Hymn Technology Ltd, established in 1995 to distribute imported products into the UK worship music market, began to develop the Hymnal Plus when it saw the opportunity for a device that could provide churches with a large repertoire, great functionality and sound quality, which was completely upgradeable, portable and easy to use. Directors Martin Phelps and Alan Kempster, who between them had amassed over 50 years experience in the organ industry, saw the huge potential for a unit that could accompany congregational singing in the absence of either musician(s) or instrument(s). It was apparent that churches needed a complete solution to what was clearly becoming a huge problem - the lack of competent musicians in churches up and down the land who were prepared to make the commitment to be available every Sunday.
Based in part on feedback from their existing customer base, Hymn Technology drew up a detailed specification for a new generation of player and commissioned one of the UK's leading software and hardware design houses to put together a complete technical design. Key requirements were that the unit had to be portable, that the tune repertoire had to be upgradeable, that the sound quality had to meet the highest critical standards and, above all, that little or no musical or technical skill would be required to operate it. A new extended file format was developed in order to achieve the specification's exacting musical requirements. The daunting task of choosing the original core UK tune repertoire of about 2880 items and then digitally recording them was accomplished in-house over a period of two years.
The Hymnal Plus HT-300 came on to the market in the autumn of 2005 and was an instant success, with major coverage in virtually all the main UK national newspapers as well as widespread media coverage around the world. In the UK, the product is sold through a small network of specialised dealers. Hymn Technology services the South of England directly in order to stay in touch with actual church requirements on a daily basis. As well as being designed in Britain, the product is also manufactured in Britain: the electronics in Hampshire and the casework in Norfolk, with final assembly in West Sussex. Such localisation ensures a very high level of control over content and quality.
The sheer number of enquiries from North America prompted Hymn Technology to invest in a completely revised repertoire for the USA. Again, the task of indexing and recording was carried out in-house.
Hymn Technology has a policy of continuous development. An integral part of this is the constant review of new hymn books for inclusion in the ever-growing list of additional repertoire, available both at the time of purchase and retrospectively.
The two directors who founded the business back in 1995 still remain in control today. Martin Phelps studied at Trinity College of Music in London and was awarded both Licentiate and Graduate Diplomas. With a lifelong interest and participation in traditional church music his experience has been invaluable in compiling the core repertoire, developing the unique Interactive Psalm Accompaniment feature (for Anglican chant) and refining the Hymnal Plus' superb range of digitally sampled pipe organ registrations.
Alan Kempster is an accomplished musician, having played in everything from classical orchestras to soul bands over the last 30 years. His understanding of music software and database management is crucial to the core operation of the Hymnal Plus.
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