Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Does "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" Need A New Tune?

At this year's Reformation Heritage Conference held by Grace Presbyterian Church in Douglasville, GA, the speaker Paul S. Jones weighed in. While talking about Luther's hymn, he commented that it was the battle hymn of the Reformation, and was sung by the Huguenots in Paris during the St. Batholomew's Day Massacre. He noted that it is a hymn that immediately reminds astute Protestants of their heritage having been sung for 500 years to the same tune. And then he opined concerning the idea of giving it a new tune:
And let me just state up front my opinion that it does not need a new [tune]. Honestly, I sometimes wonder at the audacity we have to have to think we can improve on a tune that martyrs and saints have sung for 500 years. A tune that has galvanized Protestants together in the truths of scripture, that people have sung while burning at the stake, and while waiting for the guillotine to drop. Has it needed our help to last that long, or do we just refashion it or dumb it down to make it somehow valid for use today? I mean, really.

You can hear this lecture and all four of the lectures here:
  • Session 1: "Music, Singing, & the Protestant Reformation"
  • Session 2: "Martin Luther & Reformation Hymnody"
  • Session 3: "John Calvin & the Recovery of Psalm Singing"
  • Session 4: "Hymnody in a Post-Hymnody World"

[HT: David Strain]


  1. Oh, yeah, right, we need a new tune, with a four-note range and creative syncopation and a steady bam. bam. bam drumbeat all the way through.

    We need it like we need a hole in the head.

    Do one of these lectures tell us whose bright idea this was?


  2. Ha ha! Kathy you always crack me up. My assumption is that he is referring to the recent trend to give historic hymns new contemprary tune arrangements. One of the leaders of this movement is Kevin Twit and the RUF Hymnbook. He says that "Old hymn texts are finding new life in contemporary musical settings. For more you can also see Hope this helps.