After almost two years of researching, organizing, writing, editing, revising, and then repeating the whole process over again, and again, finally HYMNS FOR ALL SEASONS: Talking with God Through Music has been published.
What’s in it? Reflections on 110 hymns: Who wrote the hymn? When? Why? What impact has the hymn had? Any other details that fascinated me as I did my research. The book includes:
- 12 Advent Carols
- 21 Christmas Carols
- 9 Epiphany Carols
- 10 Hymns for Lent
- 16 Hymns for Holy Week
- 10 Hymns for Easter
- 11 Hymns for Pentecost
- 7 Hymns for the Summer Holidays (Patriotic Hymns)
- 3 Hymns for All Saints Day
- 5 Hymns for Christ the King Sunday
- 6 Hymns for Thanksgiving
Plus, a few comments on a handful of related hymns. All together, including the front pages and the index, it adds up to 250 pages. Twice as long as my last book – HYMNS OF PEACE AND COMFORT, and four times as long as my first book in this series – REFLECTIONS ON MY FAVORITE PSALM-BASED HYMNS. I think this will be my last book in the Talking with God through Music series.
How did I select the hymns to include? First I made up a list of all my favorite hymns related to any holiday from January through December (actually starting with December and ending with November). Then I supplemented my personal favorites by scanning through a few church hymnals – Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, and hymnals from non-denominational publishers, and I added a few more of my favorites that I remembered when I saw them in these hymnals.
How did I know all these hymns, and why did I want to write about them anyway? Although I wasn’t born with knowledge about hymns, I began to acquire it very early in life. I grew up attending Willerup Methodist Church in Cambridge, Wisconsin once or twice every week from the time I was just weeks old. Willerup was known as a singing church. On Sunday mornings, we sang 3 or 4 hymns, and listened to the choir sing 2 anthems. On Sunday evenings, we began the service with about 15 minutes of singing gospel songs. The minister would get us started by announcing the page number of the song he wanted us to sing. After we sang the first song, the minister would ask for requests. He never had to wait long for a response. Often the person making the request would explain why that song was particularly meaningful for them at that time, a “testimony” of sorts. This Sunday night custom planted in my mind the idea that the songs we sang were personally meaningful, and maybe we could actually talk with God by singing these songs.
I grew up learning, thinking about, and loving hundreds of hymns. That’s what I wanted to share by writing this book. Maybe some readers will be able to talk with God through these hymns, too.
How did I find the stories behind the hymns? A few of the stories are personal memories that come from more than 70 years of hearing, singing, and playing these hymns. Over the years I’ve acquired about a dozen books of hymn stories. These books were good starting points in my research. But the biggest resource for most of my research was GOOGLE. This online search tool led me to hundreds of resources. I would google the title of a hymn along with the words “hymn history” and obtain dozens of web addresses for me to look up on the Internet. I quickly learned that the most useful online resources were:
Hymnary.org is probably the most massive online resource of everything about hymns you can imagine. Located at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hymnary.org has a staff of 14 subject matter and technical experts plus student interns documenting information about hymns. They collaborate with The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, and an editorial board made up of professors, composers, and authors representing many different denominations and styles of music.
UMCdiscipleship.org (Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church) doesn’t include as many hymns on their website, but if they have a hymn, it’s usually my favorite source for insights into the hymn. Frequently, the author of these articles is C. Michael Hawn, Director of the Sacred Music Program at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. I almost feel like I know Michael because we were classmates together at Wheaton College more than 50 years ago.
Wikipedia.com is a good online encyclopedia for discovering interesting information about anything. Although not always considered the most reliable source itself, Wikipedia.com can provide leads to other resources. Sometimes, looking up a composer or an author leads to information about what prompted the writing of a particular hymn.
Research from these three websites, along with dozens of other websites that Google guided me to, convinced me that every single hymn has an interesting story behind it just waiting to be discovered.
What’s next? First, I’d like to sell some of these books. That’s why I wrote the book – to share how hymns can help us talk with God, and simply to share some fascinating stories behind hymns. (I’ll explain how to buy a book later in this blog post.)
Then, I’ll probably start posting to this blog a little more often. I’m not ready to go back to weekly posts, but I hope to write once or twice a month about something that’s on my mind. I’ve missed doing that kind of writing over the last couple years.
At this point, I have no plans to start writing another book. Plans may change. If they do, I’ll let you all know about it on this blog.
Book Purchase Information. Since retiring, I’ve simplified my online presence. That means I no longer have an easy method to sell books online. If you would like to buy my newest book, HYMNS FOR ALL SEASONS: Talking with God through Music, please email me at MarianKorth@gmail.com and specify the number of books you would like to order (Christmas is right around the corner),/ and your mailing address. I will send the book(s) to you along with an invoice. The price of the book is $20.00. (I’ll cover the sales tax.) Shipping and handling for one book is $5.00. If you order more than one book, I’ll adjust the shipping charge accordingly. If you are local and would like to pick up the book(s) to avoid shipping charges, please specify that in your email, as well.
If you have any questions, please call me at 608-212-6197.
P.S. In the course of all the research I conducted to learn the stories behind these hymns, I also learned a lot of interesting trivia, some of which I included in the hymn stories. In this book, you will learn:
- What well-known Thanksgiving hymn was written to be used as a table grace about 400 years ago, during The Thirty Years War and The Plague?
- What Advent carol was written during the time of the Roman Empire by a Spanish lawyer who was trying to build a case for Jesus actually being God, not just a human being?
- What popular Christmas carol was written by an atheist?
- What Epiphany carol was written by an Episcopal priest in Pennsylvania as a Christmas present for his nieces and nephews?
- What Easter hymn was written in response to the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.?
- What patriotic hymn was written to replace the bawdy words of a popular marching song during the Civil War?