Of secular hymns and – Hymn Sing!

CBC Hymn SIng

What do the Beach Boys and Hymn Sing, an old CBC-TV show, have in common? Well, they’re both part of tonight’s Meanwhile, at the Manse post! My thanks to another blogger, Tracy at Tracy Takes the Cake, for finding this period-piece photo.

So my friend Earl has weighed in again, this time on my Manse Years Musical Challenge, offering up quite a lovely version of The Beach Boys‘ God Only Knows, sans instrumentation. Pretty much reinforces what a musical genius Brian Wilson was (and is), and how amazing their harmonies were. Earl’s comment was, “When these guys hit all the right notes, instead of fighting and self-destructing, they were doing secular hymns.” Let’s have a look and listen, and then (you won’t be surprised to know) I have a few more thoughts – odd places my brain took me when I was thinking about the Beach Boys and Earl’s comment. But first, take it away, Brian:

Okay, so there’s that. But Earl’s phrase “secular hymns” got me thinking about an old CBC-TV show, partly because the show featured hymns, and partly because when Earl and I worked together at the Montreal Gazette we shared many a happy (and hilarious) reminiscence of old CBC-TV programs. First and foremost being – how could it not? – Front Page Challenge, though a close second was Razzle Dazzle, complete with Howard the Turtle and of course the pretty and fresh-faced Trudy Young. More on those shows another day, perhaps. For now, let’s talk about Hymn Sing.

Do you remember it, folks? It aired on Sunday afternoons back in my childhood at the Manse in Queensborough in the 1960s and ’70s. (And in fact I was astonished just now to discover that it kept going until 1995.) It featured an extraordinarily white group of youngish people, nicely dressed and singing favourite hymns. It was a thoroughly pleasant show, especially if, like me, you have a fondness for good hymns; but it was a bit – well, stiff, shall we say. (And did I mention white?)

If you’d like to know more about the show – like, did you know it was produced in Winnipeg? – you can find it here; and if you’re a total Hymn Sing nut, you can get an episode-by-episode guide here. (If you ask me, that’s a bit much.) Sadly I was unable to find any videos of those young people actually singing, but those of us who remember the show can always replay it in our heads.

I do, however, have one little treat for you: the song those nice young people always sang as the closing credits rolled. Close your eyes and it’ll take you right back to Sunday afternoons at the Manse, or wherever in Canada you happened to grow up:

Okay, now I think it’s time to go back and close with Brian Wilson and my own favourite Beach Boys song. Not a secular hymn, perhaps, but the harmonies are – well, divine. And since it’s a promotional video for the band from way back in the day, it’s got a happy 1960s madcap air to it too. Something to enjoy on a Friday night!

18 thoughts on “Of secular hymns and – Hymn Sing!

  1. Most excellent Beach Boys selection, K. Here’s a “modern spiritual” that never quite made it to Hymn Sing, but Gail and Dale of the Lawrence Welk Show performed what would surely have been the definitive version in any case. Struggling to keep his composure, accordionist Myron Floren seems to have been the only one in the room with a clue as to the meaning of a then novel idiom in “one of the newer songs.” And he wasn’t going to let it slip until after the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye3ecDYxOkg

    • A classic, Earl – and trust you to find it! Readers who haven’t clicked on the link owe it to themselves to do so; it is perhaps the more unintentionally hilarious musical performance ever. Ah, Lawrence Welk – another of the mainstay programs of my childhood at the Manse. Remember the ads for Geritol, for “tired blood”?

  2. Oh yes, Hymn Sing! I seem to remember it coming on at 5:30pm Sunday, right before The Wonderful World of Disney at 6:00. And then at 7:00 there was that great Canadian show, The Beachcombers. I’m trying to remember, though. Was Disney broadcast on CBC? Or did we watch that on an American station? We lived in Gananoque at that time and only got two stations… Kingston and Watertown, I believe.

    • CKWS Kingston and WWNY Watertown – I remember them well, Karen! And then what a thrill it was when we also got CJOH (CTV) Ottawa. Now you’ve raised a couple of interesting things. I too thought that Hymn Sing was on TV in the 5-to-5:30-p.m. range, right before all the good stuff on Sunday-night TV, but all my online sources said it aired at 3 p.m. As for the Wonderful World of Disney (in my extreme youth called the Wonderful World of Color) – I am flummoxed. I had assumed it was on CBS (WWNY), but maybe it was CBC. Anyone else?

      • Katherine, here’s a link that shows Hymn Sing was broadcast at 5:30 mostly in the early years. Oh darn, I can’t make it a highlighted link. I used to be able to on my old computer. Darn windows 7 or whatever the heck this is. LOL! Anyway, here’s the address. http://www.film.queensu.ca/cbc/Hob.html

      • Thanks for that link, Karen! Gee, a lot of CBC memories in that list – and it’s only H’s. How excellent that you and I are vindicated in our memory of Hymn Sing being shown at 5:30 p.m. Sundays – in my Manse years, at least. We are good!

      • Katherine, when you’re on that site, click on the “cbc series index” and the whole alphabet is there. Lots and lots of old series from 1952-1982.

      • Oh, how I loved the Forest Rangers! Didn’t we all want a fort like that to play in! I had such a crush on Rex Hagon, who played Pete. And he was so handsome years later when he hosted the Polka Dot Door. But I’d gotten over my crush as I was madly in love with my husband by then…

      • I am sad to report that somehow or other I completely missed the Forest Rangers, Karen. So many people seem to have happy memories of that show, but unfortunately I am not one of them! On the other hand, I seem to be the only person alive who remembers Adventures in Rainbow Country – or am I?

      • Rainbow Country! yes, I remember that. Awesome 70’s fashions in that show, LOL! What a nice chalet they lived in. Those old shows sure were relaxing to watch, weren’t they. No stress. Always a happy ending. Now here’s an oldie. Trouble with Tracy. LOL! What a show. I think it was on ctv in the early 70’s. I remember watching it if I was home sick from school, so it must have been on in the daytime.

      • Frank was the male version of Debbie Lori Kaye, except much more British and much less well known in the Greater Napanee metropolitan area. He wouldn’t have been on the show at all that night, but Wayne and Shuster had just been involved in that nasty dustup with Tommy Common and were temporarily personae non gratae at the Mother Corp. (outside of Rusty’s, ahem, “book bag.”) Everything might have come together brilliantly for Frank if he hadn’t decided to practise his patented, show-stopping yodel all through Bruce Marsh’s weekly pitch for Kraft Crackerbarrel. Bill Walker checked his watch obsessively all through it. Frank kept repeating “Goin’ to the barn dance tonight” as Elwie Yost aggressively hustled him toward another passport to adventure, with Marg Osburne waiting impatiently in the wings for her turn. Still ten to two on the water-resistant Timex wherever Frank is, I’ll wager.

      • This started my day off with a huge laugh, Earl. Thanks for the memories! Bruce Marsh and Kraft recipes with miniature marshmallows and Velveeta! Those Timex watch ads! Oh my. Oh my oh my oh my.

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