STLT#18, What Wondrous Love

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this that brings my heart such bliss,
and takes away the pain of my soul, of my soul,
and takes away the pain of my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down beneath my sorrows ground,
friends to me gather’d round, O my soul, O my soul,
friends to me gather’d round, O my soul.

To love and to all friends I will sing, I will sing,
to love and to all friends I will sing.
To love and to all friends who pain and sorrow mend,
with thanks unto the end I will sing, I will sing,
with thanks unto the end I will sing.

Sometimes the written music is just a suggestion.

In our hymnal, this hymn, based of course on a folk tune collected in The Southern Harmony, is set in 2/2 time – fairly square but not march-like. And I have liked it fine, admiring of the elegant rewritten lyrics to take the focus off “the thorny crown” and place it on “friends to me gathered ’round.” It is more personal, hold me – and many in our faith – more deeply.

But in the spring of 2015, in searching for a recording of this hymn (for reasons long forgotten now), I stumbled across Christian singer Chelsea Moon’s rendition – accompanied by two guitars (the Franz Brothers) – and performed in 6/8 time. Now technically, 6/8 is just a tripled breakdown of 2/2, but it’s remarkably different, both in tone, and ultimately in meaning.

Let’s give it a listen (and know that the lyrics are the original in both). First, here’s the song in 2/2 time (in a gorgeous choral arrangement performed by the St. Olaf Choir):

And now, Chelsea Moon’s version:

Both beautiful, but for me, the rolling 6/8 connects to a natural internal pulse that feels as though it comes from and through my body, connected directly to my heart and soul.

I have since sung this a capella, in a 6/8 time signature, in a handful of settings, and each time it has felt more personal to me. And I realize this, as I sing it over and over, even as I write this reflection: while there are many songs that move me deeply, this one – this one beautiful song, with our words of friendship and connection –  is my spirit’s song, my heart’s cry, my soul’s comfort…

To all my friends… with thanks unto the end, I will sing.

I will sing.

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