Apologies to ABERYSTWYTH and People Who Love It

Apologies to ABERYSTWYTH and People Who Love It July 11, 2018

Okay, I admit it.

I was wrong.

I’m sorry.

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I take it back.

At least I take one thing back.

A couple days ago, I wrote an open letter to the United Methodist Hymnal Revision Committee just to say a friendly “hello” and just let them know I’m rooting for them. And to make a few suggestions (again, very friendly ones) regarding their course toward a new United Methodist hymnal.

As usual, my opinions received some mixed reviews. About two-thirds (my estimate, I’ll double check my facts…never) agreed with me wholly or partially. The other third agreed with me wholly or partially, but chastised me for being a tiny bit snarky.

I’m grateful for all who took the time to read the post, regardless of what they thought.

To those who thought I was a bit too snarky to be helpful, well, you all should calm the hell down and laugh, either at or with me, I don’t care. As usual, they were too offended by something some little nobody wrote on the internet. There’s a reason my writing sometimes drifts toward hyperbole, and it’s not to malign the good work of any hymnal revision committee, either past or present. Because of this post, some folks are talking today who weren’t talking a couple days ago, and that’s good thing.

There was one point, however, that many church musicians I know and respect saw fit to hammer me on, and I’m glad they did. And it’s about a little Welsh hymn tune called ABERYSTWYTH. (And by the time I finish writing this post, I’m going to be able to type it without keeping Google open in another tab.)




There, I think I’ve got it.

Anyway, there were four categories of responses to my point about ABERYSTWYTH being unsingable and alienating.

1. ABERYSTWYTH Is, In Fact, Singable

And taking a look at it, they’re right. It moves with a lot of step-wise motion, features a reasonable range, and the tessitura is perfect for any congregation.

You were right, and I was wrong.


It is a pretty tune, with an interesting, lush harmonization. I can’t argue that.

You were right, and I was wrong.

3. ABERYSTWYTH Is In Minor, And We Need More Good Hymn Tunes In Minor

This is true. There is no reason congregations cannot sing in minor. Minor keys have a reputation among amateurs for being sad, dark, or creepy. This one is none of those things; in fact, ABERYSTWYTH conveys strength and passion to me. And the little diversion into the relative major key is nice, too.

Again, you were right, and I was wrong.

4. ABERSTWYTH Is the Second Most Popular Welsh Hymn Tune after CWM Rhondda, and a Diverse Assortment of Hymn Tunes Is a Good Thing

This is also true. Diversity, not merely for diversity’s sake, but for beauty’s sake, is a good thing, and it should be embraced.

So, this time also, you were right, and I was wrong.

If you’re keeping score, here is the final:

Respected Group of Church Musicians – 4

Jonathan – 0

Thank you for calling me on this one, everybody. I do want to point out that I never said ABERYSTWYTH was dull, boring, or ugly. My point was that, on my own personal experience with the tune, congregations haven’t sung it well. I must do a better job teaching.

To wrap up, here are some British people singing Charles Wesley’s brilliant text to ABERYSTWYTH. And they sing ABERYSTWYTH quite well, don’t they?




Okay. Just checking. I really do have it.

And just because, here are some Mennonites singing the hymn to MARTYN.

wikipedia commons

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