O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

 
Something to listen to while you read. Sheet music available at Sheet Music Plus.


Harlots and publicans and thieves
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes
From crimes as great as mine.
Murderers and all ye hellish crew
Ye sons of lust and pride,
Believe the Savior died for you;
For me the Savior died.

Wow…have you ever sung those words in church?

Me neither.

But if we were to sing all eighteen stanzas of the text that birthed O For a Thousand Tongues, the two above would be included. (And we would likely have laryngitis by the end of the hymn.)

English hymn writer and leader of the Methodist movement, Charles Wesley, wrote the text on May 21, 1739 – the first anniversary of his conversion – and titled it For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion. In 1767, the eighteen stanzas were mercifully pared down to just a handful by a hymn publisher who chose to begin the hymn with the seventh stanza: O for a thousand tongues to sing my dear Redeemer’s praise. Apparently fond of the hymn, Wesley picked O For a Thousand Tongues out of the nearly 6,000 hymns he had written to be on the first page of his Collection of Hymns in 1780.
Christ the King Medley Piano Sheet Music

Over the years, O for a Thousand Tongues has been sung to a variety of tunes but you’ll most likely hear it paired with the tune Azmon in the United States. Azmon is a tune adaptation created by American church musician Lowell Mason from a melody by German composer Carl G.Gläser. It originally appeared in duple meter in Modern Psalmist (1839) but Mason later changed it to triple meter which we still use today. Mason often used obscure biblical names for his tune titles and took the name Azmon from a region briefly mentioned in the Old Testament.

Like Mason’s obscure naming convention, my arrangement Christ the King Medley gives O For a Thousand Tongues an obscure role binding together three other regal hymns. Listen closely and you’ll notice that I allow only one line of O For a Thousand Tongues to appear at a time between the other tunes so you have to wait until nearly the end of the piece to finish the hymn. (The third line of O For a Thousand Tongues is really obscured – it’s hidden in a key change.) And then, for good measure (pun intended), I repeat the first line. Great for any regally themed Sunday of the year, the arrangement can be a musical pun on Transfiguration Sunday since O For a Thousand Tongues is “transfigured” and “revealed” throughout the arrangement. 🙂

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the world abroad
The honors of Thy name.