1872 - 2022
Celebrating 150 Years of Music
During our 150th anniversary year, we will celebrate our musical heritage by featuring a hymn each month. We will start with a hymn that was written the same year as Zion’s founding. In subsequent months we’ll sample hymns from each of the hymnals we’ve used and reprise music from previous anniversary celebrations. The congregation will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite hymns and Sunday School songs and of course, there will be a music-filled anniversary service on March 13. In the bulletin and weekly announcements, we’ll share a bit of the history of each month’s hymn.
December Hymns of the Month
As our 150 th anniversary year comes to a close, we will finish our hymn-of-the-month series by featuring
all of the hymns we are singing for the December 18, 2022 service of lessons and carols. You will find a
brief description of each hymn in the service bulletin. You can find the descriptions of all of our
anniversary hymns of the month on Zion’s website.
Once in Royal David’s City – LSB #376
The text was written in 1848 by Cecil Frances Alexander and published in her hymnbook Hymns for Little
Children. The tune was added in 1849 by English organist Henry Gauntlett. The hymnbook’s poems are
intended for teaching the Apostles’ Creed in Sunday school and in the home. Once in Royal David’s City
references “Born of the Virgin Mary” and tells the nativity story. This carol traditionally opens a service
of lessons and carols.
Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming – LSB #359
This German carol tells of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the birth of a messiah and emphasizes
the Jesus’ lineage from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David. Theodore Baker translated the text
into English. He was born in New York City and studied music in Leipzig, Germany where he wrote his
dissertation on the music of the New York’s Seneca people and was one of the first studies of American
The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came – LSB #356
This Basque folk carol is also known as “Gabriel’s Message” telling the annunciation story when the
angel Gabriel comes to Mary to tell her she will be the mother of Jesus. Little is known of the origins of
Gentle Mary Laid Her Child – LSB #397
This is a spring carol with a tune that dates to the 13 th century and was first published in Sweden in the
late 16 th century. The words were added by Joseph S. Cook, a Methodist minister who emigrated from
England to Canada. This is his best known hymn and in 1919 won a contest in Methodist weekly,
As with Gladness Men of Old – LSB #397
An epiphany hymn, “As with Gladness Men of Old” recounts the three wise men’s journey to the
manger. The text is by William Chatterton Dix, an English business man who ran a marine insurance
company who wrote poetry as a hobby. The tune was written by German teacher, organist, and choir
director Conrad Kocher.
Angels We Have Heard on High – LSB #368
The tune, “Gloria,” is a traditional French carol that presents the nativity story as told in the gospel of St.
Luke. The carol focuses on the shepherds outside of Bethlehem who encounter the angels praising the
newborn baby Jesus.
November Hymn – For All the Saints
More than 300 years after Martin Luther wrote “A Might Fortress,” “For All Thy Saints” was published in 1864. The text was written by Anglican bishop William Walsham How and sung to the tune Sarum written by Victorian composer Joseph Barnaby. Ralph Vaughn Williams composed a new tune that was published in the 1906 English Hymnal and is considered one of the finest hymn tunes of the 20th century. This is the tune we sing today. Vaughn Williams named his tune Sine Nomine, which means “without name.” This continues a Renaissance practice of naming compositions "Sine Nomine" if there were no settings for preexisting tunes. The setting for this processional hymn departs from the usual four-part harmonization with many of the verses sung in unison with organ accompaniment. Notice the “walking” bass line which gives the hymn a triumphant, march like character. Vaughn Williams is one of the best known English composers of the 20th century having written symphonies, chamber music, operas, film scores, and choral works. He had a particular interest in folk music and edited hymnals, including the Oxford Book of Carols.
October Hymn – A Mighty Fortress is Our God
As we celebrate Reformation and our Lutheran heritage this month, our featured hymn is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” This hymn is often referred to as the “Battle Hymn of the Reformation.” Martin Luther wrote both the tune and the text around 1529. The text is based on Psalm 46, which begins, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Luther came from a musical family, sang in a children’s choir, played the flute, and wrote approximately 40 hymns. Luther believed that music was a powerful tool for both worship and teaching and promoted congregational singing in the people’s native language. Many classical composers used this hymn as a basis for their musical works. Choral works based on this hymn were composed by J.S. Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, and Handel in his oratorio Solomon. Numerous organ settings have been created over the years by such notables as J.S. Bach, Dieterich Buxtehude, and Max Reger. Felix Mendelssohn uses the hymn as a theme in his 5th symphony, “Reformation” composed in 1830 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. The hymn was sung at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington DC and at the National Service of Prayer and Remembrance, held on September 14, 2001 following the 9/11 attacks.
