A Hymn With the Gift of Rolling Off the Tongues

A Hymn With the Gift of Rolling Off the Tongues

Hymn #116 — “Come, Follow Me”

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Text: John Nicholson (1830-1909; LDS)
Music: Samuel McBurney (b. 1847)
Tune name: INVITATION

Some hymns take work to get into our hearts and mind and voices.

Others roll right off the tongue and stick.

Hymn #116 is one of those “sticky” hymns.

It’s so easy on the ears, on the voice, in the mouth, and on the memory.

What gives it these characteristics? Let’s take a look.

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The opening tune is simple and easy to sing. But the F to E resolution as well as the stepping down after the double leap up to C give it a memorable and singable shape.

Notice how the tenor line is in parallel 6ths with the soprano for the first 4 notes. And then notice how the stepping down of the soprano line on “Savior” is mirrored, but in reverse, in the tenor. This little bit of tension brought on by contrary stepping motion between soprano and tenor give thy hymn a beautiful, extra emotional color.

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The memorable elements continue in the next 4 bars. Bars 4 and 5 are the first of a repeated sequence. Both the soprano part and the bass are portray a perfect sequence. After 2 bars, it repeats itself a step down. And the little 4 note tune is quite lyrical; a step up, a leap down, and resolving with another step up. So far, we have a very memorable hymn tune.

“For thus alone” shifts suddenly into the parallel minor. Meaning, we were in C major, and now we’ve slipped into C minor. The minor mode colors the text describing how this alone, following Jesus, is the way we can be one with Him. It adds a special emphasis to the key point of the text.

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After passing through a g minor chord and a D major chord on “we be,” we resolve back to the major mode on “one” with a G major chord.

And did you notice the melody on “we be one”? The D-E on “we” harkens back to the sequence in bars 4-8. It’s the first 2 notes of the sequence. But this time it leaps way up to B to prepare for the climax 2 bars later on high C.

“With God’s own” mirrors bar 3 with another reverse motion of the same notes in soprano and tenor. The soprano sings B-A-G while the tenor ascends through G-A-B. All of that on top of an F makes for a strong harmonic gravity. This is a G chord, a 5 chord, but with the 7th in the bass, the F. That F desperately wants to resolve to the E in the next bar. And with the reverse mirror effect occurring over its desperate need to resolve, we get all kinds of strong harmonic juices leading to the climax of the high C. Very strong writing.

And notice one more thing. The last 3 chords mirror the opening 4 chords of the hymn with 6ths between the soprano and tenor. This may seem subtle and arbitrary, but it brings back the same warmness we felt in the opening bars. With the added gravity of the F# diminished chord on the “be-” of “begotten,” we are ready to end on a nice authentic cadence, 5 chord to 1 chord.

It’s a shame verses 5 and 6 are not included in between the staves. They are beautiful verses. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard them sung in Sacrament meeting. I hope the committee will re-think this strategy this time around.

That’s all for today. Have a good one!

Doug

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Commentary from “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

Perhaps one of the most-sung LDS hymns, the simplicity of the text and tune lend well to the stature it has achieved in our tradition. In reading again the text, I think this is a very good hymn text that teaches true doctrine and does well to inspire us to follow the Savior. The tune in its simplicity both in melody and harmony lends well to the simple invitation to “Come, Follow Me.”

This hymn once again shows the folly of putting verses outside the music. Karen Davidson eloquently explains that “this hymn cries out for all six verses to be sung. Verse six satisfies our wish for poetic completeness, since the three final words also begin the hymn and are the hymn’s principal message: ‘Come, follow me.’ Even more important, the fourth verse begins a new point: that we must continue our discipleship of Jesus even in the next life. This point is rather inconclusive without the additional details of verses five and six, which state that ‘glory great and bliss are ours’–and, by implication, nothing less than godhood’–if we are among the most faithful. This bold and compelling promise is unique to Latter-day Saint theology, and it is beautifully expressed in this Christ-centered hymn.” Yes! Let us sing the complete message of the hymn, and not short-change it!

The suggested tempo marking I think is woefully too slow. I can’t think of an appropriate instance where this hymn should be sung anywhere in the vicinity of 69-76. I find that I play it around 100-104, which I think moves the hymn along nicely. It is not a dirge piece, after all. Please, as a discipline, go and play this at 102, and then play it at 69. I think the immediate difference will tell the story. I would use the same calm registration as has been previously suggested as well.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Principal 4’ if the final verse is the 6th verse…, Flute 4’
Swell: Flute 2’
Pedal:

The Hymn With Outstretched Hands

The Hymn With Outstretched Hands

Hymn #115 — “Come, Ye Disconsolate”

Text: Thomas Moore (1779-1852);
verse three by Thomas Hastings (1784-1872)
Music: Samuel Webbe (1740-1816)
Tune name: CONSOLATION

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I once had a friend tell me there was no place for him in the Plan of Salvation.

Of course I did my level best to testify of the Savior and demonstrate that everyone—no matter our challenge, roadblock, stumbling block or sin—has a place in the Plan.

Unfortunately, my words fell on “disconsolate” ears; without solace, hopeless, dejected, cheerless.

What I love most about the gospel of Jesus Christ is how deep Jesus went to pay the ultimate price.

Life gets messy. Sometimes it beats us to our knees. Sometimes we dig our own pit. Sometimes we bring as many with us into the pit as we can.

But no matter how deep we go into the abyss, Jesus went lower. He descended below ALL. He knows EVERY pain, EVERY misfortune, EVERY challenge, EVERY trouble, EVERY depressed and dejected feeling, EVERY misery, EVERY sorrow.

And with His stripes, because He chose to spill His perfect, atoning, “Only Begotten Son” blood, He has the ultimate healing power.

No matter how thick the mud, how deep the pit, how black the night, how dark the sin, how inconsolable the depression, He’s felt it and much, much more. And He can heal us.

That beautiful doctrine is the delicious feast of the Gospel. I’ve felt it personally. I’ve felt that cleansing power wash over me many times. I’ve felt it rescue me. I’ve felt it heal me and make me whole.

There is a place for EVERYONE is the Plan of Salvation.

All that’s required on our part is to take His hand and follow Him. He will always be there. The question is, will we always accept His hand?

Hymn #115 is a beautiful hymn for several reasons. But reason #1 is because it teaches this doctrine. The line line of every verse sums it up.

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Samuel Webbe’s writing demonstrates how the music of a hymn can soften or sometimes even fix some problems in the text.

The text is in a triple meter with a series of STRONG-week-week beats.

COME ye dis -
CON - so late,
WHERE - e’er ye
LAN - guish;
COME to the
MER - cy seat,
FER - vent - ly
KNEEL.

This is not a “problem,” but this type of meter can hard to soften. It’s usually used for upbeat, high-spirits music. Perhaps that was done on purpose by the poet. Soft of a way of showing the positive side of life to the “disconsolate.” Kind of like a parent helping a child who’s sad because another child took their toy away. “But look, there’s some other really nice toys!” The triple meter could be a sort of positive “tone of voice” on the part of the speaker to cheer up the “disconsolate.”

Webbe sets the music in 4/4 which smooths out the dance-like quality of the triple meter. If my speculation about the triple meter as a positivity device is true, then perhaps the 4/4 setting depicts the empathy of the speaker.

When consoling a sad person, we try to show empathy. We try to walk a mile in their shoes. So in this case, we lengthen out the meter of the text with a 4/4 musical meter. But the triple meter runs as a positive under-current acting as the “bucking-up brigade.”

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The only real “problem” in the text is the downbeat of bar 5 in the 3rd verse. The word “forth” stands out like a sore thumb. Of all the odd emphasis text moments we’ve seen up to this point, this is the hardest one for me to wrap my head around. No matter how I look at it, I can’t soften it.

Melody

The tune is nice. Not monumental, but singable and appropriate. My favorite part are the two “here” moments. Both start a descending scale. First on the downbeat of bar 9, then again on the downbeat of bar 11. The second time the yearning is increased by not going down the scale right away, but first stepping up to the D and then tumbling down into the abyss on the ladder of the eighth-note scale.

Harmony

The harmony too is nice, but not monumental. The use of the 4 chord in several places makes a lot of sense. It brings that pastoral feeling into the mix, especially when preceded by the B-flat in the bass at the end of the first line.

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When I play through the second line, I keep hearing a different harmony. I want the bass to stay down after hitting the low F, but on a G. Like this:

I wish we sang this hymn more often. I’m going to make a point of programming it with my ward choir soon. It’s a beautiful hymn with a crucial message. “Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.”

That’s all for today. Have a good one!

Doug

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Commentary from “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

I love this hymn. The pleading nature of the text inviting all to come to the Savior and look to him as the healer of souls is very poignant to me. This hymn is found in many Christian hymnals, though I don’t know how commonly used it is. It doesn’t seem to find that much use in our tradition, but I may very well be wrong. The first two verse of the text are by Thomas Moore, while the third is by Thomas Hastings, replacing a verse by Moore that isn’t in accord with his first two verses. The Hastings verse is a very fitting final verse to Moore’s first two.

