Dr. Pew's 341 LDS Hymn Reviews

A Ritual Mormon Fire Dance

HYMN #59; #332 — “COME, O THOU KING OF KINGS”

Text: Parley P. Pratt (1807-1857; LDS)
Music: Anonymous (ca. 1889)
Tune name: SANFORD

By the time we get to the 2nd verse and we start pleading for Him to come and “cleanse the earth by fire,” we know for sure what’s going on. It’s a ritual Mormon fire dance!

Forget square dancing, we’re Millennium dancing!

 

The Swirling Mormon Matador Effect

HYMN #58 — “COME, YE CHILDREN OF THE LORD”

Text: James H. Wallis (1861-1940; LDS)
Music: Spanish melody; arranged by Benjamin Carr (1768-1831)
Tune name: SPANISH HYMN

After spending the last week or more in the mirky darkness of the sealed portion of the hymnal, suddenly the roof’s been blown off and the hot Spanish sun comes blazing in.

 

Do I Dare Offer Suggestions to a Tabernacle Organist?

HYMN #57 — “WE’RE NOT ASHAMED TO OWN OUR LORD”

Text: William W. Phelps (1792-1872; LDS); altered
Music: John Longhurst (b. 1940; LDS)
Tune name: AUSTIN

My inner Molly Mormon voice says…

“Brother Pew! How could you?!

 

An Exquisite Beauty Sentenced to Death

HYMN #56 — “SOFTLY BEAMS THE SACRED DAWNING”

Text: John Jaques (1827-1900; LDS)
Music: J. Spencer Cornwall *1888-1983; LDS)
Tune name: PRAYER OF GRATITUDE

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little hymn. She was a special little hymn because she sang about the day when peace will cover the earth, a Millennial day when lambs and lions will lie down together.

 

Get rid of out of tune Ward Choir singing once and for all [PART 1 of 3]

Are you struggling to help your ward choir sing in tune?

Are you stumped trying to figure out how to solve their bad intonation?

There are 3 basic reasons a choir can sound out of tune are...

 

2 Small Changes that Transform Hymn #55 from Good to Great

HYMN #55 — “LO, THE MIGHTY GOD APPEARING!”

Text: William Goode (1762-1816)
Music: Evan Stephens (1854-1930; LDS)
Tune name: QUINCY

Solid melody. Powerful unison sections.

Symmetrical phrases. Alternating cadences.

Satisfying climax. Bright, crisp tempo (though, I want it up in the quarter = 120 or 126 range).

Energetically places tessitura to match the glory of the text.

Hymn #55 has all the right ingredients of a great hymn.

So what’s missing?

 

The Great Unknown Temple Hymn

HYMN #54 — “BEHOLD, THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD”

Text: Michael Bruce (1746-1767); adapted
Music: Leland B. Sateren (b. 1913)
Tune name: REGWAL

Wow, another undiscovered gem! I must have slept through this part of the hymnal on my previous times through the book.

 

A Secret Gem Hidden in the Sealed Portion

HYMN #53 — “LET EARTH’S INHABITANTS REJOICE”

Text: William Clegg (1823-1903; LDS)
Music: Leroy J. Robertson (`896-1971; LDS)
Tune name: PLEASANT GROVE

How did I ever miss this hymn? I’ve been through the hymnal many time and have no recollection of this one. It’s fabulous!

 

How a Horde of Wild Chilean Mormons Taught Me to Sing

HYMN #52 — “THE DAY DAWN IS BREAKING”

Text: Joseph L. Townsend (1849-1942; LDS)
Music: William W. Clayson (1840-1887; LDS)
Tune name: MANCHESTER

Hymn #52 brings back fond memories of my mission in Northern Chile. Well, actually, the first memories are not so fond.

We sang this hymn ALL. THE. TIME. on my mission. But it was often way too slow. Part of the problem was that it was really rare to find a ward that had a pianist. Most of the time, at least during my first 6 months, we sang all they hymns without a pianist. None of the chapels had organs in them. So when it came time to sing, the music leader would wave their arm and everyone would start singing in whatever key the Spirit moved them to sing in. It was utter chaos for about the entire first verse.

