‘A humble companion’ …. The Revised English Hymnal

Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
Posted Nov 13, 2023

A landmark in English hymnody and one of the most influential hymnals of the 20th century, The English Hymnal of 1906, with its 1986 successor The New English Hymnal, has long been revered for its exceptional musical and liturgical qualities. The Revised English Hymnal is a completely new and updated edition of The English Hymnal. Like its predecessor, it aims to be ‘a humble companion’ to the Common Prayer of the Church, not only in England, but everywhere the English Hymnal tradition is loved and valued around the world. It seeks ‘to combine in one volume the worthiest expressions of all that lies within the Christian creed, from those “ancient Fathers” who were the earliest hymn writers down to exponents of modern aspirations and ideals’ (from the Preface, 1906). The editorial aims of The Revised English Hymnal have been to remain classically Anglican, doctrinally orthodox, liturgically focused, musically and poetically intelligent, and ecumenically and chronologically diverse: thus providing a unique treasury for public worship, private devotion, and spiritual formation.

Congregations and musicians will find much that is familiar, from the green covers to the lasting influence of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Yet, despite the title, The English Hymnal was an extraordinarily international book, introducing hymns from North America (the first Anglican book to have done so), Continental Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The Revised English Hymnal continues this tradition, expanding its geographical range further still.

Containing 688 items in total, over three hundred hymns are provided for the principal holy days, festivals and seasons of the Church’s year and a further sixty for the sacraments and pastoral offices she celebrates. A Liturgical Section of about fifty items provides other material specifically intended for the rites and ceremonies associated with particular days, including full provision for Holy Week. Also included is material for use at the Eucharist, including eight Mass settings.

The Church’s ‘voice of prayer is never silent’, and recent years have seen a welcome rediscovery of corporate daily prayer in many parishes. Common Worship Daily Prayer (2005) has re-introduced the practice of singing a hymn in the traditional place of the Office Hymn. A table of these hymns, and the suggestion of alternative texts which follow the same objective pattern of an Office Hymn, will enable congregations large and small to enrich their celebrations of the Divine Office.

Contemplative and meditative chants are increasingly popular, and included is a selection from the distinctive worship of the international and ecumenical community at Taizé in France.  Similarly, a new generation is discovering that the use of simple plainsong melodies, either unaccompanied or sustained by a musical instrument, enhances worship in this contemporary style.

On publication of The Revised English Hymnal, the English Hymnal Company chairman, Martin Draper said: ‘This a is a book which will deeply enrich the celebration of the Church’s year, providing a wide selection of hymns as well as other liturgical material. No other modern hymn book does this better than the Revised English Hymnal.’

Canterbury Press Publishing Director, Christine Smith said: ‘It has been a long gestation, and we are grateful to those who have eagerly awaited its publication for their patience. One of the reasons for this has been the meticulous attention of the editors to every detail to ensure the highest possible standards throughout. It is a privilege to be associated with such a significant and remarkably beautiful hymn book.’

A hymn book is not only for use in church services. In an age where many people no longer possess a printed prayer book of any kind, a hymnal is a rich source of prayer and an invitation to meditation and contemplation. The variety of the seasonal hymns, well-known and much-loved texts, centuries-old compositions, and classic and near-contemporary poetry of depth and beauty can provide an almost inexhaustible treasury of prayer and devotion.

In worship we are drawn closer to God through the power of his love and strengthened by it to live our lives to his greater glory.

The Revised English Hymnal is offered to the Church for use in the worship of God and ‘in the beauty of holiness’.

Further information:
Michael Addison Hymns A&M

Notes for editors

Revised English Hymnal full music edition is published 30th November 2023 (ISBN: 9781786220059/RRP £35.00). Review copies available shortly.

Further editions will follow in early 2024 including words only, melody, large print words, electronic words, organ.

The Editors wish to record their gratitude to Bishop Rowan Williams, Honorary President of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland and former Archbishop of Canterbury, for his introduction to this hymnal and for his translation of two Welsh hymn texts.

Further information and an introduction with Martin Draper can be found at reh.hymnsam.co.uk