Forgotten Verses #4: Amazing Grace

February 15, 1779 was a momentous day in the history of English-language hymnwriting. In February 1779, the American Revolution was still under way, and an attempt by French and American forces to recapture Savannah, Georgia had just failed. Armies on both sides were gearing up for their summer campaigns. So it would perhaps be understandable if one of the most momentous days in the history of English-language hymnwriting went unnoticed at the time. On February 15, 1779, John Newton and William Cowper published Olney Hymns.

The hymnal was named after Olney, England, the town where Newton was a minister and William Cowper had lived. It was a small town of about 2,000 people, and very poor; 1,200 or so were employed at very low wages in making lace. So Newton and Cowper wrote their hymns to be appreciated by the common man. Many have aimed for this goal, but few ever achieved it as successfully as Newton and Cowper. This hymnal included the songs “There is a Fountain,” “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,” “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” and, perhaps most significantly, a hymn introduced under the rather unassuming title “Faith’s Review and Expectations.”

Now “Faith’s Review and Expectations” was in the first section of the book, songs drawn from specific passages of Scripture, and listed as its source passage I Chronicles 17:16-17: “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O Lord God.”

Perhaps few would guess the hymn this passage inspired (and, if you’re ever in a trivia game, throwing in the original title would serve more to confuse things than to clarify!) But perhaps the most obvious parallel comes from the phrase “that You have brought me this far” and the third verse of the song that we know today as “Amazing Grace.”

Newton’s original first four verses are quite familiar:

1. Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, hut now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

2. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

3. Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

4. The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Less familiar, though, are the two verses Newton used to conclude the song:

5. Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

6. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be for ever mine.

The verse we sing today as the last verse, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years,” was a later addition by another writer. There’s nothing wrong with that verse, but it’s also interesting to see how Newton originally intended for his own song to conclude. Ultimately, he comes to the same conclusion, when he says that “God, who called me here below / will be forever mine,” but along the way, he uses more unusual allusions (“within the veil”) and metaphors (“dissolve like snow”).

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Saturday News Roundup #193

Worth Knowing

  • Earlier this week, Soul’d Out bass singer Ian Owens’ wife, Megan, who had a hemorrhage last month, posted an update to Facebook: “Only .5-3% of people will ever have this type of brain bleed. Of that minute percentage, only 50% survive the initial bleed. Of the remaining 50%, only about 15% live a “normal” life. Many remain in a coma for months. I WALKED out of the hospital with pretty much full cognitive and motor functions!!! I am truly blessed from God and I will not take things for granted any more. I also want others to know that it is a miracle that I am here, and only by the grace of GOD!! He listens to and loves those who pray in faith!!”
  • Seven-year Anchormen tenor singer Karl Rice will be joining The Williamsons. He will be filling the position vacated by the departure of David Folenius.

Worth Watching

Here’s a video of the new Skyline Boys lineup; former Beyond the Ashes / Tribute Quartet / Talleys member Brian Alvey has the solo:

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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CD/DVD Review: Hymns from Home (Collingsworth Family)

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Hymns From Home

The opening has a cinematic elegance: Footage of candles and other scenes from the Collingsworth Family home lies underneath a brief narration from Phil Collingsworth Sr. about the importance and impact of hymns. Then the scene shifts outside, where soprano and oldest sister Brooklyn Collingworth Blair sings the first verse of Amazing Grace solo, against a lush backdrop of rural Ohio scenery. Phil Jr. joins for the second verse. Then the camera’s focus pulls back a little farther, and the other two siblings (Courtney Collingsworth Metz and Olivia Collingsworth) join in. For the final verse, parents Phil Sr. and Kim join the now-complete family ensemble.

Hymns From Home is a CD/DVD combination; the CD contains eighteen songs, while the DVD contains an extra opening song. The CD is not a separate studio recording; it is the audio from the live program, minus the opening song.

The remaining eighteen songs are as diverse a collection of performances as you will hear any Southern Gospel group pull off: Solos, duets, trios, quartets, full family ensembles; acapella, piano-and-vocals, songs with full orchestration; piano solos, violin solos, and violin duets. It would be challenging to find any other six people in our genre who could pull off a program of this diversity and caliber, let alone six members of a single family.

