489

By the Sea of Crystal

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text's theme is drawn from John's vision of the saints in glory singing one of their great doxologies (Rev. 7:9-17). The initial reference to the "sea of crystal" is from Revelation 4:6–"Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal." And the final (rhetorical) reference to the "King of kings" (st. 3) comes from Revelation 17:14.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

“With the whole creation we join the song: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’” (Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 58)
489

By the Sea of Crystal

Tune Information

Name
CRYSTAL
Key
G Major or modal
Meter
6.5.6.5 D

Recordings

Musical Suggestion

The doxological character of this hymn suggests a triumphant, march-like tempo. Song leaders should be aware that stanzas 2 and 3 are actually one thematic unit. One way to achieve this unity is to play from stanza 2 to 3 without pause.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 34)
— Randall D. Engle
489

By the Sea of Crystal

Hymn Story/Background

Once, after hearing Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" march, William Kuipers decided to write a new hymn text that could be sung to it. At the time the march was associated with the patriotic hymn "Land of Hope and Glory." Kuipers wrote this text late in 1932 while he was pastor of the Summer
Street Christian Reformed Church (CRC), Passaic, New Jersey. He submitted it to Henry J. Kuiper, editor of the Christian Reformed Church weekly, The Banner, and a member of the committee preparing the 1934 Psalter Hymnal, which was the first  denominational collection including hymns (the CRC had previously sung only psalms in worship).
 
Because Elgar's music was under copyright, The Banner held a contest to find a new tune for Kuipers's text. The magazine received 150 tune entries and recognized first, second, and third places, as well as six honorable mentions. First prize of $10 was awarded to Siebolt H. Frieswyk of Whitinsville, Massachusetts, and his tune was pub­lished with Kuipers's text in The Banner, May 5, 1933. However, an honorable-mention winner by John Vanderhoven was chosen as the setting for this text when the new Psalter Hymnal was printed in 1934. That association of text and tune has been continued in each of the following editions of the Psalter Hymnal and now, in Lift Up Your Hearts. Because it was used as a theme Song for the Back to God Hour broadcasts, this hymn became well known to a whole genera­tion of radio listeners in the 1950s and 60s.
 
The text's theme is drawn from John's vision of the saints in glory singing one of their great doxologies (Revelation 7:9-17). The initial reference to the "sea of crystal" is from Revelation 4:6, "Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal." And the final (rhetorical) reference to the "King of kings" (st. 3) comes from Revelation 17:14.
 
CRYSTAL is a sturdy melody distinguished by occasional dotted rhythms and a fine climax in the last line (where the harmonization has a moment of Victorian chromati­cism). Sing in parts on stanzas 1 and 2 and in unison with the support of bright organ tones on stanza 3.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

A graduate of Calvin College and Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan, William Kuipers (b. 1884; d. 1933) was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church. From 1914 to 1919 he served the Second Christian Reformed Church of Fremont, Michigan, a congregation organized to be an English-speaking church. Later he served Christian Reformed churches in Oakland, Michigan (1919-1923); Dennis Avenue, Grand Rapids (1923-1927); and Summer Street, Passaic, New Jersey (1927-1933). Kuipers wrote a number of poems, hymns, and psalm versifications.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

John (born Johann Ludwig) Vanderhoven (b. Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 1887; d. Grand Rapids, MI, 1974) immigrated to the United States in 1912 and worked at various vocations. He concluded his career as owner of the Sterling Sponge and Chamois Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan (1951-1962). VanderHoven served as organist in several Christian Reformed congregations, including Burton Heights Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids from 1931 to 1942. A frequent improviser of preludes and offertory music for church, he also composed a number of hymn tunes and anthems.
— Bert Polman
General Settings
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