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Singing a New Song

The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought (Sydney)
RRP: Lyrics Edition $20

Newcastle resident George Stuart offers a hymnbook providing 103 sets of lyrics “written to well-loved traditional hymn tunes”.

The hymnbook provides full piano score, though without guitar chords. Accompanying the collection are four CDs, with organ accompaniment.

In assessing this collection, I found myself torn, as I am passionate about encouraging our own Australian creative worship talent.

There is much to commend about Stuart’s hymn writing. The detailed indexes provided and the diversity of themed sections, avoid the narrow “praise only” orientation of much contemporary worship music.

Maybe the wording on the cover of both the hymnbook and CDs summarises my perplexity – “Traditional Hymn Tunes for New Century Lyrics”.

I found the emphasis problematic - there seems too much “traditional” and not enough “New Century”. I would have liked to have sensed more of the “new century” in Stuart’s writing. Perhaps immersed amid a congregation being formed with the aid of these lyrics, my impressions may well be quite different!

That said, this nobly and no doubt lovingly crafted collection will find its place within congregations which will major on the traditional.

Relying on the riches of traditional hymnody, Stuart’s lyrics offer scope for these communities to sing fresh words, alongside the fresh words sung globally from the likes of Shirley Murray, Brian Wren and John Bell.

For information about CDs, PowerPoints and Harmony edition or to order, contact George Stuart via email here, phone (02) 4959 6028 or write to 148 Brighton Ave Toronto NSW 2283.

Review by David MacGregor, a musician and minister at Indooroopilly Uniting Church and a member of the National Working Group on Worship. www.togethertocelebrate.com.au