I collect hymnals – the older the better. It’s fascinating to see how musical tastes have changed over the years, and see which hymns were included or excluded. Language changes and various issues (such as temperance) rise and fall from prominence.
As far as Christmas Carols go, in addition to my Oxford Book of Carols, there are three hymnals that have held my attention. I actually possess one of these, and I’ve just found copies of the other two online. I guess that will have to do, if I can’t actually own the physical copies.
The first of these is Hymns Ancient and Modern, and is a general hymnal rather than being specific to Christmas. For many years it was the primary hymnal of the Church of England, and is a standard reference for hymnology. Anne Dudley put together an excellent CD of Advent and Christmas music based on tunes from the hymnal and entitled it Ancient and Modern. I was able to acquire a copy of Ancient and Modern on eBay. I think mine is the 1916 edition, and it’s a small pocket version with only the words to the hymns – no music (pictured above.)
In the mid-to-late 20th Century there was a revived interest in ancient melodies for worship. I noticed this in our most recent Presbyterian Hymnal, which included more plainsong chants and hymns with ancient origins. These next two hymnals are even older than Hymns Ancient and Modern. Continue reading “Carols Ancient and Modern”