I think the tune is fantastic and very fitting for the text. Almost all of the hymnals containing this hymn use this tune, and the tune and text are generally recognized as belonging to each other. Of interesting note is the tune is in 4/4, while the text is in triple meter (strong, weak, weak, strong, weak, weak, etc.). This works as the first note in each measure is elongated to accommodate the triple meter. One of my very favorite arrangements of this hymn is for Men’s Chorus by Nathan Bigler, and he takes this text and tune and puts it in triple meter. It is extraordinarily effective arrangement and is quite beautiful. It is arrangements like that, as well as great settings for organ such as that by Dale Wood that also are draws to this hymn for me.

Though I find the slow end of the suggested tempo to be slightly too slow, the upper end is also where I would choose to play this hymn, probably between 90-92 beats per minute. I would be reverential with my registration for this hymn as well.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Flute 4’
Swell: Hautbois 8’ (? if not too brash or harsh in nature, if it fits with the chorus…)
Pedal:

Minnie Mouse Sings a Hymn While Adding Mustard to her Ice Cream

Minnie Mouse Sings a Hymn While Adding Mustard to her Ice Cream

Hymn #114 — “Come Unto Him”

Text: Theodore E. Curtis (1872-1957; LDS)
Music: Hugh W. Dougall (1872-1963; LDS)
Tune name: YOUNG

What is it about a hymn that gives it a mood, or an aura, or an emotion?

How do notes become feelings?

Of course a note by itself is just a sound. When a note combines with another note it becomes a little more than just a sound. That sound now has a color. These are chords. But they are not yet emotions.

Only when notes come together and move from one grouping to the next do the sounds become colors and then graduate to emotions. Harmonic relativity, the path created by a string of notes and chords, is what creates the mood, the aura, or the emotion in music.

It’s the same with words.

A letter on its own is just a letter, a single sound. When it combines with other letters, a word is born. But when words are strung together, we can create context, meaning, emotion, and entire universes.

What happens when you combine notes and letters? When done at its best, not only are other universes born, but you can experience them in real time, see their colors, breath their air, feel the new extraterrestrial sun on your face.

But when they are mismatched, you get mixed messages. It’s confusing. You’re not sure how you should feel.

That’s what’s happening in Hymn #114. Mixed messages.

I read this text and see a wandering pilgrim in a mist of darkness. Once he finds the light, he turns and beckons the rest of us to follow.

When I hear the music, I see a cartoon character like Minnie Mouse who got lost on the way to the ice cream shop.

She’s worried and sad, but she’s still cute and colorful with a twinkle in her eye and a dimple in her cheek.

The music on its own is very well written. But it doesn’t mix well with the text.

There are 2 key elements that give the music this twinkle in its eye.

First, the “boom-chuck” harmony. Take a look at the bass line in the first 5 bars. We have C-C-C-C-G and then again, C-C-C-G. That’s the first set of booms and chucks. Like the booms and chucks we get in a waltz or in a Merry-Go-Round ride at Disneyland.

Now bar 3 starts the 2nd group of booms and chucks. This time we get D-G-G-D and on to the boom chucks on the 5 chord in bar 4, G-G-C-C, ending on the 1 chord.

This is standard “boom-chuck” progression. I can see Mary Poppins, Burt, Jane and Michael on the Merry-Go-Round about to jump off and enter the cartoon horse race.

That’s not exactly the right tone for coming unto Jesus, at least not in my mind.

Second, we get these chromatic leaps in the melody. The first is in bar 3 on “solitude.” The second is in bar 4 on “ev’rywhere.”

This kind of thing continues with abrupt, but not musically incorrect jumps to chords outside of the key we’re in. Bar 6 with the B-major chord is the first of several. Nothing wrong with the voice leading, but it fits into the Merry-Go-Round atmosphere a lot more than the mist of darkness.

So, what’s the key takeaway today? Pick one universe and stick to it. Make sure the text and the music belong in the same newly minted celestial sphere. Otherwise it’s like putting Dijon Mustard on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Both are wonderful. But together…?

That’s all for today. Hope you have a good one!

Doug

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Commentary from “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

Karen Davidson identifies this text as “in reality a lyric poem that serves a hymnlike purpose. A chief characteristic of a lyric poem is that it reflects a personal experience the emotions and responses of a single individual.” She goes on to cite that Theodore Curtis sought a universal experience within a first-person setting, and I am not as optimistic that he was as successful in this text actually being hymnlike as Sister Davidson is. I find it much more like the devotional songs we discussed last week than as a unifying hymn. Therefore this is much more in the devotional song category for me than a hymn.

That being said, I do like this song, and I think it is the tune and perhaps a very good arrangement that holds that appeal for me. Even though there is little rhythmic interest or diversity in this tune, I find that it’s consistent motion pairs well with the text. For some reason, its simplicity draws me in. Barlow Bradford’s magnificent arrangement is the other appealing aspect of this song for me. I think it is very well done, and he adds tremendous harmonic interest to this simple tune that is very compelling.

I think a tempo that matches well with the forward-motion nature of the tune is 98-100 beats per minute. That seems to get me leaning on my toes and gives the melody somewhere to go and also gives opportunity for some stretching in the right spots. If one takes these hymns too slowly, there isn’t that opportunity to draw back at the spots where that might be needed. I would choose a simple registration for this song as well.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Flute 4’
Swell: Flute 2’
Pedal:

A Bishopric of Redeemer Hymns

A Bishopric of Redeemer Hymns

After a wild 8 days of travel, I’m back in the saddle again. Hence a smashing together of 3 hymn reviews all in one.

Today’s trio of hymns remind me of a bishopric or Stake Presidency. On occasion we attend Ward or Stake Conference meetings when the whole Bishopric or Stake Presidency speaks.

When this happens, there’s usually an order of seniority. First we hear from the 2nd counselor, then the 1st counselor, and finally the Bishop or Stake Presidency.

It’s sort of like a progression of authority or a progression of closeness to the Lord. Not that the counselors are not as close to the Lord as the Bishop. I guess it’s just an order of seniority and respect.

These 3 hymns seem like a gradual progression getting closer to the Lord. Rock of Ages gets us started. It’s pretty basic, but lovely and meaningful. Then “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul” takes us further, gets us closer to the Lord with a more active harmonic language and more variation in the texture.

Finally, we’re prepared for the special gem, “Our Savior’s Love.”

Each hymn is a lovely prayer or tribute to the Lord and His grace, but there seems to be a progression from good, to good-er, to great.

Hymn #111 — “Rock of Ages”

Text: Augustus M. Toplady (1740-1778)
Music: Thomas Hastings (1784-1872)
Tune name: TOPLADY

Every time I sing or play through Hymn #111, “Rock of Ages,” my mind slips to Hymn #104, “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me.”

They are in the same key (B-flat major) and have the exact same structure:

  • 4 bars of principle melody.

  • The middle 4 bars are made up of nearly identical 2-bar chunks, and the rhythm of the middle 4 bars of both hymns is identical.

  • The last 4 bars are the same as the first.

They are not identical twins, but I think it’s safe to call them fraternal twins.

The mood of the hymns are also similar. They are both prayers of pleading for rescue or for shelter.

The tune has a steady, memorable opening which revolves around the F. This makes starts the hymn in an easy, manageable register for congregational singing. Then the prayers ascend with “Let me hide…”

The 2nd line’s tune circles around, just like Hymn #104 and continues to stay in the upper part of the register to stretch out the plea in the first line.

And of course, the last line is the closing bookend, identical to the first.

Harmonically, its is 100% diatonic. There are no extra accidentals. It’s very “1 chord to 5 chord” heavy. There are some quick 4 chords in passing as well as a quick inverted 2 chord at the end of lines 1 and 3. Otherwise it is very basic.

I do like how the bass line rises with the melody at “Let me hide…” It takes the whole congregation up to the higher register to express the emotional content of the hymn.

This is a classic fine hymn that should remain in our hymnal.

Hymn #112 — “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul”

Text: Orson F. Whitney (1855-1931; LDS)
Music: Harry A. Dean (1892-1987; LDS)
Tune name: GLADYS

This is a brighter hymn than others in this part of the hymnal. The way the music presents itself reminds me of some of the old protestant hymns.

The text feels a little more introspective to me than the music allows, but it’s not so out of balance to turn me off.

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I like how both of the opening phrases begin the same. They establish the key and the positive mood of the hymn with a steady trek up to high D. The second phrase is identical except for the 6 chord at the end instead of the 1 chord. This prepares us for the journey towards the “bitter cup,” which is depicted skillfully with a cadence on the 3 chord.

After the “bitter cup” 3-chord cadence, the final phrase begins with a nicely dressed sequence.

First “What tongue my grat-i-” begins the sequence and re-establishes the key of D major. But the C-natural on “-i-” tells us there’s a little more to come.

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The 2nd phrase of the sequence steps up and sings the same melodic shape on “-tude can tell.” And having been given permission by the C-natural to wander a bit chromatically, we get a B-major chord acting as the 5 chord to the E minor chord of “tell.” So we’ve cadenced again in minor, but this time in E minor.

The last few bars harken back to the opening phrase with the second half of a scale up to high D. Now we’re back in D major for sure and ready for the final cadence.

