Posted by: rcottrill | December 30, 2010

Today in 1678 – William Croft Baptized

As far as I’m aware, the exact day of the birth of William Croft is unknown, but he was baptized as an infant on this date. Croft was an English choir master and organist of great ability. In 1713, he received a doctor of music degree from Oxford University. He became the organist of Westminster Abbey, and was recognized as the foremost church musician of his day. Composer of a number of hymn tunes, we know him today chiefly as the one who supplied the tune Hanover for Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim, and the tune St. Anne that we use with O God, Our Help in Ages Past.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

There is no shortage of versions of Isaac Watts’s great hymn on YouTube–some worth being there, and some perhaps not! Here are two renditions for your consideration. The first has some recording glitches at the beginning and end that need editing out. But stay with it. This is a fine example of congregational praise, augmented by a choir.

The second video is quite different. It gives us an example of using a hymn tune not as a setting for the text, but for a display of incredible virtuosity. Master Organist John Hong plays variations on the tune St. Anne.

(2) Today in 1993 – Ira Stanphill Died
Ira Forest Stanphill was born in 1914 to homesteaders on the plains of New Mexico. He went on to become an author, composer, singer, and preacher of the gospel. Stanphill wrote his first gospel song in 1930, and went on to give us dozens more. His music often has something of a western flavour, and his most popular song is likely Mansion Over the Hilltop. (For the full story of how this song came to be written, see the second item under Today in 1884.)

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop,
In that bright land where I’ll never grow old;
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk the streets that are purest gold.

Some other songs he wrote are:

Happiness Is the Lord
I Know Who Holds Tomorrow
Jesus and Me
Room at the Cross for You
Supper Time
We’ll Talk It Over
You Can Have a Song in Your Heart at Night


  1. O God, Our Help in Ages Past is often sung at a New Year’s Eve/Day service in my tradition.

    Also worth checking out, Bach’s fugue on this tune. On youtube, just search “BWV 552.”

    • My! Greatly enjoyed Bach’s St. Anne Fugue. Cascades of beautiful sound.

      And the use of “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” as a New Year’s hymn seems obvious, but for some reason I can’t recall being in a service where that was done. We do sing it as a congregational hymn from time to time, and it is a standard for Remembrance (Veteran’s) Day services. Thanks for sharing.

  2. […] writer. (For a list of some of Mr. Stanphill’s better known songs, see the second item under Today in 1678.) Beginning at the age of 17, he wrote over 600 hymns before he died in 1993. Happiness Is the […]

  3. Thank you once more for the reminder of these lovely words of encouragement written by the hymn writers of old. How their words live on to uplift the souls of those of us who are sometimes going through difficult times in this life! In the last short while my Dad took a stroke, while other members of my family are ill etc. Right now I’m just “leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” He has given me a peace about everything and I rest in knowledge that whatever happens… “I have a mansion just over the hilltop – as has Dad who trusted the Saviour nearly 60 years ago. Thank you again Robert.

    • Thank you for your kind note. And what you say is so true in my own experience. There have been times when “It Is Well with My Soul” has meant something special to me, and others when, “Be Still, My Soul,” or “Take the Name of Jesus with You” have especially blessed me. Part of it is certainly that these songs express truths of God’s Word. But I’m also certain it is because they come from the hearts of authors who have “been there,” and experienced God in a new way through what happened to them personally.

  4. Thank you for leading me to this blog. As a historical novelist, I’m always looking for the origins of words and music. I once referrred to ‘It is Well With My Soul’ as an old-time favourite until I did the research and discovered the setting of my story preceded the hymn’s creation by a few years. LOL

    • Interesting! Thanks for getting in touch. I’ve had numerous occasions when someone has talked to me about an “old” hymn that I know was written in the 1930’s or ’40’s. 🙂 I guess it’s all relative!

  5. Dear Robert Rcottrill, Thank-you for sending me the history on these hymn’s, I enjoyed reading all of this. Please write any time.
    May God bless you. Greathel Gibson

    • Thanks for the encouragement. Look forward to you visiting again.

  6. […] Wordwise Hymns (Ira Stanphill) The Cyber Hymnal (Ira […]

  7. […] Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts, William Croft) The Cyber […]

  8. […] Wordwise Hymns (Ira Stanphill born, died) The Cyber Hymnal (Ira […]


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