Not the Chicken Dance, More Like the Gathering Hen's "Whistle While You Work"

Not the Chicken Dance, More Like the Gathering Hen's "Whistle While You Work"

Hymn #38 -- "Come, All Ye Saints of Zion"

Text: William W. Phelps (1792-1872; LDS)
Music: John E. Tullidge (1806-1873; LDS)
Tune name: TEASDALE

One of the common themes in the early days of the Church was the "gathering" of scattered Israel. The vast missionary efforts demonstrate this urgency of this doctrine to early Church members and leaders. 

W.W. Phelps's hymn text, "Come, All Y Sons of Zion," later changed to the current title, swapping out "Sons" for the more inclusive "Saints," is a nice addition to the other gathering songs. 

Whenever I hear that scripture about how the Lord will gather his people "as a hen gathers her chickens under her arm," I imagine them doing a big Chicken Dance, for some strange reason.

While this hymn is enthusiastic, it's not one of those "brimming with over-zealous joy" hymns. It's not a chicken dance romp. It has a more "Mother Hen" feel to me. She whistles cheerfully while going about her work of gathering in her little chicks. 


Part of the tranquility that mixes with the enthusiasm in this hymn comes from the first line and a half which have only 1 chord in them. It's just the 1 chord for 6 measures. The only thing keeping us interested is the little neighbor group in the women's parts, the F-A and D-A thirds and circle the wagons around the tonic chord, C-E-G. 

The tune is good. Not amazing. But good. It's like the good hitter in the baseball lineup. He's the guy who's a great 2nd baseman, but not a star hitter. Though, he's a solid .235 hitter. He adds just enough stability to the lineup and the defense to make him an integral part of the team, but not a star.


There's one unique bit of music that interest me. It's the way the composer returns to the 1 chord after pausing on the 5 chord at the end of the 2nd line. Rather than playing another 5 chord or going right back to the 1 chord (both are very common tactics in a moment like this), Tullidge returns to the 1 chord by means of a 1 chord in 2nd inversion, followed quickly by passing D-F in the soprano and alto which briefly becomes a 5 chord with a 7th before hitting the 1 chord. It's a subtle little difference, but a nice one. A unique little turn of phrase that gives this hymn just a hint of personality. 


There is an illegal parallel 5th in the last line between soprano and tenor. But this is an interesting one. Basically what's happening is, the 3 upper voices, SAT, sing a D-minor triad (D-F-A) followed directly by a C-major triad (C-E-G). This is what causes the parallel 5th. But, the bass moves in contrary motion against that falling complete triad. It steps up from F to G. This is the closest thing to the kind of harmony Debussy and Ravel used in their writing, using parallel 5ths and octaves on purpose. It's a technique called "planing." You take a figure, like a complete triad, or an octave with a 5th in the middle, and you hold the same position with your hand on the keyboard and play that same shape in sequence, up or down the scale using parallel motion as a tool to create a unique color. Impressionist music is full of this kind of writing. 

Because the bass moves in contrary motion to SAT planing triad, it masks the sound of the parallel 5th. Don't tell Prof. Kirchenbank, but I have no problem with this parallel 5th. I think it may be the 1 and only example in the Latter-day Saint hymnal of a Debussy-like parallel 5th that works in a traditional hymn texture. We'll keep looking for others. I'm curious what you think about this. Please let me know in the comments.

That's all for today. Have a good one!


P.S. Is your hymn finished? Are you sure? Have you checked for errors? What should you check for? How do you know if it's finished? Well, that's a tough question. To help you decide, download my Free Report: "The 'Is It Finished?' Checklist - 15 Crucial Elements To Check Before Submitting Your Hymn Or Primary Song To The Church For Publication Consideration." Click the button to download.

P.P.S. If you'd like to see my complete harmonic anlysis of Hymn #38, click the button below.

Commentary from "The Bench Warmer"

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

This hymn strikes me as a sturdy one, and one that comes works well as an enthusiastic tune. A good example, I think, that a hymn doesn’t need to be complex to work very well. Quite interesting that the entire first line is the root chord! It is harmonically very simple, but the tune is a very good one.

This hymn is another that the pulse should definitely be in two. (I do identify several other hymns that are notated in four but should be in two. I hope that by this point Doug has added all of my commentary to the first 30 hymns, or done one post containing all of my comments. I hope you feel it would be worth your time to go back to those in review!) In two, the tempo is most enthusiastic in the vicinity of half note equal to 80 beats per minute (that's quarter note at 160). I would use a nice strong registration with principal chorus through mixture, adding a strong chorus reed for the final verse.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Mixture (or the Swell Mixture, whichever is lower-pitched)
Swell: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Larigot 1 ⅓, Mixture, Flute 8’ if needed (adding the Hautbois 8’ to taste or on a different verse)
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, 4’, Mixture, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’, Bassoon 16’
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Trumpet 8’
Swell: or this Trumpet 8’
Pedal: 16’ Reed