Known Unknowns (BK)

(4 customer reviews)


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100 contemporary texts to common tunes

John L. Bell & Graham Maule

Singing a new song is not an optional extra, but a faithful response to a divine command. This command is the opening phrase of Psalms 96 and 98. And, St John the Divine says, this is what the saints in heaven are doing all the time.

But, on earth, things are not so easy. Sometimes it’s because the latest new song in the old hymnbook is two centuries old. Or the congregation has been told by some sadist that it ‘doesn’t sing well’. Or sometimes the organist can only play what s/he hears on the radio. Or the guitarist can do anything, as long as it’s only three major chords. However, even in such dire straits, the divine command has to be obeyed.

So what if we kept familiar tunes – hymn tunes or folk tunes – and set words to them in 21st-century idioms? What if we gave some ancient psalms a makeover, replaced threadbare wedding and funeral songs or dealt with the things that people actually talk about when they’re not in church? And what if most of the suggested tunes were so well known that – even if musicians took the huff – people could still sing the verses on their own?

What if you looked under the covers of this book and began to upset the quiet of the place in which you are presently standing by beginning to hum?

This book amounts to a modest proposal from the Wild Goose Resource Group on how to make the most of minimal congregational song resources in an accessible and resilient way.

The 100 texts in this volume represent a wide gamut of subject matter, from psalm paraphrases to songs about ecology, abuse, money, depression, and delight. Almost all of the tunes used can be found in any hymnal.

The ‘Knowns’ in this collection are the familiar tunes to which the texts are set.

The ‘Unknowns’ are the texts, some of which have never been published, and some that were previously published with original tunes, thus perhaps remaining somewhat ‘Unknown’.

These hymns are put together especially for the kind of churches the Wild Good Resource Group particularly wants to encourage—churches where there is no musician, churches where there is a reluctance to sing new songs, or churches where the praise of God has been kept separate from the concerns of the world.


Bulk orders

Significant discounts are available for groups and congregations who want to obtain multiple copies. Prices per unit (excluding P&P):

  • 1-9: £9.99 each
  • 10-24: £9.00 each
  • 25-49: £8.50 each
  • 50-99: £7.50 each
  • Over 100: £7.00 each



144 pages

ISBN 978-1-84952-567-1




(The collection’s contents are ordered by first line, but with song titles shown below)

  1. God’s Intended Joy
  2. Ageless God
  3. All The Wonder
  4. All Who Throng The Halls Of Heaven
  5. Among Us And Before Us
  6. And Did You Know?
  7. Easter Evening
  8. Because The Saviour Prayed
  9. Because You Had An Upstairs Room Prepared
  10. Bless, O My Soul
  11. Christ Has Risen
  12. Come, Host Of Heaven
  13. Conceiver Of Both Heaven And Earth
  14. Do Not Be Vexed
  15. For All The Saints
  16. For Each Time There Is A Season
  17. From Adam Came The Apple
  18. From Heaven’s Attendant Host You Came
  19. Give Us, This Year
  20. Go, Silent Friend
  21. God And Parent Of All People
  22. God Beyond Glory
  23. God, Give Us Life
  24. God It Was
  25. God Loved The World So Much
  26. God Our Creator
  27. God’s Is A World Of Beauty
  28. God’s Spirit Came At Pentecost
  29. God’s Spirit Is Here
  30. Help Us Accept The Past
  31. How Can We Stand Together?
  32. I Come In Faith And Fear To God
  33. I Love The Lord
  34. I Owe My Lord A Morning Song
  35. The Beggar
  36. I Waited Patiently For God
  37. Inspired By Love And Anger
  38. Fellow Travellers
  39. Jesus Calls Us
  40. Jesus Christ Is Risen
  41. Jesus Christ Is Waiting
  42. Jesus Was Doubted
  43. Just As A Lost And Thirsty Deer
  44. Keep Me, Lord
  45. Let Every Nation On The Earth
  46. Long Have You Loved Me
  47. Lord Jesus Christ, Shall I Stand Still?
  48. Lord, When Your Kingdom Comes
  49. Monarch And Maker
  50. No Wind At The Window
  51. The Pedigree
  52. Not Through Merit
  53. O Christ, You Wept
  54. O God, With Holy Righteousness
  55. O God, You Are My God Alone
  56. O Lord, Our Lord
  57. The Web Of Love
  58. Oh Where Are You Going?
  59. Out Of The Direst Depths
  60. Praise The Lord, The Ground Of Goodness
  61. World Without End
  62. Praise With Joy
  63. Shout For Joy
  64. Sing, My Soul
  65. Sing Praise To God
  66. Sing To God With Joy And Gladness
  67. Sisters And Brothers, With One Voice
  68. The Day Soon Will Come
  69. The God Of All Eternity
  70. The Hope That Hides In Bethlehem
  71. The House Of God
  72. The Love Of God Comes Close
  73. The ‘Other Person’
  74. The Innocents
  75. The Time Has Come
  76. The Whole Creation Waits
  77. The Word Of God Is Like A Lamp
  78. There Is A Line Of Women
  79. The First Miracle
  80. This Is God’s House
  81. Though Hope Desert My Heart
  82. Through Abraham And Moses
  83. We Cannot Measure
  84. We Come, Dear Lord, To Celebrate
  85. We Did Not Know
  86. We Do Not Ask
  87. We Rejoice To Be God’s Chosen
  88. For Those Whose Song Is Silent
  89. The Hand Of Heaven
  90. God On Earth
  91. When God Created Humankind
  92. When Joseph Was Bridegroom
  93. Gifts Of The Spirit
  94. The Truth That Sets Us Free
  95. Torn In Two
  96. God’s Surprise
  97. The Summons
  98. With Grace And Carefulness
  99. Within The Circle Of Your Friends
  100. Women And Men As God Intended

