A few words about one of the items in our upcoming Concert: A Festive Feast.
An Old Standard
From a reformed Slave Trader via Judy Collins to Presidents of the USA, the programme for our Concert on 3rd December in Strathaven features ‘Amazing Grace’.
A quick google immediately reveals that Amazing Grace, the hymn beloved of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was composed by an ex-slaver. Indeed, John Newton, who later in life was ordained in the Church of England, did write the words with which we are familiar. In 1779 while curate of Olney in Buckinghamshire, he joined with poet William Cowper in publishing ‘Olney Hymns’. However, this volume contained no music and little is known about whether the congregation would link the words to a traditional melody or simply chant them as part of their act of worship.
Amazing Grace wasn’t an immediate hit in the UK but throughout the nineteenth century it enjoyed popularity in the United States and in the middle of that century composer William Walker married Newton’s words with the traditional tune ‘New Britain’ to form the hymn that is known today.
‘Time’ Magazine describes Amazing Grace as ‘the go-to hymn for funerals’ and lists its popularity with American Presidents. It seems the Republicans choose it for their funerals: Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, while democrats prefer to perform: Jimmy Carter duetting with Willie Nelson and Barack Obama singing at the funeral of the pastor gunned down in Charleston, South Carolina.
My researches have failed to reveal any connection to Mr Trump.
Durham born composer of opera, musical theatre and orchestral pieces as well as choral works, Will Todd wrote this arrangement of Amazing Grace for the choir of St Martin in the Fields, London. It was this arrangement which was performed at President Obama’s Inauguration Day Prayer Service and also as part of the BBC’s Nelson Mandela’s Thanksgiving Service.