Music Notes for September 11, 2022

Hymn of the Day: “Amazing Grace” ELW 779
Text: John Newton (1725–1807)
Tune: New Britain, W. Walker, Southern Harmony (1835)

The hymn text “Amazing Grace” was written in 1773 by John Newton. Originally a master of a slave-trading ship, he left that life to become an Anglican priest and a tireless abolitionist. Some people resist referring to themselves in stanza 1 as “a wretch,” but we Lutherans join him in acknowledging our sin and praising God for grace, grace, and more grace. We hope that persons who are blind will not be offended when we liken our own situation to theirs.  (Gail Ramshaw)

NEW BRITAIN (also known as AMAZING GRACE because of its close association with this hymn text) was originally a folk tune, probably sung slowly with grace notes and melodic embellishments. Typical of the Appalachian tunes from the southern United States, NEW BRITAIN is pentatonic with melodic figures that outline triads. It was first published as a hymn tune in shape notes in Columbian Harmony (1829) to the text "Arise, my soul, my joyful pow'rs" and first set to the "Amazing Grace" text in William Walker's Southern Harmony (1835).  

Choir Anthem: “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”  Repository of Sacred Music. 

Though this hymn has been attributed to Selina the Countess of Huntingdon, John Julian says "conclusively" that the author was Robert Robinson (1735-1790). He was born in Norfolk, England. His father died when he was eight, and his mother wanted him to become an Anglican priest. There was not enough money for his education, so at the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a barber and hairdresser in London. He heard George Whitefield preach in 1755, began a period of spiritual searching, attended the meetings of John Wesley, professed his faith in 1758, and became a minister at the Calvinistic Methodist Tabernacle at Mildenhall in Norfolk. Very soon he organized an Independent congregation at Norwich, in 1759 was baptized by John Dunkham, and began to preach at the Stoneyard Baptist Church in Cambridge, where he was the pastor from 1761 until the end of his life. He accepted that call on the condition that the congregation would practice open communion. Self-taught, he became known for his preaching, counsel, concern for others' views, and religious liberty. His willingness to discuss made him vulnerable to questions about his orthodoxy, which he defended. He left a record of conflicts about hymnody in his congregation, learned Latin and French, wrote widely, and in 1781 was commissioned to make a study of the English Baptists. He edited William Barton's Psalms (1768) and wrote thirteen hymns. 

Come, thou Fount of ev'ry blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
While the hope of endless glory
fills my heart with joy and love,
teach me ever to adore thee;
may I still thy goodness prove.

Here I raise my Ebenezer:
"Hither by thy help I've come";
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wand'ring from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be;
let that grace now like a fetter
bind my wand'ring heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it;
seal it for thy courts above.

Opening Voluntary: “Prelude on “Amazing Grace’” David Lasky 

Since 1981, David Lasky has been Organist and Director of Music at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in Leominster, Massachusetts, and resides in Hartland, Vermont. In addition to his work as a composer, Mr. Lasky has performed as an organ soloist and in ensembles throughout Massachusetts, and has given recitals at Washington National Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and at Saint Mary Cathedral in Lafayette, Indiana. He has taught classes and workshops on improvisation and service playing for the American Guild of Organists and for the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

Closing Voluntary: “Cortège,” Gordon Young (1919-1998)

Gordon Young was an American organist and composer of both organ and choral works. He was born in McPherson, Kansas and educated at Southwestern College (Winfield, Kansas) and the Curtis Institute (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) where he was a student of Alexander McCurdy. After serving churches in Philadelphia and Kansas where he also worked as a radio organist and newspaper critic, Young became the music director at First Presbyterian Church in Detroit. There he was a visible and important presence in the American church music scene. He also taught organ on the faculty of Wayne State University. Young published voluminously, and his organ and choral works were in the catalogs of most major American publishers. Numerous works of his were also issued in the Netherlands, where his music has remained very popular. Cortège is part of his collection of Eleven Organ Pieces, published in 1962.