 

A Little Patriarchal Barbershop

HYMN #51 — “SONS OF MICHAEL, HE APPROACHES”

Text: Elias L. T. Harrison (1830-1900; LDS ); altered
Music: Darwin K. Wolford (b. 1936; LDS)
Tune name: JULIE

I had this funny image in my mind of the great Patriarchs singing together in a Barbershop Quartet. Moses laid down the law with his booming bass line. Isaiah crooned a warm baritone with smooth colorful chromatic harmonies. Noah soared over the top of the gang like his olive branch carrying dove. And of course, in the lead, was old Father Adam, aka, Michael.

 

A Cranky Composer’s Quick Fix

HYMN #50 — “COME, THOU GLORIOUS DAY OF PROMISE”

Text: From Pratt’s Collection, ca. 1830; altered
Music: A. C. Smyth (1840-1909; LDS)
Tune name: RUTH

I love this hymn! It has that strong air of many of the great Protestant hymns. It’s bold melody right from the outset soars up to the high D. The moving internal quarter notes help propel the 2/2 motion forward with ease.

And then the composer has to go and ruin it for my by insisting on dropping out the men’s parts in the 3rd phrase.

 

The Garden of Eden Needs Weeding

HYMN #49 -- "ADOM-ONDI-AHMAN

Text: William W. Phelps (1792-1872; LDS)
Music: Anonymous, Southern Harmony, 1835
Tune name: PROSPECT OF HEAVEN

I'm expecting to get some wrath from more than a few readers with this one...

The music in this hymn just doesn't do it for me. Not even close. 

 

New Mormon Wine in Old Bottles

HYMN #48 -- "GLORIOUS THINGS ARE SUNG OF ZION"

Text: William W. Phelps (1792-1872; LDS)
Music: Dutch melody (ca. 1710)
Tune name: IN BABILONE

There must be very few hymns in the entire world that go into the kind of detail Hymn #48 goes into about the city of Enoch, Zion, the pure in heart. This is true blue new Latter-Day Saint doctrine from the Pearl of Great Price. So why was the 1985 hymnbook committee happy to set such a text to an old hymn? 

 

Professor Kirchenbank and Professor Bradshaw go Head to Head

HYMN #47 -- "WE WILL SING OF ZION"

Text and music: Merrill Bradshaw (1929-2000; LDS)
Tune name: ZION

Eminent BYU Professor of Composition, Dr. Merrill Bradshaw, is the composer of Hymn #47. It is an excellent hymn. Unfortunately, I don't think I've ever sung this one in a Sacrament Meeting. The other misfortune is that Prof. Kirchenbank, who I asked to have a look at Bradshaw's work, heard when playing through the hymn, that naked illegal parallel 5th sound.

 

The Emperor's New Hymn-Groove

HYMN #46 -- "GLORIOUS THINGS OF THEE ARE SPOKEN"

Text: John Newton (1725-1807)
Music: Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Tune name: AUSTRIA

Haydn was employed as a servant. His employer, Prince Esterhazy of Austria, hired the composer and a full orchestra to provide music for his enjoyment. Haydn pumped out piece after piece numbering in the hundreds. Symphonies, Operas, String Quartets, Piano Sonatas, Concertos, and any other type of music you can imagine from mid to late 18th-century composer. He and his orchestra wore servants livery when they performed. 

 

An Apostle Rescued from 'Darkness'

HYMN #45 -- LEAD ME INTO LIFE ETERNAL

Text: John A. Widtsoe (1872-1952; LDS)
MUSIC: ALEXANDER SCHREINER (1901-1987; LDS)
Tune name: PARKER

What a beautiful hymn! Any time an Apostle writes a hymn text, I pay attention. Yet this particular hymn and it's author, Elder John A. Widtsoe, had to be rescued from the 'Darkness' by the composer. 

