Lord, we do truly need you EVERY hour of each and every day. Do not pass us by, but hear us calling out Your Holy Name for who have we but You to call on in our times of need?
The lyric for "I Need Thee Every Hour" was written in 1872 by Annie S. Hawks, a prolific hymn-writer from New York and Robert Lowry added the refrain as well as the tune aptly called [I Need Thee Every Hour (Lowry)]. Lowry was the type of person who seemed to do absolutely everything; a preacher, church administrator, musician, writer...the list goes on. In the middle of reading his biographical information it mentioned he took a 4 year sabbatical in the middle of his life to which I thought, "Thank goodness! He needed one!" and then when that sabbatical wasn't long enough he immediately took another one after which he resumed his life's work in the church until his death.
"Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior" was penned by none-other than hymn-writing superstar Fanny Crosby. Despite losing her sight at age 6 through an illness, Fanny went on to get a full education and become a teacher as well as writing some of the greatest hymns of all time. The tune (Pass me not, O Gentle Savior (Doane)), was written, unsurprisingly, by W. Howard Doane. One source described him as an "amateur composer," but then went on to note that he "wrote over twenty-two hundred hymn and gospel song tunes, and he edited over forty songbooks." As my dad would say, "not bad for an amateur."
This 14-hymns-in-14-days project has honestly been one of the most fun but also most challenging creative projects I've undertaken. Either creating an arrangement of a song, or learning an arrangement one of my friend's has written alone is no small task, but couple that with trying to get a no-mistake-"take" without the cat meowing, or a loud car driving by, or did I mention that my 2 year old has decided to give up napping during this shelter-in-place-order? And writing these blogs takes time as well to research the hymn, and put together thoughtful sentences about the song or my guest. It's one of the most fulfilling projects I've undertaken, but I definitely underestimated how difficult it would be to accomplish.
To be honest, I woke up this morning with absolutely no clue what I was going to post tonight. I have a few collaboration videos coming up but none of those were ready to go for today. I have a list of potential hymns, but nothing was really jumping out at me and then I got a text from my mom with a request for "I Need Thee Every Hour" and it just made sense. "Pass Me Not..." has always been a favorite and I thought they would pair well together, and this was born. Isn't life like that?
I'm in a group text with 13 other incredible women who I've walked through alot with over the past 10 years. Today has been especially heavy for our crew for a host of reasons and my screen keeps lighting up with prayer requests and admissions of how hard things are and it is a reminder of how much we truly need the Lord...Every. Single. Hour. But the texts of encouragement keep coming as well, one after another, holding each other up virtually with our words. And I know that our Savior will not pass us by.
Jesus, thank you for being the constant friend we can run to in times of trial and in times of joy! Thank you for listening to our prayers, and shielding us in your arms so that we may find solace.
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer!
Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge--
take it to the Lord in prayer!
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.
Joseph M Scriven penned the well-known hymn "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" and the testimony that he found comfort and healing in Christ is a powerful one given that he lived a pretty tragic life from beginning to end. He battled depression and his dedication to the poor and disabled in the community often left him an outcast and without a place to lay his head himself. He had not one but two fiancés die before he had the chance to wed them and he himself met with an unfortunate end by drowning. One account of the origins of the lyric says, "A neighbour, sitting up with him in his illness, happened upon a manuscript of 'What a Friend we have in Jesus.' Reading it with great delight, and questioning Mr. Scriven about it, he said he had composed it for his mother, to comfort her in a time of special sorrow, not intending any one else should see it."
The tune this lyric is most often set to is entitled "CONVERSE" after it's composer Charles C Converse (although he published it under the pseudonym "Karl Rede"), and is also sometimes called "Eerie" or "Friendship." Converse was a lawyer as well as running an organ company, and composed several hymns. The factoid I found most interesting about him is that a "Doctor of Music degree was offered him by Sterndale Bennett of Cambridge University in England for the five-voice double fugue at the end of his Psalm-Cantata on Psalm 126, but he declined the offer." He did accept an honorary "Doctor of Laws" degree however a few yeas later.
