The Lockdown Hymns


Those first three months of 2020 were strange, alarming and testing for everyone. It was a timely reminder that the things of this world are not to be relied upon. Bill and I are self-employed music teachers. Bill is also a piano tuner and technician and I run a music library. Work just stopped. No pupils, no playing jobs, no piano tunings, no music orders and no income. And, of course, no church.

After the initial shock, we decided we would try and do something that could help others, and ourselves, to keep praising God through this time. We came up with the idea of recording a hymn each day – not as “performances” but as something that people would find it faith building to sing along with. We prayed about what to record and, though I know our very own favourites came top of the list, it was encouraging that often the words of our choices were echoed in the daily blogs about which we knew nothing. We were also asked if we would record the hymns to accompany the Sunday sermons. It has been so good to have something positive to fill the time that stretched before us.

However, it has sometimes turned out to be more of a challenge than expected! We don’t find it easy to record ourselves. The microphone has the wonderful effect of making one or both of us go wrong the instant we start. I have a catch in my voice (since an infection a couple of years back) which can take me unawares mid-note, and Bill sometimes forgets which key he’s playing in when he’s transposing. We set off with reasonable confidence on some hymns we already knew, assuming we’d be able to record them straight off. Hmmm.

“Are you ready?” says Bill. “Yes,” I reply, having cleared my throat several times. He presses the start button on the computer programme and begins the piano introduction.  I cough. He smiles understandingly and we start again. Bill forgets what key he’s in and messes up the introduction. My turn for the understanding smile, and we start again. This time we get as far as verse three when I misread the words. Another smile from Bill - slightly strained this time. However, all is not lost. We can use the first two verses and record the next verses onto it. Modern technology is wonderful but we are not that adept at using it. Several minutes later, after juggling with the headphones and computer programme, we’re ready to start again at verse three. (There are only eight verses in this hymn.) This time Bill plays a wrong note in the tune. I try not to look superior. Another pause to re-set the computer programme. We start that verse again. It’s going well. We get as far as the third line and then my phone rings. I forgot to put it on silent. We start again at verse three…

But sometimes we do manage a complete hymn in one “take”. That is particularly pleasing when it’s a hymn that neither of us knew and we’ve had to learn it first. Many of the hymns we’ve been asked to sing are ones we’re not very familiar with, and some we’ve not known at all. It has been such a blessing to learn the words and tunes of all these hymns. To read through and understand, and then sing and type, the words written by believers through the ages, has been so uplifting. Those people struggled too, but they wrote about their faith and knowledge of God and their words encourage us now. Sometimes when I wake in the night, and dark things seem to loom so large, I seek for reassuring words of scripture. But I have also been comforted by many of the hymn words we have recorded, and I wake in the mornings to find myself singing them.

So - we hope you will enjoy singing along with the hymns, and that they will be as much of a blessing to you as they have been to us. But, most of all, we are really looking forward to the time when we can meet and sing those praises to God all together once more.

Hilary Ashton