 

This One Bugs Me, But I'm a Bit of a Snob

HYMN #44 -- "BEAUTIFUL ZION, BUILT ABOVE

Text: George Gill (1820-1880)
Music: Joseph G. Fones (1828-1906; LDS)
Tune name: BARROW

I spoke with Herr Profesor Kirchenbank about today's hymn. We both feel that the text and tune of this hymn are well written. Yet, we're not sure this hymn should be kept in the new hymnal in its current state.

 

How to Weaken a Powerful Hymn Text

HYMN #43 -- "ZION STANDS WITH HILLS SURROUNDED"

Text: Thomas Kelly (1769-1854)
Music: A. C. Smyth (1840-1909; LDS)
Tune name: SAFETY

Unfortunately, the music doesn't quite achieve the strength of the text. One section, in particular, weakens the message substantially, at least it does in my ears. 

 

A Little Soft In The Middle

HYMN #42 -- "HAIL TO THE BRIGHTNESS OF ZION'S GLAD MORNING!"

Text: Thomas Hastings (1784-1872)
Music: Edwin F. Parry (1850-1935; LDS)
Tune name: BRIGHTNESS

This hymn has several great elements, but I'm not sure they're put together in the most useful or convincing way.

 

Joseph Smith's Right-Hand Man Writes Eye Witness Zion Hymn

HYMN #41 -- "LET ZION IN HER BEAUTY RISE"

Text: Edward Partridge (1793-1840; LDS)
Music: Anonymous (Württemberg, Germany, ca. 1784)
Tune name: ELLACOMBE

This is a favorite hymn of mine. I love the match of powerful music with the bold, powerful text. The text is a prayer, but a mighty prayer offer with a raging fire.

What I love most is how a bunch of black notes on a piece of white paper physically depict the most important attribute of Zion. More about that in a minute.

 

How to Get Those Old Tired Basses to Wake Up and Move

HYMN #40 -- "ARISE, O GLORIOUS ZION"

Text: William G. Mills (1822-1895; LDS)
Music: George Careless (1839-1932; LDS
Tune name: VICTORY

I don't ever remember singing this hymn in church. I think it gets eclipsed a little by Hymn #41, "Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise." But Hymn #40 is a strong Zion hymn worthy of its place in the hymnal.

 

"These aren't the notes you're looking for..." - Obi-Wan Composey

Hymn #39 -- "O Saints of Zion"

Text: Ed M. Rowe (1878-1951; LDS)
Music: Robert P. Manookin (b. 1918; LDS)
Tune name: HAUGAN

"If I wave my Jedi hand and think my Jedi thoughts, can I make this music sound better than it is?"

 

Not the Chicken Dance, More Like the Gathering Hen's "Whistle While You Work"

HYMN #38 -- "COME, ALL YE SAINTS OF ZION"

Text: William W. Phelps (1792-1872; LDS)
Music: John E. Tullidge (1806-1873; LDS)
Tune name: TEASDALE

One of the common themes in the early days of the Church was the "gathering" of scattered Israel. The vast missionary efforts demonstrate this urgency of this doctrine to early Church members and leaders. 

 

The most "choral" hymn in the book

HYMN #37 -- "THE WINTRY DAY, DESCENDING TO ITS CLOSE"

Text: Orson F. Whitney (1855-1931; LDS)
Music: Edward P. Kimball (1882-1937; LDS)
Tune name: ALEX

This hymn is much more a "Motet" than a congregational hymn. 

Don't get me wrong, it's lovely, both the text and the music. But it's not written in a way that a congregation can have much success singing it.

 

How to Make a Hymn Sounds as Sturdy as a Pioneer

HYMN #36 -- "THEY, THE BUILDERS OF THE NATION"

Text: Ida R. Alldredge (1892-1943; LDS)
Music: Alfred M. Durham (1872-1957; LDS)
Tune name: BEAVER

I don't think I would have done very well as a pioneer. Just thinking about all they did makes me want to take a nap.

 

Alps vs Rockies, what do you think?