I find this hymn quite satisfactory. It’s not in my top 30. It’s not a “wow” hymn. But it’s a solid, useful, lovely hymn. I think it should stay in our hymnal. But I’d love to see another version of this text, or more of Whitney’s texts represented in our hymnal. He is one of the greatest of all Latter-day Saint poets. And he was an Apostle, which is an intriguing combination.

Hymn #113 — “Our Savior’s Love”

Text: Edward L. Hart (b. 1916; LDS)
Music: Crawford Gates (1921-2018; LDS)
Tune name: ETERNAL LIFE

And now for the grand finally. We’ve progressed to an absolute gem of a hymn. I would expect nothing less from one of the greatest Latter-day Saint composers ever.

This hymn is a study in melodic storytelling. The text sets up the opportunity to write such a melody. Reading the text on its own shows a journey from start to finish. I’m so glad Brother Gates didn’t settle for a formulaic hymn structure.

Yes, there are 4 rather square phrases, if you count the number of bars and where the cadences fall. But there’s nothing boring about them. Each phrase is a leg of an important journey closer and closer to our King. And the bass line is as much a character on the journey as the melody is.

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From the beginning, we get a sense of reverence. Something internal. Something special. The G, major-7th chord (G-B-D-F#) in the 2nd bar helps color the hymn with these emotions right off the bat.

And the shape of the opening phrase, and every other phrase, is full of direction. Up and down, leaping to the G, then after a leap down to E, a step by step hill of melody.

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The second line begins with the same shape as the first. A leap up of a 3rd, a leap down of a 3rd, and a leap up of a 4th, this time to high D. The 2nd half of the phrase isn’t quite as stepwise as the end of the 1st phrase, but it take the main character through that next patch of forest to a cadence on the 5 chord.

Line 3 begins in the same way as lines 1 and 2. The difference this time is it does not leap up a 4th to the 2nd bar. Instead, it goes down another 3rd. But the stepwise pattern continues in the 2nd half of the phrase.

Towards the end of phrase 3, we get my favorite bit of harmony in this hymn. A G chord with B in the bass going to a B-minor chord. But before it lands full on the B-minor chord on the word “his,” there’s some tension in the alto and tenor, the E and C# neighbor tones. It’s a warm, somewhat dark dissonance that doesn't’ really resolve all the way because the cadence is delayed. Well, the neighbor tones resolve, but the darkness does not, quite yet. Not until “to share” in the middle of line 4.

That’s the E minor chord that the B-minor chord with neighbor tones was aiming at. Delayed gratification is always a powerful tool.

The beginning of line 4 follows the patter of the previous 3 lines. Up a 3rd, down a 3rd, but now it leaps way down to low D to prepare for the final cadence. Instead of having the tune do a stepping half-phrase as was done before, there’s a long held note and a final drop down to 3 Es and a final D.

Though there is a pattern, a mantra, a modus operandi, the hymn never feels tedious. The story keeps my attention from the first not to the last without any dips in concentration.

One of the internal devices that helps the story along are the extended moving parts in the inner and lower voices.

Here are a few examples:

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Each of these elongates the phrase. If the melody is the hero’s “external” journey (like Frodo traveling from the Shire to Mount Doom), the inner and lower voices depict the hero’s “internal” journey (what Frodo feels, how he changes as a person on the journey).

This is powerful writing with many layers that make the whole a truly special hymn. It is one of the best written hymn in our hymnal and on my Top 10 list of favorites.

It will surely remain in our hymnal.

Well, that was a bit of a long one. But as I mentioned, I needed to catch up after my travels.

I hope you have a great day!

Doug

P.S. Click the big green button below subscribe to these posts and I’ll send you my free guide, “9 Ingredients of Great Hymn Writing.”


Commentary form “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

Hymn #111 — “Rock of Ages”

This very popular text has gone through many “revisions” and “improvements” from many editors and authors for various publications through time. The original text by Augustus Toplady began appearing in the publication Gospel Magazine in 1775 by one of Toplady’s pseudonyms, and went through further discussion and debate until the full text appeared in an article in 1776. Our hymnal contains three of the four verses of this presentation, but in much more the form as it appeared in an 1815 London publication  of T. S. Cotterill’s Selections of Psalms and Hymns.

The tune most commonly matched with this text has the name of the text’s original author. It was published as a trio in Spiritual Songs for Social Worship edited by the tune’s composer and Lowell Mason. The tune is characterized by dotted rhythms and a risings and falling shape. It is unsurprising to me that this text and tune have attained wide appeal through the years, as it is a singable tune and poignant text, though I must admit it not being too appealing to me.

As with many other hymns that are poignant or pleading in nature, the danger is to play this much too slow. I am glad to see the suggested tempo not be too slow, though the range is a little to wide, and the slow end is too slow. I think 76-80 is a good place to be in for this hymn, as it keeps the motion moving and the phrases singable.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great:
Swell: Flute 2’
Pedal:

Hymn #112 — “Savior, Redeemer Of My Soul”

I related the great talent that Orson Whitney has as a poet in a previous entry which he provided the text for (Hymn #37). It doesn’t hurt to reiterate what I related there, specifically that Elder Boyd K. Packer said of him that he was a “gifted and inspired poet whose work is virtually unknown in the Church.” That is unfortunate, as his texts are very good. I think this hymn text is excellent.

I think the tune is a good tune as well. I’m not willing to gush about it as a great tune, but I think it is a very good tune that sets the text well. I think that Harry Dean adds harmonic interest into the tune very naturally in the harmonization that goes well with the arc of the melody.

To get this hymn to flow smoothly and have forward motion, rather than a static feel of sensing each beat, I think it important to sense the pulse of this hymn in one (so that three quarter notes are in one beat). If the tune is thought in three, it becomes too slow and plodding. Therefore a tempo around dotted half note equal to 38-39 beats per minute is a good tempo (that gives a pulse of quarter note equal to 114-117 beats per minute, but give it a try in one!) that keeps the momentum going forward. I would again use a softer registration highlighted by a strong 8’ foundation.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Flute 4’
Swell: Flute 2’
Pedal:

Hymn #113 — “Our Savior’s Love”

This hymn is one of the greatest LDS hymns in our book. I love this reverent text that speaks to various characters of the members of the Godhead and the fervent prayer it ends with as we pledge to sing praises to our Heavenly Father and pledge to obey his law. Of the text, the composer of the tune suggested that we “read, study, and ponder this beautiful and profound poem.”

Equally as sublime as the text, this tune to me is remarkable. It is instantly memorable, and so beautifully melodic that I have a hard time finding words for how excellent I find the tune. Crawford Gates’ harmonization is equally as beautiful as the arc of the melody as well. Gates, when given this text to set, remarked that “it was a text to which I could extend my full conviction for its message. For me, the simple melody does not seem to tire easily. I feel so blessed to be the channel by which it has come to be a part of the sacred hymnody of the Lord’s kingdom.”

I love this hymn and find it one of the best hymns I know, LDS or not. I love that right from the beginning you get a feeling of reverence and sublimity, beginning on the third of the scale and pausing on the sixth before going on. I love the movement of the harmony at places where the melody is held out. I love the harmonic movement of the harmonization. It is such a great hymn.

It is not quite so great is played too slowly, my common refrain for all hymns. But this hymn especially with the movement in the harmonization at long melodic notes invites the tempo to be at such a place that the forward motion is not disrupted. I think a good tempo for this hymn is in the vicinity of 96-100 beats per minute. Not too slow to drag and not too fast to rush. I would choose my same reverent registration, and consider perhaps taking something away on the third verse rather than adding.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, 2’ (??) String 8’
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Reductions:
Great:
Swell: Flute 2’
Pedal:

Elijah Sings: Come On Baby Light My Fire

Elijah Sings: Come On Baby Light My Fire

Hymn #110 — “Cast Thy Burden upon the Lord”

Text: Julius Schubring (1806-1889)
Music: Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Tune name: BIRMINGHAM

Ok, maybe Elijah hadn’t heard Jim Morrison and ‘The Doors’ sing Come On Baby, Light My Fire, but he sure knew how to get an audience’s attention.

I hope you’ll take a minute to scroll down and read Jason’s remarks. He gives the history of this piece and its place in the classical music repertoire.

Felix Mendelssohn, one of my favorite early Romantic era composers, was a real master. And, he loved Bach! He’s responsible for bringing Bach’s music back into the minds and hearts of the music-loving public. His performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion resurrected Bach’s fame in a time when he was all but forgotten.

As Bach did in his hundreds of dramatic works (cantatas, oratorios, passions), Mendelssohn wrote a hymn to give the audience a “let’s-think-about-the-moral-of-this-story” moment. That’s our Hymn #110.

I highly recommend it for study to all who want to write hymns. It follows the structure and modus operandi, of the great old hymns.

My only regret is that there’s only 1 verse. Perhaps one of you enthusiastic hymn poets could write some additional verses? I would stick to the same Psalms that Ulius Schubring used as you basic materials.

This hymn deserves to remain in the hymnal and to be known by more of us. It is beautiful and moving. Well composed and meaningful.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow we’ll have a little more “rock” ‘n roll.