Other genres certainly have talented vocalists and instrumentalists. But many other genres rely on their productions—ten piece bands, hundred piece orchestras, light shows, or smoke shows. Southern Gospel, though, has been blessed with generation after generation of singers who need nothing but three or four vocalists and a piano player to absolutely command the spotlight. Make no mistake, the Collingsworth Family can do that, but they have been blessed with an even rarer and more remarkable talent: They can stand in the spotlight and deflect its focus to the message of the songs.

Nowhere, perhaps, is this more apparent than on this projects’ centerpiece, “Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary.” Its subtle brilliance leaves the spotlight clearly on the message.

Many of the hymns have appeared on the family’s previous projects, but since these are live renditions, there are a number of arrangement variations; also, the children’s voices have matured since the original renditions, leaving these superior in a number of cases. These factors, plus the new songs (including “Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary,” “The Love of God,” and “My Wonderful Lord”) make the project a must-buy for Collingsworth Family fans. It would also make an excellent Christmas present for family and friends who love the great hymns of the faith but are new to this genre.

Traditional or Progressive: Traditional with several orchestrated songs.

Group Members: Phil Collingsworth Sr., Kim Collingsworth, Brooklyn Collingsworth Blair, Courtney Collingsworth Metz, Phil Collingsworth Jr., Olivia Collingsworth.

Credits: Produced by Kim Ryan White. Tracks recorded by Melissa Mattey. Assistant engineer: Steve Blackman. Musicians: Kim Collingsworth (on-site piano), Jason Webb (studio piano, keys, Hammond B3); Dave Cleveland (guitars), John Hammond (percussion); Craig Nelson (upright and electric bass). Vocal and instrumental arrangements by Kim Collingsworth. Orchestrations arranged by Wayne Haun and performed by The Nashville String Machine, contracted by Carl Gorodetzky. Mixed by Melissa Mattey and Tommy Cooper. Mastered by Alan Silverman. Film edited by Jacob Ryan. Filming director: Russell Hall. Lighting director: Jeff Hockman. Behind the scenes and interview footage: Tim Antkowiak, Jacob Ryan. Review copy provided.

Song List: Amazing Grace (DVD only); Brethren We Have Met To Worship; Holy, Holy, Holy; Come Thou Fount; The Lord’s Prayer; Take Time To Be Holy; My Wonderful Lord; And Can It Be; When We All Get To Heaven; Covered By The Blood; Since Jesus Came Into My Heart; Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary; The Love of God; In The Garden; I Need Thee Every Hour; Unclouded Day; At Calvary; My Jesus I Love Thee; Amazing Grace.

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An Interview with myself

SouthernGospelBlog.com: Why on earth are you interviewing yourself, instead of someone far more interesting?

Daniel: I want to be able to ask a question like that, but I don’t dare to anyone besides myself! More seriously, I thought this would be an interesting vehicle to mention a number of things that I hadn’t found a way to insert into the regular programming.

Since I write over 300 posts per year, it’s not like one post of this nature is much of a distraction from the regular programming.

SGB: What is the single most surprising thing that you’ve heard an artist or industry professional say?

Daniel: That one’s easy: “I don’t actually like convention songs.” At first, I thought this person was kidding!

SGB: What’s the single funniest thing that you’ve heard during a soundcheck?

Daniel: “That’s a local opening act.” The speaker pauses when, as if on cue, a singer tries to imitate Michael English and fails. “Very local.”

SGB: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of running the site?

Daniel: That’s easy! My favorite part is reading a particularly insightful comment from a reader. My least favorite part is writing CD reviews.

SGB: Why?

Daniel: I am an optimist, but I feel responsible to write an accurate review. Unless the CD is absolutely spectacular, my sense of responsibility will clash with my personality, and I end up drained.

SGB: Outside of Southern Gospel, what keeps you busy?