Hymn #35 -- "For the Strength of the Hills"

Text: Felicia D. Hemans (1793-1835);
      adapted by Edward L. Sloan (1830-1874; LDS)
Music: Evan Stephens (1854-1930; LDS)
Tune name: GRANTSVILLE

Alp? Rockies? I might vote for the Andes as my favorite mountain range. But I’m a little biased. I served my mission in Chile.

Which “Hills” are we talking about in this hymn?

 

The Hymn Tune That Helped Win An Academy Award

HYMNS #34 -- "O YE MOUNTAIN HIGH"

Text: Charles W. Penrose (1832-1925; LDS)
Music: H.S. Thompson (ca. 1852)
Tune name: LILY DALE

"And the Oscar goes to...HYMN # 34 "O YE MOUNTAIN HIGH!" 

Well, not exactly...

 

Our Mountain Home, In Flames

HYMN #33 -- OUR MOUNTAIN HOME SO DEAR

Text: Emmeline B. Wells (1828-1921; LDS)
Music: Evan Stephens (1854-1930; LDS)
Tune name: UTAH

The collaborative powers of Emmeline Wells and Evan Stephens are remarkable. The text of Hymn #33 is elegant and picturesque, while the music soothes and gives the peaceful morning air of the Rocky Mountains musical life. Say farewell to this hymn as it's about to go up in smoke. It will surely be cut from the new hymnal.

 

A Hymn Published Before The Composer Was Born

HYMN #32 -- "THE HAPPY DAY AT LAST HAS COME"

Text: Phil Dibble (1806-1895; LDS)
Music: Ebenezer Beesley (1840-1906; LDS)
Tune name: ANIMATION

I only recently realized that the first Latter-Day Saint hymnal, the one Emma Smith published, was not a hymnal that had any musical notes in it. The whole thing was a book of hymn texts.

When I first had a look at the birth and death dates of the poet and composer of this hymn combined with the comment "Included in the first LDS hymnbook, 1835," I wondered how Ebenezer Beesley could have written the hymn. He wasn't born until 1840. Maybe he was composing int he pre-existence?

 

A dignified, if somewhat boring old hymn

HYMN #31 -- O GOD, OUR HELP IN AGES PAST

Text: Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Music: William Croft (1678-1727)
Tune name: ST. ANNE

I don't have much to say about this hymn, other than I find the music somewhat boring.

 

The Hans Zimmer Technique for Drawing On the Deepest Emotions With Music

HYMN #30; 326 -- COME, COME, YE SAINTS

Text: William Clayton (1814-1879; LDS)
Music: English folk song
Tune name: ALL IS WELL

Did you see the WWII film "Dunkirk" that came out last year? (Spoiler Alert!)

 

BONUS POST: Introducing, Commentary From "The Bench Warmer"

It's time to bring in another expert, someone who can give intelligent commentary and offer helpful comments for the Organists among us.

I'd like to introduce you to one of my best musical friends, Dr. (almost) Jason Gunnell. 

 

A prophetic lullaby, a soothing balm before death

HYMN #29 -- A POOR WAYFARING MAN OF GRIEF

Text: James Montgomery (1771-1854)
Music: George Coles (1792-1858); altered
Tune name: DUANE STREET

What does one think about, sitting in jail, falsely accused, knowing they are about to die?

 

An American writes a British Hymn

HYMN #28 -- SAINTS, BEHOLD HOW GREAT JEHOVAH

Text: Douglas W. Stott (b. 1925; LDS)
Music: A. Laurence Lyon (1934-2006; LDS)
Tune name: EDGAR

This is a hymn I don't ever remember seeing, playing through or singing. I must have played through it at some point. I've been through the hymnal many times. Oh well, now I know it. And I LOVE it! It's bold, it's mighty, it's a great short power-hymn, perfect for a quick intermediate hymn in Sacrament Meeting.

 

Vikings Storm the Chapel and Raid Sacrament Meeting

HYMN #27 -- PRAISE TO THE MAN

Text: William W. Phelps (179201872; LDS)
Music: Scottish folk song
Tune name: MARTYR

I remember watching "The Dead Poet's Society" when I was a young teenager and hearing the bagpipes play a familiar tune. I was like, "Hey, I just played that song in priesthood meeting on Sunday! Wow, I wonder how they found out about this hymn in our hymnbook. Maybe one of the people who made the movie is a Mormon?"

