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: