Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Beautiful Savior

I'd like to continue a thought from last week and say more about hymnody. 
Let's begin by taking a look at the fine print below our recessional hymn #200
(If you didn't read last week's article explaining the fine print, you can find it at www.stmarys.org. or on this blog.)

Beautiful Savior is a translation of the of the hymn Schonster Herr Jesu which was first found in a German hymnal in 1677.  The  name of the hymnal provides a few more clues as to it's origin.  Gesangbuch is the German word for hymnal and Munster is an area in north Germany.  (From which the cheese is named.)

The writer of the original German text is unknown and noted as anonymous.  The translation is attributed to a Lutheran pastor, theologian and author named Joseph A Seiss.  The text is derived from the third verse of psalm 45.  (Frankly, it took me a while to see this connection).

 Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one 
clothe yourself with splendor and Majesty.

 St. Elizabeth, the hymn tune to which Seiss' translation is set is a folk-tune from the same general area.  Schlesische Volkslieder is a book of Silesian folk-tunes published  in Leipzig; the city where Bach lived and worked about 100 years previously.

You will notice a strong German influence in many of the hymns we sing.  One main reason is that in the years after the reformation the German church developed hymnody (four part singing congregational singing in the vernacular) as a  primary form of liturgical music.  On the other hand, the Roman church emphasized plainsong chant sung by the choir in Latin.  

Beautiful Savior and Now Thank We All Our God (the hymn I wrote about last week) are examples of German hymns translated into English.

Blest to be serving and singing at St. Mary's,



Beautiful Savior holds a special place for me as it was a staple at Wagner College where I sang in the choir and received my undergraduate degree.  While it's affiliation with the Lutheran Church was severed well before I arrived, Wagner retained many ties to it's beginnings as a Lutheran Seminary.  

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