Musical Notes ♫♬ (Archive)

We open our 'festival' with "Dearest Jesus, at Your Word" (LIEBSTER JESUS, WIR SIND HIER).  This beautiful hymn continues on the themes of light from Christmas and Epiphany and reminds us that the Spirit and Jesus fill us with light unclouded and by grace we have been saved and given wonderful blessings in our lives.  Talk about a musical cliff notes version of Luther's Small Catechism!  Catherine Winkworth is responsible for translating over 110 hymns, among other important translations, from German into English and 19 of those hymns are in our hymnal.  After spending a year in Dresden, Germany Winkworth developed a great interest in the German hymnody.  According to The Harvard University Hymn Book "she did more than any other single individual to make the rich heritage of the German hymnody available to the English speaking public".  As an important side note, Winkworth was also very involved with fighting for women's rights.  She is commemorated as a hymn writer in ELCA on July 1. 

The text of "Lord, Speak to Us, That We May Speak" (CANONBURY) was written by Frances R. Havergal at Winterdyne, England with the heading "A Worker's Prayer" with a reference to Romans 14:7 ("none of us lives to himself alone").  "Lord, Speak to Me" is a prayer that God will speak to, lead, and teach each of us so that we may do the same to others who need Jesus Christ (st. 1-3). Robert Schumann wrote the tune to which this hymn is set.  He was not a hymn writer but because his tunes were so lyrical hymn writers 'poached' his tunes.  Derived from the fourth piano piece in Robert A. Schumann's Nachtstücke, Opus 23 (1839), CANONBURY first appeared as a hymn tune in J. Ireland Tucker's Hymnal with Tunes, Old and New (1872). The tune, whose title refers to a street and square in Islington, London, England, is often matched to Havergal's text.

To conclude our mini festival we are singing one of my favorite hymns, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in honor of Dr. Marthin Luther King Jr.  We have sung this hymn in his honor before on the commenoration of his death date, April 4th.  However, because he was born on January 15th and in conjunction with the American civil holiday honoring him let's raise our voices to aloud to a this man of justice who preached nonviolence and demanded that love be returned for hate.   "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was first publicly performed as a poem as part of a celebration of Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, 1900 by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School.  The principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce the honored guest Booker T. Washington.  The poem was later set to music by Johnson's brother John in 1905.  Singing of this song quickly became a way for African Americans to demonstarte their patriotism and hope for the future because it allowed them to subtly speak against racism and Jim Crow laws.  In 1919, the NAACP adopted the song as "The Negro National Anthem" and by the 1920's copies of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" could be found in black churches across the country, often pasted into the hymnals.  This hymn is referenced across the board in popular culture including in Maya Angelou's 1969 autogriography,  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,; on a Melba Moore recording along with other R&B artists Anita Baker, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Brown, Stevie Wonder, Jeffrey Osborn and Howard Hewett; by gospel artists Bebe & CeCe Winans, Take 6 and The Clark Sisters and other contemporary versions by Linda Tillery, Opera Singer Leontyne Price and the Cultural Heritage Choir.  On January 20, 2009, the Rev. Joseph Lowery used a near verbatim recitation of the song's third stanza to begin his benediction at the inauguration ceremony for Barack Obama.


Gretchen Mundinger

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Daily Bible Verse

  • Malachi 4:1-6

    5Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. 6He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.

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