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Music of the Month: Glory Be to Jesus

John A. Behnke has transcribed his popular organ prelude of the tune WEM IN LEIDENSTAGEN to an accessible arrangement for level II handbells. Based on three stanzas of the hymn, the first section is musically straightforward, the second has new harmonies, and the third uses descanting notes and grand harmony. Scored for 3–5 octave handbells and optional 3 octave handchimes. 

The Score

The composition begins with a short interpretive theme of the hymn tune before introducing the tune for the first time. The first time the tune appears, octave handbells sturdily ring out the simple yet beloved Lenten hymn. This first instance of the tune in the piece pairs well with the first two stanzas of the hymn “Glory Be to Jesus” (LSB 433):

Glory be to Jesus,

Who in bitter pains

Poured for me the lifeblood

From His sacred veins!

 

Grace and life eternal

In that blood I find;

Blest be His compassion,

Infinitely kind!

The composition then revisits the interpretive theme before ringing the tune a second time. The score calls for the tempo to slow slightly the second time the tune is played. This second instance features a different harmonization undergirding the tune, and the slowed pace creates a more contemplative tone when either playing or listening to the music. This tone matches stanzas three and four of the hymn, which illustrate the cost of sin:

Blest through endless ages

Be the precious stream

Which from endless torment

Did the world redeem!

Abel’s blood for vengeance

Pleaded to the skies;

But the blood of Jesus

For our pardon cries.

The piece concludes with a third and final return to the theme, played at the original tempo of the piece. The tune is then sounded once more, this time with a lovely and jubilant descant overtop the melody. This sudden but appropriate turn to joy highlights the tone in the final two stanzas of the hymn. One can hear the wafting praises being lifted toward the heavens in the conclusion to the piece:

Oft as earth exulting

Wafts its praise on high,

Angel hosts rejoicing

Make their glad reply.

 

Lift we, then, our voices,

Swell the mighty flood;

Louder still and louder

Praise the precious blood!

If your church handbell choir includes this piece in its repertoire this coming Lententide, it is worth studying the text of the hymn to understand the scope of this piece. If your handbell choir plans to play this during a service, you may consider having a note in the bulletin for the congregants listening to follow the text of the hymn during the piece so that they, too, can see the words come to life in this new composition.


To listen to an excerpt or purchase John A. Behnke’s “Glory Be to Jesus,” click the button below. 

Purchase “Glory Be to Jesus” 

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Written by

Nathan Grime

Nathan Grime is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a 2020 graduate of Hillsdale College, where he studied rhetoric, public address, and journalism. Currently, Nathan is the organist and Kantor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hillsdale, Michigan.

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