighty deeds, great love, and faithfulness. The second part gives some directions for that praise: be joyful and use all kinds of instruments. The third part invites the earth itself to join in the celebration. The cause of the celebration? Our Lord himself, and none other, will come to judge the world, and his judgment will be just and right.

Such an invitation calls for a festive treatment. REFORMED WORSHIP is pleased to offer a complimentary copy of a hymn concertato on Psalm 98, using two different versifications of the psalm, "New Songs of Celebration Render" by Erik Routley and "Sing, Sing a New Song to the Lord God" by Dewey Westra. The Westra text was written in 1931 for the first edition of the Psalter Hymnal and has remained a favorite in the Christian Reformed Church. The Routley text was first published in 1974 and is making its way into recent hymnals, including Rejoice in the Lord, the new Episcopal Hymnal 1982, and the proposed new edition of the Trinity Hymnal. Dale Gro–tenhuis composed the setting for congregation, choir, organ, and brass quartet.

December, 1986: Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

Like most carols, the origin of the Polish carol "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" is unknown. The song first appeared in English in 1925, translated by Edith Reed (1885–1933), an English organist, writer, and editor of music journals for children and youth.

The text consists of short rhyming phrases that draw little word pictures describing the scene of Christ’s birth. The music also is built on a simple, four–note rhythmic pattern. It should be sung and accompanied lightly and gently.

The instrumental descants for clarinet, flute, and oboe were composed by James Ward for the recording Lift High the Cross (available from CRC Publications, 2850 Kalamazoo SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560). James Ward is a professional composer and performer of contemporary Christian music.

Those listening closely to the recording will detect some gentle bell sounds. Your church may wish to look for a variety of light bell–like instruments to add to the singing of this carol.


To order additional copies of "New Songs of Celebration," the hymn concertato on Psalm 98 inserted in this issue of REFORMED WORSHIP, please return a copy of the following order form. Include payment, and we’ll pay the shipping charges.

_____________(241098) New Songs of Celebration Concertato ($1.00 US/ $1.30 CDN each)
$____________Total amount enclosed

Please return to: CRC Publications, 2850 Kalamazoo SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560jIn Canada: P.O. Box 5070, Burlington, ON L77R 3Y8.

Emily R. Brink (embrink@calvin.edu) is Senior Research Fellow for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and former editor of Reformed Worship.


Reformed Worship 1 © September 1986, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.