Monday, June 15, 2009

Music Monday, Lyric Lundi

When I was growing up, when we went to church (which basically stopped happening except on Christmas and Easter when the Episcopal Church changed its prayer book, and my father couldn't stand the way they'd ruined the poetry of the old one), the only thing I liked about the services were the hymns. I used to wish we would cut out some of those prayers (I actually liked that new prayer book my father so hated, because it did) and just sing more hymns. Oh, and that sermon could definitely go, too. I suppose what I really wanted was just a good old-fashioned hymn sing with everyone calling out his or her favorite hymns to be sung.

I now get to attend one of those. On the first Sunday of every month from May through September, our church holds a hymn sing at the Old Church down the road. I love it, even if we do sing a bunch of old-timey hymns that are not the ones I sang in church as a child, the sorts I tend to associate with Baptists and gospel choirs, not Episcopalians and chamber singers. I never seem to be quick enough to call out any of my favorite hymns to sing, though.

I have many favorite hymns, but one of them is one that I did not actually grow up singing in my church. I sang a version of it at the Lutheran elementary school I attended where we knew it as "I Danced in the Morning." It's a song written to an American Shaker melody, and it's the melody that I really love. When I started attending Presbyterian churches as an adult, I came to find that they often sang not only "I Danced in the Morning," but also the original Shaker version "Simple Gifts." This version is beautiful, much more so than the one I learned as a child, its philosophy being one that all people would do well to embrace, so it's the one I'm giving you today. (Go find the music, though. That's the best part of it.)

Simple Gifts
by Joseph Brackett, Jr.

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come round right.

'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,


'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of "me",
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we'll all live together with a love that is real.


Cam said...

The sing-along sounds like fun, especially in an old, old church. If you lived nearby I'd want to stop by on a Sunday afternoon for that, even though I'm not a gifted singer. In fact, I can't carry a tune.

Tis the gift to be simple is one of my favorites but the current Episcopal Hymnal only has the first first & refrain in it. I've never seen the other two verses. It's often sung as a round.

No disrepect to your father intended, but I just don't understand those who left the church because of the BCP changes. Never thought that God's dialect was frozen with the King James Bible or the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. As far as Anglican Prayer books go, though, I think that the New Zealand Prayer book is tops.

Stefanie said...

I liked the hymns at church best too and could have done away with everything else. How cool that you have a hymn sing at your church. And what a beautiful song is Simple Gifts. I've never heard it before. Thank you for sharing it!

Emily Barton said...

Cam, I don't understand it, either. The funny thing is, my father now attends church regularly again (although he only goes to the Rite 1 services). The current Presbyterian hymnal doesn't even have "Simple Gifts" anymore, just "I Danced in the Morning," so we have to have a bulletin insert now to sing it.

Stef, you're welcome. Yes, it's very cool that we have hymn sings. What's even cooler is that they bring out the whole community, so sometimes we even have Amish neighbors joining us.