The classic hymns have a unique place in the modern church. Amidst the plethora of contemporary worship songs, these classic hymns can provide a bridge between new and old, ancient and modern. Hymns can bring a depth of theology to the younger generations and a familiar connection for the older generations. A unique blend of tradition and progression can bless any worship service.
What Is Reawaken?
Many hymns sound surprisingly relevant in today’s worship and a reawakening of early musical traditions is happening both in popular music and church music.
Reawaken aims to demonstrate that hymns don’t need to sound “old.” This is a free resource for worship leaders and musicians to help incorporate hymns as a natural part of the modern worship service. The vast majority of the hymn melodies are kept original so that all ages can sing together.
Review of the Reawaken Hymn Book
The Reawaken Hymn Book is available as an ebook or in paperback and contains 66 modern and simplified chord sheets from Reawaken Hymns. The ebook is $10 and the print book is $16. Founder of Reawaken, Nathan Drake, responded to my request very quickly and offered to send me the print book at no charge in order to do this review [full disclosure].
I’m a fan of print music books so that I can change things, cross out chords or notes I don’t like, and make my own notes, since I write music and have reworked quite a few old hymns myself. It’s possible that you could access the ebook in Planning Center, but not sure if you could make digital notes there.
The book has a clean layout with uncomplicated and simplified chord structures. Most hymns are also on a single page, which I’m a huge fan of. I often create my own worship song layouts with chords so that I can get them all on one page. The book has nice, thick pages and feels sturdy sitting on my piano.
Most chord structures are in keys that work for guitar and piano, though some need to be transposed for keys/piano and a female voice. The book is intended for guitar with some keys in Capo position, which are listed at the top. Time signatures are included as well as the refrain sections notated clearly.
PDFs of each hymn on the website can be cut and pasted into Word or Google Docs and easily edited, which I did for It Is Well. It was great to have something to start with as it saved me time to cut and paste and not have to type in from SongSelect or a print hymnal.
The first section of the book has 50 hymns that are alphabetized, not given numbers like traditional hymnals. The second section includes 16 Christmas hymns, also alphabetized. It just might enable your church to break out of the “O Come All Ye Faithful” rut we all get in come Christmastide.
I’m sure Nathan had quite a beast of a task selecting the 66 non-Christmas hymns to include. He’s done a great job picking the most well-known hymns. All my favorites are in his book.
What Didn’t Work
There were a handful of hymns that had missing chords, I’ll assume that this is an attempt to simplify, which is great, but I wrote in my own missing chords where I normally play them. Also, we all know some of those hymn writers were overachievers and wrote four, five, even six verses. Nathan said he had to draw the line somewhere and stick with three to four verses. My only gripe is that it would be helpful to know that some verses were trimmed.
Another issue I had was with proper attribution to the hymn writers. Although all of these hymns’ copyrights fall under Public Domain, there is no mention of this anywhere in the book. The book does not list the lyric or tune author. Credits are not included at the bottom of each hymn nor in the back of the book. If you are used to singing one of these hymns in an alternate tune, you might be confused as you try and play along as there are many famous hymns that offer up sometimes two to three different tunes with the same lyrics.
Overall, Reawaken offers some fabulous resources both online and in print. For the third edition, we hope that the hymn authors and tunes are included to give proper credit to the authors and mention of the tune like traditional hymnals do. Another idea would be to include a small box with the melody line in treble clef signature so that if we have forgotten the melody, we can easily have it right at our fingertips. While some worship leaders perhaps don’t read music, it would save a step of going to SongSelect to print the melody lead sheet.
Overall, I love Nathan’s sincerity in his videos and online. You can feel that he loves and respects these hymns as the treasures they are. I’ll be keeping the Reawaken Hymn Book on my piano at all times, ready to worship with these gems.