Welcome to talking hymns. Each month we will learn about a traditional hymn — where it comes from, what it sounds like, how to sing it. Our hymn this month is no. 274 in our hymnal, “O God of Earth and Space.”
Look at the graphic below. You will see the word LEONI under the name of the hymn. This is the name of the hymn tune.
Hymn tunes can be set to many different texts. I grew up singing this tune as “The God of Abraham Praise.”
The tune Leoni, was named for the Jewish cantor, Michael Leon (1750-1797). Leon, whose stage name was Michael Leoni, was unusual in that he had a dual career as a cantor, and as a secular musician, singing in opera and theatre productions, as well as at the synagogue.
Leon/Leoni developed admirers among non-conformist Christians. His reputation encouraged a number of Gentiles, including the Methodist Thomas Olivers, to come to the Great Synagogue in London on Friday nights to hear him.
Olivers was so impressed by Leoni’s moving rendition of the hymn Yigdal that he determined to write words for a church hymn using the melody. The result was the hymn The God of Abraham Praise, which we sing as O God of Earth and Space.
Here is a sound file of the tune.
Here is sound file of the tune being sung. Practice singing it without words – on any vowel you choose.
Here is sound file of the tune harmonized as it appears in the hymnal. Please sing along, this time using the text below.
O God of earth and space, of sea and fire and air,
Your providence surrounds us here and everywhere.
In fruit and grain and tree, in shelter from the cold,
In cooling breezes, flowing wells, now as of old.
Where faithfulness is shown, where love and truth abound,
Where beauty graces human life, there You are found.
Inspirer of all thought! Creative force of art!
The melody on every tongue, in every heart!
Wherever freedom reigns, where sin is overthrown,
Where justice fused with mercy rules, there You are known.
Give us the courage clear to make the earth a home
For all to live in harmony in Christ’s shalom.
Your word commands response and summons us to life,
We follow, strengthened by Your grace, in calm or strife.
Our ever present help, our challenge and our prod,
We praise You now and to life’s end, eternal God.
Hope this has been worthwhile. Talk to me in church, or leave a comment to let me know what can be improved.