BRIEF HISTORY OF FAVORITE CHRISTIAN HYMNS

COME UNTO ME — Catherine Esling-Lowell Mason.  Catherine H. Watterman (later Mrs. George J. Esling) wrote these verses in 1839. In the same year they ap­peared in the periodical The Christian Keepsake where Lowell Mason saw them and thereafter set them to music.

ABIDE WITH MEHenry Francis Lyte-William Henry Monk. This lovely hymn of evening with words by Lyte (1793-1847) an Anglican clergyman, set to music by Dr. Monk (1823-1889), first musical editor of Hymns An­cient and Modern, is widely used in the Episcopal serv­ice. The flowing, restful measures of the music comple­ment the warm, hopeful faith of the verses.

ONE LITTLE CANDLE —J. Maloy Roach-George Mysels. The two authors collaborated on both words and music in this song which was inspired by the motto of the Christopher Movement: “It is better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark.”

THE SPACIOUS FIRMAMENTJoseph Addison-Franz Joseph Haydn. Joseph Addison (1672-1719) is far better known in modern times as a classical prose writer than a writer of hymns. The music is a somewhat shortened version of “The Heavens Are Telling,” from Haydn’s Creation.

GO DOWN, MOSES —Traditional. Grandest of Negro spirituals is this noble, severe com­position made up of statements by the leader and re­sponses by the congregation or choir. “Go down to Egypt and tell old Pharaoh,” says the leader, and the congregation intones, “Let my people go.”

THE LORD’S PRAYER — Albert Hay Malotte. This is probably the most widely popular devotional song, at least in the United States, of recent times. It first appeared in 1935 and quickly found a place on concert programs and in radio. The composer is a well-known organist. In recent years he has worked in Hollywood for the Walt Disney Studios as director of music.

JESUS SHALL REIGN — Isaac Watts-John Hatton. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was another of the greatest of English hymn writers. The evangelical churches took quickly to his verses as suitable for congregations to sing, but this music was not printed until 1790, three years before Hatton’s death. It was his sole hymn tune.

HOW GREAT THOU ART –S. K. Hine.  This hymn, composed originally in Sweden by Carl Boberg (1857-1940), somehow traveled to Russia and became a favorite among villagers in the Ukraine, where the English missionary Stuart Hine heard it often in the 1930s. In 1948 he wrote down both words and mu­sic from memory, translated the words and published the result.

WITH THESE HANDS — Benny Davis-Abner Silver. Published in 1950, this song was made popular by Eddie Fisher.

ALL HAIL THE POWERPerronet-Holden. The melody here, known as “Coronation,” was com­posed by Oliver Holden (1765-1844), modernized by William Shrubsole (1760-1806). The words, by Ed­ward Perronet (1721-1792), were first published in 1780 under the title “On the Resurrection.” Perronet was at one time an ardent disciple of John Wesley, and this influence is evident in his verses.

FAIREST LORD JESUS —Joseph Seiss-Richard Willis. Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, is usually credited with these seventeenth-century German words although they are of such antiquity it would be hard to prove. An anonymous translation was published in 1850 by Rich­ard Storr Willis (1819-1900) together with what was probably his own arrangement of the original Silesian folk song. The hymn is known as “Crusader’s Hymn.”

ELI, ELI —J. K. Sandler. There have been many arrangements of this quite old Russian music credited to various composers. It has been an immensely popular Yiddish concert song although not so much so at the present time. Its first line (“God, God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”) is in Aramaic-Hebrew. The rest is in nineteenth-century East Euro­pean Yiddish.

BLESS THIS HOUSE — Helen Taylor-May H. Brake. This song has gained a wide audience since it came out in 1932.

GOD OF OUR FATHERSDaniel C. Roberts-George W. Warren. The Rev. Roberts wrote the words of this stirring hymn in 1876 for the centennial Fourth of July celebration at Brandon, Vermont. The hymn with Warren’s music has long been a great favorite.

SWEET HOUR OF PRAYER –W. W. Walford-Wm. B. Bradbury.  William Walford, a blind shopkeeper and sometime preacher, dictated these verses to a friendly Congregationalist minister who sent them to the New York Observer. There they were seen by the well-known hymn writer William Bradbury (1816-1868) who set them to music.

LOVE DIVINE —  Charles Wesley-John Zundel. Charles Wesley (1707-1788), singer and writer of hymns, was the brother of John Wesley, founder of Methodism. Although other tunes have been used with Wesley’s beautiful words, and the tune to which he wrote them was a familiar Welsh hymn, the music pre­sented here was composed by Zundel (1815-1882) who was for thirty years organist of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, of which Henry Ward Beecher was pastor.

A MIGHTY FORTRESSMartin Luther. Martin Luther (1483-1546), the great reformer, is re­membered for many things, but none has reached out more surely to subsequent generations than this solemn and stirring hymn. The melody existed already in one of those great German chorales upon which so many later hymns were based. Luther himself modified it into its familiar form, and the original German words — “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott“— are his own.

