Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Also: Since when are "joyous strains" "brave delights"?

Christmas was mostly lovely. I hope yours was as lovely as could reasonably be expected — I know this is not an easy time for many folks.

I had one moment of feminist/churchy/musical embarrassment, about which exactly one of you will care, but I'll share it anyway, because, you know, funny stories at my expense, that's what we specialize in around here.

I went to church both late Christmas Eve and early Christmas morning with my dad.

There's so much great music that we only sing for these twelve or thirteen days of the year. My dad has a beautiful singing voice, and likes to show off, and it's just really great fun to sing next to him in church. I also happen to like Christmas morning church, for lots of reasons both religious and sentimental.

So this morning, we get to the final hymn of the service, known to many as "Good Christian Men, Rejoice!" In the "new" version of the hymnal, the lyrics have actually been changed to "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice!" (An old family friend, now also a priest, used to tell me that the hymn was originally addressed to men because thy're the ones who need reminding.) Anyway, for whatever reason, some part of me, so familiar with that hymn, forgot about the change and just belted out (joyfully) "Good Christian men, rejoy-hoy-hoice" — and I was appropriately horrified to hear myself sing it as I heard everyone around me sing the gender-neutral version and looked down at my hymnal. I feel like I owe every feminist Christian, including my mother and godmother, plus the committee that put together the improved hymnal, plus my redeemer and savior, an apology.

Afterward, I asked my father if he'd noticed my error. He had not, presumably having been enjoying his own singing too much to be listening overly much to mine.

"Well, the new hymnal's only been around for 30 years; I can't be expected to remember every improvement," I said. "Seriously, in that moment, I just completely forgot that it had ever been fixed."

"As one would a dog," said my dad.

Not bad for operating on about 5 hours' sleep, I thought.


Lisa Clarke said...

I'm constantly doing that kind of thing. I like to listen (and sing along) to the old St. Louis Jesuits recordings from the 70's, so when one of those songs pops up in church, I nearly always forget the gender neutralize the words before they leave my lips. And I am not a timid singer in church either... I'm with your dad in terms of enjoying one's own singing voice ;-)

Mike said...

The Revels, in an effort to be inclusive, sing "On Christmas night, all people sing" instead of "On Christmas night, all Christians sing"; however, unlike most edits for inclusiveness, it's no more accurate. In fact, it's arguably worse than the original. ...My point, if any, is that sometimes tinkering with very old song lyrics isn't worth the trouble. Most songs aren't perfect, but individual songs don't have to be (no single song defines a culture or community). Is there diversity at the level of the whole hymnal or canon or repertoire?