July 4th and the Words We Sing
As we approach another July 4th and prepare to celebrate the birth of our United States of America, I am especially aware of the words we sing for this occasion. I just concluded two meaningful concerts of patriotic music with the 33rd Annual Roswell Patriotic Celebration, featuring the Roswell UMC Sanctuary Choir, the Atlanta Wind Symphony, organist Tom Alderman, my fellow conductor, Dr. Cliff Towner, and fabulous sound/light/video crews. Everything about these concerts was excellent, but I was especially moved by many of the words that were sung (this is probably not surprising since I am indeed primarily a choral musician).
Whether it was the texts of well-known patriotic favorites such as America, the Beautiful or My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, I found myself listening with fresh ears to these profound lyrics and the truths they impart. Another couple of favorites are Irving Berlin’s God Bless America (I’m old enough to remember Kate Smith singing this classic) and Battle Hymn of the Republic (this never fails to stir me, especially toward the climactic finale). But one piece that had an enormous effect on me this year was one that is not so widely known. It is entitled Hymn for America and the music is by Stephen Paulus and text is by Michael Dennis Browne. Here is the text:
We have love you for your rivers,
We have loved you for your shores,
Every treasure you have shown us,
Every seed that you have sown;
We have loved you for your mountains,
For your prairies, for your fields,
All these gifts we have been given,
All these glories that we share;
Now we thank you for these blessings,
We, your people, everywhere.
Many are the stars of heaven,
Many are the hopes of earth;
All around us worlds unfolding,
All around these dreams to grow.
From the moment of our rising
‘Till we rest when day is done,
May we tell our hearts’ own story,
Hearts that honor and believe,
Through our care for one another,
For this life and land we love.
I’m sure you have some patriotic favorites that speak very personally to you. Are they well-known or barely known? I’d love to hear from you.