Here’s a nice gift for a sabbath day, whatever your religion. I went looking for it after writing yesterday’s piece about a morning by a city pond in winter. The song is called “For the Beauty of the Earth” and it was written by a man still in his 20s back in the 1860s. His name was Folliott Sandford Pierpoint but the arrangement is by our own contemporary, the incomparable John Rutter. This first video is a church choir doing their best with it. Watch it not for the execution of the piece, earnest and workmanlike, but for the great human touches: The older lady right near the camera fiddling with her collar. The antsy kid dragged up into the choir loft by a mom who doesn’t trust him alone in the pew. Note the man with the long straight hair parted down the middle, the woman one row down from him who feels the hymn clear down to her feet. I love the stragglers moving in and out of the room. I love the old guy who walks so directly in front of the camera you feel you can practically tweeze his nostril hairs for him… See if it doesn’t make you smile.
Now watch the one under it, a version of the same anthem by a more professional-sounding soloist, though captured by a less-than-professional video artist who manages to show only half of her face, then not even half her face, then fails entirely to show the owner of the magnificent tenor voice coming in on Verse Two…. But what lyrics in either case! Glance at them quick, then watch both videos and see if they don’t almost make you see us the way God sees us; the way we hope God sees us, earnest and messing up but doing our best with the tools we have to work with.
For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies, For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies, Over and around us lies. Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.
For the beauty of each hour Of the day and of the night, Hill and vale and tree and flow’r, Sun and Moon and stars of light, Sun and Moon and stars of light. Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.
For the joy of human love, Brother, sister, parent, child. Friends on earth and friends above For all gentle thoughts and mild. For all gentle thoughts and mild. Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise…
So human! And now this, human too, with a touch of the divine: