Week 6: Classical Composers



Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee

Text: Henry Van Dyke (1852–1933), 1907

Tune: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), 1824

(Play recording from 2:40 to 5:31.)

  1. How does the hymn text explore the idea of “joy” without being shallow or naive? What are some of the reasons it gives to be joyful?

    • Verse 3 explores some contrasting, paradoxical ideas that give the hymn meaningful depth:
      • Relationship between “giving” and “forgiving”
      • Joy in both life and death
      • God as both “father” and “brother”
    • Explores different reasons for joy:
      • God’s inward transformation, driving out doubt, sin, and sadness
      • God’s wonderful creation reflecting God’s goodness
      • Human love for one another inspired by God’s love for us
  2. How well do the text and tune fit together, and why?

    • The meter is similar to Common Meter Double, not infrequently used
      • Other famous texts in the same meter are “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”, etc.
    • The tied pickup into the third phrase is source of some debate - whether to remain true to Beethoven’s original version or “sanitize” it for easier congregational singing
    • Both Van Dyke’s “Joyful, Joyful” and Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” share similar themes which match the upbeat melody

I Vow To Thee, My Country

Text: Cecil Spring-Rice (1859–1918), 1908

Tune: Gustav Holst (1874–1934), 1914

(Play recording from 20:44 to 23:07.) … 2:59 to 5:15

  1. Rarely used outside of Great Britain, even there the hymn has fallen out of favor in some circles because of its equivalence between loyalty to nation and loyalty to God. Do you think this criticism is appropriate, and why or why not?

    • Rev. Dr. Gordon Giles, an Anglican vicar and editor of the Ancient and Modern hymnal, has written:

      The notion of “vowing” everything to a country, including the sacrifice of one’s life for the glorification of nationhood, challenges sensibilities today. The idea relies on a dated military concept of fighting for “King and Country”… In post-colonial Britain, this comes across as patronising and unjust… Should we, undaunted, make the sacrifice of our sons and daughters, laying their lives on the altar in wars that we might struggle to call as holy or just?

    • Final line is a quote from Proverbs 3:17
    • The hymn was reportedly a favorite of Princess Diana’s
  2. How well do the text and tune fit together, and why?

    • The meter for the text, 13.13.13D, is quite unusual, making it quite a coincidence that the “Jupiter” melody fit so easily
    • The melody is stately and compelling, not overly jubilant but not morose either: perfect for a serious hymn of devotion

Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken

Text: John Newton (1725–1807), 1779

Tune: Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), 1797

(Play recording from 4:10 to 5:30.)

  1. Newton melds together a wide range of scriptural quotes and images to build up a picture of the New Jerusalem (Zion) as a metaphor for Christ’s church. What references stick out to you, and what do they teach about the church?

  2. How well do the text and tune fit together, and why?

    • Interestingly, the meter is the same as “Joyful, Joyful”
      • The meter basically necessitates use of a double rhyme (two syllables) for odd-numbered lines
    • Greater harmonic motion gives the tune a naturally slower tempo than the driving beat of “Ode to Joy”
      • Helps make the text more calm and ponderous, appropriate for an idyllic picture of peace and sustenance
    • This text and tune were first paired in 1889
      • Recently, alternative tunes (such as Abbot’s Leigh) have been written to avoid the nationalistic associations with Austria