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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Let all the world in every corner sing,
my God and King!

The heavens are not too high,
God’s praise may thither fly;
the earth is not too low,
God’s praises there may grow.

The church with psalms must shout:
no door can keep them out.
But more than all,
the heart must bear the longest part.

Let all the world in every corner sing,
my God and King!

George Herbert's "Let All the World in Every Corner Sing"
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

It happens every single time. We look in the bulletin, turn to the hymn, and as the organ begins, we are flooded with emotion—an instant memory brought forth by the music we hear. But have you ever wondered how hymns were created?

I assumed the combination of texts and tunes were deliberate collaborations between two people—you know, Rogers and Hammerstein or George and Ira Gershwin. Not so! The poem we see here by George Herbert was never intended to be sung when published in 1633. In fact, it wasn’t until more than 200 years later that texts other than the Psalms were sung in Presbyterian worship. It became common practice to sing new texts to a hymn tune the congregation already knew. We are still doing this today. (You can see the hymn tune listed just below the title in our hymnbooks).

In 1964, Erik Routley composed this hymn tune “Augustine” to voice the text written 300 years prior. Routley had strong opinions on the power of the text, saying, “A hymn helps a congregation speak its mind corporately. It can beckon the congregation to its best and allow each worshiper to feel or say what he or she wants to say” (Alan Luff, “Remembering Eri Routley, The Hymn, October 2012). To paraphrase Mr. Herbert’s statement, “the church, the Psalms must shout, but it is the heart that bears them out.”

Dear God, when we go from the safety of the congregation to our individual weeks, let us remember to “bear out” the Psalms that we shout in worship. Amen.

Written by Katy Sinclair,
Associate Director of Music for Children and Youth

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