HOLY, HOLY, HOLYReginald Heber-John B. Dykes. Reginald Heber (1783-1826) was bishop of the Church of England and wrote the words of many hymns which have endeared themselves to generations. The melody is known as “Nicaea” and was written to Heber’s words.

FROM GREENLAND’S ICY MOUNTAINS – Reginald Heber-Loivell Mason. Heber was thirty-six when he set down the verses of this universally beloved hymn. Heber’s father-in-law, vicar of Wrexham, is supposed to have said: “Reginald, write something for us to sing at the service tomorrow.” On that occasion the tune used was not the music presented here, which was composed in 1824 by Lowell Mason (1792-1872), the great teacher and leader of American church music.

NEARER MY GOD TO THEE—Sarah F. Adams-Lowell Mason. Mrs. Adams (1805-1848), a notable English Unitarian writer, composed her poem in 1841; Lowell Mason made the setting fourteen years later. It’s simple, commanding tune and effective harmony have commended it to over a century of worshipers.

HOLY GOD, WE PRAISE THY NAME — Rev. C. Walworth. This is, by descent, a Te Deum: that is, it originates in a Latin canticle, one of the oldest varieties of Christian song, which is dated by some scholars as being of the third century A.D. A popular German version became current long ago. It was first printed in the Catholic Songbook of the Empress Maria Theresa (1774). An English version appeared in the Church of England hymnal in 1853. In your record the Rev. Walworth is the translator.

SWING LOW, SWEET CHARIOT —Traditional. Another very beautiful and evidently very early, Negro spiritual showing the strange union of slavery and Christianity. It has the classical leader-and-chorus struc­ture with harmonic part singing at the end.

MAY THE GOOD LORD BLESS AND KEEP YOU—Meredith Willson. Written for The Big Show on television, this song be­came Tallulah Bankhead s signature for her appearances in the 1950s and has taken many forms since.

ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS Sabine Baring-Gould-Sir Arthur S. Sullivan. On Whitsunday, 1865, the Rev. Baring-Gould (1834-1924) arranged to have the school children of his York­shire parish march the next day to a neighboring village for combined activities with the children of that parish. He wanted them to march singing but could find no suitable hymn; therefore he sat up half the night com­posing these words, fitting them to a tune the children knew. Five years later, Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842 1900) set the words to the stirring tune now know everywhere. If all the rest of Sullivan’s work, including his delightful comic operas, should come to be forgotten, his fame would endure through this one hymn.

EVERY TIME I FEEL THE SPIRIT —Traditional. The beautiful songs of the African slaves in America, brought into being by their conversion to Christianity, were passed on by ear from generation to generation until finally written down in fairly recent times. This spiritual can be sung chorally throughout or as a solo, unlike the spirituals built on the classical leader-and-response structure.

GOIN’ HOME —Wm. Arms Fisher-Anton Dvořák. The Great Bohemian composer Anton Dvořák (1841-1904) came to America as director of the National Con­servatory of New York in 1892 and stayed until 1895. He was steeped in Negro spirituals, Longfellow’s “Hia­watha,” and stories of the Indians before he wrote his E-minor Symphony, known as “From the New World.” Although original with Dvořák, the slow movement of this symphony irresistibly suggests Negro spirituals. Fisher (1861-1948), a pupil of Dvořák’s, arranged this movement, with words by himself, as a song suggesting a real Negro spiritual and as such it has become famous.

IN THE GARDEN — C. Austin Miles. This was written in 1912, and it was adopted by Homer Roseheaver for his religious revival meetings with Billy Sunday and also for revivalist hymnals.

SOMEBODY BIGGER THAN YOU AND I — Lange-Heath-Burke.  From the film Oil Town, U.S.A., with words and music by Johnny Lange, Hy Heath, and Sonny Burke.

KOL NIDRE—Traditional. This poignant chant, used in synagogues on the evening of the Day of Atonement (and at no other time), is of very early origin, probably in eleventh-century Visigothic Spain. Kol Nidre means “All Vows.” The most likely interpretation is that the prayer asks for forgive­ness by God for the sinner himself and for help in carry­ing out future vows.

I NEED THEE EVERY HOUR — Annie S. Hawks-Robert Lowry. Mrs. Hawks (1835-1918) wrote these words in 1872 and gave them to Dr. Lowry, minister of her Baptist Church in Plainfield, New Jersey. He set them to music at once. He had written other hymns and was also the composer of “Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?” “I Need Thee” became a particular favorite at religious revivals and conventions.

BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC — Julia Ward Howe. Mrs. Howe (1819-1910) wrote these famous verses in 1861 after a visit to an army camp near Washington. On her return her carriage became entangled with a detach­ment of Union soldiers marching and singing “John Brown’s Body.’ The troops, the tune, and the occasion obsessed her all night; she rose at dawn to write out the poem, which soon swept the country sung to the old tune of “John Brown’s Body.”

NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLE I’VE SEEN — Traditional. A characteristic spiritual of an early period, this favorite, like many others, employs sorrow and praise alternately (a lament followed by “Glory, Hallelujah”).

YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE Oscar Hammerstein II-Richard Rodgers. This song appeared for the first time in the successful musical Carousel, based on Ferenc Molnár’s play Liliom.

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