God of Concrete, God of Steel

So as not to derail (no pun intended) a Heaven thread.
Pendragon wrote: »
This. Especially to the final paragraph.

One day, there will be some sort of Liturgy In Praise Of The Electric Interweb...
:wink:

Well someone could start by writing a new verse for God of Concrete, God of Steel.

Am I alone in not minding "God of Concrete, God of Steel." I mean, I am a crabby liturgical traditionalist. At home, I use the Cranmerian English prayers and read from the King James Version.

A priest friend of mine recently said that "you'd like anything that involved lots of robes and chanting in Latin." That's not wholly false. Obviously, they would have to be well-designed robes. I can't abide tacky polyester.

But despite my traditionalism in so many respects, I actually kind of like "God of Concrete, God of Steel." Its theologically sound. It makes use of modern imagery much more successfully that most other attempts I've seen, and doesn't commit the same crimes agains rhyme and scansion that are so common in contemporary worship songs. There are one or two places where the authors seem to be struggling for a rhyme ("Lord of cable, Lord of rail,/ Lord of freeway and of mail" stands out), but that's a crime older hymns commit as well.

Maybe I can appreciate it more because I'm not British and thus didn't grow up singing it. I did grow up with Earth and All Stars, which I don't hate but which I think is less successful than "God of Concrete, God of Steel."

Oh, and by the way, I don't hate the "Star Wars" (or really Buckminster Fuller/ Carl Sagan) language in Eucharistic Prayer C from the American BCP.

Change my mind.
«13

Comments

  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited April 19
    "God of Concrete, God of Steel" is perfectly fine as a concept, I'm just not a fan of the musical banality. If I tried to sing it, I'd probably be asleep by verse 2. Musically, it just has nothing going for it at all. I have no problem with the principle of singing about God being God of technology and modern construction as well as / in place of pretty scenery - just give me a tune that I'd actually want to sing.

    "Earth and All Stars" is a far, far better tune. It still won't make my top 20, but it ranks a long way above "God of Concrete, God of Steel".

    Prayer C makes me wince with the tweeness in a couple of places ("this fragile Earth, our island home").

  • "Earth and All Stars" is a far, far better tune. It still won't make my top 20, but it ranks a long way above "God of Concrete, God of Steel".

    But inferior lyrics, I would argue. Neither is an absolute masterpiece, but "God of Concrete, God of Steel" has a workmanlike (pun intended) competence.
  • God of shingles
    God of I-beams
  • So it may have, but the very words 'God of concrete, God of steel' make me think of that horrid, brutalist 1960s architecture...

    ...and also conjure up the image (sic) of a modernist idol, made of the said materials...
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    God of shingles
    God of I-beams
    Give us Pringles™
    Send us ice-creams
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    edited April 19
    Oddly despite almost 40 years singing in Anglican choirs I've never sung it, or even heard it sung.

    I remember seeing it in the old Canadian red hymn book (it must have been close to a hymn we did sing...) and being curious what it would sound like. I'm not totally convinced by all the language but I've seen a lot worse, without even getting close to contemporary worship song territory.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Marsupial wrote: »
    Oddly despite almost 40 years singing in Anglican choirs I've never sung it, or even heard it sung.
    I’ve never heard of it that I can recall. It hasn’t appeared in a hymnal of my tribe, nor does it seem to be in (current) American Episcopal, Lutheran, United Methodist or United Church of Christ hymnals. Hymnary.org says it has only appeared in 8 hymnals, most of which seem to be British. (And interestingly enough, in those 8 hymnals it is set to at least 3 different tunes—CONCRETE, ZEAL and HUNAN.)

    I’ll admit, though, that I really like Earth and All Stars.

  • BroJames wrote: »
    God of shingles
    God of I-beams
    Give us PringlesTM
    Send us ice-creams

    Has there ever been a "write hymn Circus thread"? Not sure how it would work exactly, but I immediately had this one set in my mind to this recognizable tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqWCDKnIUig


  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Just make sure it doesn't infiltrate these deeply serious ecclesiantical realms :wink:
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    So it may have, but the very words 'God of concrete, God of steel' make me think of that horrid, brutalist 1960s architecture...

    ...and also conjure up the image (sic) of a modernist idol, made of the said materials...

    I love brutalist 1960s architecture. So there! One of my former churches featured in the Concrete Quarterly: you can't get more brutalist than that.
    But I don't think I have ever heard "God of concrete' actually sung. And though I have never been a Rugger B****, I'm sure I've heard a rugby song with similar lyrics but doubtless a very different message.
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    Those of you have sung it or heard it sung - what hymn tune are you familiar with?

    I randomly clicked on the music link for the first hit I found on Google and it did not appear to be an Anglican hymn setting.

    I'm also wondering if anyone knows anything about Frederick R.C. Clarke, whose name vaguely rings a bell and who apparently shares responsibility for the words. Beyond vague generalities about connections to Canadian music scene in the middle of the last century Google doesn't seem to be helping very much.
  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    We have a great Easter hymn to the tune of “Earth and all stars”. Much better lyrics than the original, which is unknown in the part of the UK, and which I have only come across in the USA. The Easter version begins “Alleluia! Jesus is risen! Trumpets resounding in glorious light”. Which has got to be better than the loud bubbling test tubes of the original which always made me giggle.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited April 19
    Yes, we have that one too, in a hymnal supplement. I like it very much.
  • JapesJapes Shipmate
    edited April 19
    I sang it as a child at my UK school to a tune which I've never been able to track down since! (A bouncy 6/8 tune.) Certainly not the tune Minterne which it is set to in 100 Hymns for Today (which got merged into Ancient and Modern New Standard) and the same tune in Sing to God which was used at my Baptist Sunday School.

    I've sung it as an adult very occasionally to that tune with little enthusiasm and occasionally to Dix.

    I didn't know the tune I found in any of the Youtube clips.

    I've never been sure if I imagined the tune we used at school or if it was possibly written by a music teacher there, as I can't also remember what hymn book we used. My interest in hymns developed well after schooldays as did my extensive collection of hymnbooks which has failed to come up with anything other that which I mentioned in the first paragraph.
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    I found the tune "Concrete" in the 1971 Canadian hymn book. It's a unison tune in 6/4, without a key signature but in effect somewhere in the vicinity of F minor. Unfortunately I don't have a keyboard handy and I don't read well enough to get a real feel for what it would sound like.

    Btw Clarke is the composer - the web page that made it sound like he was jointly responsible for the words was wrong.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    @Marsupial - I was going to say that it was old enough to have been inflicted on me when I was at school so it must be from c.1970. My recollection was that the words are OK, but musically, well, let us say when NOprophet_NØprofit mentioned 'shingles' up the thread I did not think about the ones that go on the roof.
  • God of shingles
    Well, I suppose he is, but it seems an odd thing to celebrate. Especially when we're struggling with a pandemic.
  • BabyWombatBabyWombat Shipmate
    Well, I too am a bit of the crabby liturgical bent, and I love good hymns. Ah, what makes a good hymn? For me it is singable with some complex harmony for we basses to sing, and with words that address God and humanity with concepts that intique and speak of connection, with God, with others. (Translate that into "music by Bach, Vaughan Williams, etc.")

    I like Earth and All Stars, mostly because of the repeated chorus "He has done marvelous things" (which I usually sing as "God has done...." ) - it speaks of God's action and the wave of sound as a congregation sings it is moving, even if the lyrics begin to sound like a laundry list of creation.

    So I Googled God of Concrete God of Steel, and I ran for the mute button. Sorry, but the melody sounded just so twee and didn't seem to switch to anything less twee in the bit I endured before clicking "mute". I am glad so many find it good, even great, but its not for me.

    So, Brava for diversity of tastes!
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I date from before either of those two hymns. Although I've heard of 'God of concrete, God of steel', I wouldn't have been sure whether it was a real hymn or a spoof one, a take off of attempts to make God with it and modern. Earth and all stars is, to me, unknown.

    I've never sung either or heard them sung.
  • BabyWombatBabyWombat Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    I date from before either of those two hymns. I've never sung either or heard them sung.

    This may help and give context: I just did a quick Google on each hymn title and there are many links available. I didn't copy any in out of concern for any copyrights that might exist for posting one of them.
  • "God of concrete, God of steel" (which I know to a decidedly untwee tune) is only a parody to the same extent as "All things bright and beautiful". It's a genuine attempt to bring the imagery of hymody this side of the industrial revolution. Unless God died in 1750, that has to be possible.
  • "God of concrete, God of steel" (which I know to a decidedly untwee tune) is only a parody to the same extent as "All things bright and beautiful". It's a genuine attempt to bring the imagery of hymody this side of the industrial revolution. Unless God died in 1750, that has to be possible.

