Dr. Joseph Herl accepts the Outstanding Teaching Award at the 2018 commencement ceremony. Herl has been editing a companion for the LSB hymnal. Photo courtesy of Concordia University, Nebraska.
by Daniel Heitshusen
Concordia’s Dr. Joseph Herl, professor of music, has been working since 2011 editing the new companion for the “Lutheran Service Book,” which came out in 2006.
Before editing this companion, Herl worked on a committee for the “Hymnal Supplement ‘98.”
“The powers that be must have liked what I did on that book because they asked me to edit the companion for the full hymnal when it came out,” Herl said. “I told them I would do it … on one condition: that they would allow me to go back to the earliest known sources of each hymn.”
After it was agreed that Herl would be allowed to go back to the earliest sources, he began editing the companion.
Going back to the original sources included acquiring copies of every source, including every translation, tune and harmonization of a hymn. Herl’s original source research allowed for some interesting finds.
“Based on that primary source research, we have changed over 500 attributions in the hymnal,” Herl said.
Herl went on to describe the various types of information that the companion will provide.
“(The companion will provide) historical information about the hymn’s origin and early publication (and) any stories about how and why the hymn was written,” Herl said. “Each essay will also contain a devotional commentary on the hymn, (and) biographies of the authors and composers.”
According to Herl, this companion is also set apart from other companions due to its target audience.
“In the past, hymnal companions have been aimed mainly at pastors and church musicians, the professionals. Ours is aimed also at the interested lay person; the people who just want to know the background of the hymns,” Herl said.
The companion, titled “Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns,” will be available before Christmas, around Nov. 2019.