Daniel: I launched and help run www.freehymnal.com, a site with free sheet music for public domain hymns. I’ve spent a lot of time exercising this year. I love songwriting. And I’ve also been spending a lot of time thinking and writing about how Christians should use vocabulary in a way that reflects a Biblical worldview and glorifies God. I’m hoping to turn that into a book eventually, but with everything else I have going right now, it surely won’t be done any time soon!

SGB: So how rich have you gotten from all those books you’ve written?

Daniel: Truth be told, I would be several times richer today if I had spent the same number of hours flipping burgers at McDonalds! But of the kind of riches that really matter—friendships—I’m a wealthy, wealthy man. 🙂

SGB: So between all these books and blog posts—how many blog posts now?—

Daniel: 3,037 personally, 3,285 on the site—

SGB: Surely you’ve become a decent writer.

Daniel: No, I’m just an average writer. I would have been below average in 1950. But looking around at the average level of communication skills today, I think that anyone who can construct a grammatical sentence is probably above average now!

I don’t think readers come here for brilliant prose. I think readers come for the daily posts and their content. I try to be comprehensive enough that, even if this is the only Southern Gospel news website they read, they won’t miss out on any significant news stories.

SGB: Well, have you written any above-average posts?

Daniel: Three, I think:

Here’s a funny thing: My siblings are so used to average that when I wrote the most recent decent one, “Farewell, Louisville,” they said it didn’t sound like me and wondered who really wrote it!

SGB: What motivates someone to write over 3,000 posts about this genre of music?

Daniel: Southern Gospel has a rich heritage and an enduring value. I don’t want this genre to die on my watch. If I’m the last Southern Gospel journalist standing, the day I retire and turn out the lights is the day I have failed.

I’m not going to be the person to inspire the next generation of singers, songwriters, and journalists to love this music. New fans are brought in by a singer and a song. But once that happens, I want to play a role in expanding their horizons from that first artist to others, and in deepening their love for this music.

Whenever I retire, if there’s still a vibrant Southern Gospel scene—if lives are still being changed through Biblically solid lyrics—then this will have been a success.

SGB: What are—

Daniel: Oh, good grief, that’s enough about me. Let’s get back to the regularly scheduled programming. 🙂

But if you all want to add your own questions in the comments, go for it! I won’t promise to answer everything, but I’m sure I’ll answer some of them!

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2013 Dove Awards Announced

The 2013 Dove Awards were handed out yesterday in Nashville, TN. The Gospel Music Association, which hands out the awards, has not issued a formal press release congratulating honorees; in all likelihood, this is because the awards will be televised in about a week. However, thanks to posts by and congratulating artists on social media, we have been able to learn many of the Southern Gospel-related honorees:

  • Southern Gospel Album of the Year (tie): Pure and Simple, Gaither Vocal Band
  • Southern Gospel Album of the Year (tie): Canton Junction, Canton Junction
  • Southern Gospel Song of the Year: “What the Blood is For,” Jason Crabb
  • Bluegrass Album of the Year: The Gospel Side of Dailey & Vincent, Dailey & Vincent
  • Bluegrass Song of the Year: “He Washed My Soul,” Little Roy Lewis and Lizzy Long Show
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: New Day Christian Distributors (part of the same corporate empire as Daywind)
  • Inspirational Song of the Year: “Satisfied,” Jason Crabb
  • Inspirational Album of the Year: Love is Stronger, Jason Crabb
  • Country Song of the Year: “From My Rags to His Riches,” Devin McGlamery
  • Country Album of the Year: Eyes Wide Open, Jeff & Sheri Easter

Also, while this was apparently not associated with an award, there was an all-star salute to Bill Gaither headlined by Dailey & Vincent. Gaither took in the festivities from a front-row seat.

Are there any others?

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Forgotten Verses #3: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Isaac Watts is counted as the father of English-language hymn-writing, and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is usually acknowledged as his greatest work. In fact, Charles Wesley, another person who would stand shoulder to shoulder with Watts on any top-five list of greatest English-language hymn-writers, reportedly commented that he would have given up every other hymn he had ever written if he could have written this one.