Have a good one!

Doug

P.S. Click the buttons below to be notified when the 1st part of my Practical Guide to Hymn Composition is ready, and to subscribe to these posts.


Commentary form “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

This hymn is an excerpted chorale from Elijah, an oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn. I don’t mean to borrow too much from Karen Davidson, but I think her description of the narrative from which this hymn is excerpted is excellent. “‘Cast Thy Burden upon the Lord’ occurs during a highly dramatic episode based on 1 Kings 18. Elijah and the priests of Baal are locked in a challenge: which god, Baal or the God of Israel, will send down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice? The people watch as the priests of Baal call out to their god ‘and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets’ (v. 28), but Baal is silent. Then Elijah steps forward, and the people gather to watch in excitement. He builds an altar to God and offers up his prayer: ‘Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel.’ (v. 36)

“At this moment in the oratorio, the forward motion of the story pauses for a brief, peaceful contrast. A chorus of angels sings ‘Cast Thy Burden upon the Lord,’ and we are reminded of Elijah’s perfect faith and trust. Then, after another brief prayer from Elijah, ‘the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice.’ (v. 38) Elijah’s faith is vindicated before the people and before the false priests of Baal.”

This hymn is a fabulous example of Mendelssohn’s craft and ability as a composer and of his study and veneration of Bach. Mendelssohn is perhaps the most important figure in the revival of Bach’s music a century after his death, and one can see in Mendelssohn’s compositions the impact that Bach’s music had. Here we see a chorale in his oratorio that is so fitting today in our hymnal and bears all of the hallmarks of great hymn writing.

If I were performing this hymn as an anthem with a choir, I would be much more confident in choosing a slower, more expressive tempo. But as we are discussing these hymns in the context of congregational singing, I would take it a bit faster than I would in a choral setting. Thus I would take it about ten clicks faster than the top of the suggested range, at about 82-84 beats per minute. I would treat the fermatas as places of elongation, holding the note for two counts and resting on the third, then continuing on. The danger would be to hold them too long, which I don’t think is appropriate.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

A Verdant Hymn of Rolling Hills

A Verdant Hymn of Rolling Hills

Hymn #109 — “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare”

Text: Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
Music: Dmitri Bortniansky (1751-1825)

I miss our "old Kentucky home" for many reasons... we lived there for 9 years. One of the things I miss the most is the landscape of rolling hills.

Hymn #109 reminds me of this beautiful landscape.

The melody goes down and up and rolls from one melodic hill to the next.

It starts in the middle register, dips down, leaps up, steps down and settles briefly on high C.

The next hill beings at the same altitude as the first but goes up first instead of down. The same leap we heard in the first bar flips upside down leaping up a third, then down a third, then back again.

The two opening phrases (bars 1-8 and 9-16), both end on 5 chords. This keeps the momentum moving forward like harmonic cruise control.

By the last phrase, "My noonday walks" the hills are reaching a peak. It's a very satisfying phrase, the G-B, G-C, G-E-D-C-C-B... It gives us the satisfaction of reaching the top, yet doesn't yet fully resolve. The two Bs keep us just far enough away from the 1 chord to keep paying attention. Then we make the final descent down the final rolling hill and make it back home.

What a lovely, picturesque hymn. I wouldn't mind if there was another verse. It seems a little short with only 2.

As for its place in the hymnal, I think it should remain for sure.

That's all for today. Tune in tomorrow for a super rare hymn by one of my favorite early Romantic era composers.

Have a good one!

Doug

P.S. Click the buttons below to be notified when the 1st part of my Practical Guide to Hymn Composition is ready, and to subscribe to these posts.


Commentary form “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

Here we encounter another text strongly influenced by the 23rd Psalm. The language is quite beautiful, especially I am taken with the second verse. Interestingly, Karen Davidson in her survey of our hymns found it necessary to translate some of the words or give definitions, as we may have lost the meaning of them today. For example, a glebe means field, so a sultry glebe is a field too hot for sheep. Texts are interesting in that way in that sometimes words or phrases are used that have fallen into disuse or lost meaning due to changing circumstances.

Interestingly, I feel like I have had similar experiences with novels. We read to our boys before bed every night for at least a half hour, often longer. Kate (my wife) reads to them most of the time (and she is currently working through the Chronicles of Narnia, but when she can’t or needs me to, I will read. I choose something that they are not currently reading, because Kate doesn’t want to miss any of the narrative either, so on Wednesday when Kate had to go to the church for her calling, I pulled out Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I got through about 21 pages before the baby needed my attention, and I noticed there were many allusions or descriptions that I had a hard time understanding, as we live in a completely different world than that of Dickens. So it is interesting to me to see this kind of experience with this hymn text.

This tune is used in numerous hymnals, set to different texts. We needed a communion hymn a little while ago here at my job, so I found a very nice text that was set to this tune. I found, though, that we have slightly altered and elongated the last line of the tune, so that it is a few measures longer with just a slightly different melody at the end. It is a very nice tune for these kinds of reverent texts.

I return to my common complaint with this hymn concerning suggested tempo. It is far too slow. I find the tempo that is appropriate to have forward motion and singable phrases is around 112 beats per minute. That gives the hymn interest and a nice lilt, in addition to singability.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great:
Swell: Flute 2’
Pedal:

My Hymn-Journey from Dark to Light

My Hymn-Journey from Dark to Light

Hymn #107 — “Lord, Accept Our True Devotion”

Text: Richard Alldridge (1815-1896; LDS)
Music: Joseph J. Daynes (1851-1920; LDS)
Tune name: ELIZA

Any time a hymn can make a congregation feel unified, I’m a fan. Hymn #107 is an excellent example.

Our devotion” … “our hearts” … “our joy” … “never leave us" … “help us” … etc.

I love how the 2nd line begins the same as the first and goes up just a bit higher to add some extra feeling to the pleading congregational prayer.

The second half of the hymn increases that pleading with the repetition of the text and the melody which continues to ascend until “help us Lord.” And “Lord” gets the highest note, which seems very appropriate.

It feels as though we are a group of lost sheep, bleating from the lonely mountain side to be heard. We all come together on the common ground of our dependance on the Savior, His Atonement and His grace.

The harmony is very still and quite basic, which adds to the reverence of the hymn. There’s enough movement in the right places, especially the bass line, to keep things interesting and engaging.

The melody does most of the emotional work and sticks in the memory, which is almost always a good thing.

#107 is a beautiful hymn that I hope we get to keep. I don’t see why we wouldn’t.

Hymn #108; 316 — “The Lord Is My Shepherd”

Text: James Montgomery (1771-1854)
Music: Thomas Koschat (1845-1914)
Tune name: FORSAKEN or POLAND

The two possible tune names mean a lot to me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I lived in Poland for 9 months. I fell in love with the Polish people who were very often “forsaken.”

Now I have that Primary song in my head, but with different words…

I live in [Poland]
A long time ago
It is true…

Psalm 23 is a special text. Few texts depict the deep feelings of need I, and surely many others, have to be rescued by the Good Shepherd.

Hymn #108 is a lovely, reverent setting of this text.

It is without a doubt the alto’s FAVORITE hymn. And rightfully so. The tune they sing for the first half is poignant and effective. I really like the simple countermelody in the soprano too. Though, the 10 high Cs in line 2 would be a bit much if the colorful moving alto line wasn’t there to steal the show.

Have a look at the first 3 bars. Composers, and aspiring composers, here is a great example of how to keep the same chord interesting for 3 whole bars in a slow hymn. It’s the motion in the alto and the slower melodic motion in the soprano. They transform the droning bass into a soothing blanked of harmony, rather than a boring repetition. Very well written!

When it came time for me to set the text of Psalm 23 (for my cantata, The Good Shepherd), I decided to dig a little deeper.

My setting starts in the dark, deep in the “valley of the shadow of death” where I’m full fear. I wish I could say this of more of my compositions, but this one, this is something special. And I don’t say this to brag. I want to offer it to you as a piece of music that can heal a wounded heart, because that’s exactly what it did for me.

When I wrote it, I was going through some ridiculously difficult times. My mind was often dark and misty. I had a hard time hearing the Good Shepherd. I couldn’t see a thing, spiritually. And truthfully, though it sounds cliche, I was silently crying out like a wounded animal.

Miraculously, through the composition process, the mist began to clear. I could hear Him again, through the Spirit. I started to see the way ahead.

This piece is my personal journey from dark to light. And I believe the Lord helped me compose this piece not only to help me, but to share with others who feel lost.

If you feel like you’re stuck, in the dark, caught in the mist, give it a listen. Go somewhere quiet. Put on some headphones. Confront the dark. Let out your cries. And see the hand of the Good Shepherd reaching out to rescue you. He’s there, waiting for you.

https://youtu.be/4rN246pdyew?t=609

Have a good one!

Doug

P.S. Click the buttons below to be notified when the 1st part of my Practical Guide to Hymn Composition is ready, and to subscribe to these posts.


