An American writes a British Hymn

An American writes a British Hymn

Hymn #28 -- Saints, Behold How Great Jehovah

Text: Douglas W. Stott (b. 1925; LDS)
Music: A. Laurence Lyon (1934-2006; LDS)
Tune name: EDGAR

Before we get started, I'm super excited to announce that starting tomorrow, Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at 10 am Mountain Time, I will begin hosting a weekly Live webinar. In this weekly live event, I will do live critiques of some of your hymns and primary songs. I'll occasionally talk you through some of my hymns. And I will pick hymns from other hymnals and from the classical repertoire and do live analysis and critiques. The fun part is, since it will be live, you can ask me questions as I go along. Sometimes we will have entire Q & A sessions where you can ask me anything you want about hymn writing or primary songwriting, or anything else you want to discuss. To make sure you don't miss out on these fun weekly live events, click this button below to join my new Facebook Group, "Dr. Pew's LDS Music Reviews." 

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Ok, let's talk about today's hymn, #28. 

This is a hymn I don't ever remember seeing, playing through or singing. I must have played through it at some point. I've been through the hymnal many times. Oh well, now I know it. And I LOVE it! It's bold, it's mighty, it's a great short power-hymn, perfect for a quick intermediate hymn in Sacrament Meeting.

The hymn text depicts the ever-expanding reach of the restored gospel across the world. Verse 2 discusses the "bringing into one" all truths spoken by all prophets, old and new. Verse 3 follows with the end of the restoration story, the return of the Lord, the Second Coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ. Powerful stuff indeed!

Douglas Stott, the poet, wrote these words after an inspiring General Conference in 1972. There was much discussion about the growth of the church and many barriers to missionary work coming down so the gospel could be spread. Late, as a missionary in the West Indies, he helped this work to grow in significant ways.

For the 1985 hymnbook, Laurence Lyon, the composer, found Stott's text to be a perfect combination for his idea of an "energetic piece not unlike the spirited pieces of English origin, such as 'For All the Saints'" (Hymn #82). (Our Latter-Day Hymns, pg. 57).

Maybe that's why I love this little hymn so much. As Lyon intended, it does conjure up that English anthem feeling. And I'm head-over-heels for those great English anthems. I always wanted to be a Brittish composer. In fact, one of the nicest things anyone ever said about me was when I was in Poland. I wrote a big mass for the Catholic Cathedral. It was my dissertation. We had a big celebration mass to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the splitting of the Warsaw Diocese. They selected my Missa 'Musica Sacra' to be the mass music for the day, thanks to my teacher who was and still is, director of music at the Cathedral, the great Pawel Lukaszewski. Anyway, during the service, the Arch Bishop of Warsaw, when announcing that I was the composer of the music, called me a Brittish composer. I was SO pleased! Haha!

Back to the hymn. I had the opportunity to work with Laurence Lyon on his Oratorio "Visions of Light & Truth" which he composed for the BYU-Idaho choirs and orchestra. I was his copyist. He was a very generous and kind man. More than once he was pleased to hear how Brittish his music was sounding. So I guess we both had a secret desire to be Brittish composers. :) 


So, I regret to announce that Professor Kirchenbank and I, when analyzing this hymn together, found 2 problems. I was so sad to find these issues because I really love this hymn. But I have the perfect little fix to wipe away these little issues. Even Prof. Kirchenbank was appeased with my solution. And it didn't take too long to revive him after discovering these errors.

There are 2 parallel 5ths in this hymn. In a previous analysis, I explained how I thought

this was enough to put the hymn on the chopping block. Prof. Kirchenbank agrees with this point of view. But I really like every other bit of this hymn and really hope that it will stay in the new hymnal. BUT, with some subtle changes that will take out the parallel 5ths and add a little something to the hymn. 


Here are my 2 re-written excerpts of these 2 passages. Notice how instead of leaping down from the E to the C before stepping up to the D, I instead step the E down chromatically to an E-flat, and then resolve to the D. This removes the parallel motion between the C-D in the bass and the G-A in the soprano. It required a slight re-voicing of the 2nd chord in the 2nd excerpt to avoid another parallel 5th, that's why the also went down to middle C before teaming up on the unison D with the sopranos. Really easy fixes and the E-E-flat-D motion adds a bit of extra gravity to the motion towards the dominant, the D chord.

The tune is a very strong one. with the opening 2 bars being in unison, it gets the congregation started off without any trouble. Then, Lyon repeats parts of the same tune in bars 3-4 and bars 7-8. This makes the tune very easy to sing. Repetition is a great tool!


My 2 favorite parts of the hymn are the double circle progression in bars 5-6, and the special chord on the word "light" at the end. The double circle progression take us right around a part of the Circle of Fifths twice, in quick succession. The chords are G-Em-Am7-D, and then back to Em-Am7/C-D. This sets up the tonic chord, the G, the unison tune returns for 2 beats, and then we get the final cadence.

In that final cadence is a delicious 4 chord with a 7th on it. The last 4 notes in the melody are D-B-A-G. This is great because it goes right down to G and we know for sure it's the end. But what our ear expects is that the high D will step down to a C instead of leaping to a B on the word "light." Our ear expects this because that's what the tun did in measure 2, in measure 4, and in measure 5. But this last time, Lyon skips over the C and hits the B on the downbeat of the last bar on the 4 chord. So we get a 4 chord with a 7th. From bottom to top, C-E-G-B. That Major chord with a Major 7th on top has a unique sound to it. Putting it in the final cadence was a great way to save that special little something for the end. A tried and true strategy of all the best composers. You want to save something special for the end of the piece as often as you can.

That's all for today. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at an old favorite.

Have a great day!


P.S. Are you wanting to write a new hymn but struggling to find a good hymn text? Here's my Free Report about the best ways I've found good texts. Just click the button to download.

P.P.S. If you'd like to get a copy of my complete harmonic analysis of this hymn, click this button.

Commentary from "The Bench Warmer"

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

This hymn might be my wife’s favorite hymn, certainly one of her most favorites. I must confess this most outstanding hymn is deserving of such a high honor. A wonderful testimony of the truth and this great work going forth in the Latter-days, with the tune every bit up to the task of communicating this glorious message!

Another hymn that is in four, but should feel in two. This hymn is very happy and communicates the text’s message very well at about the quarter note getting 112-116 beats per minute. I would also commend this hymn as a wonderful pedal exercise to begin learning how to pedal quick scaler passages. I would play the pedals on the unison line, with each note played thus: Right Toe (RT), Left Toe (LT), RT, LT (yes, crossing over your right foot), RT, RT (yes, the same toe on two consecutive notes...It’s okay if it’s not legato, it doesn’t need to be!)-Right Heel (RH)-LT-Left Heel (LH), RT, LT, (Third Measure) RH, RT, RH, RT… Give it a go! It’s worth practicing and improving your pedal technique! And the line really could use the foundation and gravity provided by the pedal! I would be very robust in my registration, as this is a hymn of great enthusiasm and power. Principal choruses to mixture, and perhaps a chorus reed, adding Trumpets for the final verse.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Mixture
Swell: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Mixture, Flute 8’ if needed, Viola 8’ if needed (Hautbois 8’)
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, 4’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’, Reed 16’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Trumpet 8’
Swell: 16’ Reed, Trumpet 8’ (4’ Reed for chorus)
Pedal: 32’, (flue and reed)