Hymn Tune Collections

Sing to the Lord No Threadbare Song: “Selah Publishing Co. has again presented a comprehensive collection of new hymns by Alfred Fedak, Minister of Music and the Arts at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, N.Y., written since the publication of his 1990 hymnary. The wonderfully vivid cover makes you instinctively reach for the book.

“Carl Daw, in his foreword, compares Fedak’s tunes to frames that support and elucidate the texts, fitting the proper frame to the intent of the text. Fedak is an excellent craftsman who seeks to find the music in each text. Although only nine of the tunes are in parts, the general tone of the majority of the tunes is traditional, with many folk-like in nature. All of his tunes are accessible to the average congregation and easy to play. They work equally on the organ and the piano.

“ECCE DEUS is an engaging tune that has a wonderful lilt and works well with its two texts.

“CALLAHAN and NEW WORLD are simple melodies, to simple Richard Leach texts which produce two lovely hymns. THE FALCONER is also a tune that is a perfect frame for the great Leach text. A nice James Brumm text, “By Faith Have God’s Saints Walked,” has a fitting tune that takes the singer on a walk through biblical history. Herbert O’Driscoll’s poetic “Three Tall Trees Grew on a Windy Hill,” has a rhythmic sea chanty type tune, perfect for the text. Working in a church with a rich history of rhythmic music, I especially appreciated this hymn….

“The tunes are listed in alphabetical order which will make it easy to find your favorites. Since Fedak is such a good craftsman, he writes excellent tunes at both ends of the spectrum, very traditional to more modern. . . All in all, it is a very usable book with much to offer.”-– The Hymn, January 2003

“Here is a good collection of new tunes by Al Fedak, who is one of the leading writers of sacred hymn tunes today. It offers new music to go with new words by some of the best known living hymn writers. For congregations who are ready to try something ‘entirely new,’ that is, new words AND music. One of the most enjoyable and profound selections in the book is #24, ‘Vain Our Lives and Small Our Strivings,’ based on the wisdom of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes. Your congregation will appreciate the way that the words and text offer new insights in God’s holy Word.”–Amazon Review, April 27, 2007

God of the Future: “This volume is Alfred V. Fedak’s third published hymn collection, presenting 26 tunes mostly written since Sing to the Lord No Threadbare Song (2001) and The Alfred V. Fedak Hymnary (1990). With this book, Fedak confirms the opinion this reviewer had formed from his previous two collections: that he is the finest composer of hymn tunes working today. (We are fortunate to be living in a time in which there are many talented creators of new music and texts in the hymn genre, and recognizing Fedak’s achievement in no way diminishes the excellent work of other composers.) Composing a successful hymn tune requires a deceptively difficult-to-achieve mix of accessibility and creativity. The harmonic limits of the genre put an unusual burden on the contemporary composer to employ a basically traditional language while still attempting to say something that is not simply a paraphrase of earlier tunes. Of the more than 100 living hymn tune composers whose work is known to me, I can think of no other composer who so consistently manages (with truly impeccable musical craftsmanship and technique) to create tunes that are immediately accessible and useful to all congregations, yet are so freshly creative and expressive.

“It is difficult to single out favorites within such a strong volume, but some especially memorable offerings include the thrilling ANCIENT BEAUTY (‘O beauty ever ancient,’ Shirley Erena Murray) — one of the finest tunes Fedak has written, the stirring BON (‘Our song is now resounding,’ John Core), the soaring HERNDON (‘God of the future, Carl P. Daw, Jr., FHS), the Genevan-style carol HILL COUNTRY (‘Fields of stars above them,’ Gracia Grindal), the delightfully updated Arthur Sullivanesque NELSON (‘O bless the Lord,’ James Montgomery), and the surprisingly (yet inevitably) modulating NISKAYUNA (‘Praise is due to God in Zion,’ James Hart Brumm). As this list shows, Fedak chooses texts by a variety of authors; fourteen poets are represented in this volume (seven texts of Daw, three of Core, and two or fewer by the other authors).

“Several unmarked homages appear in the volume. Besides the Sullivan one mentioned above, the opening phrase of the tune WESTMINSTER CHURCH is an exact quotation of the opening phrase of the ‘Sanctus’ from Richard Proulx’s ubiquitous Community Mass. This collection also contains Fedak’s only published ‘experimental’ tune, GOLGOTHA (‘How shallow former shadows seem,’ Daw), which sets the dramatic text with an unusual level of dissonance.

“Despite several small typos (a missing word and several misplaced rests), Selah has produced a volume that lives up to their high standards for typography and musical clarity. Indices are provided for meters, poets, tune names, and first lines. I am convinced more than ever that there will come a time (before too long) where every published hymnal will contain something by Fedak. This volume should join the previous two collections on the bookshelf of anyone who cares deeply about the art of hymnody.”-– The Hymn, Winter 2010

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