Monday, November 14, 2011

Christian Hymns "No. 1" (Gospel Advocate, 1935) - Part 2 of 2

In a previous post I discussed the people and motivations behind Christian Hymns no. 1, published by the Gospel Advocate in Nashville, Tennessee in 1935. This hymnal was the first of three edited by Lloyd O. Sanderson, and was the beginning of a hymnal tradition that exerted a significant influence on the song repertoire of the Churches of Christ in the United States. In this post I will try to assess the impact of this hymnal.

Establishing the Specific Influence of Christian Hymns no. 1

In order to understand the impact of Christian Hymns no. 1, I have narrowed my scope down to those songs found in it that had not been published up to that time in the other major hymnal tradition among the Churches of Christ: Great Songs of the Church, edited by Elmer L. Jorgenson. I eliminated from my list any songs that were present in either the original 1921 edition or the 1930 revision of that hymnal (prior to the better known Great Songs no. 2 of 1937). About half of the contents of Christian Hymns no. 1 were also found in Great Songs. This is not to say that Sanderson and Pullias depended on Great Songs in their selections, since much of this material was common gospel fare of the day and standard classical hymns. On the other hand, Sanderson had spoken highly of Great Songs prior to this time, and there is no doubt it had its influence.

The remaining half of the contents (206 songs out of 400), found in Christian Hymns but not found in Great Songs of the Church, will be the subject of this post. But how many of these songs were actually sung? Through some data collected by a friend at a congregation in Nashville, I once determined that this congregation--which sang a broader variety of songs than most--had sung in all about 600 different songs over a two-year period, out of a hymnal containing 990 hymns. But when I eliminated those songs that had been sung only once or twice, I found that there was actually a core of about 150 songs that made up most of the singing. That is at least anecdotal evidence of what I have long suspected to be true: as many as half of the songs in a hymnal may never be sung by an individual congregation. This makes it difficult to assess the impact of a hymnal, because the mere presence of a song does not mean it was ever used.

Looking at this data again, I found that my sample congregation still sings 67 of these 206 songs found in Christian Hymns but not in the earlier editions of Great Songs. 52 of these songs had been sung three or more times in two years, and 13 had been sung ten or more times in that period. Of the core of 150 songs that make up most of the congregation's singing, then, a full third are from the group of songs that came down through the Christian Hymns series! The following thirteen songs out of this group were sung more than ten times over a two-year period:
  • O how I love Jesus
  • O they tell me of a home
  • I want to be a worker for the Lord
  • The old rugged cross
  • I will sing the wondrous story
  • There's within my heart a melody
  • Walking in sunlight
  • There's a fountain free
  • On the cross of Calvary
  • O listen to our wondrous story
  • Angry words
  • Jesus is all the world to me
  • When we all get to heaven

Songs Carried Over from Earlier Gospel Advocate Hymnals

Out of the 206 hymns examined, I found 80 that had been published in earlier Gospel Advocate hymnals. I examined Gospel Praise (1900), The New Christian Hymnal (1907), Choice Gospel Hymns (1923) and Sweeter Than All Songs (1927). A large majority of these songs were found in the two more recent hymnals, Sweeter Than All Songs (36 songs) and Choice Gospel Hymns (30 songs). Both of these were edited by Charles M. Pullias, who was co-editor with Lloyd O. Sanderson in Christian Hymns no. 1. A smaller number were found only in the older publications: 4 from Gospel Praise, and 11 from The New Christian Hymn Book. I do not currently have access to two of the important early Gospel Advocate hymnals, the original Christian Hymns (1889) and Voice of Praise (1895). The dwindling number of hits found in the earlier hymnals I have examined, however, suggests that few if any songs from these 19th-century hymnals would be picked up again 40 years later, if they had not been used in any intervening hymnals.

These songs carried over from the existing "Gospel Advocate tradition," and not found in Great Songs of the Church, are almost entirely in the gospel style--only a handful are traditional hymns. Some are old favorites from Fanny Crosby & William Doane, such as "Though your sins be as scarlet," "Hide me, O my Savior, hide me," and "To the work! To the work!" Hymns from this songwriting team are to be found in nearly any hymnal, of course, but were present in somewhat greater numbers in the Gospel Advocate publications. Another songwriting partnership that is prominent in this tradition was Mary Slade & Asa Everett. The earlier Great Songs of the Church did have "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling" and "Who at the door is standing?," but the Gospel Advocate tradition included as well the classic "There's a fountain free." Christian Hymns no. 1 had all of these and also added "Beyond this land of parting," for the first time (as far as I know) in a hymnal among the Churches of Christ. Asa Everett was a major influence on Rigdon McIntosh, music editor of the first Gospel Advocate hymnal, and this may be the source of these songs (see my post on "Beyond this land of parting").

