Christmas Song Story: Mary’s Boy Child

“Mary’s Boy Child” is a Christmas song written by Jester Hariston in 1956. According to Wikipedia, a friend asked Hairston to write a song for a birthday party.  Hairston wrote the song with a calypson rhythm “because the people at the party would be mainly West Indians. The song’s original title was “He Pone and Chocolate Tea”, pone being a […]

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Christmas Song Story: Jesus, the Light of the World

“Jesus, the Light of the World” was arranged by George D. Elderkin. It was first published with a collection of Christmas Carols in 1890 in “Gift of Finest Wheat”. He seems to have arranged this composition from Charles Wesley’s hymn “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”  Elderkin’s arrangement drew upon the first two lines of Wesley’s hymns in stanzas 1, 2, […]

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Christmas Song Story: Gabriel’s Message

“Gabriel’s Message” is a Christmas folk carol that tells of Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of the Christ. The song is also known as “The angel Gabriel from heaven came” from the first line and based on the passage from Luke 1:46-55. For this reason the text is known as “The Magnificat.” The […]

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Christmas Song Story: Ding Dong! Merrily on High   

“Ding Dong! Merrily on High” first appeared as a secular dance tune written by a French cleric, Thoinot Arbeau under the pen name Jehan Tabourot (1519-1593). The song was published under the title “Brandle de l’Official.” George Ratcliffe Woodward (184801934) added the words and first published the Christmas carol in 1924. Woodward wrote several carol books and had an interest […]

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Song Story: Praises, I’ll Sing Praises

Growing up we sang and I learned to play on the piano “Praises, I’ll sing praises…to Jesus my Redeemer my friend.” The song was published in 1976 by John T. Benson Publishing Company. The song was written by W. Elmo Mercer, who wrote over 600 Gospel songs and hymns including “each Step I Take.” In the 1960s, Mercer worked for […]

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Patriotic Song: The Battle Cry of Freedom

“The Battle Cry of Freedom” was written in 1862 by George Frederick Root.  The song is also known as “Rally ‘Round the Flag.” The song is a patriotic song, popular during the American Civil War, that advocated the causes of unionism and abolitionism. A modified version of the song became the campaign song for the 1864 Lincoln-Johnson presidential election. One […]

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Song Story: The Hurrian Hymn

“The Hurrian Hymn” is considered the oldest surviving melody and dates back more than 3,400 years ago. The hymn was discovered on a clay tablet in Ugarite (modern-day Syria) 1950 and inscribed with Cuneiform text.  Along with the discovery were 30 other tablet fragments and 9 lyre strings. The text is not Christian but dedicated to the Hurrians’ goddess of […]

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Hymn Story: Savior, More than Life to Me

“Savior, More than Life to Me” was first published by Fanny Crosby in 1875. William H. Doane composed the music. He sent Crosby the tune and requested she write a hymn titled “Every day and hour.”  It is said that this hymn provided Crosby with great joy and comfort. Ira Sankey wrote “Her hope has been most ful­ly ver­i­fied, for […]

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Hymn Songs: Never Forget the Dear Ones     

Renowned hymnists Fanny Crosby taught at the New York Institution for the Blind for eleven years. While on summer break, she would spend time in North Reading, Mass.  She wrote many songs for Dr. George F. Root, the music teacher at the blind instutition.  “Never Forget the Dear Ones” was such song. Root would then provide the music to marry […]

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Hymn Story: The Bright Forever

Fanny Crosby wrote “The Bright Forever.”  Sometimes it’s referred to by the beginning line “Breaking through the clouds that gather.” Crosby met many distinguished figures in American history, including Henry Clay. She wrote of one encounter with the politician.  “When Mr. Clay came to the institution during his last visit to New York, I was selected to welcome him with […]

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Hymn Story: Praise, Praise His Name 

Praise, Praise His Name was written by Fanny Crosby.  The hymn is often referred to by its first line “On the desert mountain straying.” Crosby became blind at a very young age but became a prolific hymnwriter. After finishing her education, she became a teacher at the New York Institution for the Blind in 1847. She taught English grammar, rhetoric, […]

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Song Story: It took a Miracle

John W. Peterson wrote the hymn “It Took a Miracle” in 1948. Peterson was born on November 1, 1921 and died on September 20, 2006.  He wrote over 1,000 songs and thirty-five cantatas throughout the course of his career. Some of this best-known hymns include “Heaven Came Down,” “Jesus is Coming Again,” and “Over the Sunset Mountains.” Performers such as […]

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Song Story: If You Know the Lord

George Beverly Shea performed the song “If You Know the Lord.”  He released the song in 1954. The song was written by Bickley Reichner (1905-1989). I’ve been able to find no additional information on the composer. Shea served as the vocalists for specials at the Billy Graham Crusades.  He died in 2013 at the age of 104.

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Hymn Story: All That Thrills My Soul is Jesus

“All that Thrills My Soul is Jesus” was written by Thoro Harris. Harris was born on March 31, 1874 in Washington, D.C. He produced is first hymnal in 1902 while living in Boston, MA.  Throughout his life he composed and compiled numerous works and became known for walking around Chicago (where he’d moved) to sell books from canvas bags he […]

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Hymn Story: Rise Up, O Men of God

William Pierson Merrill wrote “Rise up, O Men of God!” in 1911. Merrill was born on January 10, 1867 in Orange, New Jersey. He was ordained in 1890 and attended seminary working his way up to a Doctor of Divinity in 1904. Throughout this time he served several churches and met his wife at one of them.  He married Clara […]

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Hymn Story: The King’s Business

Elijah Taylor Cassel wrote “The King’s Business” in 1902. Cassel was born on November 27, 1849 in Indiana. At a young age his family moved to Nebraska. He completed a medical education and practiced in Hastings, Nebraska. Cassel married Flora Hamilton and both were talented musicians. Around 1910, he left his medical practice for the ministry and served a church […]

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