enter image description here In this arrangement of O God, our help in ages past I have found what looks like a breaking of the rule of harmony. In bar 1 we have I/3-vi. The tenor leaps up to C and the Soprano does the same. Isn't that a breaking of the rules of four-part harmony? It sounds like the tenor actually should have walked up to A instead of C. How should the voices in I/3 have moved to the next chord and what chord should that have been?

  • Yes, this is not conform with the rules, but in my opinion it is not a serious crime. Sep 8, 2019 at 14:14

2 Answers 2


Well, this is a piano reduction where the voicing is absent. My guess is that the tenor is supposed to leap to E (well in the tenor realm) while the alto sticks with its previous tenacity at C. In which case this would be a voice inversion in singing and not a strict violation of "no octave parallels, please". Check the vocal score for comparison. Of course, if your interpretation is right also for the vocal score, that is a pretty bland case of octave parallels.

[Edit] After looking for the score online, I've seen a version where the chord before the leap does not have the G in the tenor (which presumably shares the E with the bass). There are other places in the score with just 3 different notes in the voices, so this seems like a simpler explanation. However, the version I found is also without lyrics, so it may also be the case that it is a different piano reduction where the arranger ripped out the octave parallel.

So finding a vocal variant still seems like the smartest idea.

  • 1
    The four-part vocal arrangement I have easiest to hand (New English Hymnal) doubles the major third on chord 3 (F major) and 4 (C first inversion). That's probably more acceptable than parallels. Sep 8, 2019 at 11:40
  • It's not clear whether your adjective "bland" is intended to suggest that the harmonic interest is undermined by the presence of the parallel leap, or to suggest that the crime is relatively insignificant because the parallel octave does not call undue attention to itself. I'd lean toward the latter interpretation since this seems a reasonable place to accent the melody (thus the attention isn't "undue") and also, as a practical matter, having the tenors sing along with the melodic leap could help the congregation find the right note.
    – supercat
    Sep 8, 2019 at 19:15
  • The Tenor moves to E and is higher than the Alto? Isn't forbidden?
    – user20754
    Sep 9, 2019 at 12:35

How should the voices in I/3 have moved to the next chord and what chord should that have been?

I think this is a more pleasant solution:

enter image description here

found in:

[PDF] O God, Our Help in Ages Past - Hymnary.org

https://hymnary.org › media › fetch

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