HYMN 115 To God be the Glory
Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) William Howard Doane (1832-1915) Andraé Crouch (1942-2015)
1. To God be the glory, great things he has done! So loved he the world that he gave us his Son, who yielded his life an atonement for sin, and opened the life gate that we may go in. R/Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the earth hear his voice! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the people rejoice! O come to the Father thro' Jesus the Son, And give him the glory, great things he has done!
2. O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood! To ev'ry believer the promise of God; The vilest offender who truly believes, That moment from Jesus forgiveness receives. R/
3. Great things he has taught us, great things he has done, And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son; But purer and higher and greater will be Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see. R/
MEDITATION Skjærgårds Gospel, a Christian contemporary music festival in Kragero, Norway. When I go to Norway, it usually is in July or August. My grandmother Helga was born in Kragerø, and some of my grandfather Svein’s nieces and nephews and their families have lived and worked there since the mid 19th century. It is a beautiful little city. Edvard Munch called it a pearl among the coast cities in Norway.
Usually, the city is packed with tourists who have cabins there, spread out on the small islands dotting the water around the city. If it is during the festival, there are thousands more. The Skjærgårds Gospel Music and Mission festival features artists famous in the Christian contemporary scene. They come from all around the world. There are concerts in the churches, in outdoor theaters, anywhere there can be gatherings. One hears the boom boom boom of the drums and electric guitars sounding from one island to another. It is an amazing event. My cousins there are deeply involved with it, both as members of the business community which helps sponsor it and as leaders of the organization that plans the events.
The Oslo Gospel Choir has been led by a native of Kragerø so they are frequently a featured group. Over the years the choir and its members came to be good friends with Andraé Crouch who worked closely with them. When he died, my cousin’s husband went to his funeral. The connection over the years had become personal and strong.
Crouch, known as the father of modern gospel music, a gifted musician, and pastor, grew up singing in church and knew the hymns of the tradition. His hymn known as "My Tribute" is based on Fanny Crosby’s hymn "To God Be the Glory." While he could certainly write his own songs, like "Soon and very Soon," or soundtracks for movies like The Color Purple, some of his other popular Christian songs are something like riffs on traditional old gospel songs like this one by Fanny Crosby.
I have been to some performances at the festival a couple of times together with my brother and sister and their families. Once we attended a concert of the Oslo Gospel Choir in the Kragerø church where our grandmother had been baptized. Sitting there, in the modest 19th century church looking at the baptismal font, feeling the place rocking with old gospel songs and new, some of them like Fanny Crosby songs recast by Crouch, I thought of our grandmother.
She died when our father was born in 1916. She had joined the Methodist church in Kragerø after her conversion in 1903. In her songbook, a gift from her future sister-in-law, Kari, there are a good number of Gospel songs translated into Norwegian from the Sunday school movement and the Moody Sankey revivals. With her guitar, she would go around singing these new songs for the edification of her family and friends. Her prayers are a legacy that continues to bless us.
Watching my family listening to this lively music, I had to think Grandmother Helga would have given thanks. Nothing was more important to her than salvation and the salvation of her family. She had refused to marry my grandfather who had emigrated to America until he was converted. When he wrote her from Iowa that he had been saved, she booked passage for America and married him shortly after arriving. From her childhood home looking out over the Skagerrak and the islands dotting it, hearing the booming of the speakers, she might have covered her ears for the noise, but in her heart she would have sung along: "To God be the glory, great things he has done!"
HYMN INFO Crosby wrote the text in 1872, and it was set a few years later by William H. Doane. (See Hymn 81) The song was included in songbooks but did not achieve great popularity until 1954 when the Billy Graham Association was urged to use it for the London Crusade. They did and it became a hit. One can hear it being sung by congregations all over the world in its original form.
Crouch knew it as well, but he used it to make a new song, keeping the words and some of the original melody. It became a phenomenal hit, something of his standard signature song that people expected him to sing in his concerts.
LINKS Royal Albert Hall and Orchestra/the original Crosby and Doane version. Are they ever having fun! https://youtu.be/-15v9iworAU
Andraé Crouch https://youtu.be/_E4_MUUaioc
Sissel, the Oslo gospel Choir and Andraé Crouch’s version https://youtu.be/xtenFJ6x75k
For information on the Gospel festival https://sgmm.no