The best school hymns that we loved to sing

7 school hymns that everyone looked forward to – and belted at the top of their lungs

A group of school children singing a hymn
Published: July 25, 2022 at 2:35 pm
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A school hall. A slightly squeaky upright piano. A haggard music teacher bashing away on the keys. The gentle scent of BO and feet. That’s right, you’re back at school. Stand up straight, neaten up your tie, tighten your scrunchie and get ready to sing an absolute banger. Here are some of the best hymns you’ll have enjoyed back at primary school…

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While you're here, check what we included in our list of the best hymns of all time.

The best school hymns

Kumbaya

Any Scouts or Brownie Guides among us? This was a campfire classic for anyone who went away on camp, and was always an easy hit when it was chosen for school assembly. Its lyrics aren’t complicated. Every second word is either ‘Kumbaya’ or ‘Lord’. Easy.

Give me oil in my lamp

Sing hosanna, sing hosanna, SING HOSANNA TO THE KING! Any chorus that is made up of a series of repeated lines growing in volume each time is an absolute party-starter in school assembly.

Read the lyrics to 'Give me oil in my lamp'

Shine Jesus Shine

This might be a rather triggering choice for anyone who, like me, had a father who decided to have his rockstar moment playing ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ on the electric guitar in the church band. Yes, there was a Hawaiian shirt. And yes, there was a goatee. But there were also streamers given out to the entire congregation to wave in time to the music. What a time to be alive.

From the tiny ant

This one is essentially a shopping list of zoo animals from start to finish, which arguably meets the criteria for an absolute banger of a school hymn. The repetition is completely inane, but who wouldn’t want to spend school assembly singing about great white sharks, tabby cats and desert rats?

He’s got the whole world in his hands

Now, we haven’t spoken enough here about how marvellous a hymn with choreography is for a rowdy school hall. Granted, the dance moves used in this tune were a little simplistic, but will we ever forget that ‘whole world’ hand motion? I certainly won’t, that’s for sure.

Lord of the Dance

Unlike many of the hymns in this list, ‘Lord of the Dance’ is a melodic feast. That’s mainly because it takes its lead from the English carolTomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day’, so it’s more of a traditional hymn structure than a slightly naff nursery rhyme. What’s more, that transition from verse to chorus is a real bop – so good, in fact, that it was almost impossible not to speed up and drive the long-suffering music teacher to distraction.

We included 'Lord of the Dance' in our round-up of the best football chants inspired by classical music.

This little light of mine

What this song lacks in variety (it features two lines on repeat for the best part of five minutes), it makes up for in good times and singalong-ability. Sorry for reminding you of the world’s most irritating earworm. Good luck sleeping.

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Authors

Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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