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Hymns & Gospel Discuss Christian hymns and gospel music.

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  #1  
Old 18th January 2012, 10:11 PM
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Bar Room Hymns?

I keep hearing people say that most hymns are really just bar room songs with the lyrics changed. I can't seem to find any info to validate this. Has anyone any info as to the contrary?

Thanks.
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"If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and un-prayed for." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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  #2  
Old 19th January 2012, 03:40 AM
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I have never been to a bar to know about this. But I do know that in Wales, my homeland, many hymns are turned into "rugby songs" and its a shame because people then sing them without seeming to think about the meaning.

3 examples-
Calon Lan (welsh hymn)
Bread of Heaven (guide me oh thou great redeemer)
and Amazing Grace
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  #3  
Old 22nd January 2012, 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by VCViking View Post
I keep hearing people say that most hymns are really just bar room songs with the lyrics changed. I can't seem to find any info to validate this. Has anyone any info as to the contrary?

Thanks.
Good question.

This is my long answer.

The bar room argument is sometimes used by those trying to defend contemporary music in the church (something that has been frowned on for its secular associations).

It is undeniable that secular music had an important influence on hymn music. The entire genre of classical music (including opera & classical hymns) would not exist without the contribution of secular music. The old gospel hymns of the 19th Century and early 20th Century, owes much to the popular parlor ballad style of the day, often drawing on other influences such as marches, waltzes, and operetta. Even ragtime rhythms found their way into some old gospel hymn compositions, such as the 1914 hymn "Since Jesus Came Into My Heart".

Many hymn tunes have been borrowed from secular songs. This has been especially true of Salvation Army hymns and folk hymns. Some of the old gospel hymns and Sunday school songs also borrow secular tunes. It is also true that the hymn text "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"" by Charles Wesley, was partially based on the lyrics of a secular operatic air "Fairest Isle" by John Dryden. (The Dryden song makes a reference to the pagan love goddess Venus).

However, very few of the secular melodies used are actually drinking tunes or "bar room songs". The only two examples I'm aware of were taken from music hall and changed into Salvation Army hymns. This includes the tune of "Champagne Charlie" which became Captain William Baugh's "Bless His Name, He Set Me Free" and "Here's To Good Old Whiskey" which was transformed into "Storm The Forts Of Darkness" (nor sure of the author). These two examples are apparently the exception to the rule. Most of the secular tunes used had nothing to do with drinking, and many of them had clean wholesome lyrics in the first place.

There is also a very large group of hymn tunes that were original and not borrowed from any previous source (however influenced in style by the secular). This is true for example, for most Fanny Crosby hymns. Additionally you have many hymns from British writers like Isaac Watts, that were written with no music at all. They simply composed the lyric of the hymn, and allowed others to chose their own melody that would fit the lyric. A lot of the text for these hymns were written in so called "ballad meter", which easily fit the melodies of secular ballads and other available songs.

So looking at the big picture, it is an exaggeration and myth to say that most hymns are simply bar room tunes with new lyrics. So people defending contemporary music in church, should not rely on this argument. But neither can the traditionalists take a totally hardcore stance against secular music, unless they are willing to throw out their own hymns. That's my conclusion.

Last edited by Willing Spirit; 22nd January 2012 at 01:05 PM. Reason: Improved a sentence.
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  #4  
Old 26th February 2012, 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Willing Spirit View Post
Good question.

This is my long answer.

The bar room argument is sometimes used by those trying to defend contemporary music in the church (something that has been frowned on for its secular associations).

It is undeniable that secular music had an important influence on hymn music. The entire genre of classical music (including opera & classical hymns) would not exist without the contribution of secular music. The old gospel hymns of the 19th Century and early 20th Century, owes much to the popular parlor ballad style of the day, often drawing on other influences such as marches, waltzes, and operetta. Even ragtime rhythms found their way into some old gospel hymn compositions, such as the 1914 hymn "Since Jesus Came Into My Heart".

Many hymn tunes have been borrowed from secular songs. This has been especially true of Salvation Army hymns and folk hymns. Some of the old gospel hymns and Sunday school songs also borrow secular tunes. It is also true that the hymn text "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"" by Charles Wesley, was partially based on the lyrics of a secular operatic air "Fairest Isle" by John Dryden. (The Dryden song makes a reference to the pagan love goddess Venus).

However, very few of the secular melodies used are actually drinking tunes or "bar room songs". The only two examples I'm aware of were taken from music hall and changed into Salvation Army hymns. This includes the tune of "Champagne Charlie" which became Captain William Baugh's "Bless His Name, He Set Me Free" and "Here's To Good Old Whiskey" which was transformed into "Storm The Forts Of Darkness" (nor sure of the author). These two examples are apparently the exception to the rule. Most of the secular tunes used had nothing to do with drinking, and many of them had clean wholesome lyrics in the first place.

There is also a very large group of hymn tunes that were original and not borrowed from any previous source (however influenced in style by the secular). This is true for example, for most Fanny Crosby hymns. Additionally you have many hymns from British writers like Isaac Watts, that were written with no music at all. They simply composed the lyric of the hymn, and allowed others to chose their own melody that would fit the lyric. A lot of the text for these hymns were written in so called "ballad meter", which easily fit the melodies of secular ballads and other available songs.

So looking at the big picture, it is an exaggeration and myth to say that most hymns are simply bar room tunes with new lyrics. So people defending contemporary music in church, should not rely on this argument. But neither can the traditionalists take a totally hardcore stance against secular music, unless they are willing to throw out their own hymns. That's my conclusion.


Thank you.
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"If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and un-prayed for." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“The work is hindered. The glory of God is tarnished and it is because the people of God no longer know how to discern the things of God.” - Paul Washer

Romans 12:2 and Titus 3:10-11
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  #5  
Old 27th February 2012, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by VCViking View Post
Thank you.
Your welcome.

Here is some more info that will probably be of interest to you:

http://apologetix.com/faq/faq-detail.php?faq_q_id=89

To quote one part of the link above:

"Legend has it that Martin Luther and John & Charles Wesley (of the Methodist Church) rewrote popular music from the taverns to accompany some of their hymns. Recently, church scholars have presented pretty convincing proof that Luther and the Wesleys did NOT do so, and that the legend arose from a misconception about the word "bar tune" or "bar form", which seminary students assumed meant a tune sung in local drinking establishments, but is actually a form of poetry popular in Medieval times -- a different kind of bar altogether."

Here is another link, which gives a list of secular melodies used by the Salvation Army, including one of the drinking songs I mentioned earlier. Keep in mind, not all of the parodies are of Salvation Army origin:

http://www.themeonline.ca/UserFiles/...20heritage.pdf

Last edited by Willing Spirit; 27th February 2012 at 11:06 PM.
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