Hymn Story: Jerusalem

William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker.  In his epic collection Milton: A Poem in Two Books is a poem titled “And did those feet in ancienty time”. Various lines of the poem are drawn from either historical events or passages of scripture. Sir Hubert Parry composed the music to the poem in 1916.  Today this is the […]

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Hymn Story: Who Shall Separate us?

“Who Shall Separate Us?” is an eight-part a cappella choir composition. It was written by James MacMillian and commissioned for the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II sometime around 2011-2012 when the song was written. The commission is said to come as a surprise, but MacMillian is known as a “masterly composer of small-scale religious choral pieces”. MacMillian said he […]

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Hymn Story: Blaenwern

Blaenwern is a Welsh hymn. The song was composed by William Penfro Rowlands during the 1904-1905 Welsh revival. Rowlands was born on April 19, 1860. He was a Welsh schoolteacher, composer, and conductor of the Morriston United Choral Society. He died on October 22, 1937. The song was first published in the 1915 Cân a Moliant by Henry H. Jones. This […]

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Hymn Story: My soul, there is a country

My Soul, There is a Country was written by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry. He was the 1st Baronet and an English composer, teacher and historian of music.  He was born February 27, 1848. He is best known for his choral songs “Jerusalem” and anthem “I was Glad”. He died on October 7, 1918 from the Spanish flu. “In May […]

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Song Story: Auld Lang Syne

Every year we sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Day, but where did it come from? Auld Lang Syne is a Scots poem that was written by Robert Burns in 1788.  His poem was set to a traditional folk song.  Music historians are unsure if the melody used today is the original melody Burns set to the song or […]

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Christmas Song: The Hallelujah Chorus

The Hallelujah Chorus is the most well-known portion of Geroge Frideric Handel’s “Messiah”. Handel used the King James Bible and the Coverdale Psalter to compose his text. The “Messiah” was first performed in Dublin on April 13, 1742. The “Hallelujah Chorus” is at the end of part 2, which concentrates on the Passion of Jesus. This portion has become a […]

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Christmas Hymn: Sussex Carol

The “Sussex Carol” is a popular Christmas Carol in Britain. Luke Wadding, a 17th Century Irish Bishop, first published the song in 1684. It is unknown whether he wrote the song himself or had recorded it from earlier coposers. The text and tune were discovered by Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The men wrote the song down as sung […]

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Christmas Song: The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy

I have found two different stories for this hymn. The first states it is believed “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” was written Jamaican singer-songwriter Oswald Dunbar sometime in the early 1960s. Legend states he adapted the lyrics from an earlier Jamaican folk song “Livvy’s Song” to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The text follows the story as […]

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Christmas Hymn Story: In Dulci Jubilo

“In dulci jubilo” means in sweet rejoicing in Latin. The original text is believed to have been written around 1328 by Heinrich Seuse, a German mystic. According to folklore, “Seuse heard angels sing these words and joined them in a dance of worship.” The tune first appears in a manuscript dating around 1400. Many historians believe the melody may have […]

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Christmas Hymn Story: In the Bleak Mid-Winter

English poet Christina Rosetti published a poem under the title “A Christmas Carol” in January 1872 issue of Scribner’s Monthly. Composer Gustav Holst composed a setting to her words in 1906. The new hymn appeared in The English Hymnal under the title “In the Bleak Midwinter”. In 1909, Harold Darke composed an anthem for the piece, which is widely performed […]

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Patriotic song: This Land Is Your Land

I thought we’d look at a popular Patriotic song, This Land is Your Land. The American folk song was written in 1940 by Woody Guthrie.  During this time he hitchhiked from Los Angeles to New York City and continuously heard God Bless America played on the radio and jukeboxes.  He is said to have written the song in a “flophouse […]

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Hymn Story: Christ is made the sure foundation

Christ is Made the Sure Foundation was a Latin hymn written sometime in the late 6th or 7th Century under the title Urbs beata Jerusalem. The original hymn was sung as an unaccompanied plainsong melody. In 1851, John Mason Neale translated the hymn from Latin into English.  Many modern versions of the texts vary greatly from his original translations. The […]

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Hymn Story: I Vow to Thee My Country

“I Vow to Thee, My Country” is a British patriotic hymn.  Sir Cecil Spring Rice wrote the poem “The City of God” or “The Two Fatherlands” in either 1908 or 1912. The poem described how a Christian owes his loyalties to both his homeland and the heavenly kingdom. In 1908, he was posted at the British Embassy in Stockholm. In […]

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Hymn Story: The Lords My Shepherd

The Lord’s My Shepherd is a hymn based on Psalm 23. It first appeared in the Scots Metrical Psalter in 1650 and is usually attributed to the English Puritan Francis Rous. The tune Crimond is generally credited to Jessie Seymour Irvine, daughter of a parish minister of the Church of Scotland during Queen Victoria’s reign. The hymn was a favorite […]

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Hymn Story: The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended

This hymn was recently sung at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Rev. John Ellerton wrote the hymn in 1870 to be included in A Liturgy for Missionary Meetings.  Two different translations of the text are included in German official hymnals. The theme focusses on the worldwide fellowship of the church. It goes on to offer a continual prayer and […]

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Hymn Story: He Will Hold Me Fast

He will Hold Me Fast was written by Ada Ruth Habershon best known for the song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”. She was born in 1861 in Marylebone, England. She first began writing hymns in 1899 in German. In 1901, she wrote in English. In 1905, Ruben A. Torrey and Charles Alexander asked Habershon to write hymns for their evangelistic […]

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