RSS

Category Archives: hymns

Hymn History: How Great Thou Art

A favorite hymn is How Great Thou Art

how-great

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.” Psalm 145:3

“How Great Thou Art” is a Christian hymn based on a Swedish poem written by Carl Gustav Boberg (1859–1940) in Sweden in 1885. The melody is a Swedish folk song.  Its popularity is due in large part to its wide use by gospel singers, notably George Beverly Shea of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team.

The original Swedish text was a poem entitled “O Store Gud.” written by a Swedish pastor, the Reverend Carl Boberg, in 1886. In addition to being one of the leading evangelical preachers of his day. Boberg was also the successful editor of the periodical Sanningsvittnet. His inspiration for this text is said to have come from a visit to a beautiful country estate on the southeast coast of Sweden. He was suddenly caught in a midday thunderstorm with awe-inspiring moments of flashing violence, followed by a clear brilliant sun. Soon afterwards he heard the calm, sweet songs of the birds in nearby trees. The experience prompted the pastor to fall to his knees in humble adoration of his mighty God, He penned his exaltation in a nine-stanza poem beginning with the Swedish words “O Store Gud, nar jag den varld beskader.”

Several years later Boberg was attending a meeting in the Province of Varmland and was surprised to hear the congregation sing his poem to the tune of an old Swedish melody. It is typically characteristic of many other hymn tunes, i.e., “Day by Day” with its lilting, warm, singable simplicity.

With his original English lyrics and his arrangement of the Swedish folk melody, Mr. Stuart K. Hine published what we know today as the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” Assignments of copyrights and publication rights to an American publishing firm in 1954 helped spread the popularity of this hymn. In April of 1974 the Christian Herald magazine, in a poll presented to its readers, named “How Great Thou Art” the No. 1 hymn in America.

How Great Thou Art

Verse 1:
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Chorus:
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Verse 2:
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Chorus

Verse 3:
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Chorus

Verse 4:
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Chorus

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 2, 2023 in Hymn History, hymns, Music, Posts of Interest, Videos

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Hymn History: We’ll Understand It Better By and By

bye1 bye2

We are tossed and driven
on the restless sea of time;
somber skies and howling tempests
oft succeed a bright sunshine;
in that land of perfect day,
when the mists have rolled away,
we will understand it better by and by.

Charles Albert Tindley (July 7, 1851 – July 26, 1933) was an American Methodist minister and gospel music composer.

Often referred to as “The Prince of Preachers”, he educated himself, became a minister and founded one of the largest Methodist congregations serving the African-American community on the East Coast of the United States.

He was one of the eminent preachers of Methodism at the turn of the twentieth century. Hymnologist James Abbington has called Tindley a “pastor, orator, poet, writer, theologian, social activist, ‘father of African American Hymnody,’ ‘progenitor of African American gospel music’ and ‘prince of preachers.'”

The Rev. Carlton Young notes “We’ll Understand It Better By and By” was “one of eight hymns . . . written during a difficult period in Tindley’s life.”

One can imagine Tindley using this song to punctuate his sermons, offering hope to those assembled not only through exegesis of the biblical text, but also through a lyrical sung theology.

~~

From “The Lawrence Welk Show,” Gail, Rod, and Michael are featured in this great Gospel song found in the United Methodist Hymnal (page 525). Join with them in song as they encourage every Christian: “WE’LL UNDERSTAND IT BETTER BY AND BY”

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 26, 2023 in Hymn History, hymns, Posts of Interest, Videos

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Hymn History: Lift Every Voice and Sing

“Lift Every Voice and Sing”
James Weldon Johnson
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 519

Pender pianist, Liz Eunji Moon played Lift Every Voice and Sing for the postlude on Martin Luther King Holiday weekend. “Lift Every Voice” began as a hastily-written composition for an unassuming school assembly in 1900, but has become the African-American national anthem.

Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Few hymns have the capacity to define the identity of an entire group. “Lift Every Voice” began as a hastily-written composition for an unassuming school assembly in 1900, but has become the African-American national anthem.

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) received degrees in literature from Atlanta University in 1894, with a master of arts in 1904. He had a versatile career as a writer, teacher, diplomat and lawyer, becoming the first African-American to pass the bar in the state of Florida. His diplomatic posts took him in 1906 to Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, and in 1909, to Corinto, Nicaragua, where he served as the American consul.

His most prominent leadership role was as the executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a position that he assumed in 1920.

