🎶"Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, Teacher Hit Me With a Ruler"🎶
Hymn #60 — “Battle Hymn of the Republic”
Text: Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)
Music: Anonymous (ca. 1861)
Tune name: BATTLE HYMN
Did you ever make up funny words to this song when you were a kid?
We did all the time. Teachers with rulers, US Army Tanks, all sorts of crazy things.
I fear that this hymn will be removed from our hymnal in an effort to remove any nationalism in favor of globalization.
Apart from the “Republic” reference in the title and the line about “where the grapes of wrath are stored,” the hymn seems very universal to me.
We’ll see what the committee decides.
The “verse” half of this is hymn is driven by the repetitive “battle” rhythm of dotted eighth-sixteenth. I love how when the tune makes it’s way up the arpeggio to the high D that the bass follows suit. It propels the motion forward—”Charge!”
The tune is fairly basic as is the harmony which gives the end of the “verse” an interesting and enjoyable difference. We get a 6 chord and a 2 chord with a sudden change of rhythm to mark the end of the phrase. We suddenly get a series of straight eighths. These are very strong. It’s almost as if the General is shouting “REFORM THE LINE!” before we charge off again in the chorus.
The chorus has a new rhythm that makes for a few moments of extra emphasis. The compose stretches the dotted-eighth sixteenth figure to a dotted quarter-eighth rhythm as on the first “Glory” of the chorus.
If the the organist lets the repetitive dotted-eighth sixteenth rhythm turn into a triplet feel, this dotted quarter eight rhythm is destroyed. But if you keep up a crisp, almost angular rhythm throughout, this regular eighth note ads some great rhythmic contrast. And we get this rhythm 3 times in the chorus.
Tying the 2 halves of the piece together are the tagline “His truth is marching on.” We hear this at the end of the verse and again at the end of the chorus giving solid cohesion to both the music and the message.
It’s an excellent hymn all around. Easy to sing, enjoyable, full of vim and vigor, plenty of rhythm to get us up out of our seats and marching for a cause. I do hope we get to keep it.
That’s all for today.
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Commentary from “The Bench Warmer”
by Jason Gunnell, Organist
There are precious few pieces of music more impactful to a nation of such disparate tastes and traditions than Peter Wilhousky’s arrangement of this stirring battle hymn. It’s very interesting history and significance in United States history and to members of the church in the United States would suggest that this hymn ought to be retained, but I have a fear that in the name of globalization, meaningful and significant hymns such as these might be rooted out of the hymnal. Though this hymn carries much significance and history, I have a suspicion that it is rather seldom sung in today’s congregations despite it “pointing to a jubilant millennial return of the Lord.” (Davidson).
I think this hymn deserves to be played in a very determined and spirited manner. I find that I would play this around 112-114 beats per minute. I think this is a hymn where it is all-too-easy to fall into the trap of playing the dotted rhythms in a triplet manner. I think it adds much vitality and interest to the hymn to play the rhythms as written, as dotted eighth-sixteenth note rhythms. To me it gives it a more militaristic exactness that I think the text deserves, rather than the more swung and relaxed nature of triplets. A robust registration is also called for with this hymn.
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…, Hautbois 8’
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, 4’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’, 16’ Reed
Possible Final Verse Additions (or add a bit at beginning of verse, and then more at the chorus):
Great: Mixture, Trumpet 8’
Swell: Mixture, Bassoon 16’
Pedal: 32’ Flue and Reed, Posaune 16’