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HYMN 327 The Lord is My Light and My Salvation

Text: Psalm 27 Tune: Francis Allitson (1848-1912), André Crouch/John Rutter, etc

The Lord is my Light & my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

Though a host of men were laid against me

yet I will put my trust in Him.

For in the time of trouble He will hide me in His tabernacle!

Yeah in the secret places of his dwelling shall he hide me.

And set me up on a Rock of Stone

"The Lord is my Light & my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?


Transfiguration of Jesus Icon 12th century Saint Catherine's Monastery, Sinai (Egypt)

When searching for more popular Epiphany hymns to feature before Lent, I ran across this old piano bench classic that mezzo-sopranos like my mother loved to sing. A solo piece, not a hymn, but one that appeared frequently in the spot where the minutes recorded “and then we were favored with a solo by Mrs. Grindal.”

This was a show-stopper and my mother with her sweet mezzo found it a perfect venue. She could sing, but she was also an actress so she could make the song extremely dramatic. By dramatic I don’t mean dramatizing it, I mean knowing how to sing it effectively so that audiences were moved. The piano part was challenging. We would practice it on Sunday nights when we usually played the piano and sang together. My dad couldn’t quite manage it unless he practiced a lot. I finally could and then my much more talented sister took over. Just hearing the first notes on the piano makes me nervous because that was my part and not easy. She would sing it at conventions, large worship services, wherever they needed a festive solo.

Mother at the piano with her granddaughter

It is about facing the troubles of the time: both military forces, but also spiritual forces. I knew she needed strength in dealing with many issues in the parsonage, from our poverty to conflict, to spiritual battles and her ever present fatigue. She took comfort and gave comfort when the music settled in to “the secret places where he would hide me and also be set on a Rock of Stone.”

Recent research says that children born in the early 1919s, as she was on February 16, so I am thinking of her just now, may have suffered later from an affliction they got in utero, something like chronic fatigue syndrome, that dogged them their entire lives. From the first diary entries my mother made when she was 15 until the very end when she was 80, she would frequently conclude the piece with "I am so tired I could die." It is likely that she suffered that syndrome, but no one diagnosed such things until later. Her will power and her constant calling upon the Lord for strength, as in this song, kept her going. When she was dying of end stage renal failure she was sleeping most of the time. To keep her from falling and to be close, the three of us kids took turns lying in the bed next to her as much as we could. The night before she died, I saw her face and neck straining a bit, like she wanted to get up and get busy. She didn't have the strength.

For strength she called upon the Lord in the words of this Psalm many many times. I would see her in the living room with her Bible open on her lap, sitting in her chair, her eyes closed as she prayed through her long prayer list, and her own concerns. With her constant struggle against fatigue, I marvel at all she did, the strength she found, and the enormous will power she exerted to manage all she did.

A song brought all that back. All of us have moments that a song will cause us to remember. That is what is so rich about these blogs--my memories have jogged the memories of others to remember something precious in their own lives. Music has a way of doing that, and especially music with words from Scripture. The tune makes the words go deeper and deeper.

In your fears and your weariness, take comfort from the psalm. “The Lord is your light and your salvation. Whom then shall you fear? The Lord is the strength of your life! Of whom then shall you be afraid!” Take time to listen to it in several versions. It is a treasury of the Christian faith.


Frances Allitsen on her tour of America

Frances Allitsen, born in England, thought at first her gifts were literary and wrote poetry and fiction, but she was gradually drawn to music. Her family did not support her musical interests. At first she began singing somewhat professionally—as a mezzo. Then her voice failed her, probably from bad technique. She began to compose music and was fairly prolific. One of her composition teachers regretted that she had waited so long for an education in music. He once commented that she possessed “four gifts for composition: Originality, imagination, feeling, and grace." She produced many pieces for bands and orchestras, but her best work was for the voice, like this one. To support herself she gave music lessons, composing after her long days, and was so exhausted she remarked once she hardly knew how she had made it through those times. When she wrote this piece she took all of that weariness and made it sing. Clearly it commanded all her energies probably because the theme spoke so directly to her own exhaustion, as it did to my mother.

The psalm, or some verses from it, have been set by many other composers. The Boughknight version is a cherished piece in the repertoire of African American choirs. A wide variety of contemporary composers from André Crouch to John Rutter has also set the words to new tunes. Enjoy the links and rest in the strength of the Lord!


Allitsen’s version

Hour of Power/Dorothy Benham

Soprano soloist, MaryAnn McCormick

Lillian Boughknight’s composion and the New Jerusalem Baptist Church Choir

André Crouch

Choir singing Crouch’s piece

John Rutter’s anthem with the Cambridge Singers and City of London Symfonia

Jesse Manibusan

Christian Worship and Songs/Esther Mui

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