Hymns have two names?
Yes, and no! We must start with an understanding that hymn texts and hymn tunes are two different things. There is the name of the text, for example, “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind,” and it is normally sung to the tune named “REST” (hymn 169 in our hymnal). There are other tunes we could use to sing “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” provided that the meter of the tune (the music) matches the meter of the hymn text. In earlier times congregations had no printed hymnals, so the music leader would announce the singing of a hymn text to a specific hymn tune. Folks knew the tune names and would know what tune to sing, or the music leader (sometimes known as the precentor) would sing the hymn one line at a time and the congregation would echo it. Very few hymn texts and the tunes we normally use to sing them (as printed in the hymnal) were written by the same person; however, common uses of tunes paired with texts ended up in the printed hymnals. Before hymnals, hymn texts and tunes were interchanged all the time. Congregations may have sung “Away in a Manger” one week to the tune CRADLE SONG, and the next week they may have sung it to tune MUELLER. This hymn is actually printed to both of these tunes in our hymnal, numbers 180 and 181. Of course, both tunes have the same meter, 184.108.40.206, to match the hymn text. The meter indicates that each verse (or line) of the text is eleven syllables long and there are four verses in each stanza.
In most cases, hymn texts were originally poems that were eventually set to music. Our hymnal contains some hymn texts and tunes written by the same person but there are relatively few. You can explore the hymn text author and hymn tune composer by reviewing the information found at the bottom of each hymn in our hymnal. For further study, our hymnal also contains an index with the listing of tune names, hymn titles, hymn tune meters, and authors/composers. Lastly, tune names are always listed in all caps. You may have already noticed that our weekly worship bulletin now lists both the hymn text name as well as the hymn tune name. So, in conclusion, the hymns we sing do have two names, one for the text and the other for the tune!