Sing a New Creation
By The Anglican Church of Canada
Church Publishing, pp. 344, $23.95
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Review by Marty Wheeler Burnett
“Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to sing an old song.” —The Rev. Dr. Carl P. Daw Jr.
Sing a New Creation is the Anglican Church of Canada’s new hymnal supplement to Common Praise (1998). Although it contains some hymns and service music already available to Episcopalians, much of the material has been created or come into use during the decades since the Episcopal Church published its most recent hymnal supplement.
There is much to explore in this new collection. Unlike denominational hymnals, which must be comprehensive in scope, supplements have greater liberty to take risks and include a wider range of musical styles.
It is always interesting to read a hymnal’s preface to understand the committee’s objectives. The task force responsible for Sing a New Creation articulates several guiding principles:
- Responding to the expressed needs of congregations
- Selecting settings that are “attractive and enjoyable to sing”
- Including texts and tunes by Canadian Anglican writers and composers
- Providing a global perspective with material from diverse cultures and languages
The volume also focuses on including texts and tunes by women. This may be one of its most significant contributions.
The supplement recognizes that a variety of accompanying instruments are desirable, depending on musical style and cultural practices. While some hymns can be accompanied by organ, others include piano accompaniments, guitar chords, or suggested percussion parts. Some are set in traditional, four-part harmonizations, while others feature unison singing.
The rise of global hymnody in recent hymnals is reflected in this supplement. The index notes a wide variety of hymns and tunes with sources ranging from Argentina to Zimbabwe. There are also hymns and service music containing multiple languages suitable for bilingual worship.
The contemporary trend of “paperless music” is represented through a variety of simple songs that can be taught by rote. These hymns are marked with an image of a human ear on the bottom corner of the page, making it easy to thumb through the book and locate materials.
I recently moderated a panel discussion of Episcopal musicians who use The Hymnal 1982 and its supplements in their parishes. I asked them to identify topics that need more hymns. Some categories they mentioned are represented in Sing a New Creation: the Eucharist; baptism; the Holy Spirit; healing; repentance and forgiveness; and evening hymns. Additional topics were stewardship, Christian unity, and creation care, as well as texts by various saints commemorated in our calendar, and accessible settings of canticles for congregational singing. These topics are not as thoroughly addressed in the new Canadian supplement.
In the introduction, the editors make specific mention of their inclusion of hymns of lament. We currently see hymn poets from several denominations writing these texts in response to an expressed need. It will be interesting to see if these hymns become a part of our standard repertoire.
For those planning worship, the usefulness of a hymnal relies on its indices and supporting materials. This supplement would be enhanced by the publication of a leader’s guide with background information and performance suggestions. The introduction indicates that these materials may eventually be available online.
The collection includes subject, scriptural, and first line indices, as well as listings of authors, composers, sources, and tune names. A metrical index is not included. One practical matter: the book is only available in a pew edition. There is not a spiral-bound edition designed to lie flat on a music rack or stand.
The layout of the book is remarkably clean, readable, and user-friendly. Those familiar with the excellent hymn collections of Selah Publishing Company will recognize its handiwork in typesetting this supplement.
With such a wide range of materials, Sing a New Creation is worth exploring, particularly for its diverse collection of global hymnody, hymns by women, and works of Canadian poets and composers. Perhaps the Episcopal Church will find inspiration to pursue its own new creation in the years ahead.
Marty Wheeler Burnett, D.Min., is associate professor of church music and director of chapel music at Virginia Theological Seminary.