During the Christmas season, many songs resonate with people around the world. One of those immediately recognizable hymns is “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” found in Lutheran Service Book (803). As a child, I frequently sang this in children’s choirs and even played it on my flute year after year. It’s loved by so many and a staple of winter and Christmas celebrations. Additionally, Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday is celebrated in December (based on his Baptism date of December 17), with 2020 marking the 250th anniversary of his birth. It’s perfect timing for his most favored tune, HYMN TO JOY, to make an appearance!
HYMN TO JOY was composed as part of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9. It was featured in the final movement with soloists, a choir, and an orchestra, using large variations on the hymn we hear today. The lyrics that we have come to know in “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” were written by the poet Henry Van Dyke in 1907, specifically set to Beethoven’s tune, HYMN TO JOY. The hymn is so popular today that it appears in over twenty different Concordia Publishing House compositions and fills Christian radio stations across the country. Here are three different collections featuring HYMN TO JOY that are perfect to add to your music repertoire.
A Beautiful Piano Setting
The Hymn Tune Masters for Piano collection features ten different settings and is perfect for more advanced pianists looking to expand their collections. The HYMN TO JOY tune in this collection has a setting by David von Kampen. It opens with a wonderful flourish of triplets. The familiar tune can be heard in the opening melodic chords before a second interpretation of the tune begins. Gorgeous eighth-note triplets begin again before the familiar melody finally plays out, ending on the eighth-note triplets one final time.
An Easy Organ Prelude
Musica Sacra: Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 10 by Jacob B. Weber lets the familiar tune take center stage in this easy arrangement for organists. The setting opens with a bright, majestic sound that carries the melody throughout the entire introduction. HYMN TO JOY is gorgeous to hear on the organ, as the tune is easy for listeners to find early in the arrangement. This piece is excellent for congregations to hum along with and as an introduction for the singing of “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.”
A Fun Easter Setting
Although the familiar HYMN TO JOY is known for its Christmas hymn, the tune is also used for an Easter hymn, “Alleluia, Alleluia! Hearts to Heaven” (LSB 477). One medium-difficulty setting of this tune comes from Benjamin Kolodziej in Notes of Gladness: Six Easter Hymn Settings for Organ. The lively setting plays with an eighth-note variation on the main tune. The main melody can be heard throughout with fun interjections of eighth notes in the countermelody, giving it a bright, bouncy feel.
A happy birthday to Ludwig van Beethoven! Without his composition of Symphony no. 9, we would not have the wonderful hymn tune to “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” and the wondrous delight that it has brought Christians everywhere. Next time you’re perusing your copy of Lutheran Service Book, look at the fine print in the bottom corner and see if you notice any big-name composers hidden in there.
Listen to an Advent and Christmas music playlist on the Concordia Publishing House YouTube channel.