On German-Themed Hymns

This upcoming Sabbath we have a theme of Germany for our pot luck and variety show, so as the songleader for services I am choosing hymns that have a German theme. I thought it would be worthwhile to look at this subject as well by writing a bit about it, for your own amusement and edification if necessary, as a way of pointing out that quite a few such songs exist in our hymnal and many of them have an interesting history.

God Our Father, Christ Our Brother (Hymn #149) has music from the Ode To Joy, from Ludwig (von) Beethoven’s unfinished 9th Symphony. It happens to be a popular hymn for European integration efforts as well, for what it’s worth. Interestingly enough, From The Realms Of Unseen Glory (Hymn #161) is given the same origin for its music, though the music has been adapted in this case by Edward Hodges in 1824.

We Are God’s People (Hymn #133) has music written by noted German composer Johannes Brahms with a theme taken from his fourth symphony, and has been a choral mainstay for a long time, though here again the lyrics were written by a non-German (this is a pattern we will see repeatedly), namely Bryan Jeffrey Leach.

From All Who Dwell Below The Skies (Hymn #95) again has German music, this one the tune Lasst Uns Erfreuen published in the “Geistliche Kirchenges√§ng” in Cologne in 1623. The words are by the noted psalmist Isaac Watts.

I Sing The Mighty Power Of God (Hymn #145) again has German music, this time the tune Ellacombe from the Gesangbuch der H.W.K. Hofkapelle of 1784, arranged by William H. Monk in 1868, with lyrics again by Isaac Watts.

Glorious Things Of Thee Are Spoken (Hymn #128) has German music composed by Franz Josef Haydn with lyrics by the English anti-slavery poet John Newton, most famous for writing the lyrics for “Amazing Grace.” The music has had a more complicated history. It was written originally as the tune “Gott Erhalt Franz Den Kaiser,” a hymn in honor of the then Austrian Emperor. The tune, though, has also been used for other songs, perhaps most notably the German national anthem Deutschland, most famous for its opening lines “Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles.”

There may be others, but this is enough for one Sabbath, I suppose.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, History, Music History, Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On German-Themed Hymns

  1. Catharine Martin says:

    What an interesting post! It is not lost on this reader that we sing German-based religious hymns that are themed with the goal of European unification; that such an event is the will of God in heaven, the “realm of unseen glory”.

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