This arrangement and closing motive were written by Dr. Michelle Margiotta, a contemporary multi-instrumentalist, Professor of Music Composition, music educator, worship leader, composer, and arranger. In addition to having released several albums of her own music, her past accomplishments include leading worship at Times Square Church in Manhattan, playing many concerts with contemporary Christian artist Kathy Troccoli and composing orchestrations for Kathy Lee Gifford.
I could not be more excited to have my dear friend Michelle Margiotta back with me again tonight for her second round of Hymns From Home. Her enthusiasm for this project has remained unparalleled from the start...on our initial phone conversation about this project Michelle interrupted me at one point and started listing off all the hymns she wanted to play! "What A Friend" was the second title she rattled off and as several folks had requested it I was definitely interested. However, I was initially concerned that this brilliant arrangement would be too "peppy" for the tone I was trying to set; space to close your eyes and pray. But after reading the story behind the hymn, that it was born out of a place of gratefulness for the refuge Jesus is from our pain, it made perfect sense for this season.
It also made sense to record a song with "Friend" in the title with Michelle as she is such a dear one. I know I already shared a bit about how we met a few blogs ago when we did "Be Thou My Vision," but she is truly a gift. One of my most favorite memories of our friendship was a few years ago when I had a day off on a trip to the East Coast. I grew up spending large chunks of the summer at my grandparents' house "down the shore in Jersey" and some of my sweetest memories are rooted in that house. They moved about 23 years ago and are now both deceased but I had dreamed of a day that I could drive by and see that home, which Michelle knew, so when I had a day off, she drove from her then-home in Long Island to Laguardia airport (which, if you've ever flown in and out of that place, you know is a sign of a true friend), picked me up, and drove me to South New Jersey to eat with my cousins and see this home that held such a special place in my heart. When we finally got back to Long Island after one of the sweetest afternoons "strolling down memory lane" so to speak, her parents' had a Friendly's Wattamelon Roll waiting for me - also a childhood favorite that they knew I liked.
In addition to being an encourager and playing on two episodes of this project, Michelle volunteered to take on all the video editing, which thank goodness because I honestly had asked people to do duets with me before it really occurred to me that I didn't know how to mash them together into one video. But that's just the kind of friend Michelle is...she wants to see her friends thrive and she's ready to help make that happen without being asked.
Lord, in times of grief and pain, we are grateful that Your love will not let us go and that we can rest our weary souls in you. Grant us peace and rest in our hearts for the hour that we will see you face to face is hastening on.
Little is known about the writer or the origins surrounding the hymn "Be Still My Soul." We know that it is the only work of Kathrina von Schlegel to be translated into English. In 1927, the lyric was published to a tune called FINLANDIA, which is an excerpt of the orchestral tone-poem by the same title composed by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (who, incidentally, at one point dreamed of being a concert violinist and not a composer.) (Also of note, I have had the pleasure of playing Sibelius' original work in its entirety as part of a symphony and it is well worth giving a listen.)
Oh Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go was penned by George Matheson who gave the following account: "[This hymn was] written in the Manse of my former parish (Innellan, Argyleshire) one summer evening in 1882. It was composed with extreme rapidity; it seemed to me that its construction occupied only a few minutes, and I felt myself rather in the position of one who was being dictated to than of an original artist as I was suffering from extreme mental distress, and the hymn was the fruit of pain." It was set to the tune ST. MARGARET (Peace) composed by Albert L. Peace about whom nothing seems to be known save the dates of his birth and death and that he brought this tune into being.
Tonight's arranger/performer is Dr. David Madeira, director of music at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, a professor of music theory and theology/worship studies at Belmont University, and a prolific composer, percussionist, pianist and arranger. An expert in the field of congregational psalmody, Dr. Madeira is best known for the creation of the twelve-point chant, a new format that makes chanting the Psalms accessible for modern congregations. His "The Twelve Point Chant Psalter" includes all 150 Psalms for congregational use and is available for purchase HERE. David and his wife Elizabeth, a teacher and community organizer, live near Nashville, TN with their three kids.
