Friday, March 9, 2012

Phoebe Palmer Knapp

We celebrate the birthday again of composer Phoebe Knapp, born in New York City in 1839. Her earliest hymn tunes were probably written for the texts of her mother, Phoebe Worrall Palmer, who sponsored a well-known series of Methodist prayer meetings in her home.

Phoebe's husband, Joseph Fairchild Knapp, was one of the founders of the Metropolitan Life insurance company, which put them in the top echelons of New York society in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century. The photo here is from a May, 1899 newspaper article depicting Phoebe as president of the New York State division of the International Tribune Sunshine Society, apparently a social welfare organization of the day.

Today's tune by Knapp was written for an early text by
Fanny Crosby, her dear friend and frequent collaborator. Their gospel song, Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine remains one of the most well-known songs ever written for worship.

We praise our Creator for moments so bright,
We hail their returning, we hallow their light;
And now with the standard of Jesus unfurled,
Thro’ grace we are ready to conquer the world.

The whole world for Jesus our watchword shall be,
An army with banners, Christ’s soldiers are we;
Now marching with music, with sunshine and flowers,
On! on! to the conquest that soon will be ours.

How freely the springtime its tribute has brought,
Which gave us the roses and lilies we sought;
Thus freely to Jesus our talents we give,
For Christ we will labor as long as we live.

We praise our Creator for blossoms that grow
By fountains of knowledge whose streams ever flow;
Love’s blossoms that fade not and these we would bring
To Jesus, our Savior, Redeemer, and King.

Dear Savior, go with us wherever we go,
Thy truth in its grandeur O help us to show;
And when we have conquered thro’ faith and thy love,
Receive us, we pray thee, to mansions above.

Fanny Crosby, 1833; alt.
Tune: FATIMA ( with refrain)
Phoebe Knapp, 19th cent.

I am not generally in favor of hymns with battle metaphors or talk of conquest, but in this case we're armed "with music, with sunshine and flowers," which makes a bit of a difference.

Knapp apparently did not really know how many tunes she had composed over the course of her career. though the estimate is around five hundred. In one anecdote, she was listening to a song and commented that the music sounded familiar, that she liked it but thought it could be improved upon. A friend with her reminded her that Knapp herself had written the tune ten years earlier.

Three Years Ago: Phoebe Palmer Knapp

Two Years Ago: Phoebe Palmer Knapp

No comments: