Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Back when we sang introits, the sixth Sunday of Easter was called Cantate, from the opening of Psalm 98.  It was often set apart for a celebration of the arts, inspired by the idea of singing "a new song."

Sadly, there are few hymns that make much use of the image, and one of them is Herb Brokering's Earth and All Stars!, the exclamation point being part of the title.  This is one of those hymns you either love or hate, and we at the Egg don't love it.  We emphatically don't love it.  For those lucky enough never to have had the pleasure, here's a sample:
Classrooms and labs! Loud boiling test tubes!
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Athlete and band! Loud cheering people!
Sing to the Lord a new song.

To get it right, you really need to pronounce "Lord" with four syllables.

To our delight, we have just stumbled upon the blog of an Episcopalian layman, Lionel Deimel, who feels as we do about Earth and All Stars, and who has posted -- along with some insightful comments about why the hymn is so bad -- a clever parody.  We won't spoil it all for you; please visit his blog.  But here's a taste:

iPods and Droids, loud clicking keypads,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Blackberry phones, loud sounding ringtones,
Sing to the Lord a new song!


Pastor Joelle said...

Are you kidding me? I LOVE THIS HYMN!!! We always have a back to school Sunday and we sing this. Also i learned to play flats on the piano with this hymn

Mark C. Christianson said...

I have never understood the dislike and even loathing that some profess for this hymn.

Among other things, Deimel cites the lack of rhyme. Really? That's a reason to dislike it? And as far as structure and the "laundry list" criticism, why do we so easily forget about models for this hymn such as Psalms 148 or Psalm 150?

Deimel's parody seems to really take off on the test tube reference, which is often cited as somehow a problem, even by some who otherwise like the hymn. No one who cites that reference in criticism has ever been able or willing to quite explain to me why it is somehow problematic or even worthy of ridicule. Is it really that hard to see loud boiling test tubes as offering their own praise to the created of all things? Is our imagination to be so circumscribed by conventional expectations and imagery in hymns?

The test tubes are actually one of the references that I like and appreciate about the hymn. It's not just musical instruments and people who praise the Lord. It's not just the heavens which are telling the glory of God (the stars and planets), or the pretty flowers. It's also inclement weather, knowledge, science, and daily work that express praise.

Father Anonymous said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know the hymn has its fans, and I know it is just right for some settings -- especially services on or near a college campus.

For that matter, I'll cede all Mark's theological points. I am the first to admit that my feelings about this hymn aren't based on theology at all. They have more to do with my snobby, antiquarian and elitist ideas of what poetry should look and sound like.

Oscar Wilde once said, "There are two ways to dislike poetry. One is to dislike it; the other is to read Pope." I agree with him on Pope, and can only believe that he would agree with me if I substituted "hymnody" and "Earth and All Stars" in his remark.

Still, reasonable people may disagree. My beloved freshman English prof was a man of exquisite taste and ruthless critical insight. But the guy still read Pope.

Fritz said...

I emphatically agree. Hate those lyrics!

Bruce said...

Our congregation is a town/gown one, so I guess I can get a pass for liking loud boiling test tubes.

- said...

I do like this hymn. I think it's delightful to bring words into a hymn that refer to something modern. It is novel and fun. Plus it makes a point, as Mark said, that all creation sings God's praises.

On the other hand, I really loathe "Have no fear little flock." I don't know why, but it drives me up a wall. It's simplistic and babyish. And yet there are plenty of people in my congregation who love it.

"Children of the Heavenly Father" doesn't bother me a bit, but I know a few people who despise it, saying that it is theologically vapid. But it's part of my heritage and I've heard it all my life. Doesn't bother me a bit.

So there you go. You hate "Earth and All Stars," still others hate "Children of the Heavenly Father," and I hate "Little Flock." To each his own.

PrSBlake1 said...

Herb would have loved your new verse!