Posted by: rcottrill | February 7, 2010

Today in 1710 – William Boyce Born

London born William Boyce was the son of a cabinet maker. He was a singer in the choir at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and studied organ under the organist there. Boyce became a distinguished organist, choral conductor, and composer, who received a Doctor of Music degree from Oxford. In 1736 he became an organist and composer at the Chapel Royal. He compiled the monumental three-volume Cathedral Music, assembling the best church music of the previous two centuries.

William Boyce began to lose his hearing as a young man, and was completely deaf at the age of 60. He retired from performing at that point, but continued to compose. He was a godly man, and a friend of hymn writer Charles Wesley. At Boyce’s death, Wesley wrote:

Father of harmony, farewell!
Farewell for a few fleeting years!
Translated from the mournful vale,
Jehovah’s flaming ministers
Have borne thee to thy place above,
Where all is harmony and love.

William Boyce composed the hymn tune Chapel Royal, which is used with Thomas Kelly’s resurrection hymn, Come, See the Place Where Jesus Lay.

Come, see the place where Jesus lay,
And hear angelic watchers say,
“He lives, who once was slain:
Why seek the living midst the dead?
Remember how the Saviour said
That He would rise again.”

O joyful sound! O glorious hour,
When by His own almighty power
He rose and left the grave!
Now let our songs His triumph tell,
Who burst the bands of death and hell,
And ever lives to save.

(2) Today in 1820 – Samuel Holyoke Died
Samuel Holyoke came from a distinguished American family. He grandfather was a missionary to the Natick Indians. His uncle was the president of Harvard, and his father served a Congregational church as pastor for nearly 50 years. Samuel graduated from Harvard, and then taught singing throughout New England. He wrote a number of secular and religious tunes, and for the funeral of President George Washington he composed two tunes for hymns by Isaac Watts. His tune Hingam is used for Watts’s Life Is the Time to Serve the Lord.

Life is the time to serve the Lord,
The time to ensure the great reward;
And while the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return.

Life is the hour that God has given
To ’scape from hell and fly to heav’n;
The day of grace, and mortals may
Secure the blessings of the day.

(3) Data Missing – I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
Another selection for which we have little information is this song of testimony and commitment. It appeared in America in the 1960’s, and was frequently used in Billy Graham’s evangelistic meetings. We do know it came from India. Some hymnals attribute it to an Indian Prince, though I’ve been unable to substantiate that. It was sung by new converts to Christianity in the Garo tribe in northeastern India, in what was called the state of Assam. Christian missionaries have had a long history there.

Hymnologist William J. Reynolds says he discovered the song in 1958, in a small undated collection of songs published in Australia. He arranged the tune, and give it the name Assam. The song was first published in America a year later. (I found a copyright date of 1949 in one book, but if Mr. Reynolds is correct, this may be an error.)

More important than the exact origins of this song is its simple, but powerful message. For many, it has been no small thing to say “I have decided to follow Jesus.” In some cultures, to make a public profession of faith in Christ takes significant courage. The individual may be disowned by family, and shunned by friends. He or she may lose employment and even be physically abused and imprisoned. This is a song for those who have counted the cost, and have the conviction that following Christ is worth daring all!

I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back!

The world behind me, the cross before me…
No turning back!

Though none go with me, still I will follow…
No turning back!

I try to include a variety of musical presentations on Wordwise Hymns. Here is something different again, a demonstation of an electric piano, using the hymn tune Assam. If you are into the latest in electronic gear, you’ll likely understand what the gentleman is talking about. If not, just enjoy the music, and experience what can be done with this instrument.


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