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The Story Of The Hymns And Tunes by John Brown (of Wamphray)



One of Watts' sublimest hymns, this Hebrew ode to the final King and His endless dominion expands the majestic prophesy in the seventy-second Psalm:

Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Does his successive journeys run,
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

The hymn itself could almost claim to be known |where'er the sun| etc., for Christian missionaries have sung it in every land, if not in every language.

One of the native kings in the South Sea Islands, who had been converted through the ministry of English missionaries, substituted a Christian for a pagan constitution in 1862. There were five thousand of his subjects gathered at the ceremonial, and they joined as with one voice in singing this hymn.


|Old Hundred| has often lent the notes of its great plain-song to the sonorous lines, and |Duke Street,| with superior melody and scarcely inferior grandeur, has given them wings; but the choice of many for music that articulates the life of the hymn would be the tune of |Samson,| from Handel's Oratorio so named. It appears as No.469 in the Evangelical Hymnal.

Handel had no peer in the art or instinct of making a note speak a word.


This hymn, also by Watts, is often sung as a Christmas song; but |The Saviour Reigns| and |He Rules the World| are bursts of prophetic triumph always apt and stimulating in missionary meetings.

Here, again, the great Handel lends appropriate aid, for |Antioch,| the popular tone-consort of the hymn, is an adaptation from his |Messiah.| The arrangement has been credited to Lowell Mason, but he seems to have taken it from an English collection by Clark of Canterbury.


Dros y brinian tywyl niwliog.

This notable hymn was written, probably about 1750, by the Rev. William Williams, a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist, born at Cefnycoed, Jan.7, 1717, near Llandovery. He began the study of medicine, but took deacon's orders, and was for a time an itinerant preacher, having left the established Church. Died at Pantycelyn, Jan.1, 1781.

His hymn, like the two preceding, antedates the great Missionary Movement by many years.

O'er the gloomy hills of darkness
Look my soul! be still, and gaze!
See the promises advancing
To a glorious Day of grace!
Blessed Jubilee,
Let thy glorious morning dawn!

Let the dark, benighted pagan,
Let the rude barbarian see
That divine and glorious conquest
Once obtained on Calvary.
Let the Gospel
Loud resound from pole to pole.

This song of anticipation has dropped out of the modern hymnals, but the last stanza lingers in many memories.

Fly abroad, thou mighty Gospel!
Win and conquer, never cease;
May thy lasting wide dominion
Multiply and still increase.
Sway Thy scepter,
Saviour, all the world around!


Oftener than any other the music of |Zion| has been the expression of William Williams' Missionary Hymn. It was composed by Thomas Hastings, in Washington, Ct., 1830.


Hasten, Lord, the glorious time
When beneath Messiah's sway
Every nation, every clime
Shall the Gospel call obey.
Mightiest kings its power shall own,
Heathen tribes His name adore,
Satan and his host o'erthrown
Bound in chains shall hurt no more.

Miss Harriet Auber, the author of this melodious hymn, was a daughter of James Auber of London, and was born in that city, Oct.4, 1773. After leaving London she led a secluded life at Broxbourne and Hoddesdon, in Hertfordshire, writing devotional poetry and sacred songs and paraphrases.

Her Spirit of the Psalms, published in 1829, was a collection of lyrics founded on the Biblical Psalms. |Hasten Lord,| etc., is from Ps.72, known for centuries to Christendom as one of the Messianic Psalms. Her best-known hymns have the same inspiration, as --

Wide, ye heavenly gates, unfold.

Sweet is the work, O Lord.

With joy we hail the sacred day.

Miss Auber died in Hoddesdon, Jan.20, 1862. She lived to witness and sympathise with the pioneer missionary enterprise of the 19th century, and, although she could not stand among the leaders of the battle-line in extending the conquest of the world for Christ, she was happy in having written a campaign hymn which they loved to sing. (It is curious that so pains-taking a work as Julian's Dictionary of Hymns and Hymn-writers credits |With joy we hail the sacred day| to both Miss Auber and Henry Francis Lyte. Coincidences are known where different hymns by different authors begin with the same line; and in this case one writer was dead before the other's works were published. Possibly the collector may have seen a forgotten hymn of Lyte's, with that first line.)

