Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Horatio R. Palmer

On the birthday of Baptist composer Horatio Richmond Palmer (1834-1907) we remember a man dedicated to spreading sacred song as far as possible.

Palmer's various musical occupations were described here six years ago (music teacher, choir leader and organizer, writer of gospel song tunes and texts, editor of fifty hymn and song collections, author of several books on music and other subjects) but he was even busier than that.  From 1877-1891 he led the Summer School of Music at the Chautauqua Institution, a program that has continued to expand to the present day. While there he must have met hymnwriters Mary Lathbury and William Fisk SherwinFor eleven years he also directed the choir at the Broome Street Tabernacle in New York City.

Today's tune by Palmer (with text by Fanny Crosby) appeared first in Our Treasury of Song (1883) compiled by Hubert P. Main and published by Biglow & Main, probably the largest producer of Sunday School music and gospel songs in its day.  You can imagine this as a popular marching song for children, but adults probably liked it too.

Sing praise to God,
Joyfully sound hosanna,
Praising God with glad acclaim.
Lift up your hearts
Unto the throne with gladness,
Magnify God's holy name.
Marching along
Under that banner bright,
Trust in promised mercy as we go,
God's light divine
Tenderly o’er us will shine,
Guided by God's protecting hand
Now and forever.

Steadily marching on,
With our banners waving o’er us;
Steadily marching on,
While we sing the joyful chorus;
Steadily marching on,
Pillar and cloud going before us,
To the realms of glory
To our home on high.

Sing praise to God,
Ruler on high eternal,
Glory be to God on high.
Sing praise to God,
Tell of that loving kindness,
Join the chorus of the sky.
Still marching on,
Cheerily marching on,
In the ranks of heaven we will go,
Home to our rest,
Joyfully home where the blest
Gather and sing our Maker’s name,
Praising forever.

Fanny Crosby, 1883; alt.
Tune: STEADILY MARCHING ON (Irregular with refrain)
Horatio R. Palmer, 1883

The picture below is a musical autograph of Palmer's which quotes one of his most famous songs, Yield not to temptation (1868).

Six Years Ago: Horatio R. Palmer

Friday, April 22, 2016

Accomodating Past, Present, and Future

What will the hymnals of the future look like -- if they exist at all?  Some people say that the whole idea of a printed hymnbook is out of date and others insist that there will always be a place for them in worship.

Maybe we can have it both ways. There is a proposal that will come before this summer's General Conference of the United Methodist Church which shows a way forward that can accommodate both sides.

If you're interested at all in the future of congregational singing you should read about the proposal at this link.

If the proposal passes the Methodists will produce a collection replacing their current hymnal that will be available as a printed book and also in electronic form so that it can be projected on screens or downloaded in other formats.  Why choose just one way?  

There will be a core group of hymns and songs beyond which individual congregations can customize their collections, adding additional material that they will use and avoiding things that they are unlikely to sing (until the pastor or the music director changes, and then they can presumably make other adjustments).  The denomination will be better able to encourage the use of a wide range of texts while ensuring that the texts reflect their own theology and the tunes used are appropriate for congregational singing (one of their core values in worship).  You can read more about that sort of evaluation process in this recent article, which weighs the top one hundred songs used by Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) subscribers against Methodist and Wesleyan theology.  It's fascinating to see how detailed some of their recommendations and objections can be. I would really like to see other denominations sharing similar work around the intersection of what they believe and what they sing.

Most interestingly, there will be a standing committee that will work beyond the initial collection, evaluating both the evolving needs of the church and new material that will be published in years to come, and adding these new  songs and hymns as appropriate.  Even if a congregation buys the printed books, they will be able to supplement their repertory in the future by downloading the new hymns they want to sing and perhaps printing them in the service leaflet.

Yes, there will probably come a time when it's all electronic and we'll only use smartphones or virtual reality glasses or memory chip implants to access our congregational song, but we're not there yet!

Thanks to Brian Hehn, Director of the Center for Congregational Song at the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada for posting the article on the Methodist proposal on Facebook.

Eight Years Ago: Earth Day

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Flowing, Ever Flowing

Back to the topic of water today, on my mind because of a hymn festival on this theme which I will attend today (see the flyer below) in Brooklyn at the historic Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims.

