Erik Routley

ERIK REGINALD ROUTLEY (1917-1982), was a scholar and an authority with keen insight, wit, grace and style. Pastor, musician and hymn writer in his own right, he was the catalyst for much that helped produce “The Hymn Explosion” of the 1970s. His influence as an editor, beginning with Congregational Praise (1951), Dunblane Praise (1962), Cantate Domino (1968), New Church Praise (1972), Ecumenical Praise (1977), and Rejoice in the Lord (1985), was profound.

Dr. Routley was born in Brighton, England, on 31 October 1917, four hundred years exactly (give or take eleven days for the new style calender) after Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door at Wittenburg. Erik once said that this was the only autobiographical fact about himself of which he was proud. His degrees were all from Oxford where his widow, Margaret, now resides.

His move to Princeton, New Jersey, in 1975 as Professor of Church Music at Westminster Choir College helped export the fruits of the British hymn explosion, which significantly influenced hymnals and hymn singing in the United States during the last quarter of the twentieth century. His lectures, filled with delightful humor, were lucid, informative and rich in the understanding of a specialized subject important to all who love and sing hymns and psalms. His lasting influence as a theologian of music, and mentor to American church musicians, cannot be underestimated.

Dr. Routley deserves full credit for halting the dreary practice of singing “Amen” at the end of each hymn sung in American churches. A collection of his texts and tunes was published in 1990 under the title Our Lives Be Praise (Hope Publishing Company). Two of his texts have become standard fare in all new hymnals. They are “All Who Love and Serve Your City” and “New Songs of Celebration Render.” Dr. Routley has seven hymn credits in The Hymnal 1982.

You too can learn from Dr. Routley, through his many wonderful books. Many are still in print, others available used:

Books about Erik Routley:
  • Duty and Delight: Routley Remembered
  • Encounter with Erik Routley: A wonderful correspondence (1979-1982) between a hymn enthusiast and one of the most highly respected hymnologists of the late 20th century, touching on the poetry and music of hymns and psalms, as well as many other theological subjects. $27.00 from Darcey Press, (847) 816-1468.

Recorded Lectures:

Hymns by Erik Routley:

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