His most important published works include The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1920), The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922), God’s Trombones (1927), and Along This Way (1933).

Johnson had been asked to speak by the principal of a school in Jacksonville, Fla., his hometown, for an observance celebrating the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Rather than make a speech, he decided to write a poem. As the time drew near, his plans changed from a poem to a song. James turned to his brother J. Rosamund Johnson (1873-1954) to compose music for his text.

Even though the Johnsons’ New York publisher did not actively promote the song, children throughout the South kept it alive. The song gathered momentum, as it became known around the country.

Though the brothers wrote over 200 songs together, mostly for the stage, “Lift every voice” had an exceptional place in their musical collaborations. James noted in 1935, “The lines of this song repay me in elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children.”

Gene Logan, a member of Ebenezer UMC in Jacksonville, Florida, connects the Johnson brothers with the Methodist Church: “James and his brother Rosamond became members of Zion Episcopal Methodist Church where their mother served as choir director and the young men served as musicians. The church was renamed Ebenezer United Methodist Church, which is now located at 9114 Norfolk Blvd in Jacksonville, Florida.” According to columnist Sharon Coon in Florida, their mother, Helen, “was the first Black female public school teacher in Florida. She taught at Old Stanton School on Ashley Street in Jacksonville, FL. His mother taught both James and J. Rosamond music and reading.” After receiving his degree from Atlanta University, James returned to the school where his mother taught as Principal in 1894. The brothers’ connections to the Methodist Church and their rearing by a nurturing and courageous mother surely contributed to their accomplishments.

The NAACP adopted “Lift every voice” as its theme song. Julian Bond, former NAACP chairman, stated that the song holds deep meaning for the Civil Rights Movement: “When people stand and sing it, you just feel a connectedness with the song, with all the people who’ve sung it on numerous occasions, happy and sad, over the 100 years before.”

This hymn, often called the “Negro National Anthem” or “Black National Anthem,” gave hope to many during the Civil Rights Era. Its centrality in African-American life may be illustrated by a childhood memory of Vernellia Randall, a law professor at the University of Dayton, who grew up in Texas. She recalls starting each day in her school in the 1950s and 1960s with The Lord’s Prayer, The National Anthem, and the Negro National Anthem.

Wendell Whalum, the late choral director at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, often spoke of the progression of the three stanzas as that of praise, lament, and prayer. The opening stanza is a resounding hymn of praise full of rich metaphors such as the “harmonies of liberty” and rejoicing “loud as the rolling sea.” The second stanza is a lament that recounts the price of liberty:

Stony the road we trod,
bitter the chastening rod,
felt in the day when hope unborn had died.

The sting of these words echoes Psalm 130, “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee.” Yet the poet does not leave us here long. By the end of the stanza, we are singing with hope,

Out of the gloomy past,
till now we stand at last
where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

The final stanza is often referred to as a prayer in the African-American community. This prayer culminates with the petitions, “keep us forever in the path, we pray” and “may we forever stand true to our God, true to our native land.”

Is this a hymn just for African-Americans or is it for all people? Dr. James Abbington, Associate Professor of Music and Worship at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia, and a scholar in African American hymnody, provides an answer to this question: “Several years ago, I was invited to organize and conduct a 1,000-voice choir for the annual Detroit Branch NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner at Cobo Hall. It was during the time of the Persian Gulf War and tensions were very high between the Jewish and Arab communities in the city.?rel=0″The 1,000 voice choir, accompanied by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, was made up of Anglo-Americans, Canadians, Native Americans, Koreans, Italians, Jews, Arabs, African-Americans and others, and ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ was one of the selections for that occasion. After the first rehearsal Jewish, Korean, and Native American members of the chorus approached me and said, ‘This song isn’t just for African-Americans and people from Africa, it belongs to all of us who are ‘true to our God and true to our Native land.'”?

On May 20, 2018, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attended The Tabernacle Choir’s weekly Music and the Spoken Word broadcast. Members of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP and the NAACP Foundation were in Salt Lake City for their board meetings, which were held in Salt Lake City for the first time. They also met with the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and made a joint statement to the media calling for “greater civility and racial harmony.”

Adapted from https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-lift-every-voice-and-sing

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Hymn History: Amazing Grace

 

The Pender UMC Traditional Service Closing Hymn “Amazing Grace” on Sunday October 23, 2022 was played by Liz Eunji Moon on piano, Brian Stevenson on organ and sung the Pender Sanctuary Choir and congregation. 

