Opus number: 20

Title: “Four Sacred Songs” Text: Old hymn tunes

Instrumentation: soprano and piano

Date written: July 1984, Boston, Mass.

Length: sixteen minutes

Premiere performance: Rebecca Scott, soprano, Melville Brown, pianist, January 15, 1985, Whitney Museum Sculpture Court, New York

Important subsequent performances: Mary Saunders, soprano, Michael Dewart, pianist, March 1986, Boston Conservatory; Mary Saunders, Larry Bell, April 20, 1985; Saunders and Bell, November 10, 1988, Boston Conservatory. D’Anna Fortunato, mezzo-soprano; Larry Bell, piano, Woodstock Fringe American Song/Fest, August 2003, Woodstock, NY

Recordings: Albany Records CD (Troy741)  D’Anna Fortunato, mezzo-soprano; Larry Bell, piano. Performance tapes of both Saunders and Bell performances at The Boston Conservatory library.

Program notes:  Four Sacred Songs were written in July 1984 in Boston and were designed as studies for a larger commissioned orchestral work entitled Sacred Symphonies. Each song is a setting of a familiar hymn tune text; the music, however, makes no references to the original hymn tunes. The first and fourth songs are written in a popular American style combining secular and sacred elements. The second song is optimistic, and evangelical and the third song represents the tragic aspects of aggressive violence. Each song is strophic and has three verses. The set ends “transcendently” with a prayer of humility. The world premiere was given in New York 15 January 1985 by Rebecca Scott; Mary Saunders presented the Boston premiere in April 1985.

1. There is a fountain (William Cowper)

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains,
Lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away:
Wash all my sins away,
Wash all m sins away;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

Ever since, by faith, I saw the stream,
Thy flowing wounds supply;
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die
And shall be till I die,
And shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

2. Take the Name of Jesus With You (Mrs. Lydia Baxter)

Take the name of Jesus with Child of sorrow and of woe;
It will joy and confort give you,
Take it, then, whee’er you go.
(Chorus) Precious name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of Heav’n;
Precious name O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of Heav’n.

Take the name of Jesus ever,
As a shield from ev’ry snare; If temptations round you gather,
Breathe that holy name in prayer. (Chorus)

O the Precious name of Jesus
How it thrills our souls with joy,
When His loving arms receive us,
And His songs our togues employ!

3. Stand up, stand up, for Jesus (George Duffield)

Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross,
Lift high His royal banner,
It must not suffer loss;
From vict’ry unto vict’ry,
His army shall He lead,
Till ev’ry foe is vanquished
And Christ is Lord indeed.

Stand up, stand up, for Jesus,
The trumpet call obey;
Forth to the mighty conflict,
In this His glorious day.
“Ye that are men now serve Him,”
Against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger,
And strength to strength oppose.

Stand up, stand up, for Jesus,
Stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you
Ye dare not trust your own;
Put on the gospel armor,
Each piece put on with prayer,
Where duty calls, or danger,
Be never wanting there.

4. Spirit of God descend upon my heart (George Croly)

Spirit of God descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness mighty as Thou art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
To check the rising dout the rebel sigh;
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
(Repeat first verse)