I remembered reading somewhere that the Pilgrims liked the tune to “Old Hundredth” because it was lively — not the modernized, plain vanilla, 4/4 version found in most hymnals these days, but the original version that trips up modern singers on the last line because of the change in rhythm. I convinced Amy that we should sing the original version in the intergenerational Thanksgiving service this past Sunday — sure enough, at the 9:30 service all of us (including me!) got tripped up on the rhythm of the last line. At the 11:00 service, I was smart enough to warn people to watch out for that last line, and we sang it without a hitch.
Later I realized I should have created a half-sheet insert of the sheet music for the order of service. Even though fewer and fewer people read music these days, there are still enough music readers that they could have helped keep everyone else on track. (Plus when you provide an insert, it can serve as a teaching and outreach tool — music readers might take it home and learn one of the harmony parts to the music.) Since someone else might actually use such an insert, below is a link to a PDF. The text is a common humanist version of words by Isaac Watts: “From all that dwell below the skies, / Let songs of hope and faith arise, / Let peace, good will on earth be sung, / Through every land by every tongue.”
The Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, Illinois, sings their doxology to Old Hundredth every week — but they use different versions of the tune, including the original version above, and a version by Susan Conant with more modern harmonies and even more interesting rhythms. If you’re going to sing the same thing every week, you might as well make it interesting! In that spirit, here’s yet another version of Old Hundredth — William Walker’s arrangement of Old Hundredth from The Southern Harmony (1835), laid out in classic shape-note fashion on a half-sheet size suitable for an insert into an order of service: