Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was a masterful German composer, pianist, and conductor, born of wealthy and prominent Jewish parents who had become Lutherans. He began to compose music at the age of ten, and completed many of his greatest works before the age of 20. He made ten trips to England where he performed or conducted his compositions. Queen Victoria and her husband were great admirers of his music.
In 1837 Mendelssohn married the daughter of a Protestant pastor, and the couple had five children. Both Mendelssohn and his wife Cecile were sincere Christians. The truths of Scripture were the foundation of their lives. Felix died prematurely at the age of 38.
Felix Mendelssohn’s music is still popular, and he wrote a great variety of it. His masterpiece is the oratorio Elijah, considered by some to rank next to Handel’s Messiah. It is certainly the greatest oratorio of the nineteenth century. If you have never heard it, in performance or on a recording, it is well worth the effort to seek it out.
As with a number of classical composers, though Mendelssohn was not a hymn writer, his music is used with several hymns. The tune Consolation, by Mendelssoh, is commonly used for the hymn Still, Still with Thee. (For more on the writing of this hymn see Today in 1896.)
Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.
(2) Today in 1832 – William Doane Born
William Howard Doane was a successful Christian businessman, the president of the J. A. Fay Woodworking Machinery Company. In a way, gospel music was a sideline, but it is the one for which he will be remembered, long after the company he headed has been forgotten. Mr. Doane composed over 2,000 hymn tunes, and he was a frequent collaborator with Fanny Crosby. In 1875, Dennison University conveyed on him the degree of Doctor of Music.
To show how productive the association with Fanny Crosby became, among Fanny’s songs for which he supplied the music are the following:
Draw Me Nearer
Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross
Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour
Rescue the Perishing
Safe in the Arms of Jesus
Saviour, More Than Life to Me
Though Your Sins Be as Scarlet
‘Tis the Blessed Hour of Prayer
To God Be the Glory
Will Jesus Find Us Watching?
Here is one example of the Crosby-Doane collaboration, Saviour, More Than Life to Me. In this particular case, William Doane wrote the tune first, in 1875, then asked Fanny to supply some lyrics.
Saviour, more than life to me,
I am clinging, clinging, close to Thee;
Let Thy precious blood applied,
Keep me ever, ever near Thy side.
Every day, every hour,
Let me feel Thy cleansing power;
May Thy tender love to me
Bind me closer, closer, Lord to Thee.
Let me love Thee more and more,
Till this fleeting, fleeting life is o’er;
Till my soul is lost in love,
In a brighter, brighter world above.
Though I am not Pentecostal in doctrine, I appreciate the holy fervour of these brothers and sisters in Christ. Listen to this informal and unaccompanied rendering of the above hymn and you may never feel the same again when you sing it. If we will encourage our congregations to learn to sing parts, this is what fellowship in song can be like (see).
For an interesting story about another Doane-Crosby collaboration, see the second item under Today in 1873.