    I thought God died in 1882, after the dark satanic mills, but mercifully some 81 years before the beginning of sexual intercourse.

    Sorry.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    "God of concrete, God of steel" (which I know to a decidedly untwee tune) is only a parody to the same extent as "All things bright and beautiful". It's a genuine attempt to bring the imagery of hymody this side of the industrial revolution. Unless God died in 1750, that has to be possible.
    There's an inconsistency there. Theologically, they are saying something different. "All things bright and beautiful" is extolling the glory of the things God has created and humans haven't. "God of concrete, God of steel" is largely extolling the things humans have made, the products of human hands and machinery, concrete, steel, piston, wheel, pylon, etc. The line at the end of the verse, "All the world of power is thine!" isn't saying that God made these things, but that we should be recognising that though we make them, they are still part of God's world.

    Odd, too, that despite being aimed at sacralising the modern world of industry, it still addresses God as 'thine'.


  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    Speaking of which, I've always thought this (see also here) is one of the more interesting churches in Paris.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    "God of concrete, God of steel" (which I know to a decidedly untwee tune) is only a parody to the same extent as "All things bright and beautiful". It's a genuine attempt to bring the imagery of hymody this side of the industrial revolution. Unless God died in 1750, that has to be possible.
    There's an inconsistency there. Theologically, they are saying something different. "All things bright and beautiful" is extolling the glory of the things God has created and humans haven't. "God of concrete, God of steel" is largely extolling the things humans have made, the products of human hands and machinery, concrete, steel, piston, wheel, pylon, etc. The line at the end of the verse, "All the world of power is thine!" isn't saying that God made these things, but that we should be recognising that though we make them, they are still part of God's world.

    Odd, too, that despite being aimed at sacralising the modern world of industry, it still addresses God as 'thine'.


    I was thinking about the source of the imagery, which is the usual bone of intention: how can anything this ugly be of God?

    And I don't think it's just that they are part of God's world. More that the capacity to make these things, and to shape our own world, is a gift we have received from God ourselves, and for which we give thanks by offering the power released/harnessed back to God.
  • When I was a curate in the 80s, my vicar was fond of this hymn. He wanted to be as up to date and relevant as possible, which meant the parish was stuck in the 60s.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    @Robert Armin - When I was a teenager, our Vicar was similarly afflicted.
  • When I was a curate in the 80s, my vicar was fond of this hymn. He wanted to be as up to date and relevant as possible, which meant the parish was stuck in the 60s.

    I was in the habit of reminding our previous minister that on no account could hymns older than I was be considered modern.
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    Marsupial wrote: »
    Speaking of which, I've always thought this (see also here) is one of the more interesting churches in Paris.

    Apologies for prolonging the tangent but it reminds me of Thomas Rickman's cast iron churches of which this is a prime example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Michael's_Church,_Aigburth

    Compare the interior views and there is not much difference between concrete and steel (or cast iron anyway)
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    Oh, the old joke from the last century:

    Speaker "Let us bring the Church into the 19th Century"
    member of audience "You mean the 20th Century"
    Speaker "Once century at a time, one century at a time"
  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Oh, the old joke from the last century:

    Speaker "Let us bring the Church into the 19th Century"
    member of audience "You mean the 20th Century"
    Speaker "Once century at a time, one century at a time"

    :smiley:
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    I curatised in what I think was the most butt-ugly church in Australia. We didn't need to sing about concrete and steel (though I knew the ZZ Top song) or plywood and green lino because we were swallowed up in its ugliness.

    I've never heard of much less heard the hymn referred to. Or hadn't until the catalyst for this thread. My life has been, um, unchanged.
  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    Cathscats wrote: »
    We have a great Easter hymn to the tune of “Earth and all stars”. Much better lyrics than the original, which is unknown in the part of the UK, and which I have only come across in the USA. The Easter version begins “Alleluia! Jesus is risen! Trumpets resounding in glorious light”. Which has got to be better than the loud bubbling test tubes of the original which always made me giggle.

    I looked it up and found this. is this the one? I found the tune on Youtube. It's very festive and triumphant - very apt for the Resurrection of the Saviour.

    I'm not sure I understand what the final verse is saying, though. It just seems to be a string of thoughts separated by commas.

