Halle, Halle: We Sing the World Round

    -- compiled and written by C. Michael Hawn, Garland, TX: Chorister’s Guild, 1999. Teacher’s edition, 88 pages (+ Demonstration CD) available from www.choristersguild.org.

Halle, Halle is an inspirational, practical, and well-informed compilation of global Christian worship songs. The author has drawn on his own travels in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as upon work by noted Christian ethnomusicologists such as David Dargie and I-to Loh, to come up with a valuable resource for introducing people and congregations to the riches of worldwide worship music.

The songs are arranged in the book by theme, such as gathering songs, praise and adoration, prayers, psalms, the Christmas season, the Easter season, communion, and a benediction.

For each song, Hawn has prepared some background information, notes on performance practice, and suggestions for use in a church/liturgical setting. Guitar chords are included for songs that would normally be accompanied by guitar in the country of origin (mostly Latin American in this book). The layout of the music is clear and easy to read, partially thanks to the large 9 X 12 pages. The separate “Singer’s Edition” has the song scores and some photos.

The lyrics are included in English and in the original languages, along with a pronunciation guide. To make the book even more practical for church use, it is comes with a bibliography, an index of the eighteen countries represented, and an index of Scripture passages alluded to in the songs.

More than half the songs are included on the CD (available separately from the same publisher). This helpful addition demonstrates oral tradition variations in almost every song, as well as original instrumentation such as steel drums on the title song from the Caribbean, panpipes, and an African musical bow. Some of the recordings are marked as “authentic” from the country of origin, and other songs are performed by a college choir.

Hawn’s preferred method is to teach these types of songs as in an oral tradition—without sheet music—and this process is demonstrated very well on two CD tracks (teaching one song from Tanzania and one from India). I have seen him demonstrate this teaching method in a meeting and it can be quite effective. For all these reasons, I recommend the CD to anyone who plans to make much use of the songbook.

The author makes no claim that all material is 100% “ethnomusicologically correct” but he does offer some brief suggestions that will help singers get considerably closer to the original songs’ performance style than they would otherwise. As he says, “Given our particular world view, we are not able to move in and out of another culture’s music with total musical and liturgical authenticity…. As we attempt to relate to congregational song from a cross-cultural liturgical perspective, musical authenticity becomes a means for attempting to encounter the living God and pray for the world through the prayers of others…”

I’ve had some of these songs taught to me, I’ve taught some of these songs to others, and the responses are always favorable. The book is a great (and easy-to-use) compilation of worship songs from around the world, a “foretaste divine” of the praise scene found in Revelation 5: “to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb—be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever!”

    -- reviewed by Paul Neeley

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