Nine more copyright free hymns

Nine more copyright-free hymns. Yes, you can use these hymns online without having copyright trolls harass you. They’re in this Google Drive folder, along with 91 others — making a total of 100 copyright-free hymns in that folder.

Of interest in this batch of copyright-free hymns:

There are 3 hymn tunes by Thomas Commuck, the first Native American composer to publish his music. In two cases, I found texts in a current UU hymnal with copyright-protected music, and substituted one of Commucks’ tunes instead. In the third case, I found a lovely text by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, the African American Unitarian poet from the mid-19th century, and paired it with a Commuck tune. These three hymns will be of interest if you’d like to include an Indigenous composer in your worship music.

For “Hush, Somebody’s Calling My Name,” I found a 1923 arrangement by J. B. Herbert, based on melodies provided by Rev. Turner Henderson Wiseman (1881-1939). T. H. Wiseman was a charismatic African American minister of the early twentieth century. On Feb. 7, 1914, the Kansas City (Mo.) Sun called him “a brilliant young minister,” adding: “Perhaps there is no young man in the ministry of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who has made such an enviable reputation as Rev. T. H. Wiseman…. Rev. Wiseman is not only a pleasing and intellectual preacher of the Gospel, but is one of the most accomplished and sweetest singers of the race.” He made a number of recordings in the 1920s, many of which you can find online. His quartet’s recording of “Hush” is online at the Internet Archive, and is well worth listening to. In the notes to this hymn (see below), I discuss what Wiseman’s contribution to this song might have been.

(Researching these nine hymns was painful. My brain hurts. I need to take a break from this copyright-free hymn project.)

Notes to all nine new hymns below the fold.

Come and Go With Me — 1018, Singing the Journey

Tune and text are traditional African American. The earliest published version I could find was a recording by Rev. Blind Willie Johnson, made in 1930. The tune presented here is based on the singing of Johnson and an unidentified female singer (possibly his wife). However, it is not a strict transcription, but rather my interpretation and simplification of the recorded melody; my interpretation is released into the public domain. The words are an editorial combination of various verses from various sources; my interpretation of the text is released into the public domain as well.

For Flowers That Bloom — 76, Singing the Living Tradition

The first two verses of the text are anonymous. The first verse appeared at least as early as 1873, and the second verse at least as early as 1890. The third verse is attributed to Mary J. Garland in The Kindergarten Review (Springfield, Mass.: Nov., 1899), p. 163.

The music is from Church Hymns: With Tunes, 1903 (London). The tune is called variously “Baden” and “Was Gott Thut.” The tune was composed by Severus Gastorius (1681; some sources attribute the tune to Johann Pachelbel); this version was adapted and harmonized by J. Goss.

Harp at Nature’s Advent, The — 75, Singing the Living Tradition

The text is from the poem “The Worship of Nature” by John Greenleaf Whittier, from The Complete Poetical Works of Whittier (Houghton Mifflin, 1894).

The tune in Singing the Living Tradition is protected by copyright. The tune given here is by Thomas Commuck from Indian Melodies (1845), harmonized by Thomas Hastings. Commuck calls this tune “Waupun.”

Hush, Somebody’s Calling my Name — 1040, Singing the Journey

The origins of this song are somewhat obscure. J. B. Herbert obtained copyright for two arrangements of the song in 1923. One of these arrangements says, “from melodies suggested by T. H. Wiseman.” This seems to be the earliest publication of the song. I have not been able to determine the relative contributions of Rev. Wiseman, Herbert, and oral tradition.

Rev. T. H. Wiseman recorded the song in 1923 with a quartet that included A. C. Brogdon, H. S. Allen, J. C. Eubanks, and himself (Victor #19119-A). The version given here is mostly taken from sheet music published in 1923 by The Rodeheaver Co. (Chicago). However, two bass riffs from the recording have been added to the Rodeheaver sheet music.

Now While the Day in Trailing Splendor — 45, Singing the Living Tradition

This version is from The Beacon Song and Service Book (1925). The text was written by Frederick Lucian Hosmer (1902) and slightly adapted; the adaptation is released into the public domain.