    The rest of it is good.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    But concrete and steel don't exist in nature as God created it. They are the product of human beings. God is NOT the God of concrete in anything like the way she is the God of waterfalls or trees or supernovae.
  • edited April 22
    Cyprian wrote: »
    Cathscats wrote: »
    We have a great Easter hymn to the tune of “Earth and all stars”. Much better lyrics than the original, which is unknown in the part of the UK, and which I have only come across in the USA. The Easter version begins “Alleluia! Jesus is risen! Trumpets resounding in glorious light”. Which has got to be better than the loud bubbling test tubes of the original which always made me giggle.
    I'm not sure I understand what the final verse is saying, though. It just seems to be a string of thoughts separated by commas.

    I would agree 100% about the last verse. It's ghastly. Nothing wrong with any the images, of course, but it's an almost ludicrously clumsy attempt to combine them. To be honest, I find the entire text of that hymn to be a pretty underwhelming addition to Easter hymnody,* jolly though the tune may be.

    *It's tempting to say that there are already so many good Easter hymns that we hardly need any new ones. But then the same could have been said in 1923, when we already had "Jesus Christ is Risen Today," "The Strife is O'er," "Come Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain," "The Day of Resurrection," "Hail, thee Festival Day," "Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem," etc. And then an otherwise entirely obscure hymn-writer surprised the world with a translation of a relatively recent French hymn, and "Thine Be the Glory" came into being (although it is weirdly rare in the US).
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    FWIW, both Earth and All Stars and Alleluia! Jesus is Risen, which are sung to the same wonderful (imho) tune by David N. Johnson, were written by the same person—Lutheran pastor Herbert F. Brokering.

    Brokering wrote Earth and All Stars for the 90th anniversary of the founding of St. Olaf (Lutheran) College in Minnesota, which explains the relevance of some of the lines, including the “loud boiling test tubes.”

    I’ve just realized something I hadn’t before, and that’s that my tribe’s new hymnal leaves omits the “boiling test tube” verse, which I rather regret as the test tubes never bothered me, and I really like the following line:

    Athlete and band!
    Loud cheering people!
    Sing to the Lord a new song!

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    Odd, too, that despite being aimed at sacralising the modern world of industry, it still addresses God as 'thine'.

    I'm trying to think of a better description than odd. The thees, thines and thous have to go as much as possible. You and yours fit easily (save for the odd rhyme) and are the words used in speech these days. The older forms don't set aside church as special but as not a part of the normal world (using "normal" in its strictest sense).
  • Gee D wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    Odd, too, that despite being aimed at sacralising the modern world of industry, it still addresses God as 'thine'.

    I'm trying to think of a better description than odd. The thees, thines and thous have to go as much as possible. You and yours fit easily (save for the odd rhyme) and are the words used in speech these days. The older forms don't set aside church as special but as not a part of the normal world (using "normal" in its strictest sense).

    I'm afraid that hymns re-written to "modernize" the pronouns are one of the things I loath most heartily in the entire world. I have no objection to singing hymns using the more common contemporary forms of pronouns, etc -- as long as they were written that way. But I see no good reason to change well-known and well-loved hymns to introduce new words nobody knows.

    It's always struck me as odd, too, that people only to insist on these modernizations in church. No one objects to Shakespeare being performed in Jacobean English (okay, I'm sure someone objects, because there are all sorts of weirdos out there). But, for some reason, a good number of people seem to think that "Guide me, O thou Great Redeemer" would be improved by replacing the second-personal singular pronoun with "you." More often than not, I am sure, the main motivation is to have something that can be copyrighted.

    I am not for a moment suggesting that hymns need to be written in Early Modern English. But I do strongly object to the idea that older hymns must always be re-written. I also like many example of contemporary architecture, but I wouldn't propose tearing down Amiens Cathedral and rebuilding it in a more contemporary style.

    At least it occasioned one good joke, when someone asked if the Navy Hymn should be rewritten so that the refrain would be "Hear us when we call to you/ For those upon the sea so blue."
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    "But I see no good reason to change well-known and well-loved hymns to introduce new words nobody knows." I doubt that "you" and "yours" fit into your category of unknown.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    "But I see no good reason to change well-known and well-loved hymns to introduce new words nobody knows." I doubt that "you" and "yours" fit into your category of unknown.

    or "person" or "they"
  • I've never heard this hymn nor seen it in a hymnal. Besides, if it is in British hymnals why does it contain the North Americanism 'freeway'?