Today's song comes from Spiritual Songs (1908), a collection published in Chicago by the Christian Witness Company. It originally appeared with another tune called LOS FELIZ by John M. Harris, the book's editor, but I like this tune by John Sweney better because it varies the rhythm of the lines a bit more.

Oh, this well of living water
Springing up within my soul,
Gives me blessèd satisfaction
While the changing seasons roll;
And in Jesus’ love rejoicing,
Still a song of praise I bring,
For the blessèd gift of heaven,
For this ever-living spring.

For this well of living water
That is flowing now for me,
Songs of praise and adoration,
Jesus, may I bring to thee.

From the depths unknown ’tis flowing,
From the depths of Jesus’ love,
It was purchased by the Savior,
Gift divine from heav’n above;
Christ alone can give this water,
Whosoever will may come,
Quench our thirst from this pure fountain,
And from Jesus never roam.

So the blessèd news I’m spreading
Of this dear life-giving spring,
Ever pure and free ’tis gushing
As my Savior’s love I sing;
It is flowing, ever flowing
In this grateful heart of mine,
And my tongue shall tell the gladness
Of this matchless grace divine.

W.V. Miller, 1908; alt.
Tune: HILLSDALE ( with refrain)
John R. Sweney, 1884

Author W. V. Miller (as listed at the Cyber Hymnal site) may be the same person as Will V. Miller (listed at Hymnary.org as author of a different song published earlier). 

Click on the tag below to see several more hymns on the "water" theme that have appeared here on the blog, some familiar and others less so.  And who knows, someone reading this may just be in Brooklyn and free to join us this afternoon.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lelia Naylor Morris

Today is the birthday of Lelia Naylor Morris, who reportedly wrote more than a thousand gospel songs in her lifetime (only a fraction of them are available to see online). Born in Ohio, she and her four siblings were primarily raised by her mother after the death of her father, a Civil War veteran. 

Lelia began studying piano as a child, practicing at a neighbor's house because her family could not afford one at home, and by age 12 she was playing the organ for prayer meetings. She learned to sew in her mother's millinery shop and expected that she would probably work there for the rest of her life, even after her marriage to Methodist minister Charles Morris. 

She and her husband often attended revivals and outdoor camp meetings, and eventually she tried her hand at writing some songs (both words and music) in that style, which were taken up by the revival leaders and eventually began to be published.  She became very successful at this and continued to attend the camp meetings, which in turn inspired her to write more, based on the stories and testimonies of the other worshippers.

Out on life’s ocean with perils ever nigh,
I have a pilot on whom I can rely;
With him to guide me, life’s storms I can defy,
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Jesus, my pilot on life’s stormy sea,
This wondrous Christ of Galilee;
I’m safe in his keeping,
Tho’ storms are round me sweeping,
This pilot of Galilee.

Wondrous his power and matchless is his skill,
Billows and tempests obey his sovereign will.
Hushed into silence at his blest "Peace, be still,"
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Fierce was the tempest once raging in my soul,
When of my bark he, my pilot, took control.
With voice commanding above the thunder’s roll,
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Hear it, ye storm-tossed, with grief and with sin,
Why will ye not take the heav’nly pilot in?
Safely he’ll guide you, the haven blest to win,
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Lelia N. Morris, 1912; alt.
Tune: PILOT OF GALILEE (Irregular with refrain)
Lelia N. Morris, 1912

Eight Years Ago: Ada Rose Gibbs

Seven Years Ago: Lelia Naylor Morris

Five Years Ago: Lelia Naylor Morris

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Jane Laurie Borthwick

Born today in 1813, in Edinburgh, Jane Laurie Borthwick became interested in translating German hymns into English while traveling in Europe.  Upon her return, her father encouraged the work so that she could share the hymn texts that so interested her. Eventually she and her sister, Sarah Borthwick Findlater, compiled a book of their translations titled Hymns from the Land of Luther (1854). Borthwick continued the task of hymn and verse translation in later books as well.

A member of the Free Church of Scotland, Borthwick was also involved in mission and social justice work in several Edinburgh organizations.

Today's hymn is intended for Sunday (Sabbath) worship, once a popular theme but less often seen today.

