Hymns: classical or not?

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I’m tagging a lot of hymns performed by church choirs, basically anything that might be found in a church hymnal: SATB arrangements, music which might be “traditional” or “classical” or something else, often used with multiple lyrics, and lyrics which may be paired with multiple melodies, and equally esoteric sources: contemporary, “traditional”, scripture, translated from other languages. And lyrics and music weren’t necessarily written to go together, etc.

And there could be any combination of the above in a given album. This is the current example I’m dealing with: https://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/classical/products/8063177--abide-with-me-a-treasury-of-classic-hymns. Here’s another one I did a while back: https://beta.musicbrainz.org/release/c72d291b-65df-4fff-be90-81cddeb9b969

I always find myself scratching my head as to whether to treat these as classical or not, or if I’m going to decide track-by-track, how to approach that. The current example leans more heavily towards classical composers, but it would be nice to have a consistent approach.

Oh, yeah, and capitalization is a question, too. Hymn names are often written in sentence case rather than title case, and show up that way on the track lists.



I’ve had similar issues with Christmas carols. Some are traditional and some are composed pieces. I tend to treat them as classical, particularly if they are mostly composed. “Classical” is a rather unhelpful term, so I prefer to consider if the music ‘belongs’ more to the composer or the performer, even if the composer is unknown. That then translates to MB’s style for track artists. Similar considerations apply for much early music.
However, it is usual to treat folk music as “non-classical”, even though you could use the above argument for the opposite treatment!
When there is a mix on a release, it gets trickier still. This one - https://musicbrainz.org/release/393913a2-7fde-4ed5-8be6-ca5c2c0ccf0d - caused me some head-scratching and I’m still not sure it’s right.
Arguably, the whole classical style divide dates from when there was inadequate music software (and it has been debated at length) but to change to a unified approach would be a big ask.
Some thoughts from our style-meister?


Yes, Christmas carols are definitely a subset of this issue! There are several such albums that I’ve put off entering because I haven’t had time to sort through these questions for the various pieces.

Also, creating works is a headache because you often need one work for the melody add a subwork for the melody with those particular lyrics…


I’d generally look at who’s performing, and in which “tradition”, so to say. This one is a lot of classical-style choirs performing (I assume) in a classical style, so I’d treat it as classical. A Christian rock band performing rock renditions of them I’d credit to the band (but still link to the same works).


Thanks, that helps some. For the current one, it’s clearly meant to be classical and the composers are listed. What about cases where several composers/lyricists/translators are credited?

For instance, the track list here is all over the map: https://ia800801.us.archive.org/35/items/mbid-c72d291b-65df-4fff-be90-81cddeb9b969/mbid-c72d291b-65df-4fff-be90-81cddeb9b969-17057497515.png