Sunday Singing at St. Paul's

Hit play or the red "this week" button
to hear Sunday's hymns.

You may also choose a tune name
from the scrollable archive below.

Use the date/tune buttons (on right)
to sort the list of hymns.



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Instructions

This online hymn player is designed to make it easy for the worshippers at St. Paul's Episcopal Church (Bedford, Ma) to see and hear the hymns for the coming week(s), as well as for past weeks. (The archive dates back to June, 2016). It should be pretty self-explanatory, but here are some tips to get you started.
Questions?

How do the hymns get picked for each Sunday?

Which tunes are familiar to the congregation?

Why can’t I see the musical notation for the hymns heard here?

Should I be learning to sing parts?

What about hymns from preview weeks?

Can I download these audio files to my computer or other device?

Why are the buttons designed that way?

What are some other online hymn resources?

How do the hymns get picked for each Sunday?

Our usual practice is that the music director begins by selecting hymns (sometimes for many weeks at a time) and the rector then gives feedback, sometimes suggesting alternates. There are many factors that go into choosing hymns. The liturgical calendar and lectionary provide a great overall frame as they help to define themes for each service. We usually begin by consulting The Episcopal Musician’s Handbook, published annually, which suggests about 20-30 hymns for each Sunday as well as for feast days. Most of the suggestions are from our primary hymnal, but there are usually a few options from two hymnal supplements: Wonder, Love, and Praise, and Lift Every Voice and Sing (LEVAS). We have a license which allows us to print hymns from these books as inserts.

Those suggestions are just a starting point, of course. Consideration is also given to other specific events (baptisms, mission trips, creation care, etc.), and there are always plenty of hymns not listed for a day which are nevertheless appropriate. We also try 1) not to sing the same hymns too often (everyone has a different definition of “too often”) and 2) to prioritize tunes that are familiar to the congregation. (Notice that those balancing those two goals provide a nice tension!) For the past two years, we’ve catalogued the weekly hymn selections in an online spreadsheet so it’s easy to see what’s been sung and when. We also have digital versions of leaflets going back to 2007 which can be searched broadly to see what’s been sung.

Which tunes are familiar to the congregation?

This question is more complicated than it might seem. Everyone has their own idea of what “the old standbys” are, especially as we have many who’ve worshipped for many years in other congregations and denominations. There are “classic” hymns I grew up with as a Presbyterian that aren’t even in our hymnal. There are some tunes I think of as “Episcopal standards” that turn out not to be standards here. It’s fascinating to think of how time and tastes help to develop a common repertoire. I know that my own biases will come into play, which is one reason I love to be able to work with Chris and Rachel to get different input and to be able to consult past records. (The choir members provide excellent feedback as well in our weekly rehearsals.) I consider it important both to choose some hymns that might not be my favorites and to avoid picking too many “really cool ones that no one will know.” However, perhaps this website will help to enlarge our repertoire of familiar hymns!

Why can’t I see the musical notation for the hymns heard here?

Basically, this is a copyright issue, although the hymns we use range widely in terms of what is and isn’t copyrighted. For a given hymn, the tune, the harmonization, and the text (in part or in whole) might be under copyright, though some are in the public domain. In many cases, the tunes and texts we sing may be found at the invaluable Hymnary.org website (the hymn titles listed above are linked to the Hymnary page for each given hymn), although you might notice variations from what is printed in our hymnal. The best answer to this question is: get your own personal copy of The Hymnal 1982 for your home!

Should I be learning to sing parts?

This is completely up to you. It does take some experience to learn to read the alto, tenor, and bass parts, but it can be very rewarding to learn to hear the music “from the inside” in this way, and to mix things up from verse to verse. For some, these alternate parts might sit more easily in the voice, and, of course, the more congregants singing in harmony, the richer the sound. The audio parts on this site provide a nice, quick way to give it a try.

What about hymns from previous weeks?

All the hymns that have been chosen and recorded can be viewed in the scroll-able archive below the player. Note that this archive may be sorted by hymn tune or by date.

Can I download these audio files to my computer or other device?

Yes. Once a hymn has been chosen and is shown in the "Now Playing" box, you can click on the red hymn tune link there and the .mp3 file will open in another tab or window where you may download it.

Why are the buttons designed that way?

They're intended to resemble the stop knobs on a real organ which, when pulled out, allow air to be sent to a specific set of pipes.

What are some other online hymn resources?

Hymnary.org is an amazing database of hymns from thousands(!) of hymnbooks. Here, for example, is an index for our hymnal. Includes page scans for pages that are public domain. Oremus Hymnal also has lots of great information. Youtube, of course, has a seemingly endless supply of hymn performances, from great to...not so great. Happy searching!





Designed by Michael Monroe, music director of St. Paul's. The hymns and parts are recorded in Finale, and the player runs on JavaScript. The search feature is enabled by the marvelous DataTables plug-in. Contact Michael with questions/suggestions.


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