Greet Your Savior~A New Faith Song for an Old Tune

Greet Your Savior by Linda Bonney OlinThe Christmas song titled “Greet Your Savior” celebrates Jesus’ arrival with gusto! My words are set to the tune of “The Old Rugged Cross,” a popular old-time hymn.

“Greet Your Savior” shows how new words can give a surprisingly different sound to a familiar tune. Part of the difference, of course, comes from singing it at a perkier tempo than you’d sing the contemplative lyrics of “The Old Rugged Cross.”

But a clever lyricist has other, less obvious, ways to influence the feel of a tune, without modifying the music one bit. I’ll let you in on a few of them, using OLD RUGGED CROSS as an example. Continue reading

Split-ting Words Without Getting a Split-ting Headache

Sheet musicEver notice all the hyphens in your hymnal? I pity the guy who had the job of putting them there!

When song lyrics contain words of more than one syllable, the divisions between syllables are marked with hyphens in the score. This allows each syllable to be individually aligned with its musical note.

Some syllables are sung across a series of notes. The score will generally use a curved line called a slur to mark the range of notes assigned to a particular syllable. It may display multiple hyphens for an extended syllable.

The clip of sheet music pictured above shows the hyphenated syllables Glo-ri-a, ex-cel-sis, and De-o in the classic Christmas carol “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Look at all the hyphens following Glo! That single three-letter syllable is spread over sixteen separate notes. Keep an oxygen tank handy when the congregation belts that one out!

Where Do the Hyphens Go?

But Gloria-induced hyperventilation is not the source of the headache I mentioned in my post title. My split-ting headache comes from trying to figure out exactly where to divide words when I type lyrics into a music notation program.

I vaguely remember a few of Sister Mary Adele’s rules from fifth grade grammar:

  • End a long-vowel syllable with the vowel.
  • End a short-vowel syllable with a consonant.
  • Split words between two consecutive consonants, unless they form a diphthong. (Wait a minute, diphthongs combine vowels. What do you call a consonant combination? A gerund? No … I’m getting too old to keep that stuff straight.)

But Sister Mary Adele’s rules don’t always give the right answer. Even words I thought were obvious turned out to be split differently in my hymnal. Where would you place the hyphens in the common word everyone, for example? I didn’t even guess the number of syllables correctly.

What’s a lyricist to do? Use only words of one syllable? Not likely. Insert hyphens wherever they look right to me, and hope no one else knows better? Tempting, but not the most quality-conscious approach.

How to Divide and Conquer Multi-Syllable Words

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is my hard-copy reference for word spelling, definition, and syllabication. A quicker solution: I keep a browser window open to Dictionary.com while I work on lyrics. When I need to check a word, I type or copy/paste it into the search box and hit Enter. Voila! Dictionary.com displays the word and its derivative forms in hyphenated syllables.

Even if you don’t write music, knowing where to find a word’s correct syllabication might come in handy someday. If you lay out the interior pages of a print-on-demand book in Microsoft Word, for example, you might want to override Word’s hyphenation to tweak a line here or there. Splitting a long word differently (Con-gregation instead of Congre-gation, for example) can improve the appearance of a printed page or break a line of dialogue at a more reader-friendly place in a script.

By the way, give yourself a pat on the back if you split everyone into three syllables like this: eve-ry-one. Sorry, Sister Mary Adele!  🙂

Edit January 10, 2016:
Entering hymn lyrics into a digital score by copying and pasting from Microsoft Word is a lot quicker than typing the words directly into the score. To do that, I first have to separate the syllables with a space or a hyphen (depending on the music notation program). Inserting all those spaces/hyphens individually gets pretty time-consuming.

But I recently was tipped off to Lyric Hyphenator, a free online utility from Juicio Brennan. Just paste your text into the on-screen box and click a button to have it hyphenated automatically. If your notation program uses spaces instead of hyphens to separate syllables, you can then use Word’s Find/Replace All function to replace all the hyphens with spaces.

Caveats: Lyric Hyphenator works with standard English words only. You should eyeball the results for accuracy; as always, use a dictionary to check the syllabication of any questionable words or proper names.

 

Want to Put Poems to Music? See Guest Blog on Random Writing Rants

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Ever had the desire to write hymn texts or put your poems to music? Think it’s impossible because you have little or no music training?

Check out my 10 tips for putting poetry to existing music, on my guest blog at Random Writing Rants, which is a terrific source of information, advice, and encouragement for adult and teen writers.

If you haven’t already read my posts here on Faith Songs about my adventures in writing original music, take a look at them, too:
Writing Songs for the Lord
To the Ends of the Earth

By way of an update, I’m happy to say that, thanks to my musically inclined collaborator, Phyllis Neff Lake, the project of adding piano accompaniments to the hymns and faith songs in Songs for the Lord is well underway. Yay, Phyllis! Yay, God!

Meanwhile, I’m adding material slowly but surely to a second songbook. This one will feature original hymn texts set to some of my favorite classic hymn tunes. Just this morning, the Holy Spirit showed up with a new hymn idea in the wee hours. I grabbed a newspaper lying next to my bed and scribbled a draft of the verses before they floated out of my memory. Next step will be to—well, you can read all about the process on my guest blog at RWR. 🙂

Let me know if you’re inspired to give it a try!

Blessings,
Linda

P.S. 9/28/2013

I just added new links to my Resources page that will interest poets who want to write new words to set to old hymns.  Hymnary.org offers XML and midi files of public domain hymns. MuseScore, a free music notation program, opens those files and lets you edit them. Replacing the old lyrics with your own words is easy! You can modify the notes, too. Then you can save and print professional-looking sheet music. Have fun!

 

Elizabeth Bristol ~ Confidence in the Prophecy

My Kindle music book, SONGS FOR THE LORD, will be offered as a FREE download on Amazon.com and its European affiliates on Friday, November 2 through Monday, November 5. Mark your calendars! And please help me get the word out!

Photo of Elizabeth Bristol

Elizabeth Bristol

Here is a related message—a testimonial of sorts—sent in by kindred spirit Elizabeth Bristol.

A native of Foxboro, Massachusetts, Elizabeth has lived in many states and other countries. She says she loves the school of life and looks for opportunities to step into another pair of shoes for deeper understanding. She can be conventional, but she’d rather color outside the lines.

(I happen to know that Elizabeth has applied to work in Antarctica. That’s coloring outside the lines, all right!)

Elizabeth writes:

Continue reading

Writing Songs for the Lord

Yearning for the Gift of Music

Photo of a monarch butterfly on pink weed blossoms

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
– Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

How does a person who can barely tell a quarter note from a Quarter Pounder write a book full of original hymns and faith songs?

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