September Hymn – Jesus Loves Me This I Know
Rally Sunday marks summer’s end and the start of another Sunday School year. This month our featured hymn is one familiar to all of us from our Sunday School days, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.” The text was written in 1859 by Anna B. Warner as a part of a novel, Say and Seal, co-authored with her sister Susan. In the novel, the original four stanzas of this hymn are sung to a dying boy by his Sunday School teacher. In addition to writing popular novels, the sisters taught Bible classes to West Point cadets who traveled by ferry across the Hudson River to the sisters’ home on Constitution Island. Upon her death in 1915 Anna was buried at West Point with military honors in recognition of her service to the US Military Academy.
The tune was written by William Bradbury, an organist, singing teacher, and founder the Bradbury Piano Company. He was responsible for music at the Baptist Tabernacle in New York City where he started a singing school and offer popular music festivals. His work with large children’s choirs caused music education to be adopted in NYC public schools. Other familiar hymns written by Bradbury include: “Just as I am,” “He Leadeth Me,” “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us,” and “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.”
August 2022 Hymn: – With the Lord Begin Your Task
Our second congregation’s choice hymn is With the Lord Begin Your Task. The tune, Fang dein Werk, dates to the 1600s and is attributed to Peter Franck, a German pastor. The German text is based on Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” The author of the text is unknown but it was first published in the 1734. In 1937 Pastor William Gustave Polack (1890-1950) was asked to translate the text into English for the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal. This hymn has appeared in all subsequent LCMS hymnals. Pastor Polack served congregations in Indiana and was a professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis from 1925-1950. He chaired the Intersynodical Committee on Hymnology and Liturgics which worked on the production of "The Lutheran Hymnal".
July 2022 Hymn: – Rock of Ages
The words to this familiar hymn were written in 1763 by Anglican priest Augustus Toplady. Over 100 years after the text was published, a story circulated that Toplady wrote the lyrics while he was sheltering from a storm in a gorge in the Mendip Hills in England. However, this account was never substantiated.
The tune was written by American Thomas Hastings, a self-taught musician who wrote over 1000 hymn tunes. He was born in Connecticut and moved with his family to Clinton, NY (in Oneida county). In 1806 he began his musical career as a singing teacher and in 1823 moved to Troy, NY, then on to Albany and in 1823 to Utica. In 1832 he moved again to New York City where for his last forty years served as a choir master.
The Jewish tradition also has a “Rock of Ages” (in Hebrew Ma’oz Tzur) which is sung during Hanukkah after the candles on the menorah are lit. Written in the 13th century, the hymn recounts the deliverance of the Jewish people from ancient enemies.
June 2022 Hymn: – All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
As we continue the celebration of our 150th anniversary, our featured summer hymns will be by request. There will be a box at the back of the church and slips of paper for you to suggest a favorite hymn. The hymns-of-the-month for July and August will be the two most requested hymns. Our June hymn is Pastor Francis’ request, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” Known as the “National Anthem of Christendom” this hymn has appeared in over 3200 hymnals. It has been included in all six of our hymnals dating back to The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and the most recent Lutheran Service Book (2006), which we use today.
The text, based on Rev. 19:16, was written by Edward Perronet in 1779. He was a third generation pastor whose Huguenot family emigrated from France, first to Switzerland, then to England to escape religious persecution. He was an associate of John and Charles Wesley, leaders of the 18th c. Christian revivalism, also known as the First Great Awakening. This movement emphasized spiritual renewal in church congregations and society, seeking to transcend denominational boundaries. In 1795 the Wesleys broke with the Church of England to form what we now know as the Methodist church.
The tune, Coronation, was written by Oliver Holden in 1793. Holden, from Massachusetts, served as a Marine during the American Revolution and worked as a carpenter and real estate dealer. He was involved in the Anti-Slavery Society and served five terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He also worked as a singing master and composed and produced tune books. Singing masters operated singing schools to teach people to sing from printed music. This was the first form of public music education in this country. Tune books were popular at the time and included rudimentary music instruction, hymns written in parts, and anthems.
May 2022 Hymn: “I Danced in the Morning”
The text for this month’s featured hymn was written by the English poet Sydney Bertram Carter in 1963 and is set to the familiar “Shaker Song”, also called “Simple Gifts.” The song is modeled after the English carol "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day", which tells story of Jesus’ life and mission as a dance. Carter says of this hymn, “I see Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality.” The tune was written in 1848 by Joseph Brackett of the Alfred (Maine) Shaker Village. The dance theme is also embodied in the melody as Shakers considered dancing a spiritual activity.
April 2022 Hymn: “He’s Risen, He’s Risen”
Both the text and tune for the Easter hymn “He’s Risen, He’s Risen” were written by Pastor Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther, the founding President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Pastor Walther was born in Germany in 1811, studied at the University of Leipzig, and was ordained in 1837. Two years later he emigrated to Missouri where he served both as a pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church and taught at the first LCMS college, Concordia Log Cabin College, housed in two log cabins on the church’s grounds. The college was the forerunner of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Pastor Walther headed Concordia Seminary and taught theology there until his death in 1887. He served again as the president of LCMS at the time of Zion’s founding (1864-1878). On Easter Day, 1860, Pastor Walther was at sea on a return visit to Germany. It was on that voyage that he composed “He’s Risen, He’s Risen.”
Featured Anniversary Hymn, March 13, 2022: “O God Our Help in Ages Past”
We celebrated our 150th anniversary with the congregation, choir, and organ joining together for the Partita on St. Anne. A partita is a musical form consisting of a set of variations. The hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past” is sung to the tune, St. Anne. This work was written by well-known Lutheran organist and composer Paul Manz (1919-2009). He served at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church Minneapolis from 1946-1983 and then as a professor at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Professor Manz toured the country as an organ recitalist, presenting hymn festivals in particular. He was at Zion Lutheran Church, Schenectady on May 1, 1979 for a hymn festival and presented this partita at that time. William Croft composed the tune in 1708 while he was the organist at St. Anne’s Church in Soho, London, England. The text, which paraphrases Psalm 90, was written by Englishman Isaac Watts, a Congregational minister credited with writing over 750 hymns. Among his best known hymns are “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Joy to the World,” and “O God Our Help in Ages Past.”
March 2022 Hymn: “In Holy Conversation”
This week the contemporary hymn “In Holy Conversation” focuses us on prayer as we prepare for the Prayer Vigil that will precede the March 13th service celebrating our 150th anniversary. The text was written by Pastor Gregory J. Wismar (b. 1946) in 2004 and set to a Swedish melody. He has contributed texts to six other hymns that appear in the Lutheran Service Book (LSB), the hymnal that we currently use. Pastor Wismar served LCMS churches in New England. He held a variety of leadership positions in the LCMS and New England District, including chair of LCMS Commission on Worship during the production of the LSB. Pastor Wismar created many worship resources, hymns, choral works, and anthems including Resources for Youth Ministry, Creative Worship for the Lutheran Parish, and Hymn Selection Guide. Pastor Wismar is now retired and living in Connecticut where he continues to contribute to church publications and is a travel columnist for a local newspaper.
February 2022 Hymn: "God the Father, Son, and Spirit"
This hymn is found in the Church Anniversary section of The Lutheran Hymnal which was published in 1941. This hymnal allowed the congregation to sing in parts, with the music for each hymn was printed in the form we are accustomed to seeing it today. Prior English and German hymnals contained only the words or the words and tune. The Lutheran Hymnal was used at Zion until 1978. “God the Father, Son, and Spirit” does not appear in later hymnals.
“God the Father, Son, and Spirit” is sung to the tune St. Hilary; the composer is unknown. The text, based on Isaiah 54: 2-3, was written by Rev. William Gustave Polack (1890-1950), a noted pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO from 1925-1950. He was the author of numerous books on Lutheranism and Lutheran history.
January 2022 Hymn: “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”
“Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” appeared in The Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1872, the year of Zion’s founding, written by Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier. He hailed from Massachusetts and was a writer, farmer, teacher, shoemaker, editor, and political activist. Whittier wrote nearly 100 hymns, was a prominent leader in the anti-slavery movement, served in the Massachusetts legislature, and was a founder of the Republican Party. In the US, the hymn is sung to the tune Rest, written by Frederick Charles Maker who was a professor and organist in Bristol England. In the United Kingdom, the hymn is sung to the tune Repton which was written by Hubert Parry, an English composer, teacher, and music historian. Of the five English language hymnals used at Zion, this hymn only appears in the Lutheran Book of Worship (“the green book”) which was published in 1978.