Tune Name: The Ash Grove (Welsh folk song)
Alternate Texts: The Master Hath Come and He Calls Us to Follow; Sent Forth by God’s Blessing; On This Night, Most Holy, in Circumstance Lowly; An Eagle Is Soaring and Turning and Diving; A Wedding Took Place in the Village of Cana
Fun Fact: Using a male pen name, Katherine Davis wrote not only the text to Let All Things Now Living but also composed the popular Christmas song The Little Drummer Boy (original title: Carol of the Drum) which was made famous by the Trapp Family Singers.
Since its first published appearance as the secular song Llwyn Onn in 1802, three enduring hymn texts have been written for the tune The Ash Grove: English novelist and poet Sarah Doudney penned The Master Hath Come and He Calls Us to Follow (1871); Katherine Davis, under the pen name John Cowley, wrote Let All Things Now Living (1939); and World Library Publications founder Omer Westendorf authored the text Sent Forth by God’s Blessing (1964). Recent texts for the tune include three written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, one by Susan Peterson, and the Christmas text On This Night, Most Holy, in Circumstance Lowly by R. Michael Cullinan.
As with most dance-type folk tunes, tactus and tempo are two key elements to consider when leading this hymn in assembly singing. It can be tricky to find the right balance that allows singers to clearly pronounce the words without dragging. Feeling the pulse as the dotted half note1, keeping the eighth notes light and leading toward the next downbeat, and – most importantly – giving singers opportunities to breathe can help.
Because of its very singable melody this hymn does, however, have one annoying side effect: it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day!
- If you can’t feel a dotted half pulse in the sound file above, don’t panic – there’s a good reason. In this piano arrangement I shifted the meter and tactus from triple (dotted half) to duple (two halves) so I could exploit a fun, syncopated effect. ↩