Importing a new Hymn Book

edited November -1 in Development


I am using OpenLP and so far I have been adding songs one at a time for the new British Methodist Hymn Book "Singing the Faith". To do that I boot into Windows (ugh) to run the (horrible) software provided with the lyrics, export and songs we have not used before to TXT or RTF. Then I boot into Linux (lovely) and manually add these songs to the database.

I am thinking about a better way to do this.

At the same time I also have managed (ish) to import the Songs Of Fellowship Books 1 to 4 from the files on their CD's. Not a fantastic result as the songs are not connected to the SoF Song Books and the versification is not brilliant.

My thinking is to write a python script for each book that converts the files that purchasers of the book/software will have into OpenLyrics files that are as rich as I can make them (which sadly I suspect will require song specific hints in the conversion).

It seems to me that long term it is more open to have ways of creating OpenLyrics files than it is to have imports into specific versions of OpenLP.

I can imagine a situation where the conversion to OpenLyrics is provided as a web service. This should be less problematic in copyright terms (as the website does not provide the songs themselves) as well as reducing the technical skills needed to run the scripts.

What do you think?



  • edited June 2012

    Your lucky, you have an electronic version to start with, I don't, so what I do is each week, I compare the list on the order of service, if I have it already, I leave it to the end, when I build up the service.  If I don't have it, I go onto SongSelect, look for the same lyricist & composer, then download that, and move to the next one.  Once I have them all downloadable, I download them.  Then do fixup, which is a line by line comparison of the lyrics, adding on the hymn book, number and select a theme.  Once all the songs are in the database, I go through and build up the service.

    It actually becomes less and less work over time, because the same songs or hymns get used over and over.  The typical hymn book is between 600 and 1000 hymns, the typical church uses about 100 of those.

    I also expect over time, as more and more hymn and song books move to electronic distribution, that a couple of formats will become the ones used by all.  OpenLyrics sounds like a good one to use, because it's XML based, although I expect that the commercial publishers will want their own format with some form of copy protection included, so they can charge the same amount for a piece of shiny plastic as they could for a pallet full of the dead tree edition.  

  • edited June 2012

    I've just finished a similar battle with Hymnbook and SoF imports.


    I had the SoFwords.rtf files and most of my own hymnbook (Sally Army) electronically but I am a bit OCD about having a complete database and so I knuckled down and did 10-15 songs from my hymnbook per night for a couple of months, manually editting titles, verse/chorus breaks, authors etc.... Nightmare - but that was a core set of songs that the older church members knew very well and did complain about when errors appeared.


    I also took the SoF files and edited the rtfs "selecting all" and applying a constant font, point size, line spacing and 0 pt leading and trailing "white space" as I found that Kingsway were throwing a lot of "random" variations into the rtf file - (presumably to make importing a pain). I also had to use a hard page break after the last line of each song to get one song to a page.  This whole process was another significant pain - 2-3 hours editting each SoF volume - but once I'd done that, the rtf's imported into OpenLP really well.

    Finally - cause it's the way our Minister likes to work - I imported each volume - got a complete SoF songs.sqlite database then copied this from "[USER]/appdata/Openlp/data/songs" <working from memory on that  - might not be exactly right> and opened it up in a SQLite editor.

    That made it easy to run a couple of simple SQL update queries to copy the "title" to the "alternate_title" field and then to create a new song title by concatenting "SOF " and the song number. Save it  - copy it back to overright the original songs.sqlite file - start openlp and update song indexes - and I now have every song searchable by its number "SOF 123" "SASB 45" etc but with the titles and lyrics still searchable if anything was missed.

    The end result is I now have SoF vols 1-5 with no missing song numbers, all my SA songs and most recently I've added all the Source songs in the same way.  I wouldn't claim that all the verses etc are correct in all the songs but (based on 50+ sample comparisions of the database entries with the original rtf text) the vast majority have imported cleanly and correctly.

    Songs with lots of unsung cues mixed in with the actual lyrics <"Leader" , "All", "first time only" "only after third chorus" etc... especially where they have a blank line after the cue> play merry havoc with the import routine and you can find a few songs with 26  "one line verses".  But I'm content that I've everything I'll need in some usable electronic format and I will fix up any "broken" songs individually as and when I actually need to use them for a Sunday.

