Of all the hymn tunes I’ve arranged for piano, Kelvingrove remains a favorite. Originally a traditional Scottish ballad with adult-themed (!) lyrics, the melody got a new lease on life as a popular hymn when Church of Scotland minister and Iona Community member John L. Bell (b. 1949) adopted the tune to use with his text The Summons (Will You Come and Follow Me). His new hymn made its first appearance in the music collection Heaven Shall Not Wait: Songs of Creation, the Incarnation, and the Life of Jesus (1987) and is now beloved in many denominations.
But Bell wasn’t the only hymnwriter to look past those racy lyrics and use the tune to create beautiful, singable hymns. Two others, Brian Wren (b. 1936) and Christopher Idle (b. 1938), also borrowed Kelvingrove’s melody for four more hymns: When You Prayed Beneath the Trees (for Holy Week); God of Jeremiah, Grieving with an Aching Heart; Will You Come and See the Light From the Stable Door? (for Christmas); and Is the City All They Say It Is – Just Dirt and Noise?
I first heard of the hymn The Summons from my composition instructor, John Carter. The melody made such an impression on me I knew I needed to write a piano arrangement of it. It’s rare (but nice) when an arrangement writes itself – typically I fuss with the details for days on end – but I finished this one in a matter of hours. The simple harmonies and rhythms seemed just right for this contemplative hymn. And pianists around the globe must enjoy it – it’s been my top-seller every single year since its release.
Hope you enjoy it, too.
Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?