Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Handy Hymn Hints plus Q&A

"I don't know the tune to this hymn."

Well, join the club. But there's several things you can do about that.

1. Just recite the hymn lyrics, like a poem.

2. Choose a different hymn that you do know, so long as it's appropriate to the season. For example, during ordinary time you could always pick "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" or any other general hymn of praise. During lent, do "O Sacred Head Surrounded" or "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" or "The Glory of these Forty Days."

3. Get acquainted with the meter posted at the end of the hymn. That's the little series of numbers and periods.   For example, if it says """  The tune that we use for "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow" or "From All that Dwell Below the Skies" will fit those lyrics. If you get "77.77" and know the hymn "On this Day, the First of Days" then you can plus that tune into the strange lyrics. If it says "76.76" then go with "Sing Praise to Our Creator, O sons of Adam's race"  If you go to Cyber Hymnal  you can find tunes to go with every meter imaginable.

4. Better yet.  Go to Kevin Shaw's wonderful Breviary Hymns blog. There you can look up just about any hymns you want, and find a video performance thereof, as well as notes about the hymn's background and history.

Okay...time for questions from newcomers or oldcomers who are in search of information that will improve their understanding and recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours.


  1. Kevin Shaw's web site is excellent, and I've been using it for several weeks, thanks to one of your previous posts. I had previously used either option 1 (recite as a poem) or option 3 (choose another tune with same meter) or else ignore the hymn completely. I was so happy to discover so many great hymns with choir and pipe organ which I used to enjoy as an Anglican. Since the Mass in Japan reflects a different culture, the LOTH is the only time I can enjoy this type of great music in worship. And it's nice to get these tunes stuck in my head during the day.

  2. - Thanks for the mention Daria. I think my own interest in the hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours stems from that same sense of frustration about not knowing a lot of the tunes.

    - Another website that may be helpful is: It features the hymn tunes from the UK Edition of the Divine Office). This website as well as Cyber Hymnal (mentioned above) require a MiDi plug that newer versions of Mac doesn't support.

    - The Liturgy of the Hours (US Edition) features 14 original hymns (words and music) by the Spiritan Priest, Fr. Lucien Deiss (1921-2007). The ones I've heard are beautiful hymns with lyrics that are strongly scriptural, but unfortunately they are not in the Public Domain and recordings of most of them are hard to find or not available.

    Peace be with you.

  3. Thanks. I am slowing figuring this out. Finally understanding those numbers for the meter (?) of the hymns is like cracking a code. You can find correlations in the Sunday hymnal. It is very liberating. We have used YouTube to find choirs singing some of these and it adds a nice variety to praying the office, or in my case often the Magnificat version.

  4. Daria,

    I am hardly the computer expert. Since the first of the year I have been praying the Divine Office using At first I was trying to pray the entire set of prayers daily if time allowed. Now I focus on morning and evening prayers plus the office of readings part from an a outside of scripture source. For the last three days I have been block from entering into the website. Any idea how I fix this?

    Second question if I may - please comment on The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I found this as I was looking to better diversify my prayer and spirituality. It seems to me that the Blessed Virgin gets only limited mention in the Liturgy of the Office. The repletion of both is a challenge for me.

    Thanks so very much for your ongoing help. It is deeply appreciated.

    Happy Easter Christ is risen!