I don’t do great Sunday School lessons like Jim and Julie, but I do write short notes on the music for our ward bulletin most weeks. Mostly I shamelessly steal from Karen Lynn Davidson’s book on the hymns, but sometimes I plagiarize from other sources as well, and I occasionally have an original thought. I’m going to start posting my notes here, too, on the off chance that someone might find them interesting.
Hymn #46: Since we sang American patriotic hymns last week, I thought it would be interesting for the rest of the month to sing some of the other national anthem tunes that are in our hymnbook. This hymn is set to the tune AUSTRIAN HYMN, by Franz Josef Haydn. It was originally an sung in celebration of the birthday of Emperor Francis II in 1797 (The first line was “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser…”) and it eventually became the German national anthem. It is still the official national anthem of Germany, but it is rarely sung, because the tune and the second verse of the anthem, which begins “Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles” was so frequently used in Nazi rallies and propaganda, and thus is a painful reminder of nationalism gone horribly wrong. It seems especially fitting to have a text about Zion set to this tune, as a reminder that we can look forward to a society of peace and righteousness, with Christ “himself to reign as King.”
The text was written by John Newton, whose most famous hymn text is “Amazing Grace.” He was famously wicked as a young man, a slave trader and “libertine,” according to his tombstone. After his dramatic conversion to Christianity, he was ordained to the Anglican priesthood, and, along with William Cowper (who wrote “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”) published the _Olney Hymns_, from which this text, based on Isaiah 33:20-21 is taken.
[Sources: _Our Latter-day Hymns_, Karen Lynn Davidson; The Harvard Hymnal, ed. John Ferris, notes by Carl Wolff]
Hymn #54: Although this text has immediate resonance for Latter-day Saints, with its references to “the mountain of the Lord” and “Zion’s hill,” it was written by a Scotsman who was not a member of the Church. Actually, there is some debate about exactly *which* non-Mormon Scotsman wrote it; both John Logan (1748-1788) and Michael Bruce (1746-1767) claimed at various times to be its author. Most scholars now agree that Michael Bruce is the author.
Emma Smith included this hymn in the second hymnal she compiled (1841). It was also included in an early Primary songbook. However, for many years it was matched with a difficult tune by Joseph Daynes, and was rarely sung. The current tune, by Leland Sateren, a contemporary choir director and composer, was discovered in a hymnal of the Community of Christ (formerly called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I hope you like it, because I do, and I feel duty-bound to make up for all the years this text languished unsung by singing it often in our Ward!
[Source: Karen Lynn Davidson, _Our Latter-day Hymns_]
Choir Anthem: “Worcester” by Abraham Wood
Abraham Wood (1752-1804) was a fuller (finisher of cloth) and sometime composer, who lived most of his life in Northborough, Massachusetts. He is reputed to have been among the first volunteers for the Revolutionary War. This work, and several others by Wood, were included in the Columbian Harmony, published in 1793. This work is in the style of William Billings and the so-called Yankee singing masters who composed the earliest “native” music in the American colonies. This would have been a congregational song, rather than a piece performed by a choir with a conductor, so we will perform it that way, both for the sake of historical authenticity and because we’re desperately short of altos (yes, that’s a hint! you know who you are).
The text is from Isaiah 52:7-8.
[Source: "Choruses from 18th-Century New England," compiled by David P. McKay]
Next Week: 17 Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake!
176 ‘Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love
95 Now Thank We All Our God
Don’t forget that you can listen to the hymns at the new church music site, which can be accessed through www.lds.org. It’s a great way to become familiar with new hymns, or practice your favorites.