I had a slight challenge, the organ I play on at church as a lovely feature. That is at a flick of a switch the key for any piece of music can be moved up or down. In this case, it needed to go down. This feature is really great and it does the job fantastically.
There I was very happy that the issue had been resolved and then I realised, I may have missed something. Therefore, I asked the question. where are we singing this hymn? And I had forgotten!
It was not in our church. Of course, our church organ is not portable.
Therefore, earlier today I set about transposing the sheet music, in this case to the key of C from E flat. This makes it easier to play and sing. In this case, I have not re-arranged, but have made some minor changes for ease of reading. Fairest Lord Jesus in the key of C
The answer, of course, is Crimond. That is a village in the northeast of Scotland. It is nine miles northwest of Peterhead and just over two miles from the coast.
The challenge I have is not with the time but the tune.
Not many people know that the tunes to hymns (songs) are named after the community and/or Kirk (Church) that they were written in.
The Late Rev Bob White did say in his sermons that these tunes were pop songs of the day. Ever since the age of ten, I have wanted to make Crimond a pop song. I must admit that this was much to the annoyance of my classically trained music teacher. From memory, I think her reaction was…
“If you really must Charles, but that is not as it is written and you have an exam to pass”
So what is all the fuss about one tune? Simply it was written by Jessie Seymour Irvine (born 1836 – died 1887). She was the daughter of a Church of Scotland minister who served at Dunottar, Peterhead, and Crimond, Scotland. Jessie is referred to by Ian Campbell Bradley in his 1997 book Abide with Me.
The crunch is that the song ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ is set to that tune. As such it is well known and often sung at funerals and weddings. Words were written by Francis Rous, who was born at Halton, Cornwall, in 1579, and educated at Oxford. His career the legal profession, and M.P. He took the words from the Bible – Psalm 23 and set it to verse. Here are the lyrics…
Is a beautiful hymn written by hymnodist William Cowper (26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800). Not only did he write hymns – he studied them too – hence the term hymnodist as opposed to hymn writer. As a writer of hymns, he had another talent, he was a well-known poet. One of his poems being “The Negro’s Complaint” which was often quoted by Dr. Martin Luther King Junior as part of the 20th Century Civil Rights movement.
At the age of six years William’s mum Ann died giving birth to his brother, John. This was the start of a lifetime of challenges and woes. His mental health being poor at times to the extent he was institutionalized. At one point it is said he tried to commit suicide. Born a son of an Anglican clergyman, he studied for the law. The prospect of a law exam (I must say any law exam is difficult – it is the exceptions to the rule and the volume of laws that is the issue) that he was so intimidated that he attempted suicide.
It is rumoured that he attempted to do so by drowning in the River Ouse. He hired a horse-drawn coach/taxi driver to take him to his favourite part of River. The driver just could not find it. William returned home – his suicide attempt dashed by the unwitting actions of a poor driver. It was if God had a hand in returning William safely to his home.
However, he did become a member of the Bar and in 1763 he was offered a Clerkship of Journals in the House of Lords. Sadly, that became a challenge for him.
As it happens he met Mrs. Mary Unwin at some point between 1763 and 1779 and they both became life long friends. After moving to Olney Mary became seriously ill. So serious that William was worried that she might die. Cowper began to experience severe depression again. During that crisis, he was inspired to write the verse for “O for a Closer Walk with God”. That action of creation comforted him in his hour of distress.
A day after he wrote to his Aunt about the hymn verses…
‘I began to compose them yesterday morning before daybreak, but I fell asleep at the end of the first two lines. When I awaked again, the third and fourth verses were whispered to my heart in a way I have often experienced.”
Fortunately, Mary recovered from her illness, which if she had not experienced – the words of this great hymn may never have been penned…
1 Oh for a closer walk with God, a calm and heav’nly frame, a light to shine upon the road that leads me to the Lamb!
2 Where is the blessedness I knew when first I sought the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view of Jesus and His Word?
3 What peaceful hours I once enjoyed! How sweet their mem’ry still! But they have left an aching void the world can never fill.
4 Return, O holy Dove, return, sweet messenger of rest; I hate the sins that made Thee mourn, and drove Thee from my breast.
5 The dearest idol I have known, whate’er that idol be, help me to tear it from Thy throne and worship only Thee.
6 So shall my walk be close with God, calm and serene my frame; so purer light shall mark the road that leads me to the Lamb.