Sunday, January 8, 2017
LDS Hymn #51
Definitely a hymn I did not know until recently. About 2 years ago, I asked my ward choir for songs they would like to try to sing. One of my loyal tenors mentioned this one, as it is his favorite hymn. So we did a simple arrangement of it a few months later. In that time or shortly after, I suggested it be one of the ones I try on the organ (before she was insisting that everything I try to do with the pedal). Thus I got to know the tune very well, and the lyrics a bit. The tune moves and is full of accidentals. Helps to stand out in one's mind. The lyrics are a bit more "old-fashioned." Written in the 1800s, they have that Victorian-esque flair. Which means it takes my mind a bit more effort to break it down and understand its meaning. But overall I get it as a rejoicing hymn--declaring to all (particularly the sons of Michael, whom I assume that means Priesthood holders???) that the Savior is coming and to be prepared for the gloriousness that will accompany and the humility and rejoicing we will/should be filled with because of this great, longed-for event.
*Raise aloft your voices millions In a torrent pow'r of song.
*Hail our head with music soft! Raise sweet melodies aloft!
From the history book
I knew that Michael referred to Adam. The book says that "sons of Michael" refer to all human beings, since we are all his descendants. Verse 3's Mother refers to Eve, showing that she is at Adam or Michael's side in this. The hymn is also referring to the grand council that Joseph Smith prophesied about, referencing Daniel 7. So what I majorly missed in the text is that the hymn is very much about Michael and Eve. We are singing about the grand council that Michael will preside at. The 1985 hymnal wanted to distinguish that, so they went with the (now mostly used) format of capitalizing the words when referring to Deity and leaving them lowercase when referring to Michael (Father vs father).
The hymn was first published in 1861 and part of the 1950 hymnal. Its original tune was apparently so hard that only choirs could attempt it. (Their choirs must have been magnificently skilled in music back then!) So Brother Wolford wrote a more singable tune, which actually helped him come to love the text which he didn't beforehand. He said that the hymn sounds wonderful in unison, but as an organist "wrote a setting that has a melodic bass line--one that feels good to the feet!" And those bass rarely ever get such fun parts to sing. So by all means, let them sing it!