Christian Renewal recently asked Dale Grotenhuis for his opinion on the URCNA Hymn Proposal that was distributed to the churches at Synod London 2010. With over five decades of musical experience and over 600 compositions to his credit, as well as years of service on the committee that developed the 1987 Psalter Hymnal, he is well qualified to present an informed opinion.
After 35 years in Northwest Iowa, where Mr. Grotenhuis served as Professor of Music and Director of Choral Music atDordtCollege, Dale and his wife, Eleanor, now live inMichiganand are members of Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville. Dale has spent numerous hours reviewing song settings in the URCNA Hymn Proposal.
“Remember, my evaluations are from a musical standpoint only,” he explains. “And that refers to tune and harmonization. Together they make a ‘setting.’ Also included in that is appropriateness of style; if the music and text are well-wedded.”
Over all, Mr. Grotenhuis says he is “pleased” with the pieces that have been chosen. He particularly appreciates lower key choices on some hymns that are too high in other hymnals. He says the Committee can expect to receive questions from the general person in the pew about why a favorite hymn was not included, but notes that the work contains a “good number” of familiar hymns. He believes many “good choices” have been made “as far as tune and hymns are concerned.”
Although Mr. Grotenhuis doesn’t feel qualified to judge the text and is confident that other more theologically astute persons are evaluating that, he did assess how text and music complement each other.
“Music and text go hand in hand,” he says.
He has submitted to the URCNA Songbook Committee several suggestions for minor revisions as well as some improved harmonizations, his area of expertise and his biggest concern. He explains that some harmonizations reflected “weak chord choices” or didn’t adhere to the “accepted rules of part-writing.”
“God loves quality,” he says. “We should not be content with anything but our best efforts toward quality. Other denominations are going to see our hymnal and we want it to appear professional.”
Another denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), is also working toward a new songbook. That committee has sought the advice and service of Mr. Grotenhuis.
“Thus far, their work has only been with the psalm section,” he says. “I have been asked to write new harmonizations where I feel necessary, and in general to evaluate overall quality.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 17 of the April 6, 2011 issue of Christian Renewal under the title: “A professional view from the pew: Dale Grotenhuis offers an assessment.”