Commentary form “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

Hymn #107, “Lord, Accept Our True Devotion”

I have found that for whatever reason, I am familiar enough with every hymn in our book that it is difficult for me to determine or judge what hymns in our book are firmly entrenched in the sealed portion of the hymnal and which hymns are more generally known. I have a suspicion that this hymn might be one of the lesser-knowns, but it is such a good hymn that it ought to be more known and used.

I find that I appreciate the text as a communal prayer rather than a personal one as we saw in a few of the previous recent hymns. I find this approach much more appropriate for congregational singing than the personal pleas of the devotional songs focused “me” and “I.” I much more appreciate this text of joining together and unifying our thoughts and prayers through hymn singing than a focus on singular or personal pleas. I find it much more effective in bringing many together as one.

The second half of the tune is much more effective to me than the more swiftly moving first half for this prayer. I find the movement of the eighth notes (including the dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm) and the range of that movement to not be quite as effect a tune setting for a devotional hymn. That being said, I do very much like this hymn, and think the text and tune very good, I guess the more swiftly moving first half of the tune is just a bit of an observation.

This is an interesting aside as reported by Karen Davidson. “Anyone who wishes to compare the 1950 hymnal will note that the 1985 hymnal made a significant change in the Joseph J. Daynes musical setting. Previously, the musical arrangement called for the women’s voices alone to sing ‘Never leave us’ in the chorus, to be answered each time by the men’s voices singing the same words in antiphonal style. The new arrangement is simpler and more dignified, with men and women singing the words of the chorus at the same time rather than in response-fashion. It also lends itself more readily to unison singing.” So not having women or men sing alone lends itself more readily to unison (congregational) singing. Got it. I wish the editors would have applied that philosophy throughout the hymnal!

So this is why I made the observation about the halves of the tune. The appropriate tempo for the first half is too slow for the second half and the appropriate tempo for the second half is too fast for the first. Hmm… I would try to find the happy medium where the first half doesn’t race too much and where the second half doesn’t drag too much. Maybe around 84 beats per minute? I would also use a more plain, softer registration, perhaps strengthening it a bit on the last verse.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great:
Swell: String 4’ (ha! If you have one. I don’t…), Principal 4’ (?), Flute 2’
Pedal: Contra Bourdon 32’

Hymn #108, “The Lord Is My Shepherd”

One of the most commonly set verses of scriptures is the 23rd Psalm. This paraphrase by James Montgomery is a wonderful example of paraphrasing scripture to fit into metrical verse. It is paired excellently with Thomas Koschat’s tune. This tune is of particular interest in that the melody for the first half of the hymn is carried by the altos, at least that is how I hear it. So I will often solo out the alto line while I accompany this hymn, moving to the soprano at “Restores me when wand’ring.” This is an excellent hymn, with a very inviting and interesting melody, harmonized well, and with a marvelous paraphrase of scripture.

I will mention two settings of Psalm 23 that I think are some of the more fantastic anthems written. The first is The Lord Is My Shepherd by Thomas Matthews. I first became familiar with it at a very young age when I discovered in my parent’s music listening library an old cassette (or LP, I don’t quite remember) of the Tabernacle Choir singing this anthem, and it is glorious. I have done it numerous times in various settings. (here is a representative recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bejfCZoby7Y). I know that Doug likes to promote his music on this site (and it is his site, so who would expect less!) but he has written what I think may be the finest setting of this psalm that I know and is deserving of promotion, by him or anyone else. It is tremendous! (I highly encourage you to listen to it! https://youtu.be/4rN246pdyew?t=609).

The top of the suggested range is a good tempo, though I might take it just a few clicks faster, probably around 78 beats per minute. I would be again gentle in my registration, possible exploring the organ to see how broad it can be quietly, and perhaps using the string celeste…

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’ (This combination would make a good solo registration as well)
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’ (Viola Celeste 8’ ?); if you are soloing, the Hautbois 8’ might be a nice solo stop
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great:
Swell: String 4’, Principal 4’ if it is broad and not too present
Pedal:

Speedy Gonzales Learns to Sing

Speedy Gonzales Learns to Sing

Hymn #106 — “God Speed the Right”

Text: William E. Hickson (1803-1870)
Music: Ernst Moritz Arndt (1796-1860)
Tune name: SCHORITZ-RUGIN

¡Ariba, ariba! ¡Andale, andale!”

On my mission we sang Hymn #106 as if we’d been hyped up on amphetamines. Forget 2/2, we sang this baby in 2/1. 1 beat per bar. I call that Speedy Gonzales tempo…..

This is one of the best examples of a hymn that uses unison singing in the first couple phrases. It get us started with a big load of energy. The opening rhythm helps too, the dotted quarter eighth, which feels like a dotted eighth-sixteenth, if it had been in 2/4 or 4/4.

The little refrain at the end of the first 2 lines, the “God speed the right” repetitive ending, keeps us in check so we don’t go flying of the page in a burst of speed. I love how the rhythm of the 3rd phrase changes things up a bit with steady quarters every other bar.

But my favorite bit is the race to the top of the hill right before the end. We hit the peak on high E, and then suddenly drop over an octave to the lower register creating the echo off the mountain tops cause by the congregational shout. Such good, rousing writing!

Without a doubt, this is a keeper. I only wish we sang it more often. I think organists are afraid of this hymn because of the unison and the fast tempo. That’s really too bad because this does exactly what you want a hymn to do. It brings the congregation together in unity and spurs them into action!

The harmony is very simple. There are no chromatic notes at all. Everything is firmly in C major. But the tempo, the rhythm, and the extended phrase 3 with double cadence ending, one high and one low, keep us fully engaged at every step of the way. Top notch!

That’s all for today.

Have a good evening!

Doug

P.S. Click the buttons below to be notified when the 1st part of my Practical Guide to Hymn Composition is ready, and to subscribe to these posts.


Commentary form “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

I think this is a good, sturdy hymn with a very good hymn text and a tune harmonization that well-emphasizes the great power of unison singing. I also think that this hymn tune very well matches the affect and message of the text. It is a very stirring and effective hymn all the way around. I especially love the change in register for the final recitation of the phrase “God speed the right.”

I appreciate that I am making the comment a little more often in these last few hymns that the suggested tempo is a good marking. The only caveat to that is that the suggested tempo markings are generally too broad. 66 beats per minute is too slow for this hymn, but 76-80 (remembering that this hymn is in two) is a very good tempo. As I played through it to check where I was at, I was between 78-80.

This is a good hymn to note as well that one cannot be rigorously metronomic or remain strictly with an unmoving tempo. Steadiness is absolutely called for the vast majority of the time, but at certain phrase endings or particularly at certain points of music, flexibility is called for. I am looking in this specific example at the second to last phrase of “God speed the right.” Expanding the tempo and slightly delaying the entrance of the final “God speed the right” I think is absolutely called for, with the final phrase also played slightly slower.

The danger with this practice is starting the next verse in the slower tempo you ended in. Where you utilize rubato in hymns (when called for...remember, use discretion), it is imperative that you return to the original tempo. But exercising caution and judgement when using rubato allows the hymn to be sung with greater expression and the congregation also generally feels these natural tendencies. Remember, the organist is the leader of congregational singing (and I don’t mean to offend, but really, the organist and not the conductor in congregational singing, except for very few and obvious exceptions such as General Conference, and even then, the organ still prevails when the sound system is adequately loud enough), and the congregation will follow along with your efforts.

I would use a robust registration, employing principal chorus through mixture and probably using chorus reeds and 16’ manual stops as well. Depending on the organ, I might consider playing the last iteration of “God speed the right” on the Swell or closing the box a bit. The register change will make it naturally softer, but I may experiment with a slight dynamic decrease in the organ as well, but nothing too abrupt.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Mixture, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Flute 8’, String 8’, Nazard 2 ⅔’, Mixture, Hautbois 8’
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, 4’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’, 16’ Reed
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Mixture, Trumpet 8’
Swell: Mixture, Bassoon 16’, Trumpet 8’
Pedal: 32’ Flue and Reed,  Posaune 16’

Live, from the Sea of Galilee: Even the Winds and Waves Obey Him

Live, from the Sea of Galilee: Even the Winds and Waves Obey Him

Hymn #104 — “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”

Text: Edward Hopper (1818-1888)
Music: John Edgar Gould (1822-1875)
Tune name: PILOT

In July 1997, I traveled to Israel. I was 16 years old.

My younger brother Brian and I were members of a community choir led by our Stake President, Lynn Shurtleff, the Santa Clara Chorale.

Though the choir was a community organization attached to Santa Clara University, about two-thirds of the members were Latter-day Saints. My bishop and his wife, several members of our stake and their spouses, and my aunt and uncle came on the trip. But our parents did not. They entrusted us to the care of our aunt and uncle as well as our bishop.

We sang a concert version of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" in the Tel Aviv Opera House. After our two days of rehearsal and performance, we toured the country. For 10 days we walked the streets of Jerusalem, saw the sites around the Sea of Galilee, and did hit all the other tourist spots. It was amazing!

And to visit all these important biblical sites with my Stake President and Bishop was really cool. They continually opened the scriptures with us and taught us as we went.

I have many wonderful memories from this trip. One of the most impressionable is the memory of a Sacrament meeting we had in a hotel conference room. Our small group of Latter-day Saints gathered in the hotel situated on the west side of the Sea of Galilee.

