Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hymns That Move Me (Week 6)

This is the sixth in my series looking at thirty amazing hymns and songs of the Christian faith. I made three lists, one of my top 10 from the Moravian Church's tradition, one of my top 10 of the great classic hymns, and a top 10 of more "Gospel-type" hymns and songs. I am doing it alphabetically to be fair to all the songs. I hope you are both inspired by these words and learn a little about my own denomination's rich musical heritage.

When choosing videos to accompany the hymns I try to choose ones that best capture the spirit of the song as it has been important to me. I try to stick to the traditional and best known tunes in the case where alternate tunes might be used.

Moravian Hymns
Morning Star-Johannes Scheffler (1657); F. F. Hagen (1836)
Morning Star, is a popular American Moravian Church carol with text originating as a poem by Johannes Scheffler in 1657, to music composed by Francis F. Hagen from Salem in 1836. 
That's what Wikipedia tells me. Scheffler, as far as  I know, was born a Lutheran Protestant around 1624 in Silesia (Poland). As he became more mystical in his theology his life within the Lutheran Church became more tense and difficult. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1653. He was a poet whose poetry clearly fell into the mystical, pietistic within an ortodox Catholic framework. Morning Star clearly fits into that theology. (There does seem to be that connection with most of these Moravian hymns. Mystical connections are very much a part of them!)
Francis Florentine Hagen (1815–1907) was a Moravian minister and composer. He was born in Salem, North Carolina, on October 30, 1815. He grew up in Salem before attending the Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1835. Hagen served various congregations in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Iowa and New York before retiring from the ministry in 1877.

As a composer, his musical style reflected his Moravian roots combined with elements of 19th century Romantic music. He composed large scale orchestral and vocal works in addition to solo voice and piano pieces. He died in Lititz, Pennsylvania, on July 7, 1907.
The Christmas Encyclopedia tells us:
At some point in the service, it is customary for a child to sing two lines of the Moravian hymn “Morning Star,” whereupon the congregation antiphonally repeats these lines, and all sing the final line in unison.
That happens in the best of all possible worlds, of course. Many congregations have a group of children sing or use the choir as the soloist. The tune generally starts relatively quietly and builds through the verses ending with the joy of the birth of the Christ Child. It may be one of the most moving moments in Moravian worship, transcending even the often overly romanticized music and sound. It moves one into the mystical depths that Scheffler would have understood. It is also a connection with some of the deeper roots of our Moravian theology and history.

Solo: Morning Star, O cheering sight! Ere thou cam'st, how dark earth's night!
Congregation: Morning Star, O cheering sight! Ere thou cam'st, how dark earth's night!
S: Jesus mine, C: in me shine; S: in me shine, C: Jesus mine;
All: fill my heart with light divine.

S: Morning Star, thy glory bright far excels the sun's clear light.
C: Morning Star, thy glory bright far excels the sun's clear light.
S: Jesus be, C: constantly, S: Constantly, C: Jesus be
All: More than thousand suns to me.

S: Thy glad beams, thou Morning Star, cheer the nations near and far.
C: Thy glad beams, thou Morning Star, cheer the nations near and far.
S: Thee we own, C: Lord alone, S: Lord alone, C: thee we own,
All: Our dear Savior, God's dear Son.

S: Morning Star, my soul's true light, tarry not, dispel my night.
C: Morning Star, my soul's true light, tarry not, dispel my night.
S: Jesus mine, C: in me shine; S: in me shine, C: Jesus mine;
All: Fill my heart with light divine.

Great Hymns of the Church
It Is Well With My Soul-Horacio Spafford (1873); Philip Bliss.

It is not a surprise that this hymn has survived as one of the truly great hymns of the church. Many of the powerful hymns come from personal experiences of either great joy or great sorrow. Spafford wrote this after a series of traumatic disasters in his own life.
The first was the death of his son at the age of 2 and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone …". Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. -Wikipedia
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
Just a Closer Walk- Anonymous
The precise author of A Closer Walk is unknown. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests it dates back to southern African-American churches of the nineteenth century, possibly even prior to the Civil War, as some personal African American histories recall "slaves singing as they worked in the fields a song about walking by the Lord's side." ... Just a Closer Walk with Thee became better known nationally in the 1930s when African-American churches held huge musical conventions. The first known recording was by the Selah Jubilee Singers on October 8, 1941, New York City. Rosetta Tharpe also recorded the song on December 2, 1941 -Link
The wide range of artists who have recorded the song points to its ability to reach into each of us in our own unique ways. It is one of the standards of jazz funerals and has a special place in Dixieland and jazz music. The ongoing presence of Jesus in one's life is the ultimate sense of hope, no matter what. In that it is in the same rich tradition as It is Well With My Soul.

I am weak, but Thou art strong,
Jesus, keep me from all wrong,
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more,
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom's shore, to Thy shore.

(Note: Stay for the "Second Line" after the applause. 
It's a different song but you will see how a New Orleans Jazz funeral puts it all together!)

Note: I have received a couple comments on this series asking me to come up with another thirty songs. I am considering it, after all there are so many hymns and songs - and so little time!

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