<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1758373551078632&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

How 6 Popular Lutheran Service Book Hymn Tunes Got Their Names

Think about your favorite hymn in Lutheran Service Book. If you have a hymnal handy, take a minute to look it up. In the bottom right corner of the page, there’s probably a name listed in all capital letters—this is the hymn tune. Some are simple, like CAROL or GREENSLEEVES. Others are phrases, often in Latin or German.

Have you ever wondered how a hymn tune gets its name? If so, you’re in good company! The origin of hymn tunes and their names is rather fascinating. Some tune names get changed over the years, some are named after people or places, and still others have entirely unknown backgrounds. Here’s a handful of well-known hymn tunes and how they got their names.

DUKE STREET

Credit for the tune DUKE STREET is given to composer John Hatton. Legend has it that he lived on Duke Street in St. Helen’s, Lancaster, England and that this is where the tune originated. Although the tune is attributed to Hatton, its first print appearance was in Euphonia, William Dixon’s book that was published in Liverpool, England, between 1805 and 1808. Additionally, Duke Street is a famous street in Liverpool, so it’s possible the tune name comes from Liverpool instead of Lancaster.

Despite the mystery surrounding its origins, DUKE STREET remains a fundamentally important tune for Lutheran hymnody.

Related hymns: “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (461) and “Jesus Shall Reign” (832)

EBENEZER  

This hymn tune was composed by Thomas J. Williams during the 19th century. Its name hails from Ebenezer Chapel, located in Rhos, a village in southern Wales. The composer attended church at Ebenezer Chapel.

Related hymn: “Thy Strong Word” (578)

FARLEY CASTLE

The original tune was composed by Henry Lawes in the seventeenth century. In 1810, a country house was built near Swallowfield in Berkshire, England, and named “Farley Castle.” Connection, if any exists, between the manor home and the hymn tune FARLEY CASTLE is unclear.

Related hymns: “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face” (631), “Eternal Spirit of the Living Christ” (769), and “Lord of All Good” (786) 

FOREST GREEN

Forest Green is the name of a village in Surrey, England, near Ockley. In 1903, the arranger, Ralph Vaughan Williams, transcribed the tune from a singer in Forest Green and named it after the village. FOREST GREEN is considered a folk song and was first published in 1906 in both The English Hymnal with Tunes and the Journal of the Folk-Song Society.

Related hymns: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (361) and “O Sing of Christ” (362)

RATHBUN

According to Robert Guy McCutchan, the tune RATHBUN was “named after Mrs. Beriah S. Rathbun, leading soprano of the choir of the Central Baptist Church, Norwich, Connecticut.” It was “named by its composer (Ithamar Conkey), who was organist and choir director of that church when he wrote the tune.”

Related hymn: “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” (427)

ST. GERTRUDE 

During the nineteenth century, composer Arthur Sullivan often boarded with Gertrude Clay-Ker-Seymer and her family in Dorsetshire, England. The Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns records the following about ST. GERTRUDE:

Mrs. Clay-Ker-Seymer wrote in a letter dated August 13, 1901, and quoted in the July 1, 1902, issue of The Musical Times p. 477: “I can tell you that I believe the tune was written at Hanford, my home in Dorsetshire, while Sir Arthur was staying there, but it is so long ago I cannot be quite sure; what I do remember, however, is that we sang it in the private chapel attached to the house, Sir Arthur playing the harmonium, and having taught us the tune, as we had not the music. Therefore it was certainly not published then, but I think we may assume that it was written there.”

Related hymn: “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (662)


To read more about Lutheran Service Book hymn tunes and how they got their names, order a copy of Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns.

Purchase the Two Volume Set

Written by

Allison Lewis

Allison Lewis is a marketing content specialist at Concordia Publishing House. She is a native St. Louisan, a proud Mizzou J-School graduate, and a huge fan of Blues hockey and Cardinals baseball. Outside of work, Allison enjoys traveling, working out, book club, trying new recipes, and spending time with family and friends.

Featured

Luther on the Distinction between Law and Gospel

For the first time in English, a truly scholarly translation of Luther’s most famous disputation, referred to as The Antinomian...

Setting a Family Devotion Routine for Back to School

As your kids head back to school, you should start setting a routine for daily family devotion time. Find great devotions and tips in this...

Social Media: Walk as Children of Light

Living in a sinful world shows us darkness, even on social media. St. Paul encourages believers to walk in the light of Jesus’ death and...

Latest

Music of the Month: Built on the Rock

Hart Morris’s handbell arrangement of Built on the Rock offers a variety of techniques and octaves for players and listeners during the...

Why Christians Should Make Music with Joy

As a church musician, you should be playing with joy! Play with the same joy that you have in knowing you are glorifying your Savior...

Music of the Month: Piano Prelude Series: Volume 4 (FG)

Piano Prelude Series volume 4 features preludes for tunes starting with the letters F and G. Contributing composers: Timothy Shaw and Anne...