Hymns with Similar Meters
The meter of a hymn is the number of syllables in a poetic line of the text, such as:
· Soft-ly now the light of day = 7 syllables
· Fades up-on my sight a-way = 7
· Free from care, from la-bor free = 7
· Lord, I would com-mune with thee = 7
So, the meter is 7777
Hymns that have the same amount of syllables in the line or phrase make it possible to interchange the texts of these hymns with the music of others with similar meters, which creates variety in singing the hymns.
Also, when hymns are sung to different tunes, the meaning of the hymn may become more enhanced or seen in a different light.
However, since the text of one hymn may not fit the mood or words accents of another, one must use caution and discretion when switching tunes and text.
As a side note, during the early history of the LDS Church, it was a common practice to do this, since there was no music written in the hymnal that was compiled by Emma Smith. There were only texts, and everyone sang in unison, as stated in "Our Heritage of Hymns," by Carol C. Madsen, daughter of J. Spencer Cornwall, former conductor of the Tabernacle Choir, New Era, Nov. 1975, p. 10:
"Finally, in 1835, a book of 90 hymns was published. Brother Phelps wrote many of them and many were contributed by Eliza R. Snow, Parley P. Pratt, and others. This publication contained words only, and the Saints sang them to various hymn tunes in vogue at the time. Indeed, a number of the hymns were sung interchangeably to the same tune."
Abbreviations for Meters
SM (Short Meter) = 6686
CM (Common Meter) = 8686
LM (Long Meter) = 8888
D = meter is doubled
Repeated last lines of hymns may be deleted in order to fit the meter of another hymn, and some texts that nearly match each other can be used.
For more information about meters for LDS Hymns, click here
If you have found hymns that interchange nicely with each other and would like to share your experience with us on this website, please e-mail DeeAnn Stone (dstone at uvago.org), and I will your post your comments here.
I am the relief society chorister of the Evanston 8th ward (Wyoming). I found your web site when I was looking for a good way to explain 'meters' to my sisters in RS. I thought I'd share with you the 2 I have switched. In December we are switching tunes to 207 - While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks with 211 - It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. One week we will do one set of words with one tune, and the next week the other words with the other tune.