Swing Your Hymn-Partner Round ‘N Round

Swing Your Hymn-Partner Round ‘N Round

Hymn #89 — “The Lord Is My Light”

Text: James Nicholson (1828-1876)
Music: John R. Sweney (1837-1899)
Tune name: WANAMAKER

I love everything about this hymn!

Except the tempo marking…

I like a bright, shinny, “whistle-while-you-work” tempo.

The cheerful G major key, the dotted march rhythm, the highs and lows of the melody, and this quirky mix of triplet eights against dotted eighth-sixteenths in the chorus.

This is one of those hymn I love to use as an intermediate hymn at a Stake Conference. Everybody’s up and singing their guts out with lots of organ!

I love how the opening two notes are like the hoisting up of your britches before galloping off in a Baroque line dance. Those two low notes, “get ready, and, go!”

My favorite bit of all is the “He is my joy” dotted arpeggio going up to the high D in the chorus. It brings together all the feels, the joy of singing, the feelings of happiness and love for the Lord, and the feeling of counting your blessings all together.

The little fermata at the end seems odd at first glance, but I like how it brings the divided parts back together in one final unified chord before the cadence.

Did you notice the hanging non-chord tone in bar 3? On “by day.” The C is unresolved until we get the low D in the next bar. That’s really a cool feature in this melody. At the same spot in the 2nd phrase, bar 7, that’s where the barn dance transitions into the overdrive of the chorus. With all those running eighths in the melody, how can you not want to join in the fun. Even the timid wallflowers can’t help kicking up their heals after that.

I can see why this might not be the favorite hymn of some. It’s a little on the “low brow” side of hymn writing. It doesn’t have the majesty of an old Protestant hymn. But what it lacks in elegance is made up for in 10 fold in almost overwhelming zeal for the Lord, His gospel, and putting our hand to the plow and digging into a cause we could give our lives for.

Which one affects people’s lives more?

I’ll let you be the judge.

Have a good one!


P.S. Are you working on an original hymn or primary song? Would you like some help? Click the green button below to apply for a critique. Don’t worry, I’m super nice!

Commentary from “The Bench Warmer”

by Jason Gunnell, Organist

I think the brevity of my remarks today reveal my thoughts on this hymn. It seems to be quite the popular hymn in our tradition, and I suppose that it is a fine enough hymn to be sung often, but I guess this hymn isn’t my favorite, but that is a completely subjective opinion on my part and has nothing to do with the text or tune. The tune is interesting enough, and the text is good, so it is a good hymn, just one I have no real special feelings for. Perhaps it is the call and response of the chorus? I don’t know, but it is a good hymn. That is a whole lot of words to say I really have nothing interesting to say about it! Sorry about that.

I like this tune at a rather brisk tempo to highlight the excitement of the tune. I find that I play it around quarter note equal to 102-106 beats per minute. This gives it a nice, crisp, forward motion. I imagine that the third phrase might require a bit of concentrated practice to get it in the fingers at this tempo, but I would hope we are all practicing in an effort to magnify our callings and improve our talent! I would aim for a nice, bright registration for this hymn, with the baseline of principal chorus through mixtures, probably adding a chorus reed for the final verse.

Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Mixture
Swell: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Flute 8’, Larigot 1 ⅓’, Mixture
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, 4’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’, 16’ Reed
Sw/Gt, Sw/Ped

Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Mixture, Trumpet 8’
Swell: Mixture
Pedal: Posaune 16’