“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
Psalm 27:4 (NIV)
First published anonymously in 1662 with the German text Schönster Herr Jesu, this hymn has two English translations: Fairest Lord Jesus and Beautiful Savior. Fairest Lord Jesus is the more popular of the two but, whichever text you choose to sing, the tune will likely be the same Silesian folk melody.
Different hymnals call the melody by different tune names – some title it Crusader’s Hymn and others call it by the first line of the original German text, Schönster Herr Jesu. And as if two names for this hymn tune weren’t enough, Franz Liszt borrowed this tune to use for the crusader’s march in his oratorio The Legend of St. Elizabeth so you’ll find this tune also called…St. Elizabeth.
The names and translations may vary but one indisputable fact remains: this is a very beautiful and very useful hymn. It’s appropriate for Christmas, Easter, weddings, funerals, and any time in between. So I decided to craft a piano arrangement of it using a triple meter and, as a nod to Liszt, borrowed some ideas from his Liebesträume No. 3 for the middle. But before I finished the arrangement, I showed a draft to another composer whose opinion I respected.
He hated it.
His critique stung so badly I abandoned the arrangement and moved on to other projects. Fairest Lord Jesus sat on the shelf taunting me day after day until – several years later – I pulled it out again determined to finish it.
I finally released it to the world – with low expectations – and was pleasantly surprised at the positive comments I received on it! For a time, it was my best selling work – even though it is a more advanced piece to play.
And thanks to the challenges I had to overcome to finish it, it’s personally one of my favorite arrangements. Hope you enjoy it, too.
Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer
who makes the woeful heart to sing.