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Many and Great

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The first stanza of this Native American song carries strong echoes of Psalm 8 and its themes of God’s transcendence, while stanza 2 invokes God’s immanent presence.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

It is worth dwelling on God’s creativity before singing this song. Consider reading Belgic Confession, Article 12 or Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 8: “In the beginning, God—Father, Word, and Spirit—called this world into being out of nothing, and gave it shape and order.”
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Many and Great

Tune Information

Name
LACQUIPARLE
Key
c minor or modal
Meter
9.6.9.9.9.6

Recordings

Musical Suggestion

This melody matches well the paradoxical themes of both transcendence and immanence. Sing it with a definite feeling of two rather than four, so that it is not allowed to drag. It can be sung unaccompanied, or with a flute or recorder in unison. If percussion is used, a floor tom-tom or a deep-sounding, resonant hand drum is most effective, on the first beat of every measure, or even every second measure. Don’t let the percussion distract from the ethereal nature of the song.
Have young children lead stanza 1 with the following motions:
“Many and great, O God, are our works”             
Look at hands throughout the entire stanza. Moving every two beats, first spread right arm out to the
side, then the left to the left side, then right arm up, then left arm forward.             
 
“Maker of earth and sky.”                                                           
On “earth” bring both arms down; up on “sky”      
 
“Your hands have set the heavens with stars;”  
Lift both hands high; wave and wiggle fingers like twinkling stars         
 
“Your fingers spread the mountains and plains.”              
Cup hands to mouth; then extend hands in front as if spreading over a flat ocean.
 
“You merely spoke and waters were formed;”  
Cup hands to mouth; then extend hands in front as if spreading over a flat ocean.
                                                                  
“Deep seas obey your voice.”                                   
Reach hands low and bend from shoulders.
                                                                
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Many and Great

Hymn Story/Background

This song has become known as the “Dakota hymn.” It was written in the Dakota language by Joseph Rennville, a fur trader who was half Dakota and half French, and translated by Philip Frazier, a Sioux who became a Congregational minister. The text is based on Psalm 104:24-30 and Jeremiah 10:12-13. The first stanza honors God as Creator of the universe; the second is a prayer for God’s care and blessing in our lives, and communicates the wonder of a God who not only formed the entire creation but is also interested in our daily living.

Composer Information

Lara Baatenberg (b. September 17, 1987) is a Doctor of Medicine student ath Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Baatenberg graduated from Calvin College with a degree in Biology, and holds a Master of Science from Wayne State University. She arranged this tune for piano lessons at Calvin. Baatenberg currently lives in Jenison, Michigan.
— Laura de Jong

Author and Composer Information

Joseph R. Renville’s mother was Dakota and his father, French. An explorer, fur trader, and Congregational minister, Renville helped found the Lac qui Parle Mission in Minnesota in 1835. This song, which is also known as the “Dakota Hymn,” was sung by thirty-eight Dakota prisoners of war as they were led to execution at Mankato, Mennesota, on December 26, 1862. This song was first published in the Dakota Indian Hymnal (1916).
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