4 reviews for Known Unknowns (BK)

  1. Douglas Galbraith

    These truly are ‘Gospel Songs’. They comb the New Testament and the Old for stories that shine into contemporary life. The songs speak to real, recognisable situations, even the ones we can’t talk about. Some songs we know but there are many great new ones. Try ‘God loved the world so much’ to Wondrous Love (25), ‘Lord Jesus Christ, shall I stand still’ to Ye banks and braes (47), or ‘Sisters and brothers’ (67), ‘The ‘other person’ Jesus saw’ (73), and not least ‘There is a line of women’ (78). And you can sing them on Sunday to a tune you know!

  2. Richenda Milton-Daws

    I must begin with a confession – I am not a musical person. In fact I am unlikely to sing in tune. But I do love the way in which singing the right words together can open up a gospel story, or a theological insight – just as long as the tune is familiar and the lyrics well chosen.
    The blurb on the back of Known Unknowns, subtitled “100 Contemporary Texts to Common Tunes, by John L. Bell and Graham Maule (Wild Goose, £9.99) asks:
    “What if we kept familiar tunes – hymn tunes or folk tunes – and set words to them in 21st-century idioms?” And that is exactly what the authors have done. None of these songs will be difficult to follow because the tunes will be familiar. But the words are fresh and challenging. Many of the songs cry out for social justice and a fairer world (e.g. number 35, “The beggar” or number 37, “Inspired by love and anger” and the already familiar “Jesus Christ is waiting” – number 41).
    Others are hymns of praise to God’s glory (such as the first three songs in the collection), while imaginative responses to Bible stories can be found too (e.g. number 7 “Easter evening” which joins the disciples on the Emmaus Road, number 50, “No wind at the window”, a lovely “take” on the annunciation). In addition I counted 15 new hymns based on psalms – a real example of revisiting our treasures.
    I would be nervous introducing new hymns to my small, village congregations (especially since I am no musician). But as these have familiar tunes and such great words, I might just try using one or two. Perhaps more as we all gain confidence.
    Richenda Milton-Daws, chair of ArtServe
    Methodist Recorder, October 2018

  3. Pastoral Music Magazine, March 2019, NPM

    This latest collection from the Wild Goose Resource Group of the Iona Community in Scotland will be a treasured resource of texts for parish musicians in places large and small. As parishes close and merge, common repertoire in newly formed communities can be hard to find. One solution is to sing well known melodies with texts that connect to the Scriptures of the day. (And subsequently, to expand the number of tunes and texts that are known to the Assembly.) As the authors explain in the introduction: “The texts represent a wide gamut of subject matter, from psalm paraphrases to songs about ecology, abuse, money, depression and delight”. Surprises abound, and singers of these texts can’t help but come to a new level of awareness of the mysteries of faith and human life. Topical, metrical and tunes indexes are included. This collection is a joy, and a challenge, to explore.

  4. Marjorie Dobson

    Do you know a church that has difficulty in finding someone to play music for the hymns? Is that their excuse/reason for not trying out new texts because they have no idea of the tune? Then introduce them to a new book by John L. Bell and Graham Maule containing one hundred contemporary texts to common tunes.

    The writers are well known for their striking texts that bring new understanding to faith and discipleship and this collection is intended as a user-friendly introduction of this material to a new audience. The tunes are a mixture of well-known hymns, or folk songs: so well-known that only their titles are given in the index and the hymn tunes can be found in any other hymnal that a church possesses. The folk tunes can be led by a lone singer with other people picking up the tune as it goes along. About half of these texts are already included in various denominational hymnals, but for individual churches, or faith groups, who have not updated their singing resources, this book offers a way to broaden their musical horizons.

    There are some striking pairings of text and tunes. No 28: ‘God’s Spirit came at Pentecost’ is matched to SUSSEX CAROL; No 58: ‘Oh, where are you going’ works very well with THE STREETS OF LAREDO and the tune EBENEZER drives the words of No 4: ‘All who throng the halls of heaven’ especially in the last verse where ‘God’s
    voice sets the forests quaking: / leaves are stripped and treetops stare. / Though earth trembles, heaven rejoices: / ‘Glory’ echoes everywhere.’ No 6 is a hymn for Maundy Thursday and the named tune is EVENTIDE, which emphasises betrayal in all the verses, but particularly in verse 3: ‘And did you know that while it yet was dark / your fiercest enemies would rub their hands, / and scoundrels who were game for any bribe / would lie and lie again to seal your fate?’

    The book is certainly intended to be offered to all sorts of people and circumstances. This is particularly evident in No 60: ‘Praise the Lord, the ground of goodness’, where ‘city voices, pitched in concrete’ are joined as ‘science advances, research deepens’ and ‘creative treasure, skill to counsel or amuse’ feature throughout the verses. But verse 6 says it all: ‘Praise the Lord as churches chorus —/ Quaker-quiet, Salvation-brassed, / Catholic, Orthodox — united, / showing oneness meant to last.’

    This collection is worth buying for the target audience, or for anyone who has an interest in hymnody and uses both texts and tunes to enhance their own personal faith, worship and prayer life. Only the most closed mind will find nothing of interest, or challenge, in these words and their musical pairings and if you know one of those churches mentioned at the beginning of this review, then why not introduce them to this collection, or give them a couple of copies as a gift?

    Marjorie Dobson
    BULLETIN Spring 2019

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