Posted by: rcottrill | March 31, 2010

Today in 1732 – Franz Josef Haydn Born

IGraphic Franz Josef Haydnn this man, God gave us another great and gifted composer. Much could be said about his life and his writing, but the brevity of a blog prevents it. He composed 104 symphonies, 76 string quartets, plus masses, oratorios, operas, concerti, and dozens of chamber works. Hayden was a close friend of the much younger Mozart–who dubbed him Papa Haydn.

Haydn fell in love, as a young man, and hoped to marry the girl, but she shocked him by entering a convent instead. Impulsively, he proposed to and wedded her sister! Their forty-year childless marriage was not a happy one. The woman had no appreciation of her husband’s music, and is said to have cut up his scores and used them as a lining for baking pans, or as hair-curling papers! (What have we lost as result of this folly?)

Though Haydn identified himself with the Roman Catholic Church, his own theology was rooted in Scripture. He even changed the Catholic text of the Mass, in setting it to music, to put a greater emphasis on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is little doubt in my mind that he was a born again believer.

The composer’s music is often characterized by joyful exuberance. This brought criticism from a few stern churchmen. But Haydn responded, “Since God has given me a cheerful heart, He will surely forgive me for serving Him cheerfully!” Another commented, that after listening to Haydn he always felt impelled to do some good work. (I wonder how many feel impelled to good works by listening to the sometimes deafening din of today’s rock bands!)

After hearing Handel’s masterwork, Messiah, Haydn was inspired to compose his magnificent oratorio, The Creation. Some years ago, I attended a performance, an especially memorable experience. Near the beginning, there is Haydn’s musical setting of the first day of creation recorded in Gen. 1:3-5. The choir sings softly, “And God said…” [a bit of a pause] “Let there be light…” [another brief pause, after which the choir sings with emphasis, and a sudden fortissimo on the last word of the phrase] “And…there…was…LIGHT!” [followed by a joyful explosion of music from the orchestra]. The way Haydn structured this impresses the listener in a dramatic way with the fact that, when God commands something, it is done!

As is the case with a number of our classical composers, themes have been taken from Haydn’s compositions and used as hymn tunes. The tune Creation is used for Addison’s The Spacious Firmament, and the tune Petition is used for Cowper’s beautiful hymn Sometimes a Light Surprises. Most familiar today is the tune Austrian Hymn, used with John Newton’s Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose Word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for His own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

(2) Today in 1867 – Ludie Pickett Born
In times of distress and difficulty, it is a great reassurance to know that we are never alone. God is…a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). That assurance prompted the writing of a hymn in 1897. The author is Ludie Carrington Day Pickett. Mrs. Pickett and her husband were active in the Methodist church, and in the founding of Asbury College, in Kentucky–where Ludie Pickett apparently taught for awhile. Their son went on to become bishop of the Methodist Church in India.

During the days of Prohibition, Ludie Pickett also served as president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Kentucky. She was outspoken in her condemnation of the use of alcohol. When a prominent Washington socialite attended a formal dinner at the British Embassy, she wrote to her, “Is the honour and dignity of your country as dear to you as your own status in the social life of Washington? Did you for the honour and dignity of your country decline liquor at Sir Esme Howard’s dinner?” (The woman replied, “I did decline, [and] I feel that the proper thing for me to do at all times is to decline.”)

Mrs. Pickett’s only hymn, Never Alone, deals with the presence and help of God in temptation, and in times of suffering.

I’ve seen the lightning flashing, I’ve heard the thunder roll.
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing, which almost conquered my soul.
I’ve heard the voice of my Saviour, bidding me still to fight on.
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone!

No, never alone, no never alone,
He promised never to leave me,
He’ll claim me for His own;
No, never alone, no never alone.
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.

He died on Calvary’s mountain, for me they piercèd His side.
For me He opened that fountain, the crimson, cleansing tide.
For me He waiteth in glory, seated upon His throne.
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone!

(3) Today in 1874 – Thoro Harris Born
Thoro Harris was born in Washington, DC, and attended college in Battle Creek, Michgan. He spent most of his life writing gospel songs, and compiling hymns and gospel songs for publication. He produced his first hymnal in 1902. After moving to Eureka Springs, Arkansas in 1932, he continued composing, and serving as an organist in several area churches. Two of his songs are still in common use. For more about Mr. Harris and the interesting story behind He’s Coming Soon, see Today in 1917.  Then there is the lovely All That Thrills My Soul Is Jesus.

Who can cheer the heart like Jesus,
By his presence all divine?
True and tender, pure and precious,
O how blest to call Him mine!

All that thrills my soul is Jesus,
He is more than life to me;
And the fairest of ten thousand
In my blessed Lord I see.

What a wonderful redemption!
Never can a mortal know
How my sin, though red like crimson,
Can be whiter than the snow.

American baritone Calvin Marsh sang some 150 rolls with the Metropolitan Opera Company from 1954-1966 (several photos in this video clip relate to that). Then at a Billy Graham evangelistic meeting in Madison Square Garden he gave his heart and life to Christ, and turned his focus entirely to singing for the Lord.


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