Notes 60.2 (2003) 510-514
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Online Hymn Resources
Beginning in the 1990s, a number of Web sites devoted to hymns began to appear, and most Protestant and Catholic denominations now have some type of online hymn representation. Often these hymn sites are created not by the hymnal publishing companies, nor by the express design of the denomination, but by individuals and churches that have a passion to share with others what they find to be significant music. Individual sites present these hymns in a variety of formats from simple lists of titles to augmented presentations including score, text, audio, graphics, and ancillary information. These sites are built not with the scholar in mind, but for audiences ranging from the religious faithful to church music directors, pastors, and leaders of small fellowships in need of music resources. They are not intended to replace owning a hymnal, since usually only some of the hymns in a hymnal will be in the [End Page 510] public domain and can then be offered freely online. (There are some older hymnals, the contents of which may all be in the public domain, such as the St. Basil Hymnal of 1906 which is mounted in its entirety on the Catholic hymn site authored by Donald A Wyckoff, at www.homestead. com/midicatholic/Catholicinformation.html. While these sites may not necessarily be scholarly in approach, care is taken to ensure that copyright is not violated and legal usage is generally stated. In spite of denominational boundaries, there is a certain amount of coverage overlap in these online offerings, just as there would be in the printed hymnals. There is a wide range of sophistication in Web design in evidence, ranging from basic HTML and long scrolling pages to busy animation and carefully designed architecture. Although not intended as reference resources, they nicely complement the hymn tune indexes by Nicholas Temperly and D. DeWitt Wasson, recently reviewed in this column by Laurie Sampsel (Notes 59 no. 3 [March 2003]: 713-15]), making it possible to not only identify a hymn but to actually see and hear the music. For the purposes of this review, I have selected four sites that offer hymn texts, scores, and audio files: the Cyber Hymnal, Hymnsite.com, Christian Classics Ethereal Hymnary, and The RUF Hymnbook Online Hymn Resources. All of these sites work well with the standard Web browsers and require minimal software downloads to access the files. (All sites accessed 27 August 2003.)
The Cyber Hymnal. Hosted by Word.Net Communications. http://www.cyberhymnal.org/
Established in 1996, this site provides access to "4,3000 Christian hymns and Gospel songs from many denominations." One of the most comprehensive and well-designed interdenominational sites, it provides full text, scores, MIDI files, and ancillary information. The scores are displayed with NoteWorthy Composer (NWC), a music notation editor for Windows.
Instructions on how to download scores and sound files are easy to follow. One can search by hymn title, tune (by both meter and name), scripture reference, topic (including liturgical seasons), composer, and librettist (pictures are included when available). Navigation is relatively easy and cross-reference links are provided to other hymn texts set to the same tune, non-English translations of a text, and other tunes written by the same composer. There is also a site search feature, a FAQ, a listing of hymns frequently asked for that cannot be provided due to copyright issues, and an "autoplay" feature for those who would like to listen to all of the hymns continuously without having to click on each title. While the majority of the hymns are in the public domain, there are also a number of hymns for which permission from the publisher has been obtained, and copyright notices are clearly posted. Additional features include a trivia page noting hymns used in academy award winning movies, hymns sung at celebrity weddings and funerals, oldest hymns included, etc. If the meaning of an outdated or uncommon word is needed, the thesaurus can be consulted. Another excellent feature is a suggestions page that offers new ways to use hymns, such as on a...