To the credit of the arrangers behind this stunningly magnificent arrangement, the Gaither Vocal Band included all four of the verses we commonly find in hymnals today. But Watts’ original included five verses. Thanks to incredible work of the team behind Google Books’ scanning project, we can see the hymn in its original typesetting, here.

The original verses three to five read:

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

 

Now, granted, if we were in a position where we could only choose the strongest four verses, we would probably pick the four we sing today. But the original verse four provides a really nice glue to tie together the verses it follows and precedes. In verse three, we’re looking at the Cross. As we’re used to singing the song, the scene suddenly changes to looking at the whole realm of nature. But look at what this verse four accomplishes: The first two lines are still looking at the cross. “Then I am dead to all the globe / And all the globe is dead to me” is the transition that sets the stage for “Were the whole realm of nature mine.”

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Tracy Stuffle appears on stage

On Saturday, Tracy Stuffle appeared on stage with The Perrys for the first time since his stroke in January. The group posted a photo on Facebook here, adding the comment, “It’s another MIRACLE God has given us! Praise Your name, Jesus!” In a separate post, Perrys baritone Bryan Walker added:

What a night! Tonight was the first time in 8.5 months that Tracy was able to be on stage with the Perrys!! Hallelujah!! He gave The Lord a lot of praise and then sang a few songs with us! It was awesome!! Friends, if you don’t believe in the faithfulness of God, then let tonight be a sign of exactly that! To borrow Libbi’s phrase, “Go God, Go!” Thank you to all of you who came out tonight and were so kind to Tracy. We love you all!

Prior to his January stroke, he was the group’s bass singer and emcee. His road to recovery has been long and filled with many setbacks, including five cerebral hemorrhages and numerous life-threatening infections. It is a tremendous blessing to see his recovery moving forward!

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Saturday News Roundup #192

Worth Knowing

  • As Tracy Stuffle continues to recover from his January stroke, his wife Libbi was able to bring him to their church’s Wednesday night service for the first time since January. Each milestone is perhaps a little deal by itself, but each brings him one step closer to recovery.
  • Southern Sound has hired Randy Shaw as their new baritone singer. Randy is a cousin of Southern Sound tenor Will Shaw.
  • Rochesters members Scott and Becky Matthews welcomed a daughter, Mallorie Kate Matthews, on October 1.

Worth Watching

Just because this song deserves to be heard again:

Also worth watching: Legacy Five bass singer Matt Fouch interviews Nick Trammell, lead singer for the Mark Trammell Quartet.

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Similar Song Intros

Recently, I was listening to the Kingsmen song “Called Out.” The introduction’s strong resemblance to the opening bars of the Cathedrals’ “Somebody Touched Me” was quite striking. That got me thinking about other similar intro combinations our genre has seen:

  • “Somebody Touched Me” (The Cathedrals, The Prestigious Cathedral Quartet, 1984) and “Called Out” (The Kingsmen, Better in Person, 1985)
  • “If God Didn’t Care” (The Statesmen, The Bible Told Me So, 1958) and “I Found the Answer” (The Statesmen, Message In The Sky, 1963)
  • “Valley Of The Shadow” (Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet, The Lamb is King, 2000) and “Heroes of The Faith” (Legacy Five, Heroes Of The Faith, 2001) (It seems I’ve discussed this one before.)
  • “When Morning Sweeps the Eastern Sky” (Happy Goodmans, Good ‘n’ Happy, 1966) and “When It All Starts Happening” (Happy Goodmans, Bigger ‘n’ Better, 1967) (This is probably the most famous example in our genre.)

What other examples have you all noticed?

(In case anyone is curious: We had a great discussion about our genre’s most unique song intros six years ago, here.)

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Sheet Music vs. Soundtracks

Several weeks ago, quite a few readers indicated interest in seeing occasional topics connected to church music. Here’s one: For those of you who are involved in church music—whether on a regular basis or doing occasional features—do you use soundtracks, live accompaniment played with sheet music, or live accompaniment played by ear?

If you had the options of soundtracks and sheet music, which would you prefer and why?

If you prefer sheet music: How do you find sheet music, especially for recent songs? Will you do songs (whether features or congregational) for which you cannot find sheet music?

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