Changing trends in hymn singing?

By Heather Bamber,

Five People Holding Hymn Books and Singing in a Church Congregation
Five People Holding Hymn Books and Singing in a Church Congregation

Royal School of Church Music One only needs to look at the classified adverts in publications such as this one to see how many churches have a stack of used hymn books looking for a new home. Is this because the church has invested in a newer edition of a favourite hymn book, or because the worship style has changed? Or maybe they’ve introduced overhead projection? And maybe we will all be following the texts via an app in the future! There have been many changes in the landscape of music in worship since the Royal School of Church Music began publishing its Sunday by Sunday liturgy planner in 1997. The quarterly magazine lists suggested hymns, songs, anthems and organ music for every Sunday of the Church year and for major festivals and holy days, and has become an invaluable resource for clergy, worship leaders, organists and choir directors around the world. It aims to make the listings as useful as possible for many denominations and styles of worship, with numbers supplied for as many hymn and song books as can be fitted across a page (currently 14). This, of course, means that decisions have to be made on which of the dozens of the books in print should be included and which others must sadly be left out. An occasional survey of the magazine’s readership and the wider Church community serves to inform these decisions, making sure the listings are as representative as possible.

It also provides an interesting reflection of current trends in musical style and the usage of different formats. The latest survey has just been circulated, and has already highlighted one significant trend – the increased use of digital technology. The last survey in 2007 was circulated within the printed magazine and was available on the RSCM website, attracting about 270 responses in total, whereas the current survey has already received 1,500 responses online within a week! This is an extremely encouraging response rate, and is good news for the value and usefulness of the listings in the future. The RSCM would love to hear from as many churches as possible, from any denomination and whether you are a member of the organisation or not.

Just go to www.rscm.com/hymnbooksurvey, and it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to complete – only one response per church, please. In addition to questions about the music in your services week by week, it asks how you plan your music for worship, and how you supply the texts to the congregation. All of which will be indispensable in informing the development of the listings for the future, and for the wider work of the RSCM in training and supporting church musicians. Selected extracts of Sunday by Sunday listings for festivals and special occasions can be downloaded free at www.rscm.com/sbys, and the survey is available online for a limited time at www.rscm.com/hymnbooksurvey – don’t miss the chance to have your say!

Heather Bamber is the RSCM’s Marketing Administrator