The tune that best interprets this hymn in spirit and in living music is Lowell Mason's |Eltham.| Its harmony is like a chime of bells.


Let party names no more
The Christian world o'erspread;
Gentile and Jew, and bond and free,
Are one in Christ the Head.

This hymn of Rev. Benjamin Beddome sounds like a prelude to the grand rally of the Christian Churches a generation later for united advance into foreign fields. It was an after-sermon hymn -- like so many of Watts and Doddridge -- and spoke a good man's longing to see all sects stand shoulder to shoulder in a common crusade.

Tune -- Boylston.


The tune written to this pealing hymn of Sir John Bowring by Lowell Mason has never been superseded. In animation and vocal splendor it catches the author's own clear call, echoing the shout of Zion's sentinels from city to city, and happily reproducing in movement and phrase the great song-dialogue. Words and music together, the piece ranks with the foremost missionary lyrics. Like the greater Mason-Heber world-song, it has acquired no arbitrary name, appearing in Mason's own tune-books under its first hymn-line and likewise in many others. A few hymnals have named it |Bowring,| (and why not?) and some later ones simply |Watchman.|

Watchman, tell us of the night.
What its signs of promise are!
Traveler, on yon mountain height.
See that glory-beaming star!

Watchman, does its beauteous ray
Aught of hope or joy foretell?
Trav'ler, yes; it brings the day,
Promised day of Israel.

Watchman, tell us of the night;
Higher yet that star ascends.
Trav'ler, blessedness and light
Peace and truth its course portends.

Watchman, will its beams alone
Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Trav'ler, ages are its own.
See! it bursts o'er all the earth.


In some versions |Ye Christian heroes,| etc.

Professor David R. Breed attributes this stirring hymn to Mrs. Vokes (or Voke) an English or Welsh lady, who is supposed to have written it somewhere near 1780, and supports the claim by its date of publication in Missionary and Devotional Hymns at Portsea, Wales, in 1797. In this Dr. Breed follows (he says) |the accepted tradition.| On the other hand the Coronation Hymnal (1894) refers the authorship to a Baptist minister, the Rev. Bourne Hall Draper, of Southampton (Eng.), born 1775, and this choice has the approval of Dr. Charles Robinson. The question occurs whether, when the hymn was published in good faith as Mrs. Vokes', it was really the work of a then unknown youth of twenty-two.

The probability is that the hymn owns a mother instead of a father -- and a grand hymn it is; one of the most stimulating in Missionary song-literature.

The stanza --

God shield you with a wall of fire!
With flaming zeal your breasts inspire;
Bid raging winds their fury cease,
And hush the tumult into peace,

-- has been tampered with by editors, altering the last line to |Calm the troubled seas,| etc., (for the sake of the longer vowel;) but the substitution, |He'll shield you,| etc., in the first line, turns a prayer into a mere statement.

The hymn was -- and should remain -- a God-speed to men like William Carey, who had already begun to think and preach his immortal motto, |Attempt great things for God; expect great things of God.|


Is the |Missionary Chant,| and no other. Its composer, Heinrich Christopher Zeuner, was born in Eisleben, Saxony, Sept.20, 1795. He came to the United States in 1827, and was for many years organist at Park Street Church, Boston, and for the Handel and Haydn Society. In 1854 he removed to Philadelphia where he served three years as organist to St. Andrews Church, and Arch Street Presbyterian. He became insane in 1857, and in November of that year died by his own hand.

He published an oratorio |The Feast of Tabernacles,| and two popular books, the American Harp, 1832, and The Ancient Lyre, 1833. His compositions are remarkably spirited and vigorous, and his work as a tune-maker was much in demand during his life, and is sure to continue, in its best examples, as long as good sacred music is appreciated.

To another beautiful missionary hymn of Mrs. Vokes, of quieter tone, but songful and sweet, Dr. Mason wrote the tune of |Migdol.| It is its musical twin.

