I have been developing a site for the last several months, and today, it’s ready to launch: www.freehymnal.com.
Here’s the idea: There are several good hymn lyrics sites, and one even has MIDI files. But hymn scores are harder to find online. Last summer, I thought it would be handy for a church musician, studio musician, or performing artist to have a site where they can pull up and print out a hymn score and lyric at a moments’ notice. (In fact, on a device like Apple’s rumored iSlate digital tablet, someday a musician may be able to pull up the score live during a church service or concert’s request time.) I happen to have a fairly good old hymnal collection, so I thought I’d digitize it.
For the technically minded and curious: It’s actually running on a highly customized WordPress CMS. I re-wrote portions of the code to remove all categories and tags and have various custom taxonomies in their place. The taxonomies behave like tags in a sense, but are separately organized within WordPress, so that pulling up all songs composed by Philip P. Bliss doesn’t pull up any songs where he contributed the lyrics but not the music.
Interesting features include:
- “Hymn of the Day” feature. If you like discovering new hymns, add the RSS feed to your reader, or sign up to get the hymn via email.
- One click from any hymn page to a list of all hymns by that author, by that composer, from that year, in that language, or in that special collection (i.e., Christmas, Resurrection Sunday)
- A metrical index. The value may not be apparent immediately if you’re not a musician. Here’s how it works: When you click on, say, an 220.127.116.11. meter, it pulls up all hymns that have that number of syllables in their verses. You can generally sing the lyrics to one 18.104.22.168. song to the melody of another. (Hymns have had a printed metrical index for years, but it hasn’t been this convenient before.)
Though there are only a few hundred hymns up at launch, there are several months’ worth in the Hymn of the Day queue. And there are over a thousand waiting to be transcribed and prepared for posting. (Information on volunteering is here.)