 

What Is the Highest Form of Hymn Writing?

HYMN #26 -- JOSEPH SMITH'S FIRST PRAYER

Text: George Manwaring (1854-1889; LDS)
Music: Sylvanus Billings Pond (1792-1871);
     adapted by A.C. Smyth (1840-1909; LDS)
Tune name: DIVINITY

What makes a perfect hymn? 

Surely there are many possible answers to this subjective question.

 

Using Discord to Create Unity

HYMN #25 -- NOW WE'LL SING WITH ONE ACCORD

Text: William W. Phelps (1792-1872; LDS)
Music: Joseph J. Daynes (1851-1920; LDS)
Tune name: AZALIA

How would you depict "unity" or a sense of "one accord" if you were writing a hymn?

How would you create a sense of "oneness" in the melody?

How would you use the harmony to color the emotions of "unity?"

 

How to Write a Melodic Prayer

HYMN #24 -- GOD BLESS OUR PROPHET DEAR

Text: Bernard Snow (1822-1894; LDS); altered
Music: Harry A. Dean (1892-1987; LDS)
Tune name: EPHRAIM

How can a melody become a prayer? 

What makes one hymn's melody a "fight song" and another's an "offering"?

We started this discussion yesterday and will continue it today.

 

What makes a melody sound reverent?

HYMN #23; 312 -- WE EVER PRAY FOR THEE

Text: Evan Stephens (1854-1930; LDS)
Music: Henry A. Tuckett (1852-1918; LDS); adapted by Evan Stephens
Tune name: SHADRACH

There's something special about Hymn #23. There's an inherent reverence baked into the melody and accompanying harmony. What is that? How can the same chords as almost every simple hymn be used differently to give off that sense of reverence? 

 

Finding an error in your teacher's work...what to do?

HYMN #22 -- WE LISTEN TO A PROPHET'S VOICE

Text: Marylou Cunningham Leavitt (b. 1928; LDS)
Music: Darwin K. Wolford (b. 1936; LDS)
Tune name: BRUCE

I owe a great deal to Darwin. He taught me SO much and gave me a solid footing that helped me as I went on to grad school. 

That's why finding a big voice leading error in his hymn has thrown me for a loop.

 

Our very own Mormon marching band

HYMN #21 -- COME, LISTEN TO A PROPHET'S VOICE

There's nothing particularly noteworthy about the tune or the harmony. But the hymn is successful. It arouses that sense of purpose, of duty, of getting to work. I can just see myself back on my mission, getting ready for the day, heading out for another long but happy day of marching up and down the slopes of the Andes mountains in the desert of Northern Chile. Good times!

 

A U.S. Senator leads us in knocking on heaven's door

HYMN #20 -- GOD OF POWER, GOD OF RIGHT

Here's some insight into the creative process in the poet's own words: 

 

How a funeral dirge became a peppy prophet praiser

HYMN #19 -- WE THANK THEE, O GOD, FOR A PROPHET

When Caroline Sheridan Norton composed both words and music to "The Officer's Funeral March," she surely had no idea it would be used years later as a jovial hymn of praise to latter-day prophets.

 

100th anniversary of the 1st Vision, what about the 200th?

HYMN #18 -- THE VOICE OF GOD AGAIN IS HEARD

Warning! This post contains shameless self-promotion. But I'll get to that in a minute. First, let's take a look at this hymn, our 3rd so far by Evan Stephens. 

 

Zion's poetess cries for vengeance

HYMN #17 -- AWAKE, YE SAINTS OF GOD, AWAKE!

Generally speaking, I'm a little disappointed with Evan Stephens's music. It's fine. There are no errors. But for me, it falls short of the text. It also gives off the wrong feeling. And then there's the issue with the missing soprano line for 4 bars. 

 

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