Friday, July 2, 2010

Preserving Old Hymns - "Softly and Tenderly"

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor asked us to sing "Softly and Tenderly" to compliment her sermon. Almost every Sunday, I arrange an old hymn off the top of my head by improvising arrangements for the singers and I play the keyboard. The arrangement is usually sung at the offertory.

I enjoy the challenges each week because I never know who will be there, or what hymn I will be arranging. I really don't mind because I like finding a way to make music with what and whom I am given.

"Softly and Tenderly" is a very old hymn, written in 1880 by Will L. Thomp­son, published in collection called Spark­ling Gems, Nos. 1 and 2, by J. Cal­vin Bush­ey (Chi­ca­go, Ill­i­nois: Will L. Thomp­son & Com­pa­ny)

Whenever I create a particularly successful arrangement, I am always tempted to write it down. Alas ... for many years, I have not, until this week ... and so today, I deliver "Softly and Tenderly" to my "List of Works".

From several sites, I have gathered information about both the hymn and the composer. Will Thompson was a prolific composer and wrote many gospel hymns. "Softly and Tenderly" has lived for over 100 years and some of the interesting facts include:

In 1968, it was performed at a memorial service for Amer­i­can ci­vil rights lead­er Mar­tin Lu­ther King, at the Eb­e­ne­zer Bap­tist Church, At­lan­ta, Georg­ia. More recently in 1985, it was used in the Acad­e­my Award win­ning mo­vie Trip to Boun­ti­ful .

It's a great feeling to complete something like this ... because this hymn, and my attempts to preserve it another way, now makes me a part of its history. It's been a good day!

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