Some other songs still very popular among Churches of Christ in the United States, that carried over specifically through the Gospel Advocate tradition, were:
  • Eliza E. Hewitt, "When we all get to heaven"
  • Elisha Hoffman, "Leaning on the everlasting arms"
  • Eden Reeder Latta, "Live for Jesus"
  • William A. Ogden, "Where He leads I'll follow"
  • Will L. Thompson, "Jesus is all the world to me"
  • Philip P. Bliss, "I gave My life for Thee" (music only)
The Gospel Advocate tradition also contributed a few more songs by Jessie Hunter Brown Pounds, the prominent Christian Church songwriter; but of these only "Am I nearer to heaven today?" has remained in any use. Of particular importance for the future, however, was the inclusion of songs coming from the Churches of Christ in the Western part of the United States. The Gospel Advocate tradition included, for example, "Closer to Thee" by Austin Taylor (editor of the influential Texas journal Firm Foundation) and "Heaven holds all to me," one of the first among many contributions to come from Tillit S. Teddlie.

Songs Newly Introduced by Christian Hymns no. 1

When we look at the songs in Christian Hymns no. 1 that had not been included in Great Songs of the Church up to that point, had not been published in earlier Gospel advocate hymnals, it is interesting to see the emphasis placed upon particular songwriters. There were five additional songs, for example, by Leila N. Morris (Mrs. C. H. Morris), best known for "Nearer, still nearer" and "My stubborn will at last hath yielded." None of these, however, caught on in the mainstream repertoire. The same could be said of the songs introduced from "Gipsy" Simon Smith, Albert Troy Hardy, and Samuel Beazley, but their inclusion was telling in that these were rather contemporary writers of the gospel style. Beazley in particular was the writer of songs such as "Jesus paid it all," "Ring out the message," and "Home of the soul," in which a part other than soprano takes the melody in the chorus; these songs would later become a staple of the Churches of Christ in the Southern part of the United States. This tendency to embrace the newer flavor of Southern gospel was not shared by Elmer Jorgenson, the editor of Great Songs of the Church, who wanted no "jazz" or "rag-time" in his hymnal!

Sanderson and Pullias made a long-lasting contribution by introducing more hymns by the Texas songwriter Tillit S. Teddlie. In addition to "Heaven holds all to me," which had been published in earlier Gospel Advocate Hymnals, Christian Hymns no. 1 included his "When we meet in sweet communion," "Worthy art Thou!," and "Cast all your burdens on Jesus." Though the last of these did not catch on as widely, the former two have become staples of the repertoire. No doubt this exposure also increased Teddlie's visibility among the churches, and led to more of his songs being sought out for future hymnals.

A number of other songs were introduced in Christian Hymns no. 1 that have had a good deal of longevity, such as "I surrender all" and "I wandered in the shades of night" by Judson Van De Venter & W. S. Weeden; "The last mile of the way" and "What shall it profit a man?" by Johnson Oatman; "Come, let us all unite to sing" by E. S. Lorenz; "Angry words" by Horatio Palmer; and "Master, the tempest is raging" by Mary Baker & Horatio Palmer.

A Fruitful Partnership: Songs by Thomas O. Chisholm & Lloyd O. Sanderson

By far the most important songs introduced by Christian Hymns no. 1, however, were those written for its publication by Lloyd O. Sanderson and his pen pal Thomas O. Chisholm (they never met face to face). These alone would make its impact huge. Their collaborations introduced in this hymnal include:
The first three of these are standards in the traditional repertoire, and some of the others ("All things work together for good," "I love Thee, Lord Jesus") deserve a revival.

It is typical for the editor of a hymnal to include a good number of his or her own works, if only because they are freely available. But I cannot think of another major hymnal among the Churches of Christ in which the editor's own works have been such a lasting contribution. The first three songs in the list are in every modern hymnal that I am familiar with among the Churches of Christ in this country, even making the cut for Great Songs of the Church, Revised (Abilene Christian University Press, 1986), which had the most rigorous editorial board of all.

There are a few other songs in this group with texts by Thomas Chisholm, but set to music by other composers. They have not continued in the repertoire, but it shows the high regard Sanderson had for his friend. Unfortunately Christian Hymns did not include what I believe must be Chisholm's best lyric, "Great is Thy faithfulness," written in 1923. It took much longer for that hymn to become known among the Churches of Christ.

