If Men Ran the Church
Announced by Burton Dasset, Thursday, 3 November 2011
It’s taken me all night, and a lot of Access programming. But I’ve finally done it.
I have sorted the “Beaker Song Book” into a logical sequence.
As you know, we normally use the projector and laptop while in the Moot House. It gives me terrible problems sometimes – as the designated person with “The Charismatic Gift of Overhead Projection” – when Eileen comes over all spontaneous and shouts out “and now we’re going to sing that great old song, Alleluia…” I tell you, Dear Reader – that is when a man’s soul shrivels to the bignesse of a hazelnut, and his spine crawls as he wonders which of the songs that are called Alleluia – which are more in number than the sand on the sea-shore – she means.
But while that is OK – in a “danger hovering in the air” kind of way – in the Moot House, in the open air, the projector is irrelevant. And so we have the “Beaker Song Book”. In truth, a folder rather than a book – so we can add new Coldplay songs as they are released – and with a convenient fire-proof cover so we can hold tea lights on it when the aluminium holder becomes red-hot.
The old “Beaker Song Book” was becoming a little antiquated – and the paper a little dog-eared – so Eileen asked me to produce the new version. A great honour. Never has Eileen trusted me with anything of such spiritual importance, since she made me “Holder of the Druidic Bard’s Spiritual Pebble” a year or so ago. And that may have been some double-entendre I didn’t understand. But I set to work with a will.
The songs themselves I chose quite simply, based on Eileen’s prejudices. All Sydney Carter songs have been excluded on the grounds of heresy. Anything written after 1980 on the grounds that it may be “a little over-feminized”. All Anglican hymns from the 19th Century on the grounds that “they don’t really have a discernible tune, do they?” Anything with a tune by Vaughan Williams “because”.
But in what order should I put them? I looked at the 1980 Methodist hymn book, “Hymns and Psalms”, and found they were divided by subject matter. But that is a terribly imprecise way of grouping hymns. For example – take “Come, ye thankful people come“. In my database that is classified under “Eschatology” and “Harvest”. But I cannot put it in the Beaker folder twice. So subject doesn’t matter.
I turned to alphabetical order of hymn name. But the great “Alleluia” conundrum arises immediately. And how can you remember which is “Alleluia” and which is “Hallelujah”?
So I went to surname of author. But then how do you sort the Wesleys out? You could sub-sort by first name of author, but who can remember which author wrote which hymn? And what do you do when one or other Wesley has actually translated something by Joachim Neander? And what do you do when the song is known by the group name – for example, “Fix You” would need to be listed under Coldplay?
I have spend a while pondering this. But I have come up with an unambiguous, easy-to-use resolution. I have, after an entire sleepless night, ordered all the hymns and songs in the Beaker Songbook by beats per minute (bpm). The slowest songs are at the front – the quickest at the back.
Now, when we want “something meditative” we will look at the front of the book. When we want “something a bit up-beat” we will look at the back. It is scientific, clear, usable and intuitive. Eileen will love it when I tell her.
Photograph of Stonehenge by David Bjorgen, 19 July 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stonehenge_2.jpg