Composer: Anonymous

In some hymnals, the editors noted that a hymn's author is unknown to them, and so this artificial "person" entry is used to reflect that fact. Obviously, the hymns attributed to "Author Unknown" "Unknown" or "Anonymous" could have been written by many people over a span of many centuries. Go to person page >

Tune Information

Composer: Anonymous (1829)
Incipit: 51313 21655 13132
Key: F Major or modal
Source: Virginia Harmony, 1831


Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind but now I see.

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NEW BRITAIN (also known as AMAZING GRACE) was originally a folk tune, probably sung slowly with grace notes and melodic embellishments. Typical of the Appalachian tunes from the southern United States, NEW BRITAIN is pentatonic with melodic figures that outline triads. It was first published as a hymn tune in shape notes in Columbian Harmony (1829) to the text "Arise, my soul, my joyful pow'rs." It was first set to "Amazing Grace" in William Walker's (PHH 44) Southern Harmony (1835) (see facsimile at p. 85).

The setting is from Edwin O. Excell's Make His Praise Glorious (1900). Excell (b. Stark County, OH, 1851; d. Louisville, KY, 1921) grew up in a German Reformed parsonage and worked as a bricklayer as a young man. In 1871 he became a singing school teacher. Soon after, while leading the music and singing solos in a Methodist revival, he experienced a conversion. Excell joined evangelist Sam P. Jones as a song leader, and the two traveled the United States as an evangelistic team. An important figure in the Sunday school movement, Excell wrote over two thousand gospel songs and edited ninety songbooks. He became a very successful publisher of hymn books in Chicago; his company, the Biglow-Main-Excell Company, eventually merged with Hope Publishing Company.

Since NEW BRITAIN is pentatonic, it can be sung unaccompanied in a two- or even four-part canon, with groups entering after one or two measures. Sing stanzas 1 and 5 in unison and stanzas 2 and 3 in harmony, and to illustrate the text, try stanza 4 in canon. Use light accompaniment, but consider singing stanza 3 unaccompanied.

Some recordings of "Amazing Grace" by recent pop singers have cast a sentimental shadow over this hymn, presumably because those performers do not understand the experience of salvation that so amazed Newton. Christians should sing this hymn with some vigor and a moderate tempo that supports their convictions.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Also see this book:
Turner, Steve. Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song. New York: Ecco, 2002.


Baptist Hymnal 1991 #330
Text: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound
Christian Classics Ethereal Hymnary #165
  • Four-part harmony, full-score (PDF, NWC)
The Cyber Hymnal #144
Text: Amazing Grace
  • Adobe Acrobat image (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer score (NWC)
  • XML score (XML)
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #462
Text: Amazing Grace--How Sweet the Sound
Timeless Truths #556
Text: Amazing Grace
The United Methodist Hymnal #378
Text: Amazing Grace
Worship and Rejoice #422
Text: Amazing Grace!


Instances (57)TextImageAudioScoreFlexscore
African American Heritage Hymnal #271Image
Baptist Hymnal 1991 #330TextImageAudioScore
Baptist Hymnal 2008 #104TextImage
Celebrating Grace Hymnal #587Image
Chalice Hymnal #546Text
Christian Classics Ethereal Hymnary #165AudioScore
Christian Science Hymnal Supplement: Hymns 430-462 #431
Christian Worship: a Lutheran hymnal #379Text
Church Hymnary (4th ed.) #555aText
Church Hymnary (4th ed.) #555bText
Common Praise (1998) #352Text
Community of Christ Sings #19
Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary #218Text
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #779Image
Gather (3rd ed.) #645Image
Gather Comprehensive #612Text
Gather Comprehensive, Second Edition #586
Glory & Praise Parish Music Program #3
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #649TextImageAudio
Hinário para o Culto Cristão #314
Hymnal 1982: according to the use of the Episcopal Church #671TextImage
Hymns for Today's Church (2nd ed.) #28
Hymns of Faith #200TextImage
Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd ed.) #495
Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd ed.) #786Text
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: an African American hymnal #49Text
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: an African American hymnal #181Text
Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #670ImageFlexscore
Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #691ImageAudioFlexscore
Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #693ImageAudio
Lutheran Service Book #744TextImage
Presbyterian Hymnal: hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs #280TextImage
Psalms for All Seasons: a complete Psalter for worship #40BImage
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #462TextImageAudioScoreFlexscore
Rejoice Hymns #130
Rejoice in the Lord #456Text
Renew! #189TextImage
Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #108
Shaping Sanctuary: Proclaiming God's Grace in an Inclusive Church #274b
Sing Joyfully #299TextImage
Sing With Me #186Text
Singing the New Testament #214
Songs for Life #209Text
Songs for Suffering Saints: Thirty-two original hymns set to existing tunes #28
The Celebration Hymnal: songs and hymns for worship #343Image
The Covenant Hymnal: a worshipbook #341
The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration #202
The New Century Hymnal #547Image
The New Century Hymnal #548Image
The New Century Hymnal #617Image
The Sacred Harp 1991 Revision: The Best Collection of Sacred Songs, Hymns, Odes, and Anthems Ever Offered the Singing Public for General Use #45T
The United Methodist Hymnal #378TextImageAudioScoreFlexscore
The Worshiping Church #502TextImageFlexscore
Trinity Hymnal (Rev. ed.) #460TextImageFlexscore
Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of The United Church of Canada #266Text
Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of The United Church of Canada #864
Worship and Rejoice #422TextImageAudioScore