A couple of hymns written when their writers had experienced sadness and loneliness.
Ray Palmer was employed as a teacher at a private girls’ school in New York. He had experienced a difficult year of illness and loneliness and was inspired to write My faith looks up to thee one night after meditating on a German poem that depicted a sinner kneeling before the cross of Christ. He wrote about 38 hymns altogether.
He should not be confused with others of the same name such as Ray Palmer (1910-1977), the pulp fiction writer and publisher who was responsible for the Flying Saucer craze in the late 1940s. He was interested in mystic experiences of a totally different kind and it was this Ray Palmer after whom DC Comics renamed The Atom super hero in 1961.
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George Matheson was a pastor in the Church of Scotland. He lost his sight while training for the ministry and his fiancée broke off their engagement; he never married. His sister had been the one to care for him through the years, but she married in 1882. He wrote O Love that wilt not let me go on the eve of her marriage.
Matheson's hymn is set to St Margaret, written in 1884 by Dr Albert Lister Peace (1844-1912), a gifted musician born at Huddersfield, who played the organ (professionally) from the age of nine. He was appointed organist at Glasgow Cathedral in 1879 and then at St George’s Hall, Liverpool in 1897. He wrote a number of organ pieces and adapted several orchestral works for the organ (starting with Rossini’s William Tell overture in 1866).
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
that in Thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.
O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
may brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain
that morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red,
life that shall endless be.
Palmer's hymn is set to the tune Olivet, composed by Lowell Mason (1792-1872), a leading figure in American church music and the composer of over 1600 hymn tunes. He was also a Congregationalist and a great promoter of congregational singing, although he has been criticised for trying to suppress original American styles of hymn-writing (such as Sacred Harp) in favour of more European-style music.
My faith looks up to thee,
thou Lamb of Calvary,
now hear me while I pray,
take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day
be wholly thine.
May thy rich grace impart
strength to my fainting heart,
my zeal inspire;
as thou hast died for me,
O may my love to thee
pure, warm, and changeless be,
a living fire.
While life’s dark maze I tread,
and griefs around me spread,
be thou my guide;
bid darkness turn to day,
wipe sorrow’s tears away,
nor let me ever stray
from thee aside.
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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