Breland: Keeping old-time hymn singing forever

Published 11:21 am Friday, August 5, 2022

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Listening to the radio while driving, some old hymns were on — some I hadn’t thought about in a good while. It made me remember the early days of life when we sang those very songs … even while playing around the house.

There was no entertainment except from the radio, so we often heard them sung even away from church.

It was refreshing to hear some of them again. One was the old hymn, “The Haven of Rest.”

I’ve anchored my soul to the haven of rest, I’ll sail the wild seas no more,” the singer presented with just a piano playing in the background. It was stirring.

“The Great Physician” is another one I have always enjoyed. “The Great Physician now is near, the sympathizing Jesus” — what beautiful words of assurance for people who are ill or discouraged.

Many of the modern hymnals have replaced some of the old songs in favor of newer hymns. There’s nothing wrong with the newer hymns; they are also beautiful and heart-stirring, but I worry that our children aren’t hearing and learning those lovely really old hymns anymore. It seems the message could be fading away.

My paternal grandmother loved to hear Roy Acuff sing “The Great Speckled Bird” and that was old even when I was very young! A song with many meanings. How long has it been since that one was sung?

Back in my “tween days” — between childhood and teen-age — we went to the little church near us. There was not a choir as such, but anybody who wanted to sing gathered in front around the piano and would sing, “I’ll Fly Away” and “Glory to His Name” and others including, “Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing” and the beautiful “Beulah Land.”

I learned to love those old songs and many of them have stayed with us over the ages. A favorite of all time is “Amazing Grace.” It will never be omitted from any hymnbook because too many people love to hear this message.

Some churches sing only choruses, using taped music and singing to words visible on a screen in front of the sanctuary. There are several reasons, including the fact pianists and organists aren’t all that easy to find anymore. The taped music takes the place of the talented musicians.

True, the choruses are heart-stirring and set the mood for a positive worship service, but nothing quite takes the place of the old hymns, which have lasted down through the ages. People attending church or those listening to the radio, find great solace in singing or hearing the familiar hymns.

Another favorite is “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” singing of the sweetness of prayer time. After several lovely verses, it ends with the one praying ending their life and taking flight to Heaven, where no prayer time is needed as they are in the actual presence of the Lord.

My dad loved good hymn singing. He often called his granddaughter to the old pump organ to play some favorite hymns for him. Sometimes others present would gather and sing along.

The only thing he liked as well as hymn-singing was good fiddling. Even then, he enjoyed hearing the hymns best, particularly “Amazing Grace,” which was played for his funeral on twin fiddles.

As long as we sing the old hymns, they will live on for our children and our children’s children. In our world today, we and the children certainly need to hear more of them.

Retired as Associate News Editor, Bob Ann Breland writes a weekly column for The Daily News. You can email her at