Hallelujah! fairest morning,
Fairer than our words can say!
Down we lay the heavy burden
Of life’s toil and care today,
While this morn of joy and love
Brings fresh vigor from above.

In the gladness of God's worship
We will seek our joy today;
It is then we learn the fullness
Of the grace for which we pray,
When the word of life is giv’n,
Like the Savior’s voice from heav’n.

Let the day with thee be ended,
As with thee it has begun,
And thy blessing, God, be granted,
Till earth’s days and weeks are done;
That at last thy servants may
Keep eternal Sabbath day.

Jonathan Krause, 1739;
tr. Jane Laurie Borthwick, 1858; alt.
Tune: ORIEL (
Caspar Ett, 1840

The author of the original German text, Jonathan Krause (1701-1762), was born in Silesia (now Poland) and was for many years the pastor of the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Legnica. This may be his only hymn that has been widely translated into other languages.

Six Years Ago: Jane Laurie Borthwick

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Calvin Weiss Laufer

Presbyterian minister and hymnwriter Calvin Weiss Laufer was born today in 1874. He was ordained after graduating from Union Seminary and pastored churches before becoming associated with his denomination's publishing house, which included several of his texts and tunes in their hymnbooks.

In his prose writing, in books such as Key-Notes of Optimism (1911) and The Incomparable Christ (1914) (and probably in his weekly sermons as well) he preached a theology of God's love and our service to others.  Some critics thought his views were overly simplistic but he wasn't writing for them.

The first chapter of Key-Notes of Optimism is titled If Not in the Choir, Sing Where You Are, and concludes with these words:

So begin the day with a song. Sing where you are! Every true note pierces the sky and, if no other, God's ear will hear it and understand.

We have already seen his tune LITTLEFIELD here on the blog but today it's matched with the text he originally wrote for it.

My service, God, I give to thee
In humble faith and loyalty,
To be thine own in what is planned,
And heed with joy thy love’s command.

Show me the trails that turn and climb
Through lonely deeps to heights sublime,
Yet never lose their touch with life,
Its endless round of peace and strife.

I pray for tasks that ease the load
On other hearts along the road;
For love forgiving, patient, tried,
To quicken faith and hope beside.

Gird me with light whose rays and heat
Shall blaze a path to thy blest seat,
That halting steps, no more afraid,
May reach the goals for which they’ve prayed.

O grant me grace to serve with thee
In love unfailing, pure, and free;
Guide me in trails which few have trod,
Whose winding ways lead home to God.

Calvin Weiss Laufer, 1918; alt.

Three Years Ago: Calvin W. Laufer

Six Years Ago: Calvin W. Laufer

Eight Years Ago:  Calvin W. Laufer

Sunday, April 3, 2016

His Bright Triumphal Trophies

The story of "doubting" Thomas (John 20:24-29) is told today in many churches, and Thomas is found briefly in the well-known Easter hymn O sons and daughters (see below). Less often sung today are those hymns which focus specifically on today's Gospel reading, such as this one by Christopher Wordsworth in his collection The Holy Year (1862).

The wounds which Jesus once endured
Were stigmas of his shame;
But now they have for him procured
An everlasting name.

The nail-prints, and the lance's scar,
The work of torture's spite,
His bright triumphal trophies are,
and badges of his might.

"Behold these hands! at my command
Touch them," the Savior cried;
"Reach hither, Thomas, reach your hand,
And thrust it in my side."

Thomas obeyed the Savior's word,
"My Lord and God!" he said;
He owned his Sovereign and his Lord,
And unto God he prayed.

O mighty Conqueror of the grave!
To you be endless praise,
For all the proofs your mercy gave
That you yourself did raise.

Christopher Wordsworth, 1862; alt.
Walter Hay Sangster, 1868

We should remember that, while Thomas is held up as the "bad" example who didn't believe without seeing, according to Luke 24:10-11, none of the disciples believed the story told by the faithful women who went to the tomb on Easter until they themselves had seen Jesus.

P.S. - The painting above is named The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by American artist Benjamin West (1738-1820).

Five (Liturgical) Years Ago: O sons and daughters, let us sing

Eight Years Ago (Feast of Saint Thomas): We walk by faith and not by sight