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Sing Scripture

New Scripture songs and paraphrases in metre

Word in worship

SING SCRIPTURE
New Scripture songs and paraphrases in metre
Free Church of Scotland. 68 pages
Available at 4.00 (inc. p&p) from bookshop@freechurchofscotland.org.uk / 0131 718 4141

This collection could prove a blessing, in Scotland and beyond, to churches needing to beef up the content of their sung praise.

It introduces 34 fresh versions of Scripture, 22 of them from the epistles. Except for two pre-published texts, no authors are named; but a Foreword is supplied by the composer and former missionary-surgeon Donald M. MacDonald, ‘Convener of the Special Committee on Praise’.

It is fairly substantial writing: nearly half the items have more than 40 lines, with six of more than 60. This might take something of a cultural shift to get used to, and over-stretch some of the tunes: Aurelia (‘The church’s one foundation’) sung eight or even ten times? This classic surely works overtime, too, in being suggested for seven different items. Most have more than one recommended traditional tune, often sturdily Victorian. More varied treatment or division into sections is possible, but not suggested here. Will some enterprising composers offer new music worthy of such texts?

Versifications of Gospel narratives or apostolic arguments tend to plod, since (unlike extracts from Isaiah or Revelation) the originals were never intended to sound lyrical. Sometimes the verses lack the climax we expect from their final lines. But it is good to have some famous passages from John and Philippians set in context, and the best of these songs should open minds as well as mouths. Specially moving are three treatments of Romans 8, two of 2 Corinthians 5, one of Ephesians 1, and five from Revelation.

Most usefully, the editors invite feedback from those who sing them, suggesting that they are not yet set in stone.

Christopher Idle,
hymnwriter & editor