Sunday, July 23, 2017

Gushing From the Rock Before Me

Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) is definitely in the running to be the most well-known woman to write texts for congregational singing, even today when the musical style that accompanied most of her songs is somewhat out of fashion in many places.

Several contemporary composers around the world have written new tunes for some of her texts, and more than one recording has been made (though this is the only one that seems to be readily available). Since most of her songs were written in the contemporaneous gospel song/Sunday School style, including a refrain that helped with memorization, they don't generally match well to existing tunes. 

There are exceptions. I've always thought that this is one of her most accomplished texts (still unused here in the past nine years), and since it does not include the usual refrain, it could be paired with a more conventional hymn tune, and sung in places that might never consider singing one of her songs.

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt his tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Christ to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of his love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my heav'nly home above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.

Fanny Crosby, 1875; alt.
Tochter Sion, 1741

This hardly replaces the original setting by Robert Lowry, which will continue to be sung. However, this text could also work with HYFRYDOL, IN BABILONE, HOLY MANNA, NETTLETON, and other familiar tunes.

The gravestone above (erected in 1955 at her burial site) refers to Crosby's "more than 3000 hymns and poems," which is true as far as it goes, but the real number could be more than twice as many, especially when her unpublished texts are included.

Of course, her songs are still usually sung in their original form, not only as the occasional selection in Sunday worship, but also at special events, such as a Fanny Crosby hymn sing recently held in her home town of Southeast, New York, sponsored by the local historical society. Sometimes churches will use one writer's texts for an entire service, and today's service at MCC of the Coachella Valley in California includes all Crosby songs. Many people would still happily sing the playful refrain:

Pastor, Pastor, hear my irate cry --
When you pick the hymns for Sunday,
Don't pass Fanny by!

(Scroll down at this link for the whole text.)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saint Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene, the "apostle to the apostles," is honored today on some calendars of saints. The longest account of her presence in the Resurrection story is in John 20:1-18, which tells how she was the first one to visit Jesus' tomb on Sunday morning and to find it empty. Later, she returns and speaks with two angels who tell her what has happened.  In each of the gospel stories she then goes back to share the news with the other disciples. It's only in Luke 24:11 that we hear their response to her report: "But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them."

Other information about Mary Magdalene has accrued over the centuries but much of it doesn't come from scripture. I now prefer to move on and not repeat the accusations that have been made (though I've written about them in previous years, which you can see below if you must).

This hymn is translated from a Latin text believed to be from medieval times but no definite origin has been found.

Weep no more this holy morning,
Mary, put away thy fears;
In this feast there is no scorning,
No repentance for thy tears:
Joy, O joy, a thousand pleasures,
All thy soul’s recovered treasures—
Alleluia!—Christ appears.

Joy to thee, he soars ascending,
He who all thy sins forgave;
All thy sorrows now are ending,
Magdalene, he comes to save;
Whom thou soughtest lost and dying,
Welcome now with angels crying
Alleluia!—o’er his grave.

Life in all his life’s resuming,
Mary, all thy light restore,
All thy heart with joy illuming,
Death is driven from the door:
Night has had its night of sorrow,
Joy returneth with the morrow—

Latin, date unknown;
tr. Herbert Kynaston, 1862; alt.
Tune: FIDES (
Clement Cotterill Scholefield, 1874

P.S. - The art above is from Mary Magdalene at the Tomb (1622) by Anteveduto Gramatica.

Nine Years Ago: Mary Magdalene, to whom (now on Facebook)

Eight Years Ago: Emily E. S. Elliott

Seven Years Ago: When Mary, moved by grateful love

Five Years Ago: Creator blest, one glance of thine

Four Years Ago: I come to the garden alone

One Year Ago: Mary to her Savior's tomb