Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Phoebe Palmer Knapp

I've written about composer Phoebe Palmer Knapp (March 9. 1838 - July 10, 1908) before, and her most famous tune, matched to Fanny Crosby's Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. She probably wrote her first tunes to accompany the hymns written by her mother, Phoebe Worrall Palmer, but she went on to write tunes for texts by many other gospel song writers, in addition to her long friendship and collaboration with Crosby.

She and her husband Joseph (one of the founders of the Metropolitan Life insurance company) were very active in the Sunday School of their Methodist church, St. John's in Brooklyn, where Phoebe also played the organ. In 1869, she compiled and published a collection of Sunday School music titled Notes of Joy, and the music to 94 of the 172 selections was composed by her. The introduction was written by Methodist
Bishop Matthew Simpson, who wrote of Knapp's efforts:

These "Notes of Joy" were prompted partly by a mother's love as she sang to her own dear children, partly for her class in the Sunday School which she loved to instruct, and partly for the circle of friends who gathered around the mercy-seat for prayer (probably a reference to the elder Phoebe's prayer meetings). They have been listened to and admired, and having been repeatedly urged by many friends, she has at length committed them to the Press.

In addition to songs and service music by Knapp, Notes of Joy also contains the work of Phoebe Palmer, Fanny Crosby and her husband Alexander Van Alstyne (they wrote the opening song, from which the collection took its name) as well as prominent writers and composers such as
Robert Lowry, Josephine Pollard, Hubert P. Main, and Theodore Perkins. In her own foreword to the book, Phoebe wrote:

It is hoped that a proper regard for the eighth commandment may restrain all book makers from appropiating, without permission, any of the Copyright property of which the book is so largely composed.

Following this foreword, the notice of copyright for Notes of Joy is included -- in the name of her husband, Joseph F. Knapp.

This tune was written after Notes of Joy, but is sung here with this Lenten text by John Ellerton.

Giver of the perfect gift,
Whom we hallow in this place,
Hear the prayer our hearts uplift
Here before thy throne of grace.

Who can save us, Christ, but thou?
Let thy mercy show thy power;
Lo, we plead thy promise now,
Here in this accepted hour.

So may these, our Lenten days,
Blessed by thee, with thee be passed,
That with purer, nobler praise
We may keep thy feast at last.

God the Holy Trinity,
Grant the mercy we implore;
God the One, all praise to thee
Through the ages evermore.

John Ellerton, 1871; alt.
Phoebe Knapp, 1872 ?

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