Forest Hill & 43rd Street
Richmond, VA 23225

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

July 19, 2020: “In Heaven Above” and “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White”

Music Message for 7/19 from Danny

(If you do not see the music icons/links within this post, please click on the July 19, 2020 title/link above.)

“In Heaven Above” and “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White”

The past few days I’ve been thinking about the two Swedish hymn/chorale preludes from last week, and so I thought I’d do a couple more Scandinavian-inspired pieces this week.

For the first piece, I picked out an arrangement of the Norwegian hymn “In Heaven Above” (“I Himmelen, I Himmelen” was the original title).  The words to this hymn were written by a Swedish clergyman in the early seventeenth century, and the tune used is a Norwegian folk tune.  The organ piece I’m playing is actually an arrangement of an arrangement of the hymn—it’s G. Winston Cassler’s organ arrangement of F. Melius Christiansen’s choir anthem arrangement of the hymn.  (The organ version of this piece pales in comparison to the choir version, but this is all I can do for now.)

You might recognize the name F. Melius Christiansen — he was very famously the choral director at Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota for several decades in the early twentieth century.  If you’ve ever seen the Saint Olaf Christmas special (usually aired on PBS in late December), you might remember that that concert ends every year with the choir singing Christiansen’s choir anthem arrangement of “Beautiful Savior.”  (Hopefully there will be a way for Saint Olaf to continue this tradition this coming December.)

Here is my recording of “In Heaven Above” along with the words to the first verse:

In heav’n above, in heav’n above,
where God our Father dwells:
how boundless there the blessedness!
No tongue its greatness tells.
There face to face, and full and free,
the everliving God we see,
our God, the Lord of hosts!

For my other piece, I have an arrangement of another very old Norwegian hymn (as well as another Minnesotan Lutheran connection): John Ferguson’s organ setting of the hymn “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White.” (“Den store hvide Flok” is the original title.)  John Ferguson was also a professor at Saint Olaf College (late twentieth century, turn of the twenty-first century).  He is known by his former college students as “Ferg.”  If you’ve ever seen the Saint Olaf Christmas special on PBS (I realize that I keep mentioning this program), you might remember seeing John Ferguson either conducting from the podium or playing the organ in the orchestra.

I often think of “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White” as appropriate for All Saints’ Sunday, but the reason I thought to do this piece this week is because this week’s Gospel lesson is usually paired in the lectionary with a reading from Hebrews (Hebrew 11:29-12:2)—this reading contains a mention of many of the famous names and prophets from the Old Testament, and reminds us that these people from the past are looking down on us and cheering us on.
Anyway, here it is, John Ferguson’s arrangement of “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White” along with the words to the first verse of the hymn.  Thanks for listening!- Danny

Behold a host, arrayed in white,
Like thousand snow-clad mountains bright!
With palms they stand;
Who is this band
Before the throne of light?
These are the saints of glorious fame,
Who from the great affliction came
And in the flood
Of Jesus’ blood
Are cleansed from guilt and shame.
They now serve God both day and night;
They sing their songs in endless light.
Their anthems ring
As they all sing
With angels shining bright.