Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More Voices Found: Ada Rose Gibbs

Back on January 30 (you can look it up) I wrote about Voices Found, a 2003 hymnal from Church Publishing. To quote from their description of the book, it is "a unique compilation of contemporary and historical materials that crosses boundaries of geography, time, and culture as it represents the diversity of the gifts of women and seeks to affirm and expand the spirituality of all women and men as they find new voices in the church's song." (whew!)

Particularly, I'm interested in the historical aspect, and in exploring things which were left out of that volume. It's a theme I intend to revisit, and I'm sorry to have been so long in getting back to it. Today's hymn is at the top of my list of things that should have been included.

Ada Rose, who died on April 16 in 1905, was a professional singer who studied at the Royal College of Music. She married William James Gibbs in 1898, after the end of her singing career and they were apparently involved in the Keswick Convention. She wrote the music, a tune called CHANNELS, for this hymn.

How I praise thee, precious Savior,
That thy love laid hold of me;
Thou hast saved and healed and filled me
That I might thy channel be.

Channels only, bless├Ęd Savior,
But with all thy wondrous power
Flowing through us, thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

Emptied that thou shouldest fill me,
A clean vessel in thy hand;
With no power but as thou givest
Graciously with each command.

Witnessing thy power to save me,
Setting free from self and sin;
Thou who bought me to release me,
In thy fullness, O come in.

Jesus, fill now with thy Spirit
Hearts that full surrender know;
That the streams of living water
From my inner self may flow.

Mary E. Maxwell, c. 1900; alt.
Tune: CHANNELS ( with refrain)
Ada Rose Gibbs, c. 1900

This is a very accessible tune, kind of midway between a "standard" hymn tune and a gospel song. A congregation will pick it up quickly. Obviously I don't know why it was left out of Voices Found, or even if it was considered, but its omission is unfortunate. Gibbs and Maxwell also collaborated on another hymn, The way of the cross means sacrifice.

I've seen the above photo any number of times at the Cyber Hymnal site and thought that Gibbs was dressed a bit oddly. I was pretty surprised to learn in researching this post that she was appearing as Katisha in The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. She sang with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company between 1885 and 1890, both on tour and occasionally at the Savoy Theater, also appearing in the principal contralto roles in The Pirates of Penzance, Ruddigore, Yeomen of the Guard, and The Gondoliers.

Mary E. Maxwell, who wrote the text of this hymn, is somewhat more mysterious. Not much appears to be known about her. I found one reference that speculates that she was actually Mary Elizabeth Braddon (who later married John Maxwell), a popular writer of dozens of sensational novels, and best known for Lady Audley's Secret. If Braddon was indeed the same Maxwell, she probably would have preferred to used her lesser-known married name for hymnwriting, but I've found nothing yet in reading about Braddon that indicates any hint of an interest in religion.


Daisy B said...

Found a link which gives Mary's date of birth and death. I enjoy your research. Hope the Lord continues to grace you in this endeavor. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/awrbc4/pop_culture.html

C.W.S. said...

Thanks for the link. That does suggest that Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Mary Elizabeth Maxwell may have been the same popular novelist. Still not sure that she's the writer of this hymn, as the name is probably not all that uncommon.

Bob Gibbs said...

Ada Rose, who composed the hymn Channels Only, was my grandmother. When she died a book of memorial tributes was published. The book included twenty four of her hymns. These are now being added to the Cyber Hymnal. Links to the full book and just the hymns are below.



Do get in touch if I can help you further - Bob Gibbs

Bob - bobgibbs1@gmail.com