A Functional Art

A Functional Art : Reflections of a Hymn Writer

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One of the finest and most influential hymn-writers of our age, Timothy Dudley-Smith has published around 400 hymn texts. In this fascinating book, the author explores not only the writing of hymns but many other aspects including the study and singing of them. It is not a history, a text book, or an academic treatise, but the personal reflections of an experienced practitioner who has been speaking and writing on this subject, on both sides of the Atlantic, for more than fifty years. His armchair reflections draw freely on the writings of others, and in a discursive, almost conversational, style.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 200 pages
  • 156 x 233 x 13mm | 314g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 0193408716
  • 9780193408715
  • 666,069

Review quote

Timothy Dudley-Smith celebrated his 90th birthday last December; rather than cutting back on his output, [he's produced] this outstanding collection of essays. If 'essays' sounds academic, these reflections are far from that - at times one feels as if in conversation with the author . . . Timothy Dudley-Smith has read widely, thought profoundly and clearly prayed intensely about hymnody. He has also listened to other voices to whom he gives considerable space; the range of quotations from other authors is remarkable and enlivens the writing. Whether one sees him as a major voice towards the end of a great tradition a a sort-of Sibelius in the symphonic tradition - or someone who helps to reinvigorate and show the way forward for a tradition still with a glorious future, this book should be essential reading for everyone concerned with hymnody. * Julian Elloway, Church Music Quarterly, June 2017 * This book is a treasure trove. Few other people can set a lifetime of appreciating and, eventually, writing good hymns alongside wide-ranging insights about worship, history, theology, poetry and language, all topped off with appropriate dollops of music hall and doggerel that slip seamlessly into the narrative . . . the book is an enjoyable and educational guided walk with a most engaging expert who wears his learning lightly . . . beginning hymn writers will find invaluable help and encouragement to hone their skills . . . there are insights for people who choose hymns in worship but have never wondered what makes a good hymn in an appropriate place, while people who know their way round hymns will find new perspectives. And, at times, it does not just inspire you, it makes you smile. * Rosalind Brown, Canon Librarian of Durham Cathedral, Praxis, June 2017 * [The back cover copy of this book] is a wholly inadequate description of one of the most important volumes about hymns and hymn-writing ever. For the avoidance of all doubt, I recommend it very highly indeed to anyone involved in hymns and planning Divine Worship . . . this is an author with a sharp perception of the place of music in worship and the effect music can have on words . . . Throughout this gripping volume there is constant reference, always in context, to other writers, not just on hymns, but on poetry and the technicalities of writing. The book is worth buying just for the chapter entitled 'Rhyme and Metre'. . . I cannot recommend this volume too highly. It is to hymns and hymnody what Bishop John Vernon Taylor's book The Go Between God is to the understanding of the place of The Holy Spirit in Christian Mission. * Barry Williams, Laudate (The Guild of Church Musicians), September 2017 *show more

About Timothy Dudley-Smith

Educated at Cambridge University, Timothy Dudley-Smith was ordained in 1950 as assistant curate of St Paul's Church, Northumberland Heath. From 1953 he was head of the Cambridge University Mission in Bermondsey, London, and in the 1960s served as secretary of the Church Pastoral Aid Society. In 1973 he became Archdeacon of Norwich and in 1981 Bishop of Thetford; he retired in 1991. He is a Fellow of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada, and in 2003 was appointed an honorary vice-president of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland. In the same year he was awarded an OBE for services to hymnody.show more

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