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St Oswald's

The parish church of Bollington

Bollington Road, Bollington Cross, SK10 5EG
07895 363 038



Sing-Along Hymns

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)


He was born in Eisenach, Thuringia in the east of Germany. These days he is generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

He wrote a vast range of music. The hymn tunes that he wrote or harmonised are generally of the "chorale" type.

Four examples are provided here.

In the days of the German Democratic Republic, the Wartburg car was produced at Eisenach.

O Jesus so sweet

The original German text was written by Valentin Thilo (1607-1662). He was Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Königsberg in Prussia for 28 years. Various versions of the text exist in both English and German. Some verses were set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 493). The text, along with its German carol melody O Jesulein süß was published in Samuel Scheidt’s Tabulaturbuch of 1650.

There were originally six verses, the first verse of the German text is shown below.

O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild!
For sinners You became a child.
You came from heaven down to earth
In human flesh through human birth.
O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild!

O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild!
With God we now are reconciled.
You have for all the ransom paid,
Your Father’s righteous anger stayed.
O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild!

O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild!
Joy fills the world which sin defiled.
Whate’er we have belongs to You;
O keep us faithful, strong, and true.
O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild!

O Jesulein süß

O Jesulein süß, o Jesulein mild!
Deines Vaters Willen hast du erfüllt,
bist kommen aus dem Himmelreich,
uns armen Menschen worden gleich.
O Jesulein süß, o Jesulein mild!

Bread of Heaven, on Thee we feed

This hymn was written by Josiah Conder (1789-1855), who was editor of the British literary magazine The Eclectic Review from 1814 to 1837. He was a Congregationalist and campaigned for the abolition of slavery. He wrote a number of hymns, but this is the only one that is often sung nowadays.

The tune Nicht so traurig was harmonised by Johann Sebastian Bach for his cantata of that name. The first verse of this cantata can be translated into English as: Do not be so mournful, do not be so very troubled, my soul, because to you God does not give so much good fortune, possessions and honour as he does to others: make do with your God, If you have God, then you have no need/ no trouble.

Bread of heaven, on thee we feed,
for thy flesh is meat indeed.
Ever may our souls be fed
with this true and living Bread,
day by day with strength supplied
through the life of Christ who died.

Vine of heaven, thy love supplies
this blest cup of sacrifice.
‘Tis thy wounds our healing give;
to thy cross we look and live.
Thou our life! O let us be
rooted, grafted, built on thee.

Nicht so traurig

O Love, how deep, how broad, how high!

The Latin hymn O amor quam ecstaticus is attributed to Thomas à Kempis (c1379-1471). He wrote The Imitation of Christ, a handbook for spiritual life. The text is divided into four books: “Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life”, “Directives for the Interior Life”, “On Interior Consolation” and “On the Blessed Sacrament”. The book places a high level of emphasis on the devotion to the Eucharist as the key element of spiritual life.

The hymn was translated into English by Revd Benjamin Webb (1820-1885), a priest in the Church of England ordained in 1843. He collaborated with J M Neale in the production of The Hymnal Noted published in 1852. The version of the words provided here is the original text from 1852. In modern hymnals, the second line of the first verse is usually rendered as “it fills the heart with ecstasy”, which seems to be more in accord with the original Latin.

The tune Eisenach was composed by Johann Schein (1586–1630). He was a German composer in the early Baroque style. His output tended to be alternately sacred and secular; he composed drinking songs as well as church music. He suffered from ill health and died at age 44, having suffered from tuberculosis, gout, scurvy, and a kidney disorder.

The earlier verses are set to what may be the original harmony. Later verses have the harmony by Johann Sebastian Bach, while the final verse is a modern arrangement.

O Love, how deep, how broad, how high,
How passing thought and fantasy,
That God, the Son of God, should take
Our mortal form for mortals’ sake!

He sent no Angel to our race,
Of higher or of lower place,
But wore the robe of human frame,
And He Himself to this world came.

Nor willed He only to appear;
His pleasure was to tarry here;
And God and Man with man would be
The space of thirty years and three.

For us baptised, for us He bore
His holy fast, and hungered sore,
For us temptations sharp He knew,
For us the Tempter overthrew.

For us He preaches and He prays,
Would do all things, would try all ways;
By words, and signs, and actions, thus
Still seeking not Himself, but us.

