Old tunes; new words

So yesterday I heard a rendition of some old hymn on the radio and it took me back to my school days when we had to sing those dreary old dirges during the morning assembly. I usually quite liked the tune but the words always left me a bit cold. All that Onward Christian soldiers! Marching as to war…and on to victory! stuff kinda felt a bit like after the Crusades to me. Either that or it was all I would go on the pilgrim’s journey, onward to the promised land. I’m not trying to be provocative but what exactly was a pilgrim anyway and how did it relate to me as a 12 year old who had a daunting maths lesson next? The reality was these songs meant something to a fearful congregation some 150 years beforehand but they were pretty uninspiring to pubescent lads from Poulton-le-Fylde.

So I started thinking, what if kids and congregations were invited to continue to enjoy the tunes but had some up-to-date lyrics to sing to; you know which reflected some more contemporary issues then wandering, killing The Hun or some Saracens. Now I would never claim to be a lyricist but after a bit of quick re-jigging I came up with some alternate words for some classic hymns. I’ve reproduced the original wording first so you can get the gist of the original hymn/tune. Ok?

To be a Pilgrim

Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent,
To be a pilgrim.

New version: To be a frontline NHS worker

There’s a debt that we all owe

Throughout this crisis

To the NHS key people

Fighting this virus.

Their selfless commitment

Amid shameful treatment

Awaiting PPE, has meant

They are our heroes

Ok so we’ve done the tribute song now how about a new tune and a bit of sporting context…

Guide me O thou great redeemer 

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
Feed me now and evermore,
Feed me now and evermore.

New version: Why’s my TV guide on sport so meagre

Why’s it so, the Bundesliga’s

Up and running whilst we wait for

The Premier season to re-commence

With MoTD and Final Score?

Alan Shearer, Danny Murphy

Will we hear your views some more?

And will Gary be restored?

That was fun to re-write but I sense I have to do one at least slightly political just because I have to so here goes…

All things bright and beautiful

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The lord god made them all.
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their little wings.

New versions: All mates of Matt Hancock   

All sorts of clever people

Work in the Cabinet

From Gove the social cripple

To Raab the blandest yet.

Each one owes their favours

To the buffoon called Boris

He looks like Nigel Havers

With an IQ of Norris

I could do this for hours to be honest so if any head teachers out there would like a new rendition of a dreary old hymn then give me a shout. Onwards tradition moulders!


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About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

4 thoughts on “Old tunes; new words

  1. Hi Paul, you are at it again, taking me back 60 years or more to the days when as head chorister at our local church I knew them all verbatum. Two choir practices a week and two sung services on a Sunday bred a familiarity with the Psalter and Hymns Ancient and Modern which still resonates today. A Saturday wedding was always a highlight as it paid five bob to each choirboy who turned up.
    School hymns were traditionally chosen from the Christian tradition but our Headmaster, Mr Safkin had Jewish ancestry so very cleverly selected “Nun Danket” Now thank we all our God, and we only ever sang verse one. There is no mention of the Trinity of the Christian faith until verse three so he satisfied the Education Board requirement and you could thank any God you wanted to believe in. Nun Danket, Hymn number 379 in Hymns Ancient and Modern if you want to try and write a more contemporary version, I have tried and failed.
    Good luck,

    • Hi John
      Another fab trip down memory lane mate. That is a great story – a slightly subversive Jewish head poking a finger up to the Gentile faith, brilliant! Anyway It’s a very joyous hymn so here’s a quick crack at some new but hopefully fitting words (old ones first)…

      ‘Nun danket’

      Now thank we all our God
      with heart and hands and voices,
      who wondrous things has done,
      in whom his world rejoices;
      who from our mothers’ arms
      has blessed us on our way
      with countless gifts of love,
      and still is ours today.

      ‘I miss those Thursday evenings’

      When we thanked our NHS,
      with heart and hands and voices,
      for the incredible things they’ve done
      not letting this virus destroy us.
      We raised our arms aloft
      and clapped enthusiastically
      with endless shouts of praise
      our faith restored in humanity.

      Bit clunky but better than a pun blanket.


  2. Love it, well done and it actually works with the music. Surprising what talents a lockdown brings out in folks. Chris has just written and illustrated her first children’s story book called “Out Of The Blue” about strange sea creatures, something that she would never had time for before.

    • Hi John I meant to reply to this before. Great news about Christine’s new book – amazing! Can we order a copy please – our youngest grandson might like I (he’s 4 right sort of age?) pp

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