Why play every hymn like it's a funeral dirge?

Growing up, I attended a Lutheran church where every hymn, on every occasion, seemed to be played slower and lower than the author intended. Even for jouous occasions like Easter Sunday, The organist and choir performed hymns as if it was a solemn memorial service.

Did anyone else go to a church were the hymns were played as if they were Russian funeral dirges? Why would this style be preferred by a congregation?

How many people are in the procession? It might be necessary to slow down the opening hymn in order to allow all the clergy and lay ministers to proceed to the chancel.

This may also be the case for some of the other hymns. Is anything else going on during the other hymns? Perhaps they have to set up for communion while removing other items from the altar.

Just a guess…

I was at a wedding last week where they were playing hymns before the ceremony started. I almost said out loud, ‘Why are they playing this depressing music?’ Only the audio guy was sitting right there.

They’re afraid of waking people up.

My wife has been playing piano in church for …um… many years. I am pleased that she always tries to keep the tempo going. She has complained of this exact phenomenom many times, so now that she has a say in it, she resists.

The woman who used to play organ had the dirge technique. I suspect that it may have something to do with her being around eighty. She has since passed, so the tempo has increased.

I recently accompanied a fellow who plays soprano sax. As my friend played his gleaming sax with his jazzy Kenny G. style. I corageously stood in front of the congregation with my Howard Roberts Fusion guitar (mine’s the sunburst model), playing cool jazz chords. We did a medly of “A Quiet Place” with “Just a Closer Walk”. The first one is quite slow and easy going, while the second is a downright toe tapper. When we were practicing last week, a couple of the church members kindly recommended that we restrain our body movement – I recall that one woman said “We aren’t looking for Elvis here, you know.”

It’s nice to be able to play a sharp 9 chord (or even a minor 7 flat 5 :wink: ) in front of folks who have been listening to dirges all of their lives.

Anyway, I’m sure that it’s just good old tradition and inertia that keeps the music so solemn.

This wasn’t just communion; it was every hymn, from the start of the service to the end.

Hearing “Jesus Christ Has Risen Today” played like … well, that one Russian song that goes like “ooooo ooooo ooo ooooo ooooo, ooooo oo oo oooo oo ooo ooooo” (maybe one for GQ – the generic song played in movies that take place during the winter in Moscow) … well …

“Song of the Volga Boatmen?”

That’s probably it, but even Volga Boatmen can be done to a faster tempo-here it is in techno, and don’t forget the Glenn Miller swing version. :wink:

Ah, the Miller version is one of my all time favorites. One of his best arrangements, I say.

But the song traditionally, very slow and melancholy.

That’s it! Imagine “Volga Boatmen,” but slower.

That is one messed up Flash file, by the way.

:dubious: I’d have to say it’s the organist or music director - they must prefer them to be played that way. I attend a Lutheran church (ELCA) and none of the hymns sound like dirges… unless they’re supposed to, of course.
“Jesus Christ Has Risen Today” is one of my favorite Easter hymns. It’s always played in a very uptempo and bright manner. It’s a celebratory hymn, for crying outloud! It’s supposed to be played uptempo and light.
I know the Russian song you’re refering to, and I can’t imagine “JCHRT” being played in the same style.

Ignorance? I’m in a 50 person choir, which means on some Sundays when the weather’s particularly bad, we’ve been known to outnumber the congregation. What you do if the hymn is short and there are a lot of people in the procession is long is insert a bridge between two verses. Our organist and choir master, a truly brilliant man, does this routinely anyway. He is also almost morally opposed to playing an uptemp hymn like a dirge, as is the choir. The church I used to go to agreed.

There’s really no excuse for it, and, if the organist consistently does that, I recommend getting a better organist. My old church did well with music students from Carnegie-Mellon University, but that may not work for every church.


I grew up going to various Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and non-denominational churches, but it wasn’t until I visited a Lutheran church that I first noticed this. It was Easter Sunday and after 90 torturous minutes (and half a program still to go), my wife and I had to bail. Maybe it was that particular church, but it seemed like the Lutherans took twice as long to do everything. :wink:

It depends on which variety of Lutheran Church you’re going to - ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America), Wisconson Synod or Missouri Synod. ELCA is more liberal, the last two are much more traditional and formal. IIRC, they don’t allow female pastors, but the ELCA does.
I belong to the ELCA, and I love the music. Something like “Jesus Christ Has Risen Today” would never be played like a funeral dirge.
It also depends on the music director. Our Minister of Music (her formal title) is young, and plays a wide variety of music. The stuff that’s supposed to be uptempo is uptempo. If it’s a celebratory hymn, it sounds like a celebratory hymn.

Moving music thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.