We had recently taken a midnight boat ride on the Sea. The boat was a modern version of the type of fishing boats the disciples would have used 2,000 years ago. As we reached the center of the Sea, the captain turned off the engine and the lights. We floated for a long while in the pitch black with only the start to light our way.

What a feeling. I'm getting the tingles now as I write this, just remembering. We didn't speak. We sat and looked out into the black, up into the heavens. I imagined seeing Jesus walk on the water towards us. Later we opened the New Testament and read about the winds and the waves, the calming of the sea. We read about the nets and fishing. About transforming fisherman into fishers of men. We learned about how a ship without a rutter is driven and tossed on the sea and how we each needed Jesus to pilot us through the choppy seas of life.

It was in that frame of mind that we held our Sacrament meeting. My bishop and I were assigned to bless the Sacrament. To this day I've never felt the Spirit as strongly while blessing the Sacrament as I did that day. We were both in tears. We realized the significance of preparing and blessing the emblems of His body and blood while being only a few miles from where He died for us.

They asked me to share my testimony, which, again, was a very potent experience. I'm sure my Stake President asked me to do all this so the experience would sink down deep into my heart. And it did.

We sang, without piano or organ, an a cappella Hymn #104, "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me." I'd never heard this hymn before. After the intensity of this experience, Hymn #104 became fused to my testimony and all the experiences we'd had in the Holy Land.

Years later when I was the assistant conductor of the BYU-Idaho University Singers, my teacher encouraged me to write an arrangement for the choir. I'd never done that before. I had been a piano major and a choral conducting major. There was no composition degree at the time.

I gave it a try. And of course, the first hymn I thought of was "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me." And who happened to be the organist? None other than Jason Gunnell, our very own "Bench Warmer." This was our first of many collaborations. The year must have been 2002, or maybe 2003.

This is my opus 1. The first piece I ever wrote (apart from exercises in theory class). It's not bad either. You can check it out here, www.douglaspew.com/jesus-savior-pilot-me-choir.

A few years ago I arranged another version of this hymn for violin and piano. I wanted a version to play with my wife, Janae, who's a violinist. I decided to marry this hymn with another favorite, my absolute favorite, #197, "Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown." Bach's Passion Chorale. It has a Brahmsian feel to it. I really like this one. If you're interested, you can check out the string version here (https://www.douglaspew.com/jesus-savior-pilot-me-and-and-o-savior-solo-string). The version for wind or brass instrument is available here (https://www.douglaspew.com/sacred-airs).

Obviously, I love this hymn. My only regret is that it's so short. Actually, I extended the melody in my instrumental arrangement, repeating the opening phrase twice for a longer phrase. So instead of an A-B-A structure, it becomes A-A-B-A. It works well.

The mix of dotted eighth-sixteenth against eighth note triplets has always been a favorite element. The first note, the high D on the word "Jesus" gets the hymn off to a strong start as far as the yearning goes. It cries out.

I love the F-sharp in the tenor. I think this is our first augmented chord so far in the hymnal... if I remember correctly. Augmented chords give off that sense of "harrowing" or some other kind of raised emotions brought on by a thorn in the side.

The 2nd line has two picturesque moments, on "roll" and "shoal." The soprano and bass hold a half note while the alto and tenor paint a picture of the scene, the rolling waves, the treacherous shoal. I find it very effective.

When I'm in need of some Spiritual fortification or direction or comfort, this is one of the 3 or 4 hymns I go to first. I think-sing it and remember the Sea of Galilee. It helps me recall the many times I've felt the Spirit turn my rutter and get me back on course. The many times I've been piloted through storms. The many times I've felt Him say to me, "fear not, I will pilot thee." I feel it now.

Hymn #105 — “Master, the Tempest Is Raging”

Text: Mary Ann Baker (b. 1831)
Music: H. R. Palmer (1834-1907)
Tune name: PEACE, BE STILL

On that dark, quiet boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, the guide taught us about the unique geography of the Sea. It's not a very big sea. All around its circular edges are hills and mountains. It's as if the sea was a circular valley floor. Because of the circular nature of the rim of hills and mountains, funny things happen when the wind kicks up. It swirls within the circle and causes large waves on the Sea. A storm can turn a perfectly calm Sea into perilous waters in less than an hour.

The day we visited the Golan Heights on the Eastern side of the Sea, we witnessed this swirling wind. It didn't get super raucous, but we saw how suddenly the calm sea became full of large waves. It was easy to imagine the disciples caught in a storm.

Enter Hymn #105. This is another long-time favorite. What I love most is being thrust into the drama. From the start of the hymn, with the rolling 6/8 eighth notes, we feel the tossing of the boat to and fro. We can easily see ourselves sitting next to Peter of John or Andrew, terrified, trying to bail out oncoming water, afraid for our lives. Somehow Jesus sleeps through it all. Though, now that we have 5 children and I've witnessed many times how my wife can take a nap with pandemonium reigning all around here, I'm a little less amazed that Jesus slept through the storm.

Lines 6, 7 and 8 are the most fun. The composer really gives us the raging storm here, both in repetitive and ever-rising melody and in the chromatic harmony. Plus the propulsion of the rhythm. And then the hymn calms as the wind abates and the waves relax back to normal.

Recently we sang this in our ward Sacrament meeting. The conductor asked if we could really make it dramatic. So I prepared to make lots of registration changes to go along with the drama. She did a great job of speeding us up in the crazy storm sections as I continued to beef up the registration. Then we slowed and softened with the calming wind. It was SO effective! And SO much fun! We had a little Galilee opera in Sacrament meeting!

It's true that Hymn #105 falls more into the "song" category than the "hymn" category. But I love it. It's a definite keeper. 10 out of 10 in my book.

Well, that's all for our live report from the Sea of Galilee. I hope your seas will be calm. But if the winds start to rage, you know who your Pilot is. Go to the source. He will lead you to safer climates, calmer shores, greener pastures.

Take care,

Doug

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Commentary form “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

Hymn #104, “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”

Another very popular hymn that appears in numerous hymnals, the text was penned by the pastor of a church in New York City that served as a spiritual home for many sailors for whom this text would be especially meaningful and relevant. The appeal of the text and tune have allowed it to stand through the test of time as a beloved hymn to many.

Adjectives such as prayerful, reverent, fervent, gentle, thoughtful, calm, etc. are danger words in our hymnal as describers for desired affect. These words are too often equated with slow and dull. Tempos drag, energy wanes, and boringness prevails. Such is the danger with this hymn as well. I would highly recommend not going any slower than 72 beats per minute, as the hymn played slower would became a dirge, not a prayerful plea for the Savior’s guidance. I would use a similar registration to previous hymns as well, perhaps with a small addition for each verse.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: maybe a Bourdon 16’
Swell: Principal 4’, Flute 2’
Pedal:

Hymn #105, “Master, the Tempest Is Raging”

I think this is a tremendously powerful and effective song. I recall one extraordinary arrangement performed at conference several years ago… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsQ4NHCYrmg. When I heard a particularly poor sermon preached on the scriptural text from which this work was paraphrased, I decided to improvise on this song during communion, and the Director of Music was particularly touched by my improvisation that day. It is a very good text and tune.

However, I think it is a tremendously good song, or better yet, an anthem, but not really a hymn. I think it requires a degree of precision, interpretation, expression, and execution that can really only be achieved through a choir, and not really through congregational singing. But oh, what an anthem!

I think the faster end of the suggested tempo is a good tempo to be at. I find that I would play it between 66-70 beats per minute, depending on the size of the congregation and the acoustic of the room (ha! What acoustics?!). I would explore again a fuller or darker registration for this hymn, utilizing a dark chorus reed and maybe some 16’s, lightening the registration for “peace, be still.”

Registration Starting Point:
Great: 16’ Bourdon (?), Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’,  Hautbois 8’ (?)
Pedal: Subbass 16’ Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’, Soft 16’ Reed (?)
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Change to Peace, be Still:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Gollum's Favorite Hymn

Gollum’s Favorite Hymn

Hymn #103 — “Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer”

Text and music: H. R. Palmer (1834-1907)
Tune name: PRECIOUS

If Middle Earth had its own hymnal, this would be Gollum’s favorite.

Can’t you just hear him singing it?

My own…

My…

Pprrrrrreeeecious Savior…”

He may find it “precious,” I’m not sure I’d go that far.

It’s a decent hymn. I’m not crazy about it.

The text is beautiful, for sure. And while the music is pleasant and somewhat calming, it doesn’t fully depict my feelings for the Savior. The first 6 bars are a little to repetitive for me. I like the 3rd line, especially the end. But the end of the 3rd line has some chromaticism that, while sound lovely, doesn’t seem to fit the mood of the text. It’s a little too barbershop-y for my taste.

My favorite part is the fermata moment in the last line. At long last we get something other than the 1 or 5 chord, apart form the chromatic bit at the end of the 3rd line (the slip from G-major to B-flat major by means of a common tone, the D is a nice one). We get a 4 chord on A-flat.

Delayed gratification is one thing. This is taking it a bit too far.

