HYMN 8 How Great Thou Art

Swedish: O Store Gud Text: Gustav Carl Boberg (1859-1940) Tune: Swedish folk (for copyright reasons I refer you to this page for the text) https://youtu.be/8BL06fxHPVo MEDITATION The Song that went round the world. That was the name of a TV documentary two Swedish filmographers were working on when they bounded into my third floor office at Luther Seminary some years ago. They had gotten a grant from Swedish television to film people singing the hymn in all parts of the world. They were spending a fun year traveling the world in search of the song. They had just interviewed the very elderly George Beverly Shea of the Billy Graham Association and wanted to talk with me about the influence of the song in Upper Midwest Lutheranism. After dinner they showed me the results of their tour, not yet finished, but remarkable in its sweep. A deep red sunset on the Indian Ocean as people sang it while plying the scarlet waters in small boats; the rich baritone of Shea who introduced the song into the English speaking world through the Billy Graham Association; and other groups they were filming on their trek around the world. It was written by a Swedish evangelical, Carl Gustav Boberg, a lay man. He was a poet, an editor of a religious journal and, later, a member of the Swedish parliament. He had experienced a brief rainstorm and then saw the evening sun come out and shine on the village church as the vesper bell rang. A glorious summer evening in Småland, Sweden. He exclaimed, O Store Gud, Oh Great God! And the rest is history. Boberg wrote the text that night and had it published a bit later. It did not receive a tune until some time after when the Swedish folk tune became associated with it. It had a circuitous route to get to the English speaking world, with several versions, from the Stuart Hine translation to the more Swedish one in the Swedish Covenant tradition. The copyright issues make me reluctant to put the text in this blog but you can find it in your hymnals or on line usually underneath the video. Billy Graham loved the hymn. It became a signature hymn of the revivals. It was used at most of his appearances; he said, it was “such a God honoring song.” At first it was not universally admired, but it is now unquestionably one of the top hymns among Christians today. Singing it in a large group can be thrilling, hearing versions of it, gospel, jazz, or classical gives one a sense for its universality. And listening to a small congregation in China or a children’s choir from Tanzania move me. One can see the joy it produces in the singers. One does not need fantastic performances or productions for a hymn to move our spirits onto another level. Singing the glories of God, as creator and redeemer, all he has done for us in his Son Jesus Christ, can move us into a new place. Something we may be needing just now! HYMN INFO The various renditions of the tune shows how each culture adapts the tune. John Ylvisaker once said that tunes are universal; harmony is chronological; and rhythm geographical. That can easily be heard comparing the Swedish folk tune to the country western gospel lilt George Beverly Shea uses. Travel through time and around the world with these versions. They all move us out of ourselves, toward the praise of God. LINKS Sissel Kyrkjebø, one of Norway’s greatest pop singers here with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: https://youtu.be/uWOFkA5ZAls George Beverly Shea in one of the first performances in 1957 https://youtu.be/1ujca6uNIH4 Mahalia Jackson—the black gospel tradition https://youtu.be/byRXcyZn7YE Africa/Tanzania https://youtu.be/gRV_Y_ZOOXI Brazil—this is different https://youtu.be/CHV6BjuQOZQ Indonesia https://youtu.be/m0L3C7h6OSw China https://youtu.be/uuRiEyJNBac Inka Gold https://youtu.be/QJAJweqGCok

©2020 by Hymnblog. Proudly created with Wix.com