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Bardcore Worship #2 Blending old and new September 27, 2020

Posted by Pete B in worship.

It’s now a few weeks since I discovered  bardcore – faux medieval style versions of 20th and 21st century pop songs, shared on YouTube along with pictures that may (or look like like they may) have come from the Bayeux tapestry or books from somewhere between the 5th and 15th centuries.

For those looking for religious pictures there are no shortage of sources now online such as this 14th century picture digitised by the British Library. There are many interesting scenes, including this illustration of why Mary didn’t recognise Jesus after the resurrection until he took his hat off. Some of the illustrations take a little working out for 21st viewers, but these were once a bold attempt at telling an old story in a contemporary setting.

the ‘Holkham Bible Picture Book’ c 1327-1335 Digitised in the British Library

As you see, he actual mixing of old and new in interesting ways isn’t anything new in itself. The church has being doing it for centuries. Sometimes it is the updating of an old, but not forgotten hymn, such as “Be thou My Vision” so that the grammar and vocabulary in lines like “Naught be all else to me, save that thou art ” are a little less obscure for people for whom English isn’t their first language, and also for all those of us for whom English has moved on a bit since it first made sense.

wikipedia 1919 Church Hymnal with Accompanying Tunes

If you know the hymn you might also know that it’s a really old one. What I didn’t know though was that although the lyrics were translated from a 6th or 8th century Irish poem, and the tune an Irish folk song, the two weren’t brought together until translated in 1912 by Mary Elizabeth Byrne.

Many other old hymns are still in use, either in something like their original form, or adapted, remixed, and otherwise modernised throughout the centuries. I love that we have access to so many historic books. I’ve got several CD’s of the ‘latest’ worship hits from last few years. Here’s an older equivalent… a collection of hymn tunes from the most modern and approv’d authors

available on archive.org

and before ear buds, before smart phones, before ipods, even before ‘personal stereos’, or any way of recording songs, people walked around with items such as the, “Pocket hymn book, designed as a constant companion for the pious

available on archive.org

A little more exploring the archives may uncover more treasures. So following the bardcore trend, which modern worship songs would sound good in medieval style? Or which popular worship hits from past centuries have stood the test of time or or due a fresh remix?


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