Jesus is risen, Alleluia!

Christians in Ihimbo, Tanzania
From the website of St Stephen’s Lutheran Church, WSP

There are no doubt several hymns or worship songs with this title, but the one I have chosen today from Sing Praise is John Bell’s translation of a Tanzanian song of praise. I love the simple and easily learnt melodies and harmonies of East African songs, coming from a part of the world where communal singing is still an essential part of life in a way that has been lost in most ‘developed’ countries.

African Christians also seem to have a joy in their faith that we have lost in an over-cautious and over-intellectualised Western religion. From the start, this hymn is full of the confidence and joy of the first Christians that Jesus is alive and worthy of praise. Just listen to some of the phrases in this song: “Come let us worship him, endlessly sing!”; “Blest are the hearts which for him rejoice”; “Go and tell others, Christ is alive”; “Let heaven echo, let the earth sing: Jesus is saviour of everything”; and the final line, “Therefore rejoice, obey and believe”. This hymn will truly send me into the day rejoicing.

1 thought on “Jesus is risen, Alleluia!”

  1. Yes, now I feel full of guilt, because whilst practising singing this hymn for Morning Prayer I got rather bored in the repetitions of the chorus, and resolved that I would sing it straight through without going back to the chorus after each verse. Whereas, as Stephen rightly points out, the joy of singing it again is part of the essence of the East-African Christianity’s delight in Jesus!

    However, there is good precedent for what I did (as I explained at Morning Prayer) – the hymn “I will sing the wondrous story” shows evidence in its verses that it was originally a 4-line verse plus a 4-line chorus (the “Yes I’ll sing …” part), and the chorus originally came after each of the verses – but almost all hymn books nowadays contract the hymn by running the verses straight on. Mission Praise even does the same thing with the Palm Sunday hymn “All glory laud and honour”.

    On the words, I wondered about “obey” in the last line? It’s true Matthew has “teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded” at the end of his Gospel, but despite that I feel it’s a poor word for what should be joyful affirmation rather than behavioural qualification, and it puts a downer on the ending of the hymn. But I haven’t yet thought of a better word (“trust” would be the obvious word, but that’s already been used in the same verse).

    However, I confess I found the hymn frustrating in another way: I don’t find that the book’s harmonies make a lot of sense, particularly the supertonic in the alto towards the ends of lines 2, 4 and 8, but also several other chords I can’t work out whether it is really intended that way, or whether it is the arranger’s mistake, or whether it is a series of misprints in the book – but whatever it is, I think it’s wrong, and I didn’t sing it like that.

    Because there are actually quite a lot of hymns in the book which have various kinds of weirdness in their tunes, I find I have lost confidence in the book as a whole on these kinds of questions. In tomorrow’s hymn (“See what a morning”) the accompaniment in the Methodist “Singing the Faith” book is quite different from the accompaniment in “Sing Praise”, and I am reluctantly forced to conclude that others besides me have thrown up their hands in despair and simply played what they thought fit.

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