    Which I guess is a long winded way of saying that I agree with the original poster that importing songs is,  depsite the best efforts of the OpenLP team <who were hugely supportive of my efforts>, an unnecessary pain. I think the webservice idea would be brilliant at preventing copyright issues bogging down the development team, however, I would suspect that writing a python script would largely become the story of compiling 2200+ individual parsing "hint guides" to give a clean import song-by-song. And I have no confidence that you wouldn't then just see Kingsway and other publishers just change the rtf files for the next re-print / repress of their CDs.

    Perhaps at some point the publishers should be asked to accept that in the Christain environment where they are being used "fair-use" principles should apply and so if people buy their music books, the publisher should then supply quality assured song databases on their CDs <pick 4-5 of the most common or open formats to use> to make life easier instead of more difficult for all of us.

    If they don't - then someone will eventually be so aggrieved that they'll go through the pain of typing and fixing everything -  export it in some "open" format and then stick it somewhere remote and difficult to take down on the web <How would you go about registering a Yemeni web domain I wonder??> - and boosting its google ranking so its easy to find - for everyone else's benefit.

    I know that if that had been an option for me (and my church has legitimately bought all its worhip music books) - I wouldn't have felt that downloading and using such a resource was remotely wrong - and I'd have said a prayer or two of gratitude for the benevolent "donor".

    Whinge over... If you think I can be of any help to you in your own efforts, feel free to PM me.


  • edited June 2012


    I too have been going week by week. But the Church Council and Worship Consultation were both so pleased with the results of using OpenLP that we are going to move to projection for every week. That is a bigger job (I only get to take services at this Church a couple of times a month) as it means we will need OpenLP on about 6 computers (so a team of people can prepare their services), all with the full database of songs.

    I don't have a SongSelect license at the moment.


  • edited June 2012

    Wow Baldrick45,

    That is a lot of work. But I have a lot of sympathy for you wanting a clean database.

    I confess that if a clean set of SoF files happened to fall into my email box I wouldn't complain either :-)

    As well as putting the book and number in the title have you also used the SongBook and Song number fields?

    At the moment because I am looking at needing to get a number of people to work together on their own computers I am thinking of a shared resource of OpenLyrics files that can be synced into the database.

  • If a number of us are adding hymns from Singing the Faith - would it not be of benefit if we combined our efforts?

    I've added about 30 hymns so far and am willing to share xml files with anyone who can supply a valid CCLI number.

    This may not be strictly by copyright rules but as long as we are all paying the requisite fees we aren't depriving anyone of their income which is the whole point.

    Anyone else up for this?

  • Just out of interest I've been adding STF hymns using a tool called HymnView (from the Pratt Green Trust) - subscription is £50 per year and you can export the hymns in various formats (not OpenLyrics format unfortunately).  I then use  some excel VBA to get the text into a format so that I can paste the verses in all in one go.  I then have to add the metadata manually.

  • Don't know if this is still an issue, have you tried running the software under Wine? 
  • This isn't an issue with the software but a lack of availability of Singing the Faith in a suitable digital format that can be imported
  • would it be possible to send the VBA to get the StF text into the correct format, please
  • I have just started a Singing The Faith Importer for OpenLP. I modelled it on the Lyrix importer, to get a starting point, and have modified plugins/songs/lib/ to call it.
    The plan is to read the text files exported from Singing The Faith electronic version, trying to work out as much as it can, but to use a hints file for where it goes wrong - i.e. for most hymns which import correctly it will not find, or need, any hints, but there will information to tell it (for example) - Copyright information starts at line 25, Chorus 1 goes from line 1 o line 6 and chorus 2 is from line 17 to 24.

    The format of the hints file is still to be specified.

    As you will need a copy of the Electronic version of Singing The Faith ((Hymnview) - which *yuck* only runs on Windows
    this should avoid the copyright issues of sharing OpenLyrics versions, but should still be more convenient

  • If anyone is still looking for text files for Singing the Faith, then please get in touch. I typed the lot quite a while ago for importing into EasyWorship. Now that we're serious about moving to OpenLP, I shall do the necessary work to convert all the files semi-automatically into OpenLyrics format so that they can be imported there. I can't promise how long that will take ...

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