David R. Breed’s analysis of gospel songs is valuable in that it gives us a contemporary look at the genre. I am not advocating that we swallow Breed “hook, line, and sinker,” but I cite him because he gives us some perspective. In some respects, here was a man who was able to step out of his time and take the broad look. This is sometimes difficult to do. About ten years ago, at the height of its popularity, one could have scarcely imagined that the “WWJD” bracelet phenomenom would become mere kitsch so quickly. The same thing goes for the music of Bill and Gloria in the 70’s. Now we are faced with P&W. May we not be so naïve. Thus I bring you another remark from Breed’s The History of Hymns and Hymn-Tunes (New York: Revell, 1903):
[4.] But the most objectionable of all features has been the dissociation of old standard hymns from the stately tunes to which congregations have been accustomed to sing them, connecting them with trifling melodies.
This has been done in some cases in which unwarranted liberties have not only been taken with the hymn, but the tune which has been joined to it is altogether out of keeping with he words.
So it has been with two of Watt’s most serious hymns, “Alas, and did my Savior bleed”and “Come we that love the Lord.” In both cases a chorus has been added that we hesitate to characterize. The words of the chorus are a deep and pitiable decline and the music is almost sacrilege. This is a serious charge; but the let tunes be examined. How can any devout worshiper, before the cross of his crucified Savior, take up such a strain as that which thisGospel chorus furnishes. It is inexplicable. The other chorus is simply tawdry, picnic music–unworthy of pilgrims to the heavenly city.