Posted by: rcottrill | December 27, 2010

Today in 1831- Mary Baker Died

MGraphic Storm at Seaary Ann Baker lived in Chicago, and was active in the temperance movement. She wrote a number of temperance songs and hymns. Only one of the latter is in common use today. Master, the Tempest Is Raging is based on an incident in the life of Christ. The Bible says:

On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mk. 4:35-39)

Mary Baker says the song came as a result of being asked to write several that would suit some current Sunday School lessons. One of the themes was “Christ Stilling the Tempest.” She notes that the Scripture mirrored the tumult in her own life at the time, coming as a result of the death of her brother. She says:

I became wickedly rebellious at this dispensation of divine providence. I said in my heart that God did not care for me or mine. But the Master’s own voice stilled the tempest in my unsanctified heart, and brought it to the calm of a deeper faith and a more perfect trust.

Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threatening
A grave in the angry deep?

The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, peace, be still!

(2) Data Missing – The First Noel
Because of the nature of an almanac, songs posted on this blog are usually dated, with a bit of information about the author or composer. However, there are a number of our hymns and gospel songs for which some or all of this data is missing. I wanted to include a few of them, so will fit them in here and there.

Today, consider the Christmas carol The First Noel. It first appeared (author unnamed) in a book called Some Ancient Christmas Carols, published in 1823. It appears to have originated in the Middle Ages, when traveling troubadours (folk singers) cared the news of the day from town to town. The community would gather, not only to be entertained by their songs, but to learn of important happenings elsewhere.

The term “noel” (or nowell) seems to mean birthday. And one can picture the troubadour shouting in the town square, “Birthday! Birthday! Birthday! Birthday!” (as we have the four-fold repetition in the song’s refrain). The people would know that the announcement of an important birth was forthcoming.

In those days, Bibles were few, and Scripture knowledge was sometimes lacking. The second stanza suggests that the shepherds saw the Christmas star which the wise men discovered in the East (Matt. 2:2). But we do not know that they did–let alone that it shone “by day and night,” or that the shepherds were led by it to Bethlehem. However, we can affirm the call to worship issued by The First Noel:

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.


  1. Thank you for your post on Mary Ann Baker. I also blogged about this hymn last June:

    • You’re welcome. In scanning the Web I discovered that “Master, the Tempest Is Raging” seems to be popular with the Mormons. For some reason, a few even refer to it as a “LDS hymn.” but Mary Baker was a Baptist, not a Mormon.

  2. “Master, the Tempest Is Raging” is one of those magnificent 2-page hymns that is being lost (has been lost?) to the church today. (Other 2-page hymns include “God Is Still on the Throne,” “Hallelujah for the Cross,” “Awakening Chorus,” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.”) All of these are wonderful congregational hymns — with complementary men’s and women’s parts, changing dynamics, meaningful words, and well-written music. It has been years since I’ve sung “Master . . .” How I miss it!

    • H-m-m… Well, it all depends which church you’re talking about. If it’s a church that still uses one of the fairly comprehensive standard hymn books, and a church that is committed to preserving our hymnody, many of these hymns are still being sung. “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” is still a favourite in churches I’ve attended and where I preach. And Samuel Davies’ “Great God of Wonders” is another with a good workout for the bass section!

      Charles Gabriel’s “Awakening Chorus” may be an exception among those you list. It would seem to work better as a choir number, rather than a congregational hymn. The copy that I have before me at the moment is in a book called Choir Favorites, published in 1948. I have a tape of our church choir singing a rousing version of it over 50 years ago.

      I do have a concern in one area though. The average person in the pew hasn’t a clue about part singing. He/she doesn’t likely have the first idea about how to read music. And few folks would be able to hold a part if those around them are singing another. Part of this has to do with culture and tradition. (In my experience, the Mennonites have been stronger in this area.) But it is also due to the abandonment of the hymn book in many churches, with its music notation. Overhead transparencies and “Power Point” projections of the words on a wall will not encourage singing in harmony.

      A few weeks back, I had a question from a woman who wanted to teach her children to sing parts. It sent me on an extensive search to find a program to help her. Finally located one. Looks like very interesting material. Maybe I should get a copy, adapt it, and start holding some workshops that would help congregations in this area. Here’s where you can check it out…

      Thanks for the great input.

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