A Secret Gem Hidden in the Sealed Portion
Hymn #53 — “Let Earth’s Inhabitants Rejoice”
Text: William Clegg (1823-1903; LDS)
Music: Leroy J. Robertson (`896-1971; LDS)
Tune name: PLEASANT GROVE
How did I ever miss this hymn? I’ve been through the hymnal many times and have no recollection of this one. It’s fabulous!
The tune is a delight to sing. It moves with boldness and grace. Take the first phrase. It beings with the strong “Sol-Do” opening, and then right away it does another “Sol-Do” motion, but this time from the lower E up to A. The twin “Sol-Do” opening starts off the hymn with great power. Then it turns to the more graceful rolling hill ending on “rejoice.”
Then comes my favorite part. As singers and listeners we’re not yet sure by the word “rejoice” where we’re headed. The tune re-starts on the text “And gladly” with another “Sol-Do.” But this time the high “Do” increases the majesty by stepping up to the high D. Then after a leap down, a similar, yet slightly varied graceful phrase rounds out the line. I just love that high D there and how it shapes the phrase.
Notice too that in the first 2 phrases, which make up the entire first line, that there’ one moment of faster quarter-note motion in each. They both happen right before the last chord of the phrase.
So by the end of the first line our expectations tell us that we should look forward to more of these quarter-note ending phrases and possibly another step up the majesty latter, possibly to a high E. We hit the high C in phrase 1, then we hit the high D in phrase 2. So our internal radar is picking up a rise to an E, possibly as a climax moment.
Our expectations are not disappointed! The 3rd phrase starts with another “power” interval, but instead of “Sol-Do” Robertson ups the ante and we get “Sol-Re,” that great high D we just sang a minute ago. This is an extra clue that he intends to go up to the E. And we get the E on the word “prophet’s.”
The final phrase begins with the register still in the high, full-voice area, and then concludes with a somewhat shortened “graceful” phrasing circling around E before stepping down to the final D. So much fun!
What is slightly unexpected is the placement of the 2 quarters in the final phrase. Rather than placing them on the penultimate chord, her moves them left by 2 beats. Though we still get the quarter-note motion in the tenor in the expected place.
If I had composed this hymn (I wish I had, it’s so nice!) I think I would have written the final cadence a little different. Rather than have quarter-note motion in the tenor, I would take the opportunity to have a nice suspension in the alto and step down to the 7th of the 5 chord in the tenor. But that’s just semantics. There’s nothing wrong at all with Robertson’s cadence.
The harmony is equally enjoyable. I love that big open chord on the “-ly” of “gladly” which is probably part of the reason that this is my favorite spot in the hymn. The way he voices the chords makes for a rich resonant sound, especially those 10th in the tenor and bass towards the end of the first line. There are 3 of them in quick succession.
And the descending chromatic harmony in the middle of the 2nd line makes for a nice variation, yet keeps the bold flavor going. Such good writing!
Even though it’s a brand new discovery for me, I will feel very sad if we lose this hymn. It deserves a long life. And it’s the kind of piece that would work wonderfully with alternate harmony in a final verse. I know what I’m going to play for postlude on Sunday. A nice big resounding Hymn #53!
That’s all for today. Have a good one!
P.S. I got a really nice comment from Libby Knapp, one of our readers who has submitted 2 of her primary songs for critique. Here’s what she said:
Thanks so much, Libby! If you’d like me assistance with your original hymn or primary song, click the button below. I’d love to work with you!
Commentary from “The Bench Warmer”
by Jason Gunnell, Organist
There is the sealed portion of the hymn book and then there is the tightly sealed, never been opened or considered since 1985, no one knows of or has ever heard of these hymns, portion of the hymn book. This hymn firmly resides in the latter. It is a very nice, solid, majestic tune. It has a stately manner about it that pairs well with this very objective hymn text. To maybe offer one tidbit in the spirit of what Doug is doing… in the second line, fourth measure, 2nd beat on the word ‘and,’ I would definitely have made the melody note a C sharp rather than just a C. With the harmonization of this chord, C sharp works so much better and leads to the D of the next chord so much better. It would just work so much better than the current printed chord.
When I took this hymn to the piano (admittedly, I don’t recall the last time that I played through this hymn), it revealed a nice stately tempo of about 96-100 beats per minute (remember in two, the half note is one beat). I would use a registration with a lot of gravitas, so employing perhaps a nice 16’ Bassoon with the principal chorus.
Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Mixture
Swell: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Flute 8’, Nazard 2 ⅔’, Mixture (choose the lower pitched-mixture between this and the Great Mixture…, Bassoon 16’ (?)
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, 4’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’, 16’ Reed
Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Mixture, Bourdon 16’
Pedal: 32’ Flue and Reed, Heavy Reed 16’