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Some people consider themselves non-religious so they stay away from hymns and religious music. But if you just ignore the titles of the pieces, a whole world of soaring, wonderful music is available to add to your repertoire. For example, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Tune by Martin Luther (1483-1546) harmonized by J.S Bach (1685-1750). This, you definitely have to add to your repertoire. Not religious? No problem just ignore the title and enjoy the music.

Another one is Now Thank We All Our God. Tune Johann Cruger (1598-1662) harmonized by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Another favorite of mine is When I Survey The Wondrous Cross. Words by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Music by Edward Miller (1735-1807)

Yet another soaring, powerful piano/organ piece is To God Be The Glory. Words by Fanny Crosby (1820-1915). Music by William Diane (1832-1916)

If you have some more examples you want to add, please do.


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I will have to think about it today if I can add anything, but did want to say I agree with you!

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Excellent advice!


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I have on paper the 371 chorals harmonized by Bach, and i learn one every week, just for the fun of it. They are incredibly beautiful, and you can see that many modern popular music is heavily inspired by them.

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On the other hand:

Many of us who learned hymn tunes along with their texts may have difficulty or find it impossible dissociating the music from its religious context and message. There may be some nice music in hymn tunes, but given their brevity and repetition of multiple verses in basic I, IV, V, I four-part harmony, they don't lend themselves to much more than accompanying voices or choirs. In that context they have their place.

I can't see them, in their original form, as performance pieces. As a church pianist for a number of years in my youth, there are too many to name - hundreds, I suspect - that I liked when young and impressionable but which have since paled in their interest as I moved on to more complex music.

To each his own, however.

Regards,


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Not a hymn, but Evening Prayer, part of Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel sounds lovely to me.

There's an advanced intermediate piano transcription of it that's on my bucket list. It would be a stretch piece for me or I might have to wait a while before I'm able to play it.


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Medtner's Three Hymns, Op. 49, are wonderful. Those are written for piano solo and have no religious context, but they are absolutely gorgeous hymns. I love them.

I believe Medtner himself recorded the first hymn.


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When I was a teenager at my new high school in the UK, longer ago than I care to remember, I heard hymns for the first time (I originate from a tiny insignificant non-Western non-Christian country), and was so taken with them that after singing them in the morning assemblies, I wrote out many of them from memory afterwards, in 4-part harmony (which was the way the organist played them) - usually clandestinely in the first school class grin - in my manuscript book that I carried around with my school books. I was also learning harmony in my school music class at the time, so one helped the other. The words didn't mean much to me as an atheist (but that never stopped me singing mostly religious music by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn et al as a chorister in the school choir), but I'd play the hymns on the piano later, after school, to check how accurately I'd notated them.

I did that with many other hymn-like music that I came across when listening to the radio, including Humperdinck's Evening Prayer that lilypad mentioned, even the trio Soave sia il vento from Mozart's Così fan tutte as well as the famous duet Là ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni.

And of course, at Christmas, our choir would be singing lots of carols in 4-part harmony from the sheet music, so there was no need for me to write them out by ear in order to play them on the piano. Even today, I still remember most of the hymns I once sang as a kid - well, the music, not the words.......and sometimes play them on the piano.


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Organists employed by Lutheran churches were required to compose Chorale Preludes as part of their assigned duties. These are more than just harmonizing a hymn but are contrapuntal works composed based on the melody of the hymn.

Many of these works are beautiful pieces of music in their own right. They generally are short, like Chopin’s Preludes.

J. S. Bach, Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Walther (J. S. Bach’s cousin), Zachau (Handel’s organ teacher) and many others all contributed substantially to this literature.

(Although Pachelbel was considered to be of the South German school of organists that was more typically Catholic, he was from Nuremberg, which was a Lutheran city despite being in the southern part of what now is Germany).

Some chorale preludes are in fugal form and may also be labeled as a Fughette.

Many chorale preludes have pedal parts that preclude playing them on piano without some arranging but there also are a fair number that can be played on piano directly. The piano has the advantage of being able to project the melody over the other voices as the choir would do singing the melody in unison with the organ. The piano also has the disadvantage of not being able to sustain the notes of the melody indefinitely as an organ is able to do.

In other words, some chorale preludes work very well on piano and can be interpreted in a pianistic style, but some are better left to the organ.


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Originally Posted by FarazIsLivingLife
Medtner's Three Hymns, Op. 49, are wonderful. Those are written for piano solo and have no religious context, but they are absolutely gorgeous hymns. I love them.

I believe Medtner himself recorded the first hymn.

Wow, I think you're the first person I've ever encountered who even knows of that set of pieces. I love them too, and not many years ago learned to play the first one...which is the only of the three within my technical grasp (barely).

Funny thing about that Medtner recording. I have the CD, and I hadn't listened to it in a while when I was learning the piece. There was a certain spot in the piece where I felt that a ritardando seemed appropriate, but since it wasn't called for in the score, I exercised discipline to strictly hold the tempo thru that section. Then one day shortly after learning the piece, I pulled out that CD and listened carefully to how Medtner played it. Guess what? At that spot, he slowed down!

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Conventional church music was written in 4 parts SATB (soprano, alto, tenor & bass). And the 4 parts in 4 lines are usually at sync from top to bottom. You'd repeat the number of times as the verses for singing. And you play 2 notes on each hand so the pieces are great for improving your reading.