I do like the final cadence. Like the fermata in the 3rd line, the tenor steps down by half step to the final chord. The last 3 chords are, a 7 diminished chord of B-flat (A-C-E-flat), then a B-flat 7 chord, then the final 1 chord. It works well. But it’s too little too late for my liking.

I suppose only using the 1 chord and 5 chord for so much of the piece depicts a simple, tender feeling. But it feels bland to me. My feelings for the Savior are more emotional than that. I would do more to get the congregation feeling something other than a simple toggling back and forth between 1 and 5. But that’s just me.

I’m not sure I have any more to say about the hymn. It could be better.

But I’m glad Gollum like it. Anything to bring him closer to his maker…

Tomorrow we’ll talk about a real classic.

See you then!

Doug

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Commentary form “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

I think my remarks for this hymn may be brief today as I am somewhat ambivalent to this hymn, at least in the sense that I have much less of an opinion about this hymn’s qualities or lack thereof relative to the last four hymns we have reviewed. In fact, I think this is a fine hymn, even if it is not one of the best. I think it a solid hymn.

I think the tempo suggestion for this hymn is just fine, in fact I was about in the middle when I checked how fast I would play it. I think care should be taken to play the dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm with exactness, otherwise it becomes a triplet, and I think that would be not the best outcome. I would again use a more quiet registration for this hymn.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great:
Swell: Flute 2’
Pedal:

A Hymn That Calms the Raging Seas

A Hymn That Calms the Raging Seas

Hymn #102 — “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”

Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Music: Joseph P. Holbrook (1822-1888)
Tune name: REFUGE

On October 28, 1736, the ship carrying hymn writer and preacher Charles Wesley, was caught in a hurricane.

“In the evening at eight it came, and rose higher and higher… There was so prodigious a sea that it quickly washed away our sheep and half our hogs, and drowned most of our fowl… The sea streamed in at the sides so plentifully that it was as much as four men could do by continual pumping to keep her above water… I prayed for faith in Jesus Christ, continually repeating his name, till I felt the virtue of it at last, and knew that I abode under the shadow of the Almighty…” (Davidson, Our Latter-Day Hymns).

Reading the text of hymn #102, it sounds to me like Wesley’s hurricane experience was a live event that inspired a great hymn.

While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past.”

We’ve all been caught in a storm, either the kind that makes headlines on the Weather Channel, or the kind that fights to drown our soul. Everyone can identify with this hymn for that reason. That’s probably why it is so famous among all Christian denominations.

Nearly 200 years after Wesley’s hurricane, the famous preacher Henry Ward Beecher said:

I would rather have written that hymn of Wesley’s, ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul,’ than to have the fame of all the kings that ever sat on the earth. It is more glorious. It has more power in it. That hymn will go on singing until the last trump brings forth the angel band; and then, I think, it will mount up on some lip to the very presence of God.” (Nutter and Tillet, The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church, 1911).

Is It The Music Or The Text?

So, what makes this hymn so great?

First of all, the text is poignant, personal, and full of pleading. The kind of pleading we’ve all experiences. We can identify with the author. We can see ourself in a situation where we’ve desperately needed help.

That’s a huge part of the power of this hymn. But it would lost if the music didn’t rise to the occasion.

Jason discusses other tunes used in other hymnals (see below) for this hymn text. I’m not familiar with them but will be taking a look.

This is our 6th hymn in a row that expresses a similar type of yearning. And like the 5 that came before it, the musical elements, especially the harmony used, is very basic. There are only 3 chords in this hymn. The 1 chord, the 4 chord, and the 5 chord.

There are at least 3 things at play that make what for me, and many others, is an excellent marriage of text and music.

First, the rolling triplet rhythm mixed with dotted eighth sixteenths gives the sense of the rolling waves. We can picture the scene with these melodic clues. Some don’t like the “song” nature of this hymn. I often have this complaint. It’s true that many so called “hymns” in our book are much more “songs” rather than “hymns.” The first two lines of this hymn are definitely more in the “song” camp. But the last half is more of a traditional hymn. Yet it continues the same rolling triplet melody, which I really like.

Second, the duet between soprano and tenor. I wish there was an alto line that filled out the harmony a bit more, but it’s not completely necessary. Having the tenor line join the soprano in this duet makes me think of the person who’s yearning and the Lord above being in sync. It’s kind of like the old “Footsteps in the Sand” poem. “You’re not alone” the tenor seems to say to the soprano. I find it comforting.

Third, the large leaps in the “harmony” section give that sense of yearning. It allows the voice to move up into that higher, reaching register. It allows the heart to get involved in the singing by making the vocal apparatus work to get up to those high notes. This all increases the sense of pleading. And the way the composer uses the tension of the limited chords, is done nicely. Rather than just plunk the chords down in their natural, boring form, there is a lot of motion between them. Motion that highlights the tension and resolve qualities of these chords.

It’s a lovely gem in our hymnal. Though, I am curious to check out Jason’s suggestions of other musical settings.

That’s all for today.

Have a good one!

Doug

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Commentary from “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

Perhaps the new hymnbook committee can come to a determination that they could have more than one publication. A new hymnal with hymns, a new children songbook (though what a shame, as our current book has so many wonderful children’s songs that I recommend it for use with our ages 2-5 children’s choir at my job), and a devotional songbook more suited for personal use. These songs we have been discussing would be much more suited for such a book, and today’s song I think falls into the same category.

Another song that really isn’t a hymn in our hymnal because of the tune with which it is paired, Jesus, Lover of My Soul especially because of the first half being a duet. This text is published in most hymn and song collections (hymnary.org reports publication in at least 2746 hymnals!), but is generally set to a number of other tunes. One tune, MARTYN, is also song-like in nature and a very nice setting for this text. Another tune this text is often set to is ABERYSTWYTH, an excellent tune in a minor key and also an excellent tune for this text. Both I think are much better tunes than the one found in our book for congregational singing. I must say I don’t mind the tune at all as a song, but I just don’t think it too effective for congregational use.

The text is a very good subjective text, but is quite a bit longer than what we have in our book. Most hymnals contain four verses of this text, and it is unfortunate that we do not have all of the verses as well. We have shone that we will make adjustments to texts if there are slight doctrinal discrepancies, and that was the case with this text, I think it would have been a good candidate for slight adjustment as well.

Again with this song, there is great danger to go too slow and let it really drag. A tempo to keep a good forward push or momentum for this song is around 72 beats per minute. Much slower than that, and it will really drag along. One other operational observation is that the the dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythms will most often come out as a triplet, and I think this is natural because of the triplet pattern found in numerous measures. This natural tendency means that the song is more naturally in compound meter.

Because of the songs nature as a duet, it provides one the opportunity to experiment with solo voices in your registration. I would find nice solo options, a nice voice in the other manual to accompany, and play the duet with the soprano on the solo and the tenor on the accompanying voice. Then have a piston set to change to a more traditional accompanying registration for the second half of the song. I’d even a different solo registration for the second verse duet…

Duet Solo Voice Possibilities:

Great: Principal 8’, (Flute 4’?); Flute 8’, 4’; Clarinet 8’(or Krummhorn, but very often, the Krummhorns on our electronic instruments are so ugly…)

Swell: Hautbois 8’, Flute 8’; Flute 8’, 2’; Flute 8’, 4’, Nazard 2 ⅔’; Cornet (Flute or Principal 8’, Flute or Principal 4’, Nazard 2 ⅔’, Flute 2’, Tierce 1 ⅗’); Flute 8’, 4’, Larigot 1 ⅓’; Bassoon 16’, Bourdon 16’ (played up the octave); use of the tremulant could be nice with some of these registrations such as the Flute 8’, 4’, Nazard 2 ⅔’ or Hautbois 8’, Flute 8’ IF the tremulant is mild and not too fast or wide in pitch. If it adds gentle undulation, then I might experiment with it, as it might add just the right touch. I would most definitely NOT use it if the tremulant is fast and/or too wide in pitch. One must be very cautious and judicious with its use, and only in this application (soloing out a voice). I would never use it in normal hymn accompanying (all hands on one manual).

Duet Accompanying Possibilities:
Great: Principal 8’; Flute 8’; Flute 8’, 4’
Swell: Principal 8’; Flute 8’, 4’; Flute 8’, String 8’
Pedal: Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Accompanying Manual/Ped

2nd Half Registration:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, (2’?)
Pedal: Bourdon 16, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

The Lost Barbershop Sheep

The Lost Barbershop Sheep

Hymn #101 — “Guide Me to Thee”

Text and music: Orson Pratt Huish (1851-1932; LDS)
Tune name: JAMES

In this section of the hymnal, we’ve had a few hymns that are very similar to each other. “Nearer My God to Thee” and “I Need Thee Every Hour” are two of them. Today’s hymn, “Guide Me to Thee,” is the 3rd in this series.

Each has a repetitive, yearning, pleading text. Each uses some of the same simple musical building blocks.

Yesterday I mentioned that I prefer “I Need Thee Every Hour” over “Nearer My God to Thee” for various reasons (read yesterday’s post here). Hymn #101 is closer to “Nearer My God to Thee” on my hymn-quality gauge than “I Need Thee Every Hour” is.

