When I first posted the recordings, more than one person wrote to say they’d love the sheet music for the songs, in the lower keys in which the songs are recorded (lower keys are better for older voices). So here they are!
The PDF includes nearly all of the public-domain hymns, transposed to the lower keys in which they were recorded. (I didn’t include PDFs for the few songs that still retain a copyright or that didn’t have a MusicXML file.)
My thanks to a great hymn database
I want to give a HUGE shout-out to Hymnary.org here. During the entire 18+ months of putting together the Hymns project, I consulted Hymnary.org countless times for lyrics and sheet music of the classic hymns and spirituals. It is an amazing resource: a searchable index of nearly every classic hymn you can think of, and so much more.
To give you an idea, here’s what you can find for every hymn in the Hymnary.org database. I’m using the hymn “Amazing Grace” as an example:
- The “representative” (most common) lyrics.
- A “compare texts” function that shows every variation on those lyrics across different denominations. A color-coded key indicates just how different the lyrics are from the representative version.
- Historical notes on the author and tune(s).
- A list of hymnals in which the particular hymn appears. I used that information to chart each hymn’s frequency across denominations, which helped me choose the most well-known ones to record for the elders.
- Crucially, downloadable PDF, MusicXML, and/or MIDI audio files for download. I used the MusicXML files to transpose to the lower keys that I needed for the Hymns project. (Even as I type this, I’m remembering how long this took!)
If you’re as grateful as I am that this resource exists, I encourage you to consider making a donation to the site. (In case you’re interested, here’s my letter from April 2019 that accompanied a donation.)
And: Lyrics with Index
I’ve also just uploaded a new PDF of the lyrics for all of the hymns — this time including an index, which was helpfully compiled by Chaplain Kelsey Hill, who serves at Frasier Retirement Community here in Boulder, CO. (Thank you, Kelsey!)
If you prefer to make your own songbook, here are the lyrics without page numbers. You can pick and choose pages from this document and number them however you like.