New rule: there should be no time signature changes in the middle of a hymn you are trying to learn by sight before you’ve had your coffee.
Now while the day in trailing splendor gives way to glories of the night,
thanksgiving to thy name we render, O God of darkness and of light.
Each day from thee we have our being, in all this wondrous order set;
thine omnipresence blinds our seeing, and in thy gifts we thee forget.
Touch thou our eyes, their blindness healing, till all this common earth and air
to our illumined sight and feeling thy glory and thyself declare;
till storied marvel, sign, and token, all pale before the nearer thought
of such vast miracles unbroken from hour to hour around us brought.
Lord have mercy.
Here I was, excited about getting into evening songs (although they are probably as cheery as the morning ones, if this first is any indication). And I tried to sing it, I did. It’s got a bit more of a medieval chant feel to it at the start, barreling in with eighth notes in a pattern that runs up and down a narrow band of notes. Once you get that, it’s not hard.
Except suddenly there’s a change from 3/4 to 4/4, and some syncopation, and then we are back to normal for the final line.
And if you are leaning the hymn by sight, before coffee, that third phrase will kill ya. I pulled out the tiny keyboard app on my phone to plunk out the notes. Then I set my metronome app to 3/4 so I could count out the section. Which always came out wrong. Because at seven in the morning, sitting alone in my kitchen while the lifeblood of existence was still brewing in the coffeemaker, I didn’t see the two-bar shift to 4/4 time. Maybe I was too distracted by the sudden upper register singing – two phrases in a normal singing range and suddenly we’re holding up the sky for three beats – or the syncopation on odd lyrics. But this phrase – without a music professional nearby to help a person out – makes this frustrating at best.
Really, the only thing I am getting out of it is a slight return of my wit – which, to be honest, has been sorely missed this past week.
So maybe that’s it’s purpose today. To give me something inconsequential to snark about, because it’s too difficult to find anything of consequence funny right now.
Lord have mercy.
Great analysis of the music. But who needs coffee when they have this line? “Thine omnipresence blinds our seeing, and in thy gifts we thee forget.” Ain’t that the truth? This is the wake-up I need every day–really, every moment of every day. Wonders are so omnipresent that we stop seeing them.
The problem is trying to grok the words when all our concentration is focused on getting the tune right. So, another rule: when the verbal phrasing is somewhat archaic and inverted (e.g., “miracles around us brought” instead of “miracles brought around us”), it should be paired with very easy music, or we’ll sing the words without even absorbing their meaning.
Yes! I think it’s a shame that we miss the lyrics when we’re too busy figuring out the tune – or, as we’ll talk about sometime in 2018 when we get to the third verse of “When Our Heart Is in a Holy Place”, when the lyrics suddenly just don’t work and everyone stumbles.
This matters in congregational singing. It really does.
(Plus, thanks for highlighting that gorgeous lyric – I clearly was only able to focus on the damn tune.)
[…] Frederick Hosner, which capture the joy of the day. We’ve seen plenty of his work, in Now While the Day in Trailing Splendor, I Walk the Unfrequented Road, I Cannot Think of Them as Dead, From Age to Age, Forward Through the […]