On 10/9/2022/postlude not yet uploaded

December 1772 in Olney England John Newton began the writing a hymn that would grow increasingly more popular over the years.

In his hymn, “Amazing Grace,” Newton writes about a grace that is immense and one that saved himself out of his wretchedness. By looking within the hymn “Amazing Grace,” one is able to understand a little bit about Newton’s personal conversion

Newton grew up with both his parents, however, his mother died while his father was away at sea. Newton’s father remarried and the couple had another child. Following in his father’s footsteps, Newton began his life’s career by searching throughout the African coast for slaves to capture and eventually to sell for profit.

On one journey, Newton and his crew encountered a storm that swept some of his men overboard and left others with the likelihood of drowning. With both hands fastened onto the wheel of the boat, Newton cried out to God saying, “Lord, have mercy on us.” After eleven hours of steering, the remainder of the crew found safety with the calming of the storm. From then on, Newton dated March 21 as a day set aside for a time of humiliation, prayer, and praise.

Upon arriving safely home, Newton did not venture out to seek more slaves, instead he began to learn Hebrew and Greek. He occasionally accepted requests to speak about his conversion in front of various congregations. Newton was eventually ordained and began to lead his own church. God changed him from a man who was an advocate for the slave trade to a man actively working towards abolishing it. Newton’s literary work against the slave trade encouraged abolitionist William Wilberforce to continue his legal fight against slavery in England.

In later years, Newton began to lose his memory. Although his thoughts were limited, Newton said he could remember two things, “That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.” With this conviction of newly found life that he found only in Christ, Newton passed from his earthly life in 1807, at the age of 82. Newton did live long enough to see the signing of The Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

The hymn appeared in the colonies later accompanied with a different tune, more commonly known as “New British.” It grew in popularity, but not because it was catchy tune, but because the words that Newton wrote related to every human being who encountered the saving grace of Jesus Christ and touched many people at various stages of their spiritual walks.

Since the day that Newton penned the lyrics to “Amazing Grace,” it has grown in popularity and has been present at numerous key moments in our country’s history. Newton experienced the darkness and hopelessness of his sin and the consequence of following his own corrupt ways. He focused on fulfilling what he wanted to do in his life instead of looking to the direction of God.

“Amazing Grace” speaks of the sweetness found in Christ’s grace for his children. As humans we are lost, blind in sin, and need saving. Jesus’s saving grace is amazing!

In his later years, Newton became the pastor of a larger church in London, where he helped lead many people to the God he had once mocked. He was also active in the movement to abolish the British slave trade. When the prime minister appointed a committee to investigate the slave trade, Newton was a key witness. He explained the horrors of the “industry” from the inside out. His compelling testimony helped make the slave trade—and eventually slavery—illegal.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 6, 2023 in Hymn History, hymns, Music Ministry, Videos

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hymn History: Tell Out My Soul/Be Still, My Soul

The above is the melody to Finlandia by Jean Sibelius, which is commonly used for “Tell Out, My Soul” as well as “Be Still, My Soul”.

“Tell Out My Soul” by Joel Raney was sung at Pender’s 2022 Christmas Cantata by Laura Connors, soprano and Brian Stevenson, baritone

The main melody was based on Finlandia, a tone poem by Jean Sibelius.

From the publisher: This paraphrase of the Song of Mary calls for Christians to proclaim the greatness of the Lord, the greatness of his name, the greatness of his might, and the greatness of his word. For soprano and baritone solo with choir backup, this piece is equally effective with piano accompaniment or full orchestra. It originally appeared in Mary McDonald and Joel Raney’s best-selling Christmas musical, Sing Christmas.

Special thanks to the Sanctuary Choir, Liz Sellers, accompanist, Brian Stevenson, director and the Orchestra: Gwyn Jones, flute; Jeff Kahan, oboe; Alisha Coleman, clarinet; Jeanne Kim, violin; Sean Wittmer, violin; Ethan Chien, viola and Kyle Ryu-cello for all the effort in presenting Pender’s Christmas Cantata!

More from the Christmas Cantata at https://penderumc.org/music-ministry/concert-series/

The Finlandia hymn refers to a serene hymn-like section of the patriotic symphonic poem Finlandia, written in 1899 and 1900 by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was later re-worked by the composer into a stand-alone piece.

Finlandia used in Be Still My Soul:

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: