Saturday, October 3, 2009

Karolina Sandell-Berg

Karolina Wilhelmina Sandell-Berg, sometimes called “the Fanny Crosby of Sweden,” was born on this date in 1832. She is reported to have written about 650 hymns and songs, not matching Crosby in numbers, but probably in popularity in her own country.

Her father, a Lutheran pastor, drowned on a family outing when she was 26, and this tragic story is often cited as her inspiration for writing, but in fact she had written hymns before this happened. Like many women of her time, she preferred to remain nearly anonymous, signing her verses only “L.S.” The name of Lina Sandell would not be known for some time.

Her hymns were popularized in Sweden with the help of composer Oskar Ahnfelt, who wrote the music for them and traveled through the country singing them, accompanying himself on the guitar. Also, the opera star Jenny Lind (who had a nickname of her own, the “Swedish Nightingale”) often sang the Sandell/Ahnfelt hymns in recitals and financed the publication of an edition of the composer's songs (many of which had words by Lina). Sandell was married to C.O. Berg in 1867 and died in 1903.

Thus far it appears to me that her hymns were not translated into English until later in the twentieth century and are thus still under copyright in this country (though you can find some online in other places). Our Canadian commenter AuntE just this week posted on her blog about her first encounter with Lina's most well known hymn (here in the US at least), Children of the heavenly Father, which is sung to Ahnfelt's tune TRYGGARE KAN INGEN VARA (actually, the opening words of the hymn in the original Swedish). I'll keep looking for earlier translations of other Sandell-Berg hymns; it seems likely that at least a few were available earlier.

No comments: