Henry Alford served as rector of a parish in rural England in the mid-nineteenth century – a time when people depended on the local bounty of their autumn harvest. For his village’s harvest festival, Alford penned a seven stanza thanksgiving hymn text, Come, Ye Thankful People, Come, and published it in his Psalms and Hymns (1844) with the title After Harvest. Later, in his Poetical Works (1865), Alford published a revision to Come, Ye Thankful People, Come, shortening it to only four stanzas.
Today, we most often sing Alford’s shortened text with the hymn tune St. George’s Windsor. George J. Elvey, organist of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for forty-seven years, originally composed the tune for James Montgomery’s text Hark! The Song of Juibilee. But in 1861, Hymns Ancient and Modern matched St. George’s Windsor with Alford’s thanksgiving hymn text and that pairing persists today.
Although some verses of Come, Ye Thankful People, Come are more serious – comparing the autumn harvest to the end time when God’s people will be gathered together – I decided to focus on the bright first verse of the hymn in this piano arrangement. I used bouncy syncopation, teamed it up with another lively harvest hymn, Sing to the Lord of Harvest, and even channeled some ragtime harmonies at the end to create celebratory thanksgiving music. Enjoy!