Hymn tunes and how they get their names
You will notice that tunes are referred to by their names, which are capitalised, e.g. BLAENWERN. The practice of naming hymns has been observed since the sixteenth century. As with a name for anything else, it is to help identify the tune. Sometimes tune names take their name from the first line of the hymn with which they are associated, e.g. PRAISE MY SOUL (‘Praise my soul the King of Heaven’). Sometimes the tune name is the non-English title of the hymn text, e.g. VENI EMMANUEL (‘O come, o come, Emmanuel’). The most common type of tune name is one which is taken from a geographical place. Names are usually given in this way when a tune is associated with a specific place: it might that the hymn was written at this place (for example ABBOT’S LEIGH) or written for a specific place or church (e.g. DUKE STREET). Or they reflect the association of the composer or hymn with a particular place, e.g. CAPE TOWN. Whatever the name is, it tells us something about the tune, and it is often interesting to investigate this further to find out more about the tune’s origins, and the composer’s inspiration.