When all voices sing the melody, it is called unison singing. Hymns were sung in this manner by Christ and his disciples and all Christian congregations for hundreds of years following.
Unison singing by the congregation is a most effective means of encouraging equal participation by all worshippers, both young and old. In this manner may they literally be of one heart and voice in singing praise to God.
Hymn accompaniment at the piano is usually played exactly as printed in the hymnal, resulting in the complete doubling of what is actually a vocal score. If the composer had written a separate piano accompaniment, a somewhat different notation would undoubtedly have been printed. In particular, the needless playing of all repeated notes to match each syllable in each voice would have been modified. This volume supplies accompaniments arranged in this manner for many commonly-sung hymns. Each one is also lowered in pitch for comfortable unison singing.
In this volume the melody appears exactly as printed in the hymnal, while the lower parts have been simplified by tying superfluous repeated notes. This preserves the melody for the ears of the congregation, and makes the accompaniment more suitable for the piano and simpler for the accompanist to perform. (When used for choir accompaniment, excessive repeated notes in the melody could be tied as well.) For additional ease of performance, texts have been omitted, but all melodic ties and parentheses for the respective verses have been retained.
Fingering should be added in pencil according to the accompanist's preference. In addition, brackets should be added where the tenor part is easier to play with the right hand or the alto with the left hand (see "Adapting Hymn Accompaniments," Hymnbook, pp. 385-86). Brackets indicating introductions correspond to those printed in the hymnal.
These accompaniments are intended to be performed primarily at the piano. Organists may prefer to use Three-Stave Hymn Accompaniments, which include a separate organ pedal staff and other modifications for organ performance.
This volume is an aid to superior hymn accompaniment. It in no way competes with the hymnal, which will continue to be used by the congregation to read both text and music. The hymnal is also the principal source for choir repertoire, for which its excellent four-part format is ideally suited.
As the scriptures remind us, hymn singing is a prayer to the Lord by the singers.
A carefully prepared accompaniment, led by a competent conductor, will result
in our congregations singing our beloved hymns with conviction and enthusiasm.