"These aren't the notes you're looking for..." - Obi-Wan Composey
Hymn #39 -- "O Saints of Zion"
Text: Ed M. Rowe (1878-1951; LDS)
Music: Robert P. Manookin (b. 1918; LDS)
Tune name: HAUGAN
"If I wave my Jedi hand and think my Jedi thoughts, can I make this music sound better than it is?"
That's my initial reaction to this hymn.
The text is bold. The music attempts to be equally bold, but it falls short.
It's not bad writing. It's good writing. Middle of the road. Kind of safe. But the text makes a real statement. I want the music to match that. The end of the first full bar has a nice rising tenor line (A-B-C) that adds a valedictory sort of feel to the descending melody. But the music doesn't quite reach as high as I had hoped.
The first line was all set for a big bold cadence. The addition of the G-sharp was the right start down the "boldness" path, but then it was like he covered it up with a softer cadence. I was expecting a much bigger conclusion to that line after that E major chord (the one with the G-sharp). It's like he suddenly got shy or something.
Hey man, let it all hang out. It's a bold message. Let's not shy away. Let's let 'em have it!
I find I have very little else to say here. The melody does a bit of moving around with some nice eighth note motion. But I'm not gripped. I want to be gripped. I'm probably being overly critical here, but my feelings remind me of a scripture in the book of Revelation:
"I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." (Rev. 3:15-16).
Take that for what it's worth. One cranky composer's opinion.
That's all for today. Have a good one!
P.S. Are you ready to get another pair of eyes on your new primary song? I'd love to help you get it polished up and ready to submit. Click below to sign up for a Hymn or Primary Song Critique.
P.P.S. If you'd like to see my complete harmonic analysis of Hymn #39, click below.
Commentary from "The Bench Warmer"
by Jason Gunnell, Organist
I think this is another sturdy hymn and one that bears all of the characteristics of good hymn writing. Robert Manookin is a rather prolific composer in the LDS realm, with many compositions on the hymns that are excellent to use for prelude and postlude. Of this hymn, Manookin said “The words of this hymn are words of glory, praise, joy, and majesty. The attempt was made to provide a musical setting which would best clothe these inspiring thoughts and express their message. It is almost a ‘march’ of the [Saints} of Zion, glorious and triumphant.” I think he succeeded in this.
Manookin indicates this is almost a march. The easiest way for me to think of a quarter note equals 120 tempo is to think of John Phillip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever march. That will get you right about there. I think this hymn likes to be at about Quarter note equals 116. That would be ‘almost’ a march! Like many of the energetic hymns mentioned previously, a good principal chorus through mixture, with the addition later of chorus reeds, is a good plan for this hymn.
Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Mixture (or the Swell Mixture, whichever is lower-pitched)
Swell: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Larigot 1 ⅓, Mixture, Flute 8’ if needed (adding the Hautbois 8’ to taste or on a different verse)
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, 4’, Mixture, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’, Bassoon 16’
Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Mixture (this or the Swell, whichever was left out in the beginning), Trumpet 8’
Swell: or this Trumpet 8’
Pedal: 16’ Reed