These are some of my favorite hymns to play and sing. On another page, I list why I don’t like a song; on this one, here’s why I like a song. Often, it’s a matter of taste, admittedly, but that’s just fine with me.
Alleluia, Sing to Jesus (and anything with the Hyfrydol tune): Everyone sings this, no matter where I am. Everyone knows and loves this tune, and so do I.
Be Joyful, Mary, Heavenly Queen (Traditional): Short and sweet, it recalls that Mary is a very important part of the Easter story. Plus there’s some Latin. I like Latin.
Christ, Be Our Light (Bernadette Farrell): An instant classic that, slowly, is getting the respect it deserves. A dramatic but easy-to-sing message with a great accompaniment.
Festival Canticle (Richard Hillert): This is a totally open-up-the-pipes-and-blast-it song for Easter.
For All the Saints (Ralph Vaughan Williams and William How): This one is one of my personal favorites. It gives the saints the regal treatment they deserve. A great one to blast at entrance.
Gift of Finest Wheat (Omer Westendorf): The accompaniment for this is in five flats, which gives it a sonorous quality you weren’t going to get a half-step lower (in C major). Such a memorable, beautiful tune.
Holy Is His Name (John Michael Talbot): A quieter, more peaceful treatment of Mary. The choir loves this one, and it’s just malleable enough that we can use it several different ways if we need to.
How Great Thou Art (Stuart Hine): I did not know this hymn was as recent as it was. I thought it was at least a couple hundred years old. But it nearly makes me cry when I play it, which makes it awfully hard to, say, play it.
I Have Loved You (Michael Joncas): It’s his best hymn, bar none. Very simple and very versatile.
I Know That My Redeemer Lives (and anything with the Duke Street tune): An instantly recognizable tune. Though it’s a little tricky to sing, it’s still manageable.
Jesus, Wine of Peace (David Haas): David Haas’ best, I think. A gorgeous tune that focuses on the other portion of Holy Communion that we often neglect.
Lord, Who at Thy First Eucharist (a.k.a. At That First Eucharist, William Turton): It’s not a Catholic hymn, incidentally. Luckily, the Catholics happen to have the Eucharist, so we can use the hymn with a slightly different meaning to us.
Morning Has Broken (and anything with the Bunessan hymntune): I have the Cat Stevens version on sheet music. But the regular version is just fine, as well.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel (Traditional): Haunting. Just the right tune for Advent.
O God, Beyond All Praising (and anything else with the Thaxted hymntune):
Gustav Holst based this tune, of course, off a part of “The Planets.” The majesty of the tune is perfect for praise songs.
O God, You Search Me (Bernadette Farrell): Bernadette Farrell’s specialty is understated, quiet, beautiful songs, and this is one of her gems.
Only in God (John Michael Talbot): Another quiet, understated tune. Just gorgeous.
Only This I Want (Dan Schutte): Simplicity is a key in a lot of the hymns I favor, and this is Dan Schutte’s best for that reason. Easy-to-understand message that nonetheless isn’t talking down, plus a simple melody.
Open My Eyes (Jesse Manibusan): I have a love/hate relationship with Jesse Manibusan’s music. On one hand, he wrote this. On the other hand, he also wrote Misa del Mundo, a thankfully-now-gone mess of a Mess setting that was the worst I ever had to play.
Precious Lord, Take My Hand (Thomas “Don’t Call Me Tommy, I’m Not the Bandleader” Dorsey): There’s a reason it’s perfect for funerals. It hits all the right notes as a prayer of the dying, though it’s certainly a hymn anyone could relate to.
The King of Love My Shepherd Is (and anything else with the St. Columba tune): I play every week at a parish that originally catered to the Irish immigrants. So I’m kind of bummed that I don’t get to do this one more often.
This Day Was Made by the Lord (Christopher Walker): For the Easter season, on the weeks Psalm 118 isn’t the psalm, use this for opening. It’s bombastic and delightful.
We Belong to You (Trevor and Victoria Thomson): The most recently composed (2006) of the ones on this list, it’s an example of a song being contemporary without being too poppy or rocky or poprocky.
We Three Kings (Traditional): I don’t believe this hymn is technically, you know, accurate. Or based on the Bible. But this gets across the point of directing the focus from themselves to baby Jesus in a surprisingly effective way.
Your Words Are Spirit and Life (Bernadette Farrell): See, Bernadette? You showed up twice on my bad list, but you’re on my good list three times. I told you I love your stuff. Another quiet, understated, perfect piece.