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Kingdom songs are the hymns sung by Jehovah's Witnesses at their religious meetings. Since 1879, the Watch Tower Society has published hymnal lyrics; by the 1920s they had published hundreds of adapted and original songs, and by the 1930s they referred to these as "Kingdom songs" in reference to God's Kingdom.
With the 1966 release of Singing and Accompanying Yourselves with Music in Your Hearts, a policy was introduced to use only songs written by Witnesses. Subsequent collections were released in 1984 and in 2009, each retaining, retiring, or revising previous songs and introducing new songs. By 2012, an edition of their current hymnal Sing to Jehovah was available in 171 languages, including several sign languages.
In addition to songbooks containing sheet music and lyrics, releases in various audio formats have included vocals in several languages, piano instrumentals, and orchestral arrangements. The orchestral arrangements, referred to as Kingdom Melodies, are drawn from the three most-recent collections. Jehovah's Witnesses use Kingdom songs in their worship at their congregations meetings and larger events.
In the late 19th century, the Bible Students (from which Jehovah's Witnesses arose) used many well-known songs and melodies. They also used well-known melodies set to their own texts. The prefaces of Songs of the Bride and Poems and Hymns of Dawn indicate that these hymnals include hymns adapted from other Protestant hymnals such as Hymns of the Morning, Gospel Hymns, Jubilee Harp, Winnowed Hymns, Epworth Hymnal and Songs of Pilgrimage. These melodies were often works of famous composers, including Ludwig van Beethoven and Joseph Haydn. Lyrics were often also adapted from works of famous hymnal writers including Philip P. Bliss, Horatius Bonar, Fanny Crosby, Philip Doddridge, Thomas Hastings, John Newton, Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. Since 1966, efforts have been made to use only songs composed and written by members of their religion rather than adapting music or lyrics from other religious groups, to ensure they are characteristic of and unique to Jehovah's Witnesses.
In 1877, Charles Taze Russell and Nelson H. Barbour announced Songs of the Morning in their book Three Worlds. Songs of the Bride, a collection of 144 songs, was published in 1879. In 1890, Poems and Hymns of the Millennial Dawn—with 151 poems and 333 songs, most of which were well-known compositions—was released and became the group's official hymnal until 1928. This was followed by lyrics for 11 songs appearing in the February 1, 1896 issue of The Watchtower, under the title Zion's Glad Songs of the Morning, written by members of the denomination. A supplement of 81 songs was released in 1900, many written by a single individual, under the title Zion's Glad Songs. Two revised editions of this hymnal were released between 1902 and 1908 with almost identical titles. In 1905, the 333 songs published in 1890 along with musical notation were released under the title, Hymns of the Millennial Dawn. This book was released in a number of other languages, mainly in a shortened version. In 1925, Kingdom Hymns was published, with 80 songs intended for children and youths. In 1928 Songs of Praise to Jehovah was released, which included 337 songs.
Following the adoption of the name Jehovah's witnesses in 1931, the Kingdom Service Song Book was released in 1944 (and revised in 1948), which included 62 songs. This was followed by the release of Songs to Jehovah's Praise in 1950, with 91 songs. Some of the music was from hymn tunes of other churches or based on themes from classical music (for example, Beethoven's Piano Sonata no. 23 in F minor, op. 57 ("Appassionata")). Others used relatively new music, which has been used in later songbooks, including the current one.)
Sample vocal rendition of Move Ahead!.
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Sample vocal rendition of Our Reasons for Joy.
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Singing and Accompanying
Singing and Accompanying Yourselves with Music in Your Hearts was released in 1966, with 119 songs. Melodies identified as not having been written by Jehovah's Witnesses were replaced. For the first time, a policy was adopted of including only material written and composed by Jehovah's Witnesses, though some songs composed by non-Witnesses were unintentionally included.
Sing Praises to Jehovah
In 1984, Sing Praises to Jehovah, was released, which includes 225 songs. It was subsequently introduced in many other languages. Many songs in Sing Praises to Jehovah were present in the previous two books; some that were found not to have been written by members of Jehovah's Witnesses were excluded, and many new songs were added. Two songs had the melodies changed, and various textual revisions were made.
Sing to Jehovah
In 2009, the release of a new hymnal, Sing to Jehovah, was announced; as of January 2010, it is the current hymnal used at religious services of Jehovah's Witnesses. It contains 135 songs, 42 of which are new. Many songs from earlier editions are retained; some melodies and lyrics have been changed, and some songs have had verses removed. Some melodies have completely new lyrics, and some lyrics have been set to new melodies. Reduced editions comprising 55 songs are available in 55 less common languages. Six volumes of orchestral and vocal arrangements based on 114 songs from Sing to Jehovah have also been released. On October 4, 2014, a revised edition of the songbook was announced, with a number of new songs.
A series of light orchestral arrangements of Kingdom songs entitled Kingdom Melodies was first released in 1980. They are intended for listening, and are not well suited for accompanying singing. The earlier recordings in the series were from the 1966 hymnal Singing and Accompanying Yourselves With Music in Your Hearts, and the later ones from Sing Praises to Jehovah.
Installments of Kingdom Melodies were issued in cassette and phonograph formats annually during the 1980s. From 1996 to 2000, the series was re-issued as nine volumes on CD. In 2006, the series was released on CD in MP3 format. Since September 2008, the songs have also been made available for download.
Use in worship
Typically, Jehovah's Witnesses sing three songs at their midweek- and weekend meetings for worship. The entire congregation sings, usually accompanied by a piano recording on compact disc, although some congregations have a piano or a band. Meetings open and close with a song and prayer, along with a song during an interlude between the two sections of the meeting. Songs are selected to match the theme of the meeting program. Songs to introduce the Congregation Bible Study and the Service Meeting are found in the newsletter, Our Kingdom Ministry, and those for the Watchtower study are on the front cover of The Watchtower Study Edition. The song used to introduce the public talk is normally chosen by the speaker. Songs are also used at assemblies and conventions, and sometimes at different events at Watch Tower Society branch offices. Jehovah's Witnesses' publications also suggest that Witnesses listen to this music in their personal time.
- Between Resistance and Martyrdom: Jehovah's Witnesses in the Third Reich by Detlef Garbe, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2008, ISBN 0-299-20790-0, ISBN 978-0-299-20790-8, page 207
- Mann, William I. (arr.) Songs of the Bride. Pittsburgh, Pa.: Published at the Office of Zion's Watch Tower, 1879.
- RUSSELL, Charles Taze & RUSSELL, Mary Frances (eds.). Poems and Hymns of Dawn. Allegheny, Pa.: Tower Publishing Company, 1890. 493 p.; RUSSELL, Charles Taze & RUSSELL, Mary Frances (eds.). Poems and Hymns of Dawn. Allegheny, Pa.: Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, [1898?]. 493 p.
- BARKER, Charles C. (comp.). Hymns of the Morning : Designed for the Use of God’s People. Concord, N.H.: Charles W. Sargent, 1872. 144 p., 283 hymns; BARKER, Charles C. (comp.). Hymns of the Morning : Designed for the Use of God’s People. Concord, N.H.: Charles W. Sargent, 1873. 164 p., 307 hymns
- BLISS, P.P. & SANKEY, Ira D. Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs : as used by them in Gospel Meetings. New York: Biglow & Main ; Cincinnati, John Church & Co., 1875. 112 p. 133 hymns; Gospel Hymns consolidated embracing volumes no. 1, 2, 3 and 4 without duplicates, for use in gospel meetings and other religious services. New York: Biglow & Main ; Cincinnati: John Church & Co., cop. 1883. 400 p.
- GORHAM, A.T. (compil.). The Jubilee Harp: a Choice Selection of Psalmody, Ancient and Modern: Designed for use in Public and Social Worship. Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1874. 458 p., 822 hymns.
- McCABE, C.C. & MacFARLAN, D.T. (eds.). Winnowed hymns: a collection of sacred songs, especially adapted for revivals, prayer and camp meetings. New York: Biglow & Main, [1873?]. 128 p.
- The Epworth Hymnal containing standard hymns of the church, songs for the sunday-school, songs for social services, songs for the home circle, songs for special occasions. Cincinnati: Cranston & Stowe ; New York: Hunt & Eaton, cop. 1885. 231 p.
- HASTINGS, H.L. Songs of Pilgrimage : a Hymnal for the Churches of Christ. Boston, Mass.: Scriptural Tract Repository, 1886; 3rd ed., 1888. 1533 hymns
- [¿BARBOUR, Nelson H. (arr.)?]. Songs of the Morning. [Rochester, New York?: Office of Herald of the Morning?, 1877?] 67 hymns
- [McPHAIL, M.L. (compil.)]. Zion’s Glad Songs of the Mornin. En: Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, 1896, vol. 17, no.3, february 1, 12 p., 11 hymns
- McPHAIL, M.L. Zion's Glad Songs for all ...Christian Gatherings... Allegheny, Pa.: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, [1900?]. 59 p., 82 hymns.
- "Zion's Glad Songs". The Watchtower: 274. 15 September 1900.
OUR dear Brother McPhail, who has quite a talent for music, has collected a number of new and beautiful hymns, - the music to the majority being his own composition ... entitled 'Zion's Glad Songs.
- McPHAIL, M.L. Zion's Glad Songs No. 2 : for all ...Christian Gatherings... Chicago, Ills.: K. McPhail, . 64 p., 65 hymns
- McPHAIL, M.L. Zion's Glad Songs for all ...Christian Gatherings... Chicago, Il.: M.L. McPhail, . 220 p., 248 hymns
- [RUSSELL,C.T.] Hymns of the Millennial Dawn : with Music : a Choice Collection of Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs : to Aid God's People in Singing and Making Melody in their Hearts unto the Lord. Brooklyn : Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1906.
- Kingdom Hymns : with music. Brooklyn, N.Y.: International Bible Students Association, 1925. 63 p., 80 hymns.
- Songs of Praise to Jehovah. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1928. 299 p., 337 hymns
- "16 Meetings for Worship, Instruction, and Encouragement". Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. Watch Tower Society. 1993. p. 240.
- "Praising Jehovah With Music". The Watchtower: 23. 15 October 1986.
- "Theocratic Ministry School Schedule", Our Kingdom Ministry, October, 2009, page 3
- The Music of Many Languages
- "Music for Christian Worship". JW.org. Watch Tower Society. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
- "2014 Annual Meeting Report". Watch Tower Society.
- "Announcements". Our Kingdom Ministry: 4. September 1980.
- "Music That Pleases God", The Watchtower, June 1, 2000, page 28, Read online
- "Music That Refreshes". Our Kingdom Ministry (Watch Tower Society): 1. May 2004.
- Jehovah's Witnesses—Official website: Music for Christian Worship