Maybe you selected a song to learn, purchased it, and have spent hours looking at it while practicing. Maybe you found some old pieces of sheet music in a piano bench. Have you ever give stopped to think how that page of music was printed? There were — and still are — multiple ways to create a page of music, but I’m talking about how to make a fine edition “back in the day.” Before computer printing, before mistakes could be corrected by a couple of keystrokes, before songs could be created without a true knowledge of the language of music, there were craftsman. These artists prepared zinc or pewter plates for the printing press by engraving them with small hand tools and dies, all with the steady hand of a surgeon and the discerning eye of an artist.
This video shows one of the last of these craftsman engraving a metal plate. Remember, everything is done by hand…and as a mirror image of the final product.
It was during the turmoil of World War I that English composer Gustav Holst completed The Planets, arguably one of the most popular orchestral suites ever written. The suite has seven movements, each named for a planet. While experiencing the complete suite is certainly ideal, movements are sometimes performed individually. In the case of “Jupiter,” there is even a section within this movement that is often heard apart from the whole.
In 1921, Holst adapted his theme from “Jupiter” to fit a patriotic poem by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice entitled I Vow to Thee, My Country. A few years later, Holst’s friend and fellow composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, included the song in a hymnal he was editing. From then on, the tune became known as THAXTED, named for the town in England where Holst and his family lived.
Many hymn writers have paired their words with the tune THAXTED. In 1982, Michael Perry wrote one of the very finest of these hymns. It is known as O God Beyond Our Praising, and begins with these words:
O God beyond all praising,
we worship you today
and sing the love amazing
that songs cannot repay.
In this recording of the tune, I am playing the magnificent Triumvirate Organ at the Central Congregational Church, in Galesburg, Illinois. I hope you enjoy this stately, glorious hymn of praise.
The complete lyrics to O God Beyond All Praising can be found at this link: O Go Beyond All Praising