In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Sunday, May 16, 2010

What Wondrous Love is This?

[N]ext to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. ~ Martin Luther

And when the Word is married with great music, the soul soars to breathtaking heights! That's what happens for me whenever I hear one of my favorite hymns well performed, and especially when I hear a beautiful, inspiring hymn for the first time. That was the case one day last week as I listened to my Serenity Radio channel on Pandora, and discovered What Wondrous Love is This? This authentic American folk hymn was written down by William Walker (1809-1875) as he journeyed through the Appalachian Mountains in the early 19th century, and was first published in his collection Southern Harmony in 1835. The melody is simple and heart-piercing, and the text poignantly captures the sinner's inexpressible awe and joy at redemption.

Below is a stunningly beautiful video accompanied by the gospel/bluegrass a capella group Mountain Blue singing What Wondrous Love is This?

I couldn't resist including another video presentation of this hymn, by a different a capella bluegrass group called Blue Highway. This version is sung in the original style in which William Walker probably first heard it in the mountain wilderness almost 200 years ago.

Below are the original lyrics to the hymn. They may differ somewhat from the words sung in the above videos, and several other versions with additional or slightly different verses, can be found. But all express the absolute wonder and exultant joy of the greatest miracle ever wrought--that, while we were yet sinners and utterly unworthy of it, Christ came down from Heaven and died in agony to save us from our own folly. May we remember that miracle every moment of our lives.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pandora's (Marvelous Music) Box

What have I been up to the past three weeks since my last post? Slaving away at work, mostly (when not up to my neck in chores at home). I'd be paralyzed with boredom and discouragement were it not for one of the most wonderful resources on the Internet: Pandora Internet Radio. It's a free web site (with a few very unobtrusive ads; you can choose a modestly priced version with no ads and a few more bells and whistles) that lets you build your own "stations" featuring whatever music suits your fancy, which you can then listen to anytime and anywhere you have Internet access. Just hit the "Create a New Station" button, type in the name of a song or an artist of the sort that you'd like to build your station around--of any genre or style that suits you--and Pandora will play for you a series of songs of that kind (or by artists of that kind) based on a system of analyzing music/performance characteristics called the "Music Genome Project." At first you give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to each song or piece as it goes by, and the system gradually "learns" your preferences for that station. At that point you can sit back and let your music play, if you so choose marking only those songs/pieces that you especially like or don't want to hear on that station again. You can create as many stations as you want to, around music or artists of different styles (Pandora also has predefined genre stations that you don't have to build yourself). I have a couple of dozen stations, ranging from Celtic traditional to old timey country/folk (I call it "Country Sweet") to American pop standards of the 30s-50s ("Stardust Radio") to classical flamenco ("Spanish Fire") to Gregorian Chant to opera, and everything in between. I'm very fortunate that my employer lets us use the company Internet connection to listen to music; it keeps us alert and our minds from ossifying!

My very favorite personal station is one I call Serenity Radio. I wanted a station that played only hymn-type sacred music (as opposed to chant, oratorios, and the like, which I have on the Gregorian channel), the kind you hear in church on Sunday. So I typed in "Mormon Tabernacle Choir" to start, and added the names of some other choirs and the titles of my favorite hymns. By and by I created a station that plays many different arrangements of the great traditional hymns--"Sweet Hour of Prayer," "Just As I Am," "Amazing Grace," "Blessed Assurance," etc.--as well as some original religious compositions, in both choral and instrumental versions. I called it "Serenity Radio" because listening to it calms my soul and lifts my spirits like nothing else I can do at work! I get a charge from this great music, and really am more productive because of it. If you'd like to listen to Serenity Radio, click here. If that doesn't work, go to my blog Marching On! (click here if you're not there right now), scroll down to the Pandora box in the right-hand column, and click on the Serenity Radio button in the "Musical Activity" or "Stations" parts of the box. If THAT doesn't work or you can't find the places I'm referring to, email me here and I'll send you a link straight from Pandora.

No, I don't work for Pandora. And I get no commission for this plug. I just love music and want to share it with my friends--and think this is a great way to do it!