It’s okay… but… it doesn’t quite do it for me.

I do like the “call and response” nature of the text. There are repeated statements from the dark that end with the repetitive plea, “Guide me to thee.” I don’t find the text to be, for lack of a better term, “vain repetition.” I can see myself in the text at different times of life, pleading for help.

It’s a lost sheep hymn, and that is what I like and respect about it.

But the musical clothes that dress the message… that’s what I’m not super happy with.

It’s almost like the lost sheep is singing barbershop. Especially in the opening phrase. That 2nd bar, with the descending half steps in the melody, it has that barbershop twinkle in its eye.

Don’t get me wrong, I love barbershop. Yet I can’t quite get the my internal lost sheep to feel comfortable singing in that style.

It’s like a smooth talking sheep was trying to get in with the Good Shepherd using flattery.

I’m sure that’s not what Orson Pratt Huish intended. But that’s what I’m hearing. And to quote the subtitle of a book I recently read (Words that Work by Dr. Frank Luntz), “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”

The music sends the wrong message to my ears.

I do like the 3rd line, especially the 2nd bar. The high D on the downbeat is a spine tingling appoggiatura. The B-flat from the last note of the 1st measure leaps up and hits the high D on an A-flat major chord. There are no Ds in an A-flat major chord. So it stands out as a dissonance that resolves on the next syllable. It’s the most effective moment of the hymn.

IMG_0015.jpg

The next 2 bars follow a similar pattern, but there’s a doubling issue that spoils the mood. The octave Ds in the soprano and alto in the 3rd bar of the 3rd line. Doubling the 3rd of the chord is often permissible. There’s no need for this one. And the fact that the D is the leading tone in this key makes it worse. All the alto would need to do is leap up to an F on the word “in” and leap back to the D on the next chord. That fixes it.

So, should it be in the new hymnal? I wouldn’t mind if it was left out. I’d rather make room for hymns that grab me on an emotional level. We’ll see more emotional hymn strength in tomorrow’s post.

That’s all for today.

Have a good one!

Doug

P.S. Are you worried that the hymn you’re writing is in need of an emotional boost? In Part 3 of the “Practical Guide to Hymn Composing” I’m writing, I get into this topic in detail. To be notified when it’s available, click the big green button below.

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Commentary from “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

While I don’t have the same strong feelings about this song as yesterday’s, it is the third devotional song in a row that doesn’t represent the best of hymnody or of congregational song. I think it is a fine song, and would actually be fitting for personal devotion or for comfort in times of trial or grief as a plea to the Savior for help, but in the context of corporate worship, it just doesn’t seem to fit as well to me.

I don’t have the same concerns about the compound meter in this song as I did in #99. The text fits well into this gently moving meter. Again, I don’t find these subjective type personal devotional texts to be as great of texts for hymns as more objectively-oriented texts, but I do appreciate how Karen Davidson analyzed this text. She identifies it as a type of litany, or prayer in which as certain points a one-line response is uttered. Such is this text and the responsory “Guide Me to Thee.” The tune is simple, yet not cliched in nature like the previous song we discussed yesterday. It is a nice, gentle tune that matches the text well. There is a very nice arrangement of this piece for solo voice in one of the Sabbath Song books that is very fitting, especially for funerals.

Once again, the suggested tempo is far too slow. I find that the tempo is just right around dotted quarter note equal to 56-58 beats per minute (that’s eighth note equal to 148-156, a bit of a difference over the marked 100-120…) I would use the same quite registration for this song as well, but I might also break what some consider to be a cardinal sin, and that is using celestes for congregational singing. To me the last verse of this song is a very good spot to use a string celeste to reflect the affect of the verse…

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Retire Principal 8’ (if there is also a principal in the Swell. If not, keep this one.)
Swell: String Celeste 8’ (don’t use a flute celeste… it’s not the same)
Pedal:

A Titanic Hymn-Cure for Hypothermia

A Titanic Hymn-Cure for Hypothermia

Hymn #100 — “Nearer, My God, to Thee”

Text: Sarah F. Adams (1805-1848)
Music: Lowell Mason (1792-1872)
Tune name: BETHANY

Hymn 100. Wow! I sort of can’t believe I’ve kept this up for 100 days.

I hope you’ve found it all worthwhile and helpful. That’s the goal. I’ll confess to some occasional grumbling on my part. But I think those who “can” help “should” help. So, here we are.

“Nearer, My God, to Thee” is a classic hymn with music by American church music maven, Lowell Mason. This is his most famous of the 1600 hymns he wrote.

Sarah Adams, who wrote the text, depicts the story of Jacob’d dream in Genesis 28. It is another beautiful “yearning” hymn.

The hymn was so well known as a hymn of comfort that even when the Titanic was sinking, the string band played this hymn as its final musical offering to the terrified passengers. Those poor musicians, having to play while sinking to an inevitable icy death. I’m not sure going into the depths of an ice cold ocean is come “nearer” to God, or how it could thaw frozen fingers and toes. But, whatever…

Verses 4 and 5 are beautiful. I wish we were in the habit of singing them even though they’ve been doomed to obscurity by means of being printed at the bottom of the page.

Musically speaking, I find this hymn very similar to Hymn #98, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” It has the same puritan feel to it. The building blocks are very simple. Not as plain as Hymn #99, which takes the simple into the real, perhaps not of the absurd, but it stretches the plainness too far for my taste.

Hymn #100 does have a chorus-like 3rd line that goes up into the higher register, increasing the yearning. But it doesn’t quite reach the level of Hymn #98’s chorus. They are not much different, but if I had to choose between Hymn #98 or #100, I would choose #98.

It’s hard to put my finger on why that is exactly. My first gut reaction is that after 3 or 4 verses of #98, my attention is still fully engaged. By the end of 3 verses of Hymn #100, I’m starting to get tired of the music. The text is wonderful. I could keep that going for a while. I just wish there were one or two extra musical twists or turns in #100. The last line is the perfect place to do that. But Mason decides to copy line 2 exactly. It works. But I’m getting musically tired after a while.

That’s all for today, the 100th day of our journey through the hymnal.

Tune back in tomorrow for the first of another 100 hymns.

Have a good one!

Doug

P.S. To learn how to add the little extra twists and turns that can spice up a hymn just enough, be sure to click the green button below. I’m writing a book, a practical guide to hymn writing and primary song writing. I’ll go into detail on this topic. Click the button to be notified about my progress and when the book is ready to go.

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Commentary from “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

We’ve made it to 100 hymn reviews! I think I can safely say this is my least favorite song in our book. I have never liked this song and I still don’t. I find it to be rather mediocre and overdone to the point of being rather trite. Doug in his kindness occasionally points out to me that I have little tact or am too harsh on occasion, and I think that you can see here that his observations of my personality are probably true in this case. Most of the time I don’t mean to be too harsh or tactless, but in this case, this is how I feel about this song.

A comment was made on yesterday’s song that it is effective in the temple or at funerals, and I will readily admit that there are appropriate times for today’s song as well. I think that there are probably many people that find solace and comfort in this song at certain times, so I am not blind to this being a beloved song. I just find the text rather uninspiring personally and the tune and harmonization extremely boring. I’m sorry to be so harsh on this song, but there are so many other hymns and anthems that communicate a similar message of longing and comfort that are excellent, that I tire quickly of this song that I think is very mediocre. I am not naive, however, that I am likely in a small minority with this song.

If one were to play this song within the recommended tempo in the hymnal, I would feel they were just trying to prolong my discomfort with this song. I would probably play it around 96 beats per minute. I would also fidget much with the harmony and try to add a little more interest to the tune through some judicious reharmonization. I would follow the registration pattern of the last few hymns as well.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, String 8’
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great:
Swell:
Pedal:

2 Rope-Ladder Hymns to Help You Escape the Abyss

2 Rope-Ladder Hymns to Help You Escape the Abyss

Hymn #97 — “Lead, Kindly Light”

Text: John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
Music: John B. Dykes (1823-1876)
Tune name: LUX BENIGNA

Do you ever fall into the black pit of despair?

Have you even felt like there was no way out?

I have.

The worst part about it for me is trying to figure out how to find that first foothold that starts the climb out.

My Least Favorite Thanksgiving Hymn & An Announcement

My Least Favorite Thanksgiving Hymn & An Announcement

Hymn #95 — “Now Thank We All Our God”

Text: martin Rinkhart (1586-1649);
translated by Catherine Winkworth (1829-1878)
Music: Johann Cruger (1598-1662)
Tune name: NUN DANKET

Hymn #95 is a fine old hymn. But I’m not crazy about it.

When a tune begins on the 5th scale degree and hangs out there for a while (like #7), I’m often turned off.

Will The New Hymnal Cancel Thanksgiving?

Will The New Hymnal Cancel Thanksgiving?

Hymn #93 — “Prayer of Thanksgiving”

Text and music: Anonymous, from the Netherlands (early 17th century)
Tune name: KREMSER

In the Church’s announcement of the new hymnal, they state that any hymns with specific National references will be removed.

Ok, so, no more “God Save the Queen,” that makes sense.

But, what about Thanksgiving?