Thought I'd join the hymn fray before it's all over bar the singing ...
It's harder these days to find hymns that I can bear to sing, actually. The big, ponderous hymns that we used to bash out regardless leave me cold, even if they have wonderful tunes, as some of them do. Maybe too much exposure to them is part of the problem - they're boring after the nth repetition. So even Come Down O Love Divine (to Down Ampney) feels like a drag these days, and in a way that makes me sad. Part of the problem could be that it's not the same sung by half a dozen people with the rest a gentle murmuring in the rear - a proper choir at least gave me the pleasure of balanced harmony and colour as we sang.
I used to be thrilled by Let all mortal flesh keep silence (Picardy). This hymn was completely new to me when I first encountered the Episcopal church, in the cathedral on Cumbrae, and is forever associated for me with firsts - incense, communion, the sense of the holy. I can still feel the hairs rise when we get to the alleluias, and the imagery is so poetic that there is little sense of the banal or the absurd. The same could be said for Lo he comes at Advent - I'd never heard it until I had moved to Dunoon, and it bowled me over.
Otherwise, I still find plainsong powerful. Ancient words tend to be timeless, somehow - the imagery so obviously not to be taken literally that I can just enjoy the poetry of it. I love Be still my soul and Lead kindly light, just as I love There is a Redeemer. I find the Taizé stuff we do a true vehicle for meditation and a way out of the ordinary, and I get the hair-on-end moments when we do Ubi Caritas with the solo verses as found in HON - especially if it's Bishop Martin or Mr B singing them.
But I'm at once fussy and fortunate. I rarely have to listen to inadequate organ playing, and I expect a high standard of harmonisation of last verses. If there isn't a decent musician around, I'd rather have said services than fight against flaccid rhythms or duff harmonies, and I've had enough Victorian bombast to last me an eternity. In the end heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter ... no?