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From All That Dwell Below the Skies

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

See how Psalm 148 is the primary reference, but a similar thought is found in Psalms 8, 33, 104, and 135. In addition, God’s provocative questions to Job in Job 38-41 aim to stir similar praise, awe and humility. However, back in Genesis 1 and 2 we are motivated to do the same.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Sometimes the soul of the Christian needs to cry out exuberantly with joy, thanks, and adoration, even without identifying the reasons for such praise and adoration. Moreover, Christians who gather corporately find it fitting to do so as the grateful body of Christ. The Confessions of the church recognize this natural expression. Belgic Confession, Article 1 sees God as the “overflowing source of all good,” and such a realization deserves an “Alleluia!” Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 2 is a reminder that living in the joy of our comfort involves a spirit of thanks for his deliverance. In the same spirit, Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 2 exclaims, “God is King: Let the earth be glad! Christ is victor: his rule has begun! The Spirit is at work: creation is renewed!” and then as a natural response cries: “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”
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From All That Dwell Below the Skies

Additional Prayers

God of all,
you have revealed your love to all the world through Jesus Christ your Son.
Gather all peoples to yourself so that in every tongue
one mighty hymn may rise to the glory of your holy name. Amen.
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From All That Dwell Below the Skies

Tune Information

Name
LASST UNS ERFREUEN
Key
D Major
Meter
8.8.4.4.8.8 with alleluias

Recordings

570

From All That Dwell Below the Skies

Hymn Story/Background

The seventh of eight "hallelujah" psalms (Psalms 111-118), Psalm 117 is an expanded "Praise the LORD." It was probably composed for use at the beginning or end of temple liturgies. It stands fifth in the "Egyptian Hallel" used in Jewish liturgy at the annual religious festivals prescribed in the Torah. At Passover, Psalms 113 and 114 were sung before the meal; 115 through 118 were sung after the meal. Psalm 117 is only one stanza in length, but in calling all nations to praise the LORD for being faithful to Israel, it powerfully anticipates the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Paul quotes verse 1 of Psalm 117 in Romans 15:11 as proof that the salvation of Gentiles was not a divine afterthought.
 
LASST UNS ERFREUEN derives its opening line and several other melodic ideas from GENEVAN 68. The tune was first published with the Easter text "Lasst uns erfreuen herzlich sehr" in the Jesuit hymnal Ausserlesene Catlwlische Geistliche Kirchengesiinge (Cologne, 1623). LASST UNS ERFREUEN appeared in later hymnals with variations in the "alleluia" phrases.
 
The setting is by Ralph Vaughan Williams; first published in The English Hymnal (1906), it has become the most popular version of LASST UNS ERFREUEN. In that hymnal the tune was set to Athelstan Riley's "Ye watchers and ye holy ones" (thus it is sometimes known as VIGILES ET SANCTI).
 
In this hymn a great text is matched by an equally strong and effective tune. Try these two possibilities of antiphonal singing: divide stanzas between women and men, or assign the verses to one group and the "alleluias" to another. Accompanists can signal such antiphonal effects in their use of varied registration. Registration changes also will help interpret the text; for example, the third stanza can begin with a lighter registration and move to a "blazing" sound on the second half.
 
Try having the congregation sing some stanzas unaccompanied but add organ (with full stops) at the "alleluias." Or, for a fine effect, have the congregation sing some stanzas in unison with accompaniment and the choir sing the "alleluias" in harmony unaccompanied, as indicated. It is musically correct and pastorally wise to observe a fermata at the end of the second "alleluia" on the second system by turning that half note into a whole note. No ritard is necessary at the end of the hymn; it is built right into the final "alleluia" phrase. Try adding instruments to enhance this magnificent tune; there are several fine concertato versions in print that involve trumpets and/or full brass scoring.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Isaac Watts (b. Southampton, England, 1674; d. London, England, 1748) was a precocious student and voracious reader. As a youth he studied Latin, Greek, French, and Hebrew. He declined an offer to study at Oxford and chose instead to attend an independent academy in Stoke Newington (1690-1694). From 1696 to 1701 Watts was tutor for the family of Sir John Hartopp, and in 1702 he became the pastor of Mark Lane Independent Chapel in London. However, ill health, which he had suffered for some years, took a serious turn in 1712. After that time he served the Mark Lane Chapel only on a part-time basis and moved in to the estate of Sir Thomas Abney to became the family chaplain, a position he held for the rest of his life. During the following thirty-six years Watts was a prolific author–writing books about theology, philosophy (including an influential textbook, Logic), and education, as well as con­ducting a voluminous correspondence.
 
