This week in my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth I’m adding another familiar hymn — at least, familiar to my youth. “Tell it to Jesus”, written by Edmund S. Lorenz and published in a German hymnal called Fröliche Botschafter in 1876. Lorenz came from an Adventist family that emigrated from Russia to America. Educated at Otterbein, Union Biblical Seminary, Yale, and the University of Leipzig, he was ordained and later opened a music publishing company in Dayton, Ohio called Lorenz and Company. The hymn was translated into English in 1880 by Jeremiah E. Rankin.
As usual these past 88 Sundays, today I add another entry in my series, Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth. This week we peer back 265 years to find the origin of the current selection. At that time, Charles Wesley wanted to encourage early Methodists enduring hardship. Wanting them to be a singing, joyful people to avoid discouragement and loss of hope, he wrote this poem in 1744 using text from Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice, the Lord Is King.” Philippians is known as being characterized by joy, despite being written from prison, so the situation matched will with Wesley’s objectives for the verse, which was set to music as a hymn in 1746.
Rejoice, the Lord is King
The addition this week to my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth was written in 1914 by Rufus H. McDaniel after the death of his son. (The music was written by Charles H. Gabriel that same year.) McDaniel was born January 29, 1850 in Brown County, Ohio and died February 13, 1940 in Dayton, Ohio. He was educated at Parker’s Academy in Claremont County, Ohio. He received a preaching license at age 19 and was ordained a minister of the Christian Church in 1873. After serving at various locations in Ohio, including Hamersville, Higginsport, Centerburg, Sugar Creek, and Cincinnati, he retired in Dayton. He wrote more than one hundred hymns during his life.
This will be the last Christmas carol for the season, and it seems almost odd that I’ve not already added today’s selection to the series, Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth. “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is to me the carol that most proclaims Christmas, the most essential of carols for the season.
The carol comes from the Latin Adeste Fideles, a 1743 hymn by John Francis Wade for text which may date back to the 13th century. Wade was a British exile who moved to a Roman Catholic community in France, where he eked out an income by copying and selling music and giving music lessons to children. The English version, “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” was was translated more than a century later by Frederick Oakeley, a British clergyman who felt that his congregation would sing well if only they had good literary texts to sing. Perhaps this carol expresses some truth in his conviction, as it is generally a difficult one for a congregation not to sing with a little extra “oomph.” The original Latin lyrics follow at the end of the familiar English ones, for those who feel compelled to follow along in the original language.
Now that we are past Advent and into the Christmastide season, I can legitimately publish Christmas carols to the list in my series, Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth. In the church of that youth, the Christmas carols might carry on for a week or so after Christmas (depending how the calendar fell), but that would be it until December. I’m sure it was the same for many of us, who would begin the carols of Christmas again sometime early in the Advent season. This week I add a carol which it is unlikely that one can pass by a Christmas program without hearing: “Away in a Manger.”
Today begins the last week of Advent, and therefore marks our last Sunday before Christmas. During the past few weeks, I’ve been populating our Advent space with Christmas carols, as the church where I grew up (the -of-my-youth part) didn’t really observe the liturgical calendar, so I knew nothing of Advent until much later. One of the standard carols which appears each year is one that we’ve already had to sing by virtue of one of the Christmas gatherings where we were in attendance. Taking some notes from Wikipedia,
Silent Night (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) is a popular Christmas carol. The original lyrics of the song Stille Nacht were written in German by the Austrian priest Father Josef Mohr and the melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster Franz Xaver Gruber. In 1863, John Freeman Young translated the song into the English version sung today. The version of the melody that is generally sung today differs slightly (particularly in the final strain) from Gruber’s original.
During Advent this year I’m breaking with Advent convention and posting Christmas carols as part of my regular Sunday series, Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth. This follows instead the habit of the church of my youth, where we did not observe Advent but instead added an increasing amount of Christmas fare as the holiday approached. One of the carols we sang, of course, was an Isaac Watts carol not to be confused with another song of the same title by Three Dog Night. In this case, the tune was adapted and arranged by Lowell Mason with inspiration from an older melody believed to have originated from Handel due to similarities in his Messiah.
The carol is a favourite to many, having a natural tendency to extra volume when sung en mass.
Joy to the World
This year during Advent, I’m taking an uncharacteristic “Advent break” for the Sunday posts in my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth. During my youth, my church did not observe Advent or much else on the church calendar… so we inserted Christmas carols into the hymn selections in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Typically we would start with only one carol on Sunday morning, adding more as Christmas got closer. This week’s selection is “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” written by Charles Wesley in 1739. Wikipedia has a good intro to the carol, which explains that the carol was written by Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley and first appeared in “Hymns and Sacred Poems” in 1739. The original opening couplet was “Hark! how all the welkin rings / Glory to the King of Kings”, while the version commonly known today is the result of alterations by various hands, most notably George Whitefield, Wesley’s co-worker, who changed the opening couplet to the one we know today.