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Discussion in 'Music Ministry' started by mcdirector, Jul 11, 2007.
This is a clip from a Gaither Concert
The writer of this song continued with slave trading even after penning this hymn. It was during a violent storm at sea and fearing for his own life when he finally gave up his livelihood and dedicated his life to Christ. I don't know anything about the myth of the black keys. It's a complex story that doesn't always get the facts straight, including the loss of his Christian mother at a very young age. The song title has changed numerous times since the 1700's.
The most thorough treatment of the history of "Amazing Grace" is Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song, by Steve Turner (HarperCollins, 2002). In spite of the story on the YouTube piece, there is no evidence that John Newton ever heard the tune "New Britain" that we associate so closely with Newton's hymn. Turner believes that Newton wrote the hymn in about 1772. It was first published in 1779 in Olney Hymns, a collection of the hymns of John Newton and William Cowper. There the text is connected to 1 Chronicles 17.16-17. It is entitled "Faith's review and expectation". Also, the first line reads: "Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)". We've lost the use of the parentheses that Newton included. Olney Hymns is available from The Cowper and Newton Museum in Olney, England.
The tune first appears in print in the shape-note tunebook Columbian Harmony in 1829. It was first paired with Newton's text in William Walker's tunebook The Southern Harmony published in 1835.
Turner's book is very interesting. It shows the evolution of the ways the hymn has been used over the years. The short version is that, because attention has been focused on the first three stanzas along with the added anonymous stanza "When we've been there ten thousand years", the spiritual aspects of the hymn have been emphasized, but its Christian character has not. The Christian character of the hmyn is most pronounced in Newton's stanzas 4 through 6.
Tim, I'm so excited to be getting your father's book, which you recommended on my last post. I went to Amazon and it popped right up!
I have heard the theory that Amazing Grace was inspired by a negro spiritual overheard by the author a long time ago, that it can be played on the black keys of a piano, but then so can a lot of songs.