Today, Watts is best remembered for his psalm paraphrases and hymns. Many of his contemporaries were exclusive psalm singers. After complaining about the poor quality of many of the psalm paraphrases, the teenager Watts was challenged by his father, "Give us something better!" So he began to write new psalm versifications in which he deliberately chose not to follow closely the King James text but instead to interpret the Old Testament psalms through contemporary British Christian and New Testament eyes.
 
The next step was to write hymns rather than Scripture paraphrases. What he called "hymns of human composure" established him as the creator of the modern English hymn; he is known as the "father of English hymnody." Altogether, Watts wrote more than six hundred psalm and hymn texts, which were published in his Horae Lyricae (1706), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707), Divine Songs . . . for the Use of Children (1715), The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719), and Sermons and Hymns (1721-1727). Most of Watts' texts use the traditional British ballad meters (Short Meter, Common Meter, and Long Meter) and state their theme in often memorable first lines. His work became immensely popular in the English-speaking world, including the United States, where, following the American Revolution, Watts' texts were edited by Timothy Dwight in 1801 to remove their British connotations. Several of his versifications and hymns are still found in most hymnals; especially loved are the paraphrase of Psalm 90, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" (405), and the hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" (175).
— Bert Polman

Through his composing, conducting, collecting, editing, and teaching, Ralph Vaughan Williams (b. Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, England, October 12, 1872; d. Westminster, London, England, August 26, 1958) became the chief figure in the realm of English music and church music in the first half of the twentieth century. His education included instruction at the Royal College of Music in London and Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as additional studies in Berlin and Paris. During World War I he served in the army medical corps in France. Vaughan Williams taught music at the Royal College of Music (1920-1940), conducted the Bach Choir in London (1920-1927), and directed the Leith Hill Music Festival in Dorking (1905-1953). A major influence in his life was the English folk song. A knowledgeable collector of folk songs, he was also a member of the Folksong Society and a supporter of the English Folk Dance Society. Vaughan Williams wrote various articles and books, including National Music (1935), and composed numerous arrange­ments of folk songs; many of his compositions show the impact of folk rhythms and melodic modes. His original compositions cover nearly all musical genres, from orchestral symphonies and concertos to choral works, from songs to operas, and from chamber music to music for films. Vaughan Williams's church music includes anthems; choral-orchestral works, such as Magnificat (1932), Dona Nobis Pacem (1936), and Hodie (1953); and hymn tune settings for organ. But most important to the history of hymnody, he was music editor of the most influential British hymnal at the beginning of the twentieth century, The English Hymnal (1906), and coeditor (with Martin Shaw) of Songs of Praise (1925, 1931) and the Oxford Book of Carols (1928).
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

Most of us have, at some point, made or seen the paper cut-outs of a long chain of people, connected by hands and feet. Or we’ve seen images of a globe with a circle of people from around the world surrounding it, hands grasped in equality and love. This image is evoked once more in the words of Isaac Watts’ hymn, ”From All That Dwell Below the Skies.” It is a beautiful thing to imagine a whole world of people, stretching across deserts, over mountains, deep in a forest, sitting on ships in the ocean, and lining the streets of a city. It’s even more powerful to envision them with hands joined together and a song of praise on their lips. What is most astonishing is that this vision, more beautiful and powerful than we could ever imagine, will be fully realized. Every voice will be lifted in a cry of praise to our Redeemer. And until that day, though some voices are silent, we know that the whole earth resounds with a song that could only be sung in love of the Creator. 
— Laura de Jong
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