For us to wicked men betrayed,
Scourged, mocked, in Crown of Thorns arrayed;
For us He bore the Cross’s death,
For us at length gave up His breath.

For us He rose from death again,
For us He went on high to reign,
For us He sent His Spirit here
To guide, to strengthen, and to cheer.

All honour, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to Thee!
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.


O quickly come

This Advent hymn was written by Revd Lawrence Tuttiett (1825-1897), who was ordained deacon in 1848 and priested the following year. His first curacy was at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, and after a few parish posts in England he was appointed as Rector of St Andrews, Scotland in 1870. He wrote a number of hymns, but most have fallen out of fashion. This is one of the few that appear in modern hymnals.

It was traditional to preach on each of the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell) on the four Sundays in Advent. I get the impression in the words of this hymn that the author would like to get all this over with as quickly as possible.

The original composer of the tune Vater Unser (the opening words of The Lord’s Prayer in German) is unknown. It appeared in Valentin Schumann’s Geistliche Lieder in 1539 and was used by Martin Luther for his hymn based on The Lord’s Prayer. (The first of its nine verses is given below along with an English translation.) The harmonisation of the melody is by Johann Sebastian Bach. If I’m perfectly honest, I have included this hymn more for the tune than the words. There aren’t all that many English hymns that would go with this tune, the metre is more suited to the German language. It would fit Eternal father, strong to save and O come, O come Emmanuel, but these hymns have perfectly good familiar tunes already.

O quickly come, dread Judge of all;
for, aweful though thine advent be,
all shadows from the truth will fall,
and falsehood die, in sight of thee:
O quickly come, for doubt and fear
like clouds dissolve when thou art near.

O quickly come, great King of all;
reign all around us and within;
let sin no more our souls enthral,
let pain and sorrow die with sin:
O quickly come, for thou alone
canst make thy scattered people one.

O quickly come, true Life of all,
for death is mighty all around;
on every home his shadows fall,
on every heart his mark is found:
O quickly come, for grief and pain
can never cloud thy glorious reign.

O quickly come, sure Light of all,
for gloomy night broods o’er our way;
and weakly souls begin to fall
with weary watching for the day:
O quickly come, for round thy throne
no eye is blind, no night is known.

Vater Unser

Here is the start of Luther’s hymn expounding the Lord’s Prayer:

Vater unser im Himmelreich,
Der du uns alle heißest gleich
Brüder sein und dich rufen an
Und willst das Beten von uns han,
Gibt, daß nicht bet allein der Mund,
Hilf, daß es geh von Herzensgrund.

Our Father in the heaven Who art,
Who tellest all of us in heart
Brothers to be, and on Thee call,
And wilt have prayer from us all,
Grant that the mouth not only pray,
From deepest heart oh help its way.

For each hymn we have provided a set of verses together with an electronically generated sound-track. The sound track does not provide any words - just the tune.

The selection of hymns to be included was subject to certain limitations, notably the restrictions of copyright. This meant that many modern hymns were excluded, and the exclusion even applied to some updated versions of traditional hymns. Some publishers have made a few minor changes to make hymns more "inclusive" and have then claimed copyright over the revised text. So in most cases the ORIGINAL texts have been used, even though these may not be the versions that appear in modern hymnals.

In deciding what tunes to be used, this has largely been the Webmaster's personal choice. It is a mixture of familiar tunes and tunes that are not well-known, but deserve to be better known. The webmaster has included some personal favourites (and excluded some pet hates!). The soundtracks provided go with the words provided - if there are four verses, the tune is repeated four times. Where possible tunes have been provided with descants or alternative arrangements.

Wherever possible, there is an explanation of who wrote the words or tunes, the circumstances under which they were written, when (and sometimes why). Many hymns include references to verses appearing in the King James Version of the Bible; more modern translations were not then available! In some cases we have tried to explain these scriptural references or other instances where words have changed their meaning over time.

This selection of "Sing-along Songs of Praise" was originally a series of blog posts written during the COVID Lockdowns of 2020. It was intended to allow people to sing hymns in the safety and privacy of their own homes at a time when hymn-singing in church was not allowed (even if the church building was open!).

When hymns are sung as part of a church service, it is normally the case that the hymn books are set aside at the end of the hymn and the next part of the service continues. There is no time to sit and reflect on the meaning or the beauty of words and/or music. This collection allows you to take your time, to read, listen sing along, reflect, and to repeat a hymn again if you wish.



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Last modified: 03 March 2021