Soon may the last glad song arise
Through all the millions of the skies.
That song of triumph which records
That |all the earth is now the Lord's.|


This admired and always popular church hymn was written near the beginning of the last century by the Rev. Thomas Kelly, born in Dublin, 1760. He was the son of the Hon. Chief Baron Thomas Kelly of that city, a judge of the Irish Court of Common Pleas. His father designed him for the legal profession, but after his graduation at Trinity College he took holy orders in the Episcopal Church, and labored as a clergyman among the scenes of his youth for more than sixty years, becoming a Nonconformist in his later ministry. He was a sweet-souled man, who made troops of friends, and was honored as much for his piety as for his poetry, music, and oriental learning.

|I expect never to die,| he said, when Lord Plunkett once told him he would reach a great age. He finished his earthly work on the 14th of May, 1855, when he was eighty-five years old. But he still lives. His zeal for the coming of the Kingdom of Christ prompted his best hymn.

On the mountain-top appearing,
Lo! the sacred herald stands,
Joyful news to Zion bearing,
Zion long in hostile lands;
Mourning captive,
God himself will loose thy bands.

Has the night been long and mournful?
Have thy friends unfaithful proved?
Have thy foes been proud and scornful,
By thy sighs and tears unmoved?
Cease thy mourning;
Zion still is well beloved.


To presume that Kelly made both words and music together is possible, for he was himself a composer, but no such original tune seems to survive. In modern use Dr. Hastings' |Zion| is most frequently attached to the hymn, and was probably written for it.


This rather crude parody on the |Marseillaise Hymn| (see Chap.9) is printed in the American Vocalist, among numerous samples of early New England psalmody of untraced authorship. It might have been sung at primitive missionary meetings, to spur the zeal and faith of a Francis Mason or a Harriet Newell. It expresses, at least, the new-kindled evangelical spirit of the long-ago consecrations in American church life that first sent the Christian ambassadors to foreign lands, and followed them with benedictions.

[Illustration: The Right Rev. Reginald Heber, D.D.]

Ye Christian heroes, wake to glory:
Hark, hark! what millions bid you rise!
See heathen nations bow before you,
Behold their tears, and hear their cries.
Shall pagan priest, their errors breeding,
With darkling hosts, and flags unfurled,
Spread their delusions o'er the world,
Though Jesus on the Cross hung bleeding?
To arms! To arms!
Christ's banner fling abroad!
March on! March on! all hearts resolved
To bring the world to God.

O, Truth of God! can man resign thee,
Once having felt thy glorious flame?
Can rolling oceans e'er prevent thee,
Or gold the Christian's spirit tame?
Too long we slight the world's undoing;
The word of God, salvation's plan,
Is yet almost unknown to man,
While millions throng the road to ruin.
To arms! to arms!
The Spirit's sword unsheath:
March on! March on! all hearts resolved,
To victory or death.


James Montgomery (says Dr. Breed) is |distinguished as the only layman besides Cowper among hymn-writers of the front rank in the English language.| How many millions have recited and sung his fine and exhaustively descriptive poem, --

Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,

-- selections from almost any part of which are perfect definitions, and have been standard hymns on prayer for three generations. English Hymnology would as unwillingly part with his missionary hymns, --

The king of glory we proclaim.

Hark, the song of jubilee!

-- and, noblest of all, the lyric of prophecy and praise which heads this paragraph.

Hail to the Lord's anointed,
King David's greater Son!
Hail, in the time appointed
His reign on earth begun.

* * * * *

Arabia's desert ranger
To Him shall bow the knee,
The Ethiopian stranger
His glory come to see.

* * * * *

Kings shall fall down before Him
And gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him,
His praise all people sing.

The hymn is really the seventy-second Psalm in metre, and as a version it suffers nothing by comparison with that of Watts. Montgomery wrote it as a Christmas ode. It was sung Dec.25, 1821, at a Moravian Convocation, but in 1822 he recited it at a great missionary meeting in Liverpool, and Dr. Adam Clarke was so charmed with it that he inserted it in his famous Commentary. In no long time afterwards it found its way into general use.

The spirit of his missionary parents was Montgomery's Christian legacy, and in exalted poetical moments it stirred him as the divine afflatus kindled the old prophets.


The music editors in some hymnals have borrowed the favorite choral variously named |Webb| in honor of its author, and |The Morning Light is Breaking| from the first line of its hymn. Later hymnals have chosen Sebastian Wesley's |Aurelia| to fit the hymn, with a movement similar to that of |Webb|; also a German B flat melody |Ellacombe,| undated, with livelier step and a ringing chime of parts. No one of these is inappropriate.