    Is outrage.
  • When the craze for modernisation was at its height a rumour went round that "And Can It Be" was going to be changed. One verse would now end:

    My chains fell off at half past two,
    I rose, went forth, and followed you.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    "But I see no good reason to change well-known and well-loved hymns to introduce new words nobody knows." I doubt that "you" and "yours" fit into your category of unknown.
    By “new words nobody knows,” I took @Columba_in_a_Currach to mean new lyrics nobody knows—that is to say, familiar lines were changed such that someone could no longer sing them without checking the book.

  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    Cyprian wrote: »
    Cathscats wrote: »
    We have a great Easter hymn to the tune of “Earth and all stars”. Much better lyrics than the original, which is unknown in the part of the UK, and which I have only come across in the USA. The Easter version begins “Alleluia! Jesus is risen! Trumpets resounding in glorious light”. Which has got to be better than the loud bubbling test tubes of the original which always made me giggle.

    I looked it up and found this. is this the one? I found the tune on Youtube. It's very festive and triumphant - very apt for the Resurrection of the Saviour.

    I'm not sure I understand what the final verse is saying, though. It just seems to be a string of thoughts separated by commas.

    The rest of it is good.
    O wow! We don’t have all these verses, just 1,2 and 4. I agree with whoever decided to ditch the other two!!
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    "But I see no good reason to change well-known and well-loved hymns to introduce new words nobody knows." I doubt that "you" and "yours" fit into your category of unknown.
    By “new words nobody knows,” I took @Columba_in_a_Currach to mean new lyrics nobody knows—that is to say, familiar lines were changed such that someone could no longer sing them without checking the book.

    Indeed. It's a bit like the contemporary language Lord's Prayer. There's nothing wrong with it per se, but in my experience, everyone stumbles over it. It's worth noting that (in my experience again) probably most Anglicans and all anglophone Roman Catholics use the "Our Father, who art in heaven" version services that are otherwise in contemporary language. The versions "Our Father in heaven" and "Our Father, which art in heaven" are both markedly less common. The latter I've never heard in the US at all, and in England only in 1662 services. The former is less rare, but unfamiliar enough that I know school chaplains who've abandoned its use on the grounds that even children are more familiar with the "Our Father who art."

    I myself have to stumble through the contemporary Lord's Prayer. And I'd it find it awkward and frankly rather off-putting to start singing, say, "Thine be the Glory" only to find that the words printed were different than those I've always known. There is an inherit value in familiar words. It's not the only valuable thing, to be sure, but it is a valuable thing.
  • I myself have to stumble through the contemporary Lord's Prayer.

    I can't do it at all. It's like trying to recite a tongue twister - the tongue wants to run away down familiar pathways. (I default to "which art" because it's what I learned in school. I can do "who art" if I force myself. I can only do modern language if I have the text in front of me and concentrate on it.)
  • john holdingjohn holding Ecclesiantics Host, Mystery Worshipper Host
    I myself have to stumble through the contemporary Lord's Prayer.

    I can't do it at all. It's like trying to recite a tongue twister - the tongue wants to run away down familiar pathways. (I default to "which art" because it's what I learned in school. I can do "who art" if I force myself. I can only do modern language if I have the text in front of me and concentrate on it.)

    I've been using is exclusively for 30 years now. On the odd occasion I'm some place where the old words are used, I find myself stumbling about in a most unprayerful way. Your mileage obviously varies.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    I tend to use the contemporary language version of the Lord’s Prayer in my personal prayer, and part of the reason I do is so that I can’t go on autopilot. I have to think about the words.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    It would be 40 years I've used the "new" Lord's Prayer. 2/3rds of my blink of a life and more than enough to condition me. I use it when washing hands in a covid-19 world, too - trying to mean it as well as using it as a timing device.

    I recall a brief period when "save us from the time of trial" (which I think is good hermeneutics) was rendered "do not bring us to the test" which, as a cricket and rugby lover, I found frustrating, but again not a bad hermeneutical insight.
  • OblatusOblatus Shipmate
    edited April 22
    At least it occasioned one good joke, when someone asked if the Navy Hymn should be rewritten so that the refrain would be "Hear us when we call to you/ For those upon the sea so blue."

    Rock of ages, hacked in two,
    Let me hide myself in you.
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