Something to listen to while you read. Solo piano sheet music available at Sheet Music Plus.
Fun Fact: While traveling, William S. Pitt noticed a vacant piece of land and thought it would make an ideal setting for a church – thus inspiring him to compose The Church in the Wildwood. Several years later when he returned to the area, he was surprised to find that a little brown church had been built on the very same piece of land that originally inspired him to write the hymn.
William S. Pitt wrote the hymn in 1857, then put it in a drawer and forgot about it until 1864 when his singing class performed it at the Little Brown Church’s dedication. A year later, he sold the rights to the hymn for $25 to pay for medical school and again the hymn languished, largely ignored and forgotten. In the 1920’s and 30’s, a traveling barbershop group, Weatherwax Quartet, used the hymn in their performances creating a surge in its popularity. Today, however, you won’t find this hymn in the pages of most modern hymnals.
So why is this 158-year-old hymn, that has waxed and waned in popularity, still widely recognized, loved by many, and actively used for countless church choir anthems, keyboard arrangements, and popular artists’ recordings?
Aside from being one of the few hymns with a refrain that spotlights the lower voice parts (Oh come, come, come, come…), I believe this hymn has held its appeal thanks to the vivid, detailed picture it paints – especially about a “place so dear to my childhood.”
Perhaps not a little brown church but instead a grandmother’s kitchen, a caring teacher’s classroom, or a friend’s front porch…each of us has that spot from childhood we revisit, if only in memory, where we know we were safe, warm, accepted, and loved. And this hymn universally calls us once again to that place.