On May 21, 1739 – the first anniversary of his conversion – English hymn writer and leader of the Methodist movement, Charles Wesley, wrote eighteen stanzas of a hymn and titled it For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion. In 1767, those eighteen stanzas were mercifully pared 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.
O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!
Over the years, O for a Thousand Tongues has been sung to a variety of tunes, but in the United States you’ll likely hear it paired with the tune Azmon, an 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, the piano 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 medley 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, Christ the King Medley can be a musical pun on Transfiguration Sunday since O For a Thousand Tongues is “transfigured” and “revealed” throughout the arrangement. Enjoy!