When I first came to St. B's as my church is affectionately called, I spent two entire years simply being a parishioner. A person who came to church (whenever I wasn't on the road) and sat in a pew. In that season of life to be honest, my soul was both weary and wary of church and needed space to breathe and grow. When I knew that I was being nudged to once again be a participant and not just a partaker of the worship service, I had no idea the kind of leader and friend I would find in the guy whose name was printed next to "Director of Music" in the bulletin each Sunday.
Over the past 8 years, David has entertained each one of my thoughts & ideas with careful consideration as he does for each one of the many volunteer musicians he shepherds. His leadership style is to simply make each musician assume we are capable of whatever arrangement he creates for us and then through his confidence we each find that we somehow ARE equipped to play whatever is set before us. His gift for choosing music that follows the lectionary cycle and world events is so strong I'd venture to say it can be categorized in the realm of prophetic, but his humility and "nose to the grindstone" work ethic would prevent him from ever admitting to as much. On any given Sunday you can find him playing piano or drums (or sometimes both in the course of a single service) while simultaneously directing the choir, band and cantors through an entire mass of music - typically around 14 songs per service - the bulk of which he has written or arranged.
I had this whole hymns project brewing in my mind last Sunday and "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go" was already on the list when I logged on to watch the first livestream service from St. B's that morning. David was faithfully seated at the piano and began leading our congregation with "Be Still My Soul." Instantly I knew that these two hymns with their similar tempos and deep, thoughtful lyrics would arrange together beautifully and so a few text messages later this arrangement came to be. We had the immense gift of using it as the prelude for this morning's service (which you can go back and watch HERE) and we pray it beckons your soul to rest in the confidence that God's love will never let you go.
Lord, thank you for how you provide for us even when we may struggle to see good in our situation. Every good and perfect thing comes from you, and though the world is shifty and unstable, you do not change due to circumstance or whim. Bless us, Father and keep our hearts under your protection.
Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing was written by Robert Robinson according to one source. After a prank pulled by his friends ended in a drunken fortune teller predicted that Robinson would live long enough to see children and grandchildren, he began to ponder his life career choice and decided to enter the ministry instead of becoming a hairdresser. However some accounts deny Robinson's authorship attributing it instead to "Mr. Wheatley of Norwich" and also to a Countess of Huntingdon. To add to the confusion, a Bradford J. Brown wrote a 4th verse which I have not listed above. However, I think we can all agree that the lyrics are as beautiful now as when they were first penned, no matter when or by whom that originally was.
The origins of the hymn-tune NETTLETON is likewise the subject of much debate. The most accurate answer I think I can safely provide to you is that it is likely a folk tune that has gone through many iterations over the centuries. One tidbit of info that was fascinating to me however is that it is linked to a family of tunes for a folk song that says, "Go tell Aunt Rhody, the old grey goose is dead," which was one of the first simple melodies I learned on violin as a child.
Come Thou Fount has always been a favorite hymn especially because it lends itself so well to a little bit of Celtic-inspired flare which I embrace whenever possible. Many of you also requested it in my Instagram Request-A-Favorite-Hymn poll last week, so it definitely needed to make the list.
About 8 years ago I started a blessing jar. I wrote things I was thankful for on small scraps of paper and put them in a glass jar that sat on my desk. Sometimes the blessings were big like a new job when I needed it. And sometimes they were silly like when our anti-social cat was in a snuggly mood and sat in my lap. But the discipline of choosing joy in both the ordinary and the extraordinary was a beautiful thing. It turned my eyes from the things around me that were frustrating or "going wrong" and I found myself actually seeking the good and the joyful in my day-to-day actions. Just like in this hymn lyric that proclaims, "here I raise my Ebenezer" which in the Bible was a stone placed in remembrance of a good thing the Lord had done, these recordings were tiny Ebenezers proclaiming His goodness in my life.
Last week when we began a self-imposed stay home order even prior to the official one, I started another blessings list. It's an informal one scribbled on the notepad that I typically write my grocery lists on, but it sits on our kitchen countertop so that my husband and I can both jot something down as we walk by. In a season like this, capturing these big and little things are so beautiful. At the end of my thankfulness journey we commissioned a local artist to paint a collage with all my thanks and it hangs in our living room to this day - a testament to the sweetness of the Lord. In these days that seem to last forever where the kids are tired of every activity you've thought up or maybe you're tired of trying to cook meals for just one person and you long for a time that you can go out to eat with friends like normal. Whatever your circumstances, I encourage you to see the blessings in each day. You'll find your heart lighter as you see them out, and find Him in new ways in the process.
**if you want to read more about my painting, you can check out my original blog post about it it HERE as well as a post about "The Big Reveal" HERE.
Lord, we truly do adore you, Creator of all things from the vast heavens to the tiniest sparrow. Whenever we are tempted or our heart is troubled, may we remember that you, who causes the sun to rise, unwearied, day by day, watch over each of us.
The lyric for "His Eye is on the Sparrow" was penned by Civilla D. Martin, or C.D. as she often signed her work. Although her second husband, a traveling minister, often composed the music for her many hymn compositions, it was Charles H. Gabriel who composed the hymn tune "SPARROW" that accompanies her now famous lyrics. Gabriel also composed other well known hymn tunes such as "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" and "Crown Him With Many Crowns."
In the year 1712, Joseph Addison wrote lyrics to a hymn known as "Of The Glory Of God In The Starry Heavens" initially set to a tune by famous classical composer Franz Joseph Haydn. Centuries later thanks to a penchant for collecting old hymnals and a confidence that lyrics such as "the spacious firmament on high" could coexist with modern congregations and praise bands with electric guitars, Carmen D'Arcy Stanczykiewicz composed a new hymn setting and also added a chorus and bridge that seamlessly declare the original authors' wonder and adoration of our great Creator God. Carmen and her husband have 4 children and she currently serves as the Worship Pastor for East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, IN.
**in the lyrics listed above, non underlined lyrics are the original hymn, and underlined lyrics were added by Ms. Stanczykiewicz.
I spent the majority of my growing up in a tiny Southern Baptist church in the middle of cow pasture land in Texas. It was the kind of place that encouraged me to grow in every way: not only did I do my first musical "solos" there, but I was also baptised there one Sunday morning when I was 10. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the combination of lysol and mustiness of my baptismal gown. It was a safe sanctuary in all ways for me, and I'm grateful that among other things I learned a love for the hymns in that place. Tonight's selection has a little bit of a that old Gospel flare to it that transports me right back in time and stills my soul.
I first met Carmen D'Arcy Stanczykiewicz at Christian Radio Broadcasters event in Nashville back in 2008. Our first conversation was both accidental and 2+ hours long, which has continued to be on-brand for the rest of our friendship. Proof that long-distance can not stand in the way of creativity, laughter and good ice cream, [her eldest daughter recently commented on the large amount of times I happened to be at her birthday parties growing up (Sorry, G!)] Carmen has graciously brought me along on many of her life adventures from CD release concerts to ladies brunches and even a couple job interviews...and then there was that one time that we played in a band where the bass player also happened to be running for President of the United States.
When I called Carmen to ask her to join in on this Hymns From Home project she didn't hesitate to jump in with both feet as she's consistently done with any crazy idea I've pitched her over the years. And when she asked if I had planned to do "His Eye Is On The Sparrow," I almost cried. Because if there was ever a message for hope in this season, it is surely that if His eye is on the sparrow, I know He watches me.
Stories and thoughts and current happenings in music and life
Bethany is a freelance violinist/fiddler and tour manager who works with artists & events such as Kelly Minter, Cultivate: A Gathering Around The Word and Laura Story. She and her husband Keith live in Nashville, TN with their daughter Clare, cat & 6 backyard chickens. For more info on Bethany, visit her bio page!!