31 October 2011

Where did they come from? Where did they go?

Back in my tender youth, the Lutheran school I attended had a songbook we used in chapel. It was a bunch of typewritten pages bound with a brown back and a clear cover. There was a big treble clef on the front. Some of the songs were:

Jesus Is the Light
I Cannot Come To the Banquet
Give Me Oil In My Lamp
I've Been Redeemed
It's a Happy Day
What Do You Do With a Man Named Jonah (sung to "What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor")
They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love
Kum Bah Yah
He's a Peach Of a Savior
I Am a C
My God Is So Big
Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia

I am curious as to the provenance of these songs. None of them were sung at the AWANA program I attended with a friend at a Bible church* during the same time period. Some of them were sung at the Lutheran summer camp** I attended a few times. The brown/treble clef book did not survive the parish's transition to contemporary worship. Turns out praise songs are great for kids to sing, and then the kids know the songs for church! Wow! However, there was a memorable transition which set "Go To Dark Gethsemane" to a funky rock beat on the Clavinova.

Have these songs been utterly consumed by the contemporary worship machine? How did they get into Lutheran use in the first place? Am I the only person who remembers them?

*The Bible churchers sang, in addition to the Awana songs, "Peace Like a River" and "I Like Bananas" and . . . hey, that's all I can remember! I'm shocked.

**The dorky Lutheran summer camp musical canon is another curious topic, but I'm not as familiar with it beyond knowing that a bit over ten years ago it was prospering in Seward's DCE program and at a certain Lutheran Gymnasium in Slovakia.


Glenda said...

I think most, if not all, are in the All God's People Sing children's hymn book used in many places.

Rev. David M. Juhl said...

An individual at an LC-MS congregation I know once told her pastor that children should sing only children's Christian songs until they are confirmed, then they are ready for hymns. Hymns are too hard for children. They don't understand what is said. So we give the kids the kind of songs you listed. They teach nothing, but boy are they fun to sing.

Untamed Shrew said...

I got in a bit of trouble on my hub's vicarage for singing, "And they'll know we are Christians by ourconfession, by ourconfession, Yes they'll know we are Christians by ourconfession."

I'm ornery like that. And my brother is a loving atheist.

Gauntlets said...

I've never heard He's a Peach of a Savior. You'll have to sing it to me someday.

Favorites in my Sunday school days were I'm a C and that one that went, "I just want to thank you Father for makin' me me." Ah, memories.

etem said...

unless the slovaks lose their post-communist edge, those songs will be safe for a long time. i think i can hear them singing "i just wanna be a sheep" right now.

Melrose said...

He's a peach of a Savior, he's the apple of my eye, he prunes down the branches when the branches get too high...ummm, that's all I remember. I know the book you spoke of Rebekah,..sheesh, here I thought I was the only one subjected to books like that in a LUTHERAN church.

We have some Mormon friends down the street. I was listening to all the kids playing downstairs one day and overheard one of the other children asking my oldest a question about our faith. My son paused for a moment and then quoted a line from a hymn to answer him with. It was not only correctly quoted but actually answered the question! I'm guessing peach of a savior could do no such thing.

JenniferH said...

"funky rock beat on the Clavinova." Wow, that might be the first time I've ever heard that phrase. :)

@Melrose, thanks for clearing up that whole "Peach of a Savior" thing. Seems very 70's. I can see why it would be in a book that includes Kum Bah Yah. How did "Climb, Climb up Sunshine Mountain" get omitted from that book anyway?

Oh, and one more thing....leave it to Lutherans to make up a Bible song to the tune of "Drunken Sailor." I mean, really.

Elizabeth said...

Glenda is correct - enough of that list is included in All God's People Sing to call it the child of that lovely brown book with a treble clef on front. I had to try to find appropriate chapel hymns from that song book for far too long.
Which leads me into my comment that goes with Rev. Juhl's comment: I had a 1st grade teacher tell me that I should not have chosen to sing "Rejoice O Pilgrim Throng" in chapel because it was far too difficult for 1st graders to learn. I think that will be one of the first hymns I help my daughter memorize in a year or two.

And did you mean, "My God is So Great" instead of "My God is So Big"?
Also, these make GREAT VBS songs, right?

MooreMama said...

We sang Give Me Oil In My Lamp, They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love, Kum Bah Yah, and Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia at the Episcopal church camp that I attended as a child (5-17 years old).
I never saw an actual book, though. Just a bunch of aging hippies with nice hair and guitars and well-worn sandals. :)
We also sang "Pea-nut, peanut butter, JELLY!"

Rebekah said...

He bears his fruit in season and his love will never die, and that's why I'm bananas for . . . oh, never mind. :P

Rebekah said...

Oops--it was definitely "My God is so BIG" where I grew up. We also did "If I were a butterfly," but I think only in the classroom. Not hard-hitting enough for chapel, I guess.

I wonder what all the "kid can't learn hymn" types would say to the kids at our school belting out multiple memorized verses of a new hymn every month.

Melrose said...

You know what my favorite is? How certain congregations I know of complain when their pastor picks one of Luther's catechetical hymns to sing on Sunday, complaining that it's "too hard to sing" when he wrote them to teach CHILDREN. I admit the tunes are slightly more difficult than the traditional hymn, but seriously, if kids back then could sing these hymns certainly kids today can sing easier hymns!

Leah said...

I know most of these... I particularly remember begging to sing "I Cannot Come to Banquet" backwards. You know, "I have bought me a wife, I have married a cow."
Anyone want to discuss the theological implications with that?

I think hymns are important, but I hesitate to say all of these songs ought to be banned because they aren't hymns. Some of them do have questionable theology, so I'm not speaking of them. But some of them are good- and fun. I don't think it's inherently wrong to sing a fun song that talks about God. I wouldn't pick them as choir songs, nor would I have us use them during a devotion, but car rides, why not?

Rebekah said...

Leah, I grok. This is something I've thought about a lot, not so much with kiddie songs as with not particularly Lutheran music that is used in corporate worship and comes to represent a personal piety--what's to be done with it. I don't think telling people to just get over it is the best solution. Someday, a post . . . .

Anonymous said...

When I was in grade school, we used "All God's People Sing" for devotions, choir, and chapel. Also, like Leah, I remember that we would invariably sing "I have bought me a wife, I have married a cow." That was one of our favorites!

In 6th grade, I transferred to a different school, where we learnt at least one verse of a hymn every week and used Matins for chapel. Guess which songs have served me better since leaving grade school? (I'll give a hint. It hasn't been "I Am a C".)

Anonymous said...

You sang Jesus songs at your Christian camp??? We sang campfire songs, like stuff about bears, and marshmellows, etc.--Marie

Anonymous said...

This song book would be one of the gems that might be found at a Walther Library book sale.

Anonymous said...

The Catholic schools I attended as a child, we had mass once a week. It was pretty much like mass on Sunday. I seem to remember we always had communion at school mass. We had no "children's" songs. That was mid/late 70's.

M said...

yarg...I ran into "He's a Peach of Savior" when I was in senior-high summer camp. The counselor was tan and blond, and yet my hormone-riddled soul still asked: "what the ****?"