Culture, Religion

Hey Marge, remember when we used to make out to this hymn?

(Crossposted to Mah Rabu.)
I got back today from Mechon Hadar’s Third Independent Minyan Conference in New York, where I was representing Segulah. The conference included leaders of independent minyanim around the world (including several Jewschoolers), and there’s a lot more to say about it, but for the moment, I’ll just blog on a tangential matter:
Yesterday afternoon, the conference events took place in Kehilat Hadar‘s usual space at the Second Presbyterian Church. During mincha yesterday, we started hearing the church organ from upstairs. At first it was just background noise, but then I listened more carefully and thought “Wait a minute, I’ve heard that before.”
They were playing a Christian hymn called “The God of Abraham Praise”, whose story I had learned about in a class at the 2008 NHC Summer Institute. The melody was written around 1770 for the Hebrew poem “Yigdal” by Myer Lyon (Leoni), hazzan at the Great Synagogue in London. The Methodist preacher Thomas Olivers was inspired by this melody and wrote very different words to it, and centuries later, they’re still playing it in New York. This Yigdal melody continues to be well-known in the Jewish world. (Until I learned its story, I had no idea that it went back so far; I figured it was just one of those shul tunes from the early- to mid-20th century.) Except that Jews tend to sing it much much faster.
Listen below and then imagine it 3 or 4 times faster, and see if you recognize it!

4 thoughts on “Hey Marge, remember when we used to make out to this hymn?

  1. 1. As we just learned from Cantor Alane Katzew on the URJ iWorship list-serv, putting a different text to a song is called a contrafactum.
    2. But all the video clip is giving us the music. Do you have the lyric to God of Abraham Praise? Is it something we can borrow back?
    3. This should give the Classic Reformers something to chortle about — a refutation of the “canard” that they modeled their service after the Protestants!

  2. But if you don’t want to go all the way to Google, I already linked to the lyrics in the post. And no, much of it is stuff that we can’t borrow back.

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