Norwegian: Al Verden Nu Raabe
Text: Ulrik Vilhelm Koren (1826-1910) Tune: Erik Hoff (1832-1894)
1 Ye lands, to the Lord make a jubilant noise; Glory be to God! Oh, serve Him with joy, in His presence now rejoice; Sing praise unto God out of Zion!
2 Not we, but the Lord is our Maker, our God; Glory be to God! His people we are, and the sheep led by His rod; Sing praise unto God out of Zion!
3 Oh, enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise; Glory be to God! To bless Him and thank Him our voices we will raise; Sing praise unto God out of Zion!
4 For good is the Lord, and His mercy is sure; Glory be to God! To all generations His truth shall still endure; Sing praise unto God out of Zion! Tr. Harriet Krauth
Whenever I drive down into the Oneota Valley where Luther College has been situated for almost 160 years, the strains of this hymn sound in the back of my head. It was written, I think, for the dedication of the Main building in 1865 by Vilhelm Koren, one of the founders of Luther College. He had been a pastor in Washington Prairie a few miles from Decorah since 1853. He and his wife Elisabeth were forces in the establishment of the Norwegian Synod which built the college. She kept a diary and wrote letters that give us a detailed and clear record of what pioneer life was like, especially from 1853-1880. I have spent my life, ever since arriving to teach at Luther in the fall of 1968, studying her letters and his work as a hymnologist. They were an impressive couple.
The Norwegians in this country knew they needed schools to train pastors and teachers for their church in this country. Those who came from Norway did not quite get the new world without a state church. So the Norwegian pioneers set about educating their young to be pastors. At first they sent them to St. Louis and Concordia Seminary. The pastors around Luther College became fast friends with the leaders of the Missouri Synod, especially C. F. W. Walther, whom they treated as something of a father figure. He attended the dedication service that October 14, 1865. As did some 6-8 thousand pioneers who came by creaking wagons, horsedrawn carriages, by foot, on horseback, all thrilled to see this impressive building they had built during the Civil War. The evenings sparkled with candles in the windows spelling out Soli Deo Gloria. The time was filled with singing, speeches, sermons, and good food provided by the farmers in the area.
Koren knew that there needed to be a hymnal prepared for the settlers as well. They had brought with them the old Dano-Norwegian Kingo hymnal from 1699, or the Guldberg Hymnal of 1778, also Danish. Up until 1869, and Landstad’s hymnal, there had been no Norwegian hymnal. Koren, a man of parts, began editing a hymnal he thought would be appropriate for the immigrants flooding into the Upper Midwest from Norway. It would be in Norwegian and be an orthodox Lutheran hymnal. So he began.
I think of him coming home from serving his far flung congregations, after several weeks fighting snowstorms, blizzards, tornados, floods, extreme heat, on his horse, exhausted, maybe even sick, to his growing family. He would then set about serving his own congregation and the business of the synod of which he was Vice President. Lots of correspondence, then a hymnal.
He was a learned man. He, like most pastors, knew the hymns of the past and could play the organ. He had grown up in Bergen and had sung in the first Norwegian male chorus that went to Copenhagen in 1845. While on the trip he heard Grundtvig speaking, among other greats in the Pan Scandinavian movement of the day.
The new hymnal, which looked back linguistically because the immigrants would know the language they came with, not how it was developing in Norway, finally was published in 1874. It became known as Synodens Salmebog and was always beside the Landstad hymnal. The two lasted until the Lutheran Hymnary of 1913. Although by that time Koren had died, his influence on the hymnal was clear. It was an orthodox Lutheran hymnal featuring especially the Kernlieder of the German chorales from Luther to Paul Gerhardt. His was an incredible accomplishment.
To hear the pioneers singing the words of Psalm 100 versified by Koren, and set to a tune by a Bergen native like Koren, must have been thrilling. These people had worked harder than we can imagine: they had just emerged from the Civil War, the assassination of a president, crop failures, theological debates, building their log homes, their primitive churches and now this impressive school. We can praise them for their strength, but more so that they knew it was the Lord of all creation who had given them the wherewithal to rise up and build. Soli deo gloria!
HYMN INFO Koren’s hymn has been a fixture in Norwegian Lutheran hymnals since 1874 when it appeared in his hymnal. I have never been able to ascertain if it was written for the 1865 celebration or for the 1874 dedication of the southern wing of the Main Building. The records are not clear. It has been included in Missouri’s hymnals as well. It was redone for the LBW by Pastor Stephanie Frey. O Sing Jubilee!
The composer of the tune, Erik Hoff, was an accomplished musician from Bergen as Koren was. They very likely knew each other. The tune has been used in Norwegian hymnals for another text. Hoff was highly regarded in his day; King Oscar II of Norway and Sweden commended him for his work and urged him to prepare his own version of tunes for Landstad’s hymnal, which he did, The only tune to survive, however, was this one. Koren and his followers had been persuaded by Walther that the rhythmic chorale used by the Lutherans until Bach was the right way to go and Hoff’s Chorale book used rhythmic settings for the hymns. These were rejected by Lindemann and his side of the argument. Fierce arguments about this continued in this country. They were so pitched the two sides could not reach agreement until 1913 and the Lutheran Hymnary. Oddly enough, this hymn did not make it back to Norway. However, two hymns by Norwegian American pastors, L. M. Biørn and M. Falk Gjertsen did, but are now forgotten in America!
LINKS WELS Choir https://youtu.be/2yqYtY_x1ro
LInk to book on Luther College and coeducation there