Samuel Sebastian Wesley, grandson of Charles Wesley the great hymnist, was born in London, 1810. Like his father, Samuel, he became a distinguished musician, and was organist at Exeter, Winchester and Gloucester Cathedrals. Oxford gave him the degree of Doctor of Music. He composed instrumental melodies besides many anthems, services, and other sacred pieces for choir and congregational singing. Died in Gloucester, April 19, 1876.


The familiar story of this hymn scarcely needs repeating; how one Saturday afternoon in the year 1819, young Reginald Heber, Rector of Hodnet, sitting with his father-in-law, Dean Shipley, and a few friends in the Wrexham Vicarage, was suddenly asked by the Dean to |write something to sing at the missionary meeting tomorrow,| and retired to another part of the room while the rest went on talking; how, very soon after, he returned with three stanzas, which were hailed with delighted approval; how he then insisted upon adding another octrain to the hymn and came back with --

Waft, waft, ye winds, His story,
And you, ye waters, roll;

-- and how the great lyric was sung in Wrexham Church on Sunday morning for the first time in its life. The story is old but always fresh. Nothing could better have emphasized the good Dean's sermon that day in aid of |The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts,| than that unexpected and glorious lyric of his poet son-in-law.

By common consent Heber's |Missionary Hymn| is the silver trumpet among all the rallying bugles of the church.


The union of words and music in this instance is an example of spiritual affinity. |What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.| The story of the tune is a record of providential birth quite as interesting as that of the hymn. In 1823, a lady in Savannah, Ga., having received and admired a copy of Heber's lyric from England, desired to sing it or hear it sung, but knew no music to fit the metre. She finally thought of a young clerk in a bank close by, Lowell Mason by name, who sometimes wrote music for recreation, and sent her son to ask him if he would make a tune that would sing the lines. The boy returned in half an hour with the composition that doubled Heber's fame and made his own.

In the words of Dr. Charles Robinson, |Like the hymn it voices, it was done at a stroke, and it will last through the ages.|


Not far behind Dr. Heber's chef-d'oeuvre in lyric merit is the still more famous missionary hymn of Dr. S.F. Smith, author of |My Country, 'Tis of Thee.| Another missionary hymn of his which is widely used is --

Yes, my native land, I love thee,
All thy scenes, I love them well.
Friends, connections, happy country,
Can I bid you all farewell?
Can I leave you
Far in heathen lands to dwell?

Drs. Nutter and Breed speak of |The Morning Light is Breaking,| and its charm as a hymn of peace and promise, and intimate that it has |gone farther and been more frequently sung than any other missionary hymn.| Besides the English, there are versions of it in four Latin nations, the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French, and oriental translations in Chinese and several East Indian tongues and dialects, as well as one in Swedish. It author had the rare felicity, while on a visit to his son, a missionary in Burmah, of hearing it sung by native Christians in their language, and of being welcomed with an ovation when they knew who he was.

The morning light is breaking!
The darkness disappears;
The sons of earth are waking
To penitential tears;
Each breeze that sweeps the ocean
Brings tidings from afar,
Of nations in commotion,
Prepared for Zion's war.

Rich dews of grace come o'er us
In many a gentle shower,
And brighter scenes before us
Are opening every hour.
Each cry to heaven going
Abundant answer brings,
And heavenly gales are blowing
With peace upon their wings.

* * * * *

Blest river of Salvation,
Pursue thy onward way;
Flow thou to every nation,
Nor in thy richness stay.
Stay not till all the lowly
Triumphant reach their home;
Stay not till all the holy
Proclaim, |The Lord is come!|

Samuel Francis Smith, D.D., was born in Boston in 1808, and educated in Harvard University (1825-1829). He prepared for the ministry, and was pastor of Baptist churches at Waterville, Me., and Newton, Mass., before entering the service of the American Baptist Missionary union as editor of its Missionary Magazine.

