It was just announced that they're going to re-do our church hymnbooks and children's songbooks. I am so excited about this and I wish I could have the new books in my hands right now instead of in the estimated two years. I still remember when our current green hymnals were published and admiring the marbled endpapers (I was a very young child at the time). I also remember finding a typo in the instructions for conducting...and thirty years later, being so proud when Miriam found the same one. Sometimes when you're a kid and church is boring but you're interested in music, the instructions for conducting at the back of the hymnal become riveting.
ANYWAY. I've seen a lot of opinions flying around facebook and Twitter about what should and should not be in the new hymnbook. And it's not just idle chatter, either, since they are soliciting input. Here are some of my thoughts on the hot takes I've seen.
1. Patriotic songs. Someone is going to have to help me understand why everyone seems to think patriotic songs should be the first to go. I guess maybe because this is not just a US church anymore? But...do you think that The Star-Spangled Banner is, like, in our Finnish hymnbook, too? Because it's not. We have, you know, the Finnish patriotic songs instead. I always loved singing the patriotic songs at church on special occasions as a kid, and I love singing the Finnish ones here. I've never felt like it's being used as a patriotic sledgehammer but YMMV I guess.
2. Region-specific songs. I also got a little nervous when I read that the aim is to "unify the music in all languages." When this means cutting out some of the Utah/mountain-based hymns, fine (THERE ARE JUST SO MANY OF THOSE), but if it means losing some of the Lutheran-tradition Finnish hymns...well, that makes me sad. PS, if I got to choose which mountain-based hymns to keep, I would choose High on the Mountaintop (it is just so fun to sing! That base line!) and O Home Beloved. Yes, I KNOW. The words are mountain-specific (maybe even Utah-specific) but somehow...universal? I remember singing that song in Syria and it was like WOAH.
3. Culturally insensitive/irrelevant songs. Book of Mormon Stories has to go. It has to. I've heard a lot of talk about Follow the Prophet needing to be axed as well, but I think that is actually one of the only songs in the children's songbook that contributes to diversity, rather than mocks it. That said, I don't really like it, so. The pioneer walking songs...well, maybe we can keep one. I like most of them, even though they have been culturally irrelevant and even incomprehensible in every place I've lived outside of the US. If I had to choose one to keep: ARGH, I CAN'T. I kinda love these songs! Maybe Pioneer Children Sang as They Walked?
4. Songs that are just not good. If I ever hear the following songs again, it will be too soon: I Believe in Christ (please don't hate me), The Wintr'y Day, Descending to its Close (seriously, WTH), Now Let Us Rejoice (or just give it a better alto line?), Because I Have Been Given Much, Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd, Scatter Sunshine, Do What is Right, and In Our Lovely Deseret (HARK HARK HARK). Oh, also Home in the children's songbook. Please kill that song with fire.
5. But please don't touch: Joseph Smith's First Prayer (how can this even be close to the chopping block? And yet I have seen it mentioned). Ye Elders of Israel - just put it in the regular hymns instead of men only. That Easter Morn. My Heavenly Father Loves Me (I saw this suggested on Twitter and I was horrified).
6. Please add: I'm not terribly good at suggesting songs because I don't have a sense of what the publishers are planning to do. Translate traditional songs from different countries into many other languages? But I'd like to see Come Thou Fount come back. And maybe add songs like Be Thou My Vision and Amazing Grace. The Christmas section could use some updating and expanding. I would be pretty happy with a Christmas-only songbook full of songs from around the world!