Something to listen to while you read. Solo piano sheet music available at Sheet Music Plus.
Tune Name: Duke Street
Alternate Texts: From All That Dwell Below the Skies; I Know That My Redeemer Lives; O God Beneath Thy Guiding Hand; Give to our God Immortal Praise; Now to the Lord a Noble Song; Forth in the Peace of Christ We Go; How Great our God’s Majestic Name
Fun Fact: Isaac Watts, author of the text Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun, was writing verses at the tender age of seven and during his lifetime penned the texts to more than eight hundred published hymns.
Unconventionality can spark great ideas – and great hymn texts.
Before Issac Watts, most writers paraphrased Psalms – staying as closely as possible to the original text – to create new hymns. But Watts, a non-conformist in both religious affiliation and writing style, took a different path. In his collection Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719), Watts not only chose to pen hymns using a loose interpretation of the Psalms, he also decided to view the Psalms through the eyes of the New Testament.
His novel approach created Jesus Shall Reign Where’re the Sun, a hymn based on Psalm 72.
Believed to be one of the earliest hymns to promote mission work, the original text was published with eight verses. Since three of those had a political bent and included phrases such as “barbarous nations”, they are omitted in modern hymnals giving this popular hymn a more global appeal.
Jesus Shall Reign is usually paired with the tune Duke Street – a tune first published anonymously with the text “The spacious firmament on high” in Henry Boyd’s Select Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes (1793). It was in William Dixon’s Euphonia (1805) that the tune was finally attributed to John Hatton, an Englishman whose details are sadly unknown other than that he lived on Duke Street.
Since both the hymn text and tune are very regal in nature, convention – and most music experts – dictate that renditions of Jesus Shall Reign be presented majestically with strong accompaniment. But if you listen closely to the sound file above (at 1:04), you’ll find an unconventionally gentle version of Jesus Shall Reign sandwiched between statelier sounding hymns.
Just a small hat tip to fellow rebel Issac Watts.