Hymn Stories: All Things Bright and Beautiful

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All Bright and Beautiful Creatures Piano Sheet Music

All Bright and Beautiful Creatures

A joyful hymn medley combining All Things Bright and Beautiful with All Creatures of Our God and King.

Like most kids, you probably learned your letters by singing the alphabet song. Songs and poems are great tools to teach children things they need to memorize: “Thirty days has September, April, June and November…”, “One, two, buckle my shoe…”

So when students in her Sunday school class were struggling with some of their lessons, Irish hymn writer and poet Cecil Frances Alexander began writing simple hymns to help children grasp the concepts and commit them to memory. Those simple texts were published together in Hymns for Little Children (1848) and included All Things Bright and Beautiful – under the title Maker of Heaven and Earth – in a series of hymns explaining the Apostles’ Creed.

The English folk tune, Royal Oak, is one tune that is sung with Alexander’s text. Named for an oak tree at Boscobel, Shropshire, England, in which the on-the-run King Charles II hid during the Battle of Worcester (1651), Royal Oak was first published in The Dancing Master (1686) as the loyalist song The Twenty-Ninth of May. Two centuries later, Martin F. Shaw arranged the tune and published it in Song Time (1915) creating the hymn we know today.

Recently, updates have been made to All Things Bright and Beautiful in some hymnals around the world. The United Church in Canada added an extra verse celebrating the beauty of Canadian geography:

The rocky mountain splendour,
the lone wolf’s haunting call,
the great lakes and the prairies,
the forest in the fall.

And a completely revised version of All Things Bright and Beautiful appears in the newer Australian hymn book, Together in Song, using images of wildflowers, palm trees, colored walls of gorges, mountain ranges, billabongs, and a verse that reads:

The many-coloured corals,
the creatures of the sea,
of bushland, field or desert,
on farms, or roaming free.

Hymn purists may balk at these changes but I think Cecil Frances Alexander would likely approve and see them as an extension of her original purpose – help children (of all ages) understand God’s love using simple language and images from the world they see.

With that childlike simplicity in mind, I created a fun and cheerful piano medley pairing two different hymn tunes used for All Things Bright and Beautiful (Royal Oak and William Monk’s All Things Bright) with another great nature-themed hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King. I gave it a bit of bounce, a bit of flair, and a little “bird tweet” at the end. My impish side wanted to title it All Bright and Beautiful Critters (very fitting for the personality of this medley!) but my serious side won out and I used the more formal All Bright and Beautiful Creatures.

But no matter the title, I think this medley is pretty durn cute and I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,

the Lord God made them all!