The music in Singing the Living Tradition is protected by copyright. In The Beacon Song and Service Book, the tune given is “St. Clement” by Clement C. Scholefield.

Praise and Thanks to Nature Bring — 1005, Singing the Journey

Two versions of this hymn are given:

The first text is adapted from a hymn by William Channing Gannett, written for the Harvest Festival at the St. Paul Unitarian church in 1882. Originally titled “The Year of the Lord,” I’ve adapted it as a Transcendentalist hymn; not many changes were needed, and I release this adaptation into the public domain. The first tune is by Thomas Commuck, from his book Indian Melodies (1845), the first book of music published by a Native American composer. The arrangement is by Thomas Hastings. Commuck contracted with Hastings to write the arrangements, doubtless with the thought that Hastings’s name would help sell the book.

The second text uses a degenderized version of the traditional words by Gannett; this slight adaptation is released into the public domain. The second tune and arrangement by George Job Elvey are taken from the American Unitarian Assoc. Hymn and Tune Book of 1914.

Songs for the People — not in hymnals

Neither of the current Unitarian Universalist hymnals has a hymn text by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Harper was well known poet in her day, and an African American, and a Unitarian. As we rethink the emphasis we have traditionally given to texts by dead white men, it made sense to me to use one of Harper’s poems as a hymn text. This text is taken from the poem “Songs for the People”; the meter has been regularized in a few places, and all alterations are released into the public domain.

The tune is “Mohegan” by Native American composer Thomas Commuck, from his 1845 book Indian Melodies, harmonized Thomas Hastings. Some rhythmic alterations in the tune were required to fit the unusual meter of the text; all alterations are released into the public domain.

We’re Going to Do (When the Spirit Says Do) — 1024, Singing the Journey

The song is #12302 in the Roud Folk Song Index. The Index lists two sources. First is John W. Work, ed., American Negro Songs and Spirituals (1940), where the song is titled “I’m Going to Sing,” and the words are “I’m going to sing when the spirit says sing”; other verbs were then substituted for “sing.”

The Fresno State University Traditional Ballad Index lists the earliest publication date as 1973, giving a typical verse as “We’re going to move when the spirit says move.” The Traditional Ballad Index also supplies the following notes: “Listed in Folksingers Wordbook [ed. Silber and Silber, 1973] as a Civil Rights song, though I’ve met it as a sort of religious play-party. Despite the Silber/Silber-Folksingers Wordbook title, the first verse I’ve usually heard is ‘I’m gonna sing when the spirit says sing.’ Which has a more solid Biblical basis anyway; 1 Corinthians 14:15 refers to singing praise with the Spirit, but I don’t recall moving with the Spirit.” Quakers might disagree; they often speak about being moved by the Spirit.

There are several main variants of the words. As noted, the Traditional Ballad Index uses the first person plural pronoun, “We’re going to move….”. The songbook Rise Up Singing uses the first person singular pronoun, “I’m Gonna Do What the Spirit Says,” and includes a verse (presumably from the Civil Rights Movement), “I’m going to jail when the Spirit says ‘jail’.” Singing the Journey has an uncommon variant, using the second person (singular or plural?) pronoun, “You got to do when the Spirit says do.”

In the version given here, even though the first publication in 1940 uses the first person singular, I chose to go with the first person plural, the primary variant given in the Traditional Ballad Index. I didn’t use the second person pronoun, since it appears to be uncommon. But this is folk music, and you can use whatever pronoun you wish. I took the rest of the words from a variety of public domain sources, but here again, you can improvise as you please.

The melody is the way I tend to sing the song; I also give a basic SATB arrangement. I release both my transcription of the melody and the SATB arrangement into the public domain.

Winds of Change, The — 183, Singing the Living Tradition

The text is by Sarojini Naidu, 1905, from her book The Golden Threshold (London: William Heineman, 1905).

The tune is by Johann Hermann Schein (1628), harmonized by Johann Sebastien Bach (c. 1730), B.W.V. 377.