Even if you're religious & go to church regularly, music students don't usually learn to play church hymns in SATB with a teacher. You'd get a hymn book from a bookstore or a church and learn on your own.

Do piano students who are not Christians avoid church music entirely? No. There are pieces in repertoire books like Alfred or Faber arranged for piano such as Beethoven "Ode to Joy", chorale from Bach Cantata "Sheep May Safely Grace" & "Sleepers Awake", "See that the Conquering Hero Comes" from Handel's oratorio "Judas Maccabeus". These are common student pieces not in SATB. Someone who is religious would play hymns regularly while another who is not religious would play religious pieces that are in repertoire books but wouldn't learn hymns specifically for Sunday services.

In my family circle 2 teens were enrolled in Suzuki piano & violin. The 2 played duets at their grandfather's funeral service. The older teen played "Abide with Me" on piano. You do find "See that the Conquering Hero Comes" in a Suzuki book. For someone who hasn't played a hymn before but can read reasonably well, learning a hymn or 2 for a service in a week shouldn't be an issue.

I was brought up in a family that goes to church so I'd occasionally download hymns. Once I downloaded a version of "O Holy Night" similar to the one heard in church a day earlier. The arrangement has LH arpeggios than the standard church hymn in SATB. A week later went to a Christmas gathering and played it on a keyboard. Would someone who isn't Christian go to a Christmas party and play "Silent Night"? There are books with Christmas tunes arranged for easy piano. If you find a Christmas song book on a piano stand, you might sight read a few pieces just for the occasion.

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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
J. S. Bach, Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Walther (J. S. Bach’s cousin), Zachau (Handel’s organ teacher) and many others all contributed substantially to this literature.
And also Sweelinck, of course. wink

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Originally Posted by Nandoh
Some people consider themselves non-religious so they stay away from hymns and religious music. But if you just ignore the titles of the pieces, a whole world of soaring, wonderful music is available to add to your repertoire. For example, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Tune by Martin Luther (1483-1546) harmonized by J.S Bach (1685-1750). This, you definitely have to add to your repertoire. Not religious? No problem just ignore the title and enjoy the music.

Another one is Now Thank We All Our God. Tune Johann Cruger (1598-1662) harmonized by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Another favorite of mine is When I Survey The Wondrous Cross. Words by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Music by Edward Miller (1735-1807)

Yet another soaring, powerful piano/organ piece is To God Be The Glory. Words by Fanny Crosby (1820-1915). Music by William Diane (1832-1916)

If you have some more examples you want to add, please do.

The original set of 32 hymns was published in 1524, written by Luther and Walther: Geystliche gesangk-Buchleyn. You can find it on:

https://imslp.org/wiki/Geystliche_gesangk-Buchleyn_(Walter%2C_Johann)

The melody is at the tenor as it was customary at the time. Though it is written in SATB, amateur singers could not sing in polyphonic style. The organ when available was playing the other voices.


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Hymns are great for practicing sight reading.


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Originally Posted by Bart K
Originally Posted by Sweelinck
J. S. Bach, Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Walther (J. S. Bach’s cousin), Zachau (Handel’s organ teacher) and many others all contributed substantially to this literature.
And also Sweelinck, of course. wink

I’m not aware of any chorale preludes by Sweelinck. Amsterdam was Calvinist and that branch of Christianity did not allow sacred music other than psalms to be set to music. Sweelinck was employed by the city of Amsterdam, not by the church, although he was the organist at the Oude Kirk as his official duties. His students, such as Samuel Scheidt, Heinrich Scheidemann, and Jakob Praetorius were contributors to the chorale prelude literature.


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Here is an example of a very nice chorale prelude by Walther. It is readily playable and quite nice on piano as well.



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Schmucke dich, O liebe Selle?
As a German, I assume this is supposed to be German. However, it is hardly recognisable to me as my mother tongue. wink If someone doesn't know German he should rather write the title in his own language. That would make more sense.

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Originally Posted by Pianoryx
Schmucke dich, O liebe Selle?
As a German, I assume this is supposed to be German. However, it is hardly recognisable to me as my mother tongue. wink If someone doesn't know German he should rather write the title in his own language. That would make more sense.


It is a well known hymn written by Johann Franck and Johann Crüger. Many composers wrote using the melody. Bach himself composed a cantata and a choral prelude. You can read this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schm%C3%BCcke_dich,_o_liebe_Seele or

https://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale116-Eng3.htm




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Originally Posted by Pianoryx
Schmucke dich, O liebe Selle?
As a German, I assume this is supposed to be German. However, it is hardly recognisable to me as my mother tongue. wink If someone doesn't know German he should rather write the title in his own language. That would make more sense.

There seems to be a typo in the last word of the title given on the YouTube entry. In my collection:

Achtzig Choralvorspiele Deutscher Meister des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts

which is Edition Peters, printed in German, the title on the score is given as:

Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele

There also is an umlaut over the “u”.

I don’t speak German, but if a typo on 1 letter makes it unrecognizable to a native German-speaker, perhaps the title is in early 18th century German?


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That hymn was wtitten around 1649 and it is in the form of a poem. I dont speak german, but i would assume it is a combination of old german and poetry writing. There are a number of old texts in other languages which use old words and phrase formulation that wouldnt work in a modern context.


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