Brief Book Review: Hymns and Hymnody

Hymns and Hymnody: Historical and Theological Introductions. 
Volume 1: From Asia Minor to Western Europe
edited by Mark A. Lamport, Benjamin K Forrest & Vernon M. Whaley

Who should read this? Students and scholars of congregational song and liturgy; church musicians and presiders; practical theologians.

Why should you read this? The twenty essays in this volume are by some of the leading scholars in their particular areas of study; the scope of the book is broad but the treatment of its various topics detailed; the book is unique in its ambition and its structure.

What’s the main point? That throughout the history of the church God has worked in the hearts and minds of God’s people through song.

What intrigued me the most? Chapters about topics I knew nothing about alongside others about areas I knew well. The uniform structure of each chapter—historical background, theological perspectives, contributions to liturgy and worship, notable hymns, bibliography—which creates some common threads connecting all of the essays.

Kudos. This is a boldly conceived project that runs to three volumes (of which this is the first) including a total of 60 essays, covering the entire history of the church’s song. The purpose and parameters of the project are lucidly set out in the Preface, which should be read by everyone who uses this book. 

Quibbles. Inevitably a collection of essays by diverse writers will vary in quality. Many of the contributions are masterful assimilations of the scholarly literature on their topic; others are based primarily on a much longer work by the same author published elsewhere. A few are disappointingly based on tertiary textbook sources. However, the overall quality is very high. Requiring the contributors to shape their essays around a common structure is a good idea, but doesn’t work for the essays in this first volume quite as well as I suspect it does in the later ones

Lamport, Mark A., Benjamin K. Forrest and Vernon M. Whaley, eds. Hymns and Hymnody: Historical and Theological Introductions. Vol. 1: From Asia Minor to Western Europe. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2019. 366 pages.


Kenneth R. Hull is Professor Emeritus of Music at Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *