Musical Notes ♫♬ (Archive)

Two oldies but goodies, "Amazing Grace" and "Sent Forth By God's Blessings" are ours for the singing this week. "Amazing Grace" is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world and the message reminds us that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of the sins people commit and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God.  The writer of the text, John Newton, was not originally a religious man.  However, several formative life events, including surviving a terrible storm at sea and working in the slave trade, pushed him towards studying theology.  The poem, "Amazing Grace" was written in 1773 to illustrate a sermon on New Years Day.  It is unclear whether or not Newton set it to music but during the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century in the US it was set to over 20 melodies.  The tune that we know and love today, New Britain, is from the Southern Harmony musical tradition developed by William 'Singing Bill' Walker.  Southern Harmony was a new way of teaching music that didn't require fancy instruments or a high level of education.  It didn't require accompaniment and therefore it was portable, easily used at tent revivals and appealed to a wide variety of people.  If you take a closer look you'll notice the tune "New Britain" only uses combinations of 7 different notes.  We have 10 Southern Harmony pieces in our ELW. 

"Sent Forth by God's Blessings" is the traditional Welsh folk tune "The Ash Grove".  Omer Westendorf, a lyricist using English for the Roman Catholic Church, wrote the poetry.  His best known texts include "Where Charity and Love Prevail", "Sent Forth by By God's Blessings" and "Gift of Finest Wheat".  Four of his texts are in our ELW.   

Friends, I about fell off the couch when doing the research on our choir anthem for the week.  You aren't going to believe this when I tell you but our choir anthem is a beautiful hymn found in the ELW that was excerpted from a modern opera entitled Luther by Kari Tikka.  Tikka, a conductor with the Finnish National Opera, composed, conducted, and co-wrote the libretto for Luther. Composed originally in Finnish, the production premiered in Helsinki, Finland, to sold-out performances and excellent reviews in December 2000.  In true Lutheran form, there are plants in the audience to encourage them to sing along between scenes when several of Martin Luther's hymns are played. 

Tikka had been thinking about a production on Martin Luther for quite some time and was convinced that Luther has a lot to say to those of us in the 21st century. "This theme—Luther—has been in my mind for more than 20 years," he said. "Luther's theology has been vitally important to me. Salvation is 100 percent God's gift. Faith, too, is a gift. After reading much of Luther I realized I had gone through similar trials and tribulations. I wrote this opera so that many would hear, see, and understand that God in his son Jesus has gone through all of our battles and won for us liberty."  You can order a DVD of the production online at if you are interested.  I'm very tempted to get one myself and we can compare notes. 

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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