He was a scholarly and graceful writer, both in verse and prose, and besides his editorial work, he was frequently an invited participant or guest of honor on public occasions, owing to his fame as author of the national hymn. His pure and gentle character made him everywhere beloved and reverenced, and to know him intimately in his happy old age was a benediction. He died suddenly and painlessly in his seat on a railway train, November 16, 1895 in his eighty-eighth year.

Dr. Smith wrote twenty-six hymns now more or less in use in church worship, and eight for Sabbath school collections.


|Millennial Dawn| is the title given it by a Boston compiler, about 1844, but since the music and hymn became |one and indivisable| it has been named |Webb,| and popularly known as |Morning Light| or oftener still by its first hymn-line, |The morning light is breaking.|

George James Webb was born near Salisbury, Wiltshire, Eng., June 24, 1803. He studied music in Salisbury and for several years played the organ at Falmouth Church. When still a young man (1830), he came to the United States, and settled in Boston where he was long the leading organist and music teacher of the city. He was associate director of the Boston Academy of Music with Lowell Mason, and joint author and editor with him of several church-music collections. Died in Orange, N.J., Nov.7, 1887.

Dr. Webb's own account of the tune |Millennial Dawn| states that he wrote it at sea while on his way to America -- and to secular words and that he had no idea who first adapted it to the hymn, nor when.


This animating lyric was written by Charles Mackay. Sung by a good vocalist, the fine solo air composed (with its organ chords) by I.B. Woodbury, is still a feature in some missionary meetings, especially the fourth stanza --

If I were a voice, an immortal voice,
I would fly the earth around:
And wherever man to his idols bowed,
I'd publish in notes both long and loud
The Gospel's joyful sound.
I would fly, I would fly, on the wings of day,
Proclaiming peace on my world-wide way,
Bidding the saddened earth rejoice --
If I were a voice, an immortal voice,
I would fly, I would fly,
I would fly on the wings of day.

Charles Mackay, the poet, was born in Perth, Scotland, 1814, and educated in London and Brussels; was engaged in editorial work on the London Morning Chronicle and Glasgow Argus, and during the Corn Law agitation wrote popular songs, notably |The Voice of the Crowd| and |There's a Good Time Coming,| which (like the far inferior poetry of Ebenezer Elliot) won the lasting love of the masses for a superior man who could be |The People's Singer and Friend.| He came to the United States in 1857 as a lecturer, and again in 1862, remaining three years as war correspondent of the London Times. Glasgow University made him LL.D. in 1847. His numerous songs and poems were collected in a London edition. Died Dec.24, 1889.

Isaac Baker Woodbury was born in Beverly, Mass., 1819, and rose from the station of a blacksmith's apprentice to be a tone-teacher in the church. He educated himself in Europe, returned and sang his life songs, and died in 1858 at the age of thirty-nine.

A tune preferred by many as the finer music is the one written to the words by Mr. Sankey, Sacred Songs, No.2.


This inspiriting song of farewell to departing missionaries was written in 1890 to Woodbury's appropriate popular melody by Fanny J. Crosby, at the request of Ira D. Sankey. The key-word and refrain are adapted from the original song by Woodbury (1848), but in substance and language the three hymn-stanzas are the new and independent work of this later writer.

Speed away! speed away on your mission of light,
To the lands that are lying in darkness and night;
'Tis the Master's command; go ye forth in His name, The wonderful gospel of Jesus proclaim;
Take your lives in your hand, to the work while 'tis day, Speed away! speed away! speed away!

Speed away, speed away with the life-giving Word,
To the nations that know not the voice of the Lord; Take the wings of the morning and fly o'er the wave, In the strength of your Master the lost ones to save; He is calling once more, not a moment's delay,
Speed away! speed away! speed away!

Speed away, speed away with the message of rest,
To the souls by the tempter in bondage oppressed;
For the Saviour has purchased their ransom from sin, And the banquet is ready. O gather them in;
To the rescue make haste, there's no time for delay, Speed away! speed away! speed away!


Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, the author of this rousing hymn of Christian warfare, a rector of the Established Church of England and a writer of note, was born at Exeter, Eng., Jan.28, 1834. Educated at Clare College, Cambridge, he entered the service of the church, and was appointed Rector of East Mersea, Essex, in 1871. He was the author of several hymns, original and translated, and introduced into England from Flanders, numbers of carols with charming old Christmas music. The |Christian Soldiers| hymn is one of his (original) processionals, and the most inspiring.

Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
Christ the Royal Master
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle,
See, His banners go!
Onward, Christian soldiers, etc.

* * * * *

Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God;
Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod;
We are not divided,
All one body we,
One in hope, in doctrine,
One in charity.


Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan, Doctor of Music, who wrote the melody for this hymn, was born in London, May 13, 1842. He gained the Mendelssohn Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, and also at the Conservatory of Leipsic. He was a fertile genius, and his compositions included operettas, symphonies, overtures, anthems, hymn-tunes, an oratorio (|The Prodigal Son|), and almost every variety of tone production, vocal and instrumental. Queen Victoria knighted him in 1883.

The grand rhythm of |Onward, Christian Soldiers| -- hymn and tune -- is irresistible whether in band march or congregational worship. Sir Arthur died in London, November 22, 1900.


Designed originally for children's voices, the hymn of five stanzas beginning with this line was written by Hezekiah Butterworth, author of the Story of the Hymns (1875), Story of the Tunes (1890), and many popular books of historic interest for the young, the most widely read of which is Zigzag Journeys in Many Lands. He also composed and published many poems and hymns. He was born in Warren, R.I., Dec.22, 1839, and for twenty-five years was connected with the Youth's Companion as regular contributor and member of its editorial staff. He died in Warren, R.I., Sept.5, 1905.

The hymn |O Church, arise| was sung in Mason's tune of |Dort| until Prof. Case wrote a melody for it, when it took the name of the |Convention Hymn.|

Professor Charles Clinton Case, music composer and teacher, was born in Linesville, Pa., June, 1843. Was a pupil of George F. Root and pursued musical study in Chicago, Ill., Ashland, O., and South Bend, Ind. He was associated with Root, McGranahan, and others in making secular and church music books, and later with D.L. Moody in evangelical work.

As author and compiler he has published numerous works, among them Church Anthems, the Harvest Song and Case's Chorus Collection.

O Church! arise and sing
The triumphs of your King,
Whose reign is love;
Sing your enlarged desires,
That conquering faith inspires,
Renew your signal fires,
And forward move!

* * * * *

Beneath the glowing arch
The ransomed armies march,
We follow on;
Lead on, O cross of Light,
From conquering height to height,
And add new victories bright
To triumphs won!


This hymn, set to music and copyrighted in Buffalo as a floating waif of verse by an unknown author, and used in Sunday-school work, first appeared in Dr. F.N. Peloubet's Select Songs (Biglow and Main, 1884) with a tune by Rev. George Phipps.

The hymn was written by Rev. Theron Brown, a Baptist minister, who was pastor (1859-1870) of churches in South Framingham and Canton, Mass. He was born in Willimantic, Ct., April 29, 1832.

Retired from pastoral work, owing to vocal disability, he has held contributory and editorial relations with the Youth's Companion for more than forty years, for the last twenty years a member of the office staff.

Between 1880 and 1890 he contributed hymns more or less regularly to the quartet and antiphonal chorus service at the Ruggles St. Church, Boston, the |Banner of Immanuel| being one of the number. The Blount Family, Nameless Women of the Bible, Life Songs (a volume of poems), and several books for boys, are among his published works.

The banner of Immanuel! beneath its glorious folds
For life or death to serve and fight we pledge our loyal souls. No other flag such honor boasts, or bears so proud a name, And far its red-cross signal flies as flies the lightning's flame.

* * * * *

Salvation by the blood of Christ! the shouts of triumph ring; No other watchword leads the host that serves so grand a King. Then rally, soldiers of the Cross! Keep every fold unfurled, And by Redemption's holy sign we'll conquer all the world.

The Rev. George Phipps, composer of the tune, |Immanuel's Banner,| was born in Franklin, Mass., Dec.11, 1838, was graduated at Amherst College, 1862, and at Andover Theological Seminary, 1865. Settled as pastor of the Congregational Church in Wellesley, Mass., ten years, and at Newton Highlands fifteen years.

He has written many Sunday-school melodies, notably the music to |My Saviour Keeps Me Company.|

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