Besides those written with Chisholm, Sanderson wrote another dozen songs that appeared for the first time in Christian Hymns no. 1. (Two of these texts had appeared in earlier Gospel Advocate hymnals--"For me He careth" and "Buried beneath the yielding wave"--but Sanderson set them to new music.)
  • All things bright and beautiful
  • For me He careth
  • I'll never forsake my Lord
  • That dreadful night
  • Sunset and evening star (Crossing the bar)
  • Buried beneath the yielding wave
  • Hosanna! be the children's song
  • I would be a ray of sunshine
  • A manger bed, a precious Babe
  • Thy word is like a garden, Lord
  • We look to Thee, O Savior
  • We shall sleep, but not forever
His choice of texts is broad, showing the effect of his continuous efforts to improve his education; he reached back to the 18th century for "Buried beneath the yielding wave" (Benjamin Beddome) and "That dreadful night" (Joseph Hart), and made quite a nice setting of Tennyson's poem "Crossing the bar." Of the songs in the list above, the first four are still in the traditional repertoire of the Churches of Christ; "Sunset and evening star" has been an outlier, in my experience, familiar to some congregations but unknown to many others.

Notable as well are Sanderson's attempts at writing children's songs, which include some of his first essays at lyric writing--under the pseudonym Vana R. Raye, derived from his wife's name. "I would be a ray of sunshine" and "A manger bed" have not persisted in the repertoire; but Sanderson made a very successful children's song (which appeals to many adults as well!) in his setting of Cecil Alexander's "All things bright and beautiful."

Christian Hymns no. 1 in Retrospect

In the end, of course, many songs fall by the wayside. Many of Fanny Crosby's hymns are still sung, but of her estimated 8,000 lyrics, really only a small percentage have survived. Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,000 hymns and founded one entire wing of English hymnody, but the United Methodist Hymnal contains only about 50 of his texts. (This is an impressive number for any single writer, but it also means that only 1% of his total work survives in the very hymnal he founded!)

The passage of time has the same effect on the influence of hymnals. Many of the songs in Christian Hymns no. 1 never became popular, and some that once were sung have failed the test of time. But though it was only one of many sources that have shaped the singing repertoire of the Churches of Christ in the United States, I believe its importance is clear in at least three areas:

1. It established a significant alternative to Great Songs of the Church, lasting into three editions over a span of three decades. Though I would not suggest its influence was as far-reaching as E. L. Jorgenson's classic hymnal, it did preserve a distinctly Southern flavor in in the repertoire.

2. It introduced for the first time, or carried over from the earlier Gospel Advocate hymnals, a core of several dozen songs that are still sung by many Churches of Christ today, in the United States and many other countries. As a measure of its impact, it is interesting to note that Jorgenson's Great Songs of the Church no. 2 (published just two years afterwards) picked up nearly 40 songs that appeared in Christian Hymns, including Teddlie's "Heaven holds all to me" and Sanderson's "Buried with Christ (A new creature)."

3. It established the hymnwriting and editing career of Lloyd O. Sanderson, and introduced the songs of Tillit S. Teddlie to a wider audience. These two songwriters are probably the most immediately recognized names among songwriters from the Churches of Christ. Each man wrote enough songs of lasting value, that I could plan an entire song service exclusively from his works, and be fairly confident that I could lead it at any Church of Christ in U.S. that still sings the traditional repertoire.

With the advent of singing from PowerPoint projection, the significance of the hymnal is changing. The Paperless Hymnal product, for example, allows you to buy songs in packages of 100 each, with the option to add in an extra package of contemporary songs or further packages of traditional gospel. With so many songs available, a congregation could create a customized repertoire unique to its own tastes. But in looking over the first ten volumes of Paperless Hymnal, it is satisfying to see that the same 80-odd songs discussed above, that were incorporated into the repertoire of the Churches of Christ by the 1935 Christian Hymns, will be available in this new digital medium for generations yet to come.

Here is a link to the contents of Christian Hymns no. 1 (1935):

Here is a link to all the songs in Christian Hymns no. 1 that were not found in Great Songs of the Church prior to 1935:

Here is a link to my contents list of the original 1921 Great Songs of the Church (titles shaded in blue are those that were dropped by the time of the 1930 edition):
N.B. Author/composer information is incomplete for titles that are relatively familiar; if it is omitted, it is to be assumed that the song appears as it is known in the traditional repertoire of the Churches of Christ in the United States.

Here is a link to my contents list of the 1930 Great Songs of the Church, the latest edition I could find before the "No. 2" edition a few years later (songs highlighted in yellow were not present in the original 1921 edition):
I apologize for the discrepancy in the numbering; I have not had a chance to go back to look at the hymnal again and figure out where I went wrong.

I owe special thanks my wife Leah for volunteering to help me tabulate the contents of the 1921 and 1930 editions of Great Songs of the Church. (That is true love.) Thanks also to Jason Runnels of the Bould Music Library at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, for his kind help in providing access to these hard-to-find books.

For more on Great Songs of the Church, see Forrest McCann's excellent article at:

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