Visit our new site at

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: What Wondrous Love is This

St. Augustine gets the credit for the aphorism "to sing is to pray twice" or, if you prefer the orignal Latin, qui cantat bis orat. I have a hard time separating my prayer from song, so perhaps it's not surprising that I've found a spiritual home with his monastic order. Each morning the Augustinians monks I pray with start their prayer with a sacred song, and end it with the words "through the cross you brought joy to the world". This traditional hymn enfolds that same tension between joy and sacrifice.

What Wonderous Love is This appears to have been originally collected from Appalachia in the early 19th century by William Walker. It is found in his 1835 book The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Walker was a singing master in the shape note tradition. Traveling masters trained communities sing and to read music by marking each note with a different shape, to make the music easier for novices to follow.

This version, by Blue Highway is a cappella, as shape songs traditionally should be, with a short instrumental introduction. The final verse is sung as a round with layers of harmony that reach way down into my soul.

The words can be found in the Lutheran Hymnal. Another version of the lyrics (and the organ tune) can be found at the Oremus Hymnal. You can get the album at iTunes or Amazon!

Please note: Here is a link to the CD here and at the RGBP Store.


  1. thanks, michelle--a lovely version of one of my favorites! because i'm playing for an installation this afternoon, this morning i attended early eucharist with mostly prerecorded song accompaniments. we sang

    Awesome God
    Lord, I Lift Your Name on High
    Healer of Our Every Ill
    Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying

    and concluded with alle, alle, alle--alleluia with miscellaneous percussion--they hand out the instruments and we get to pick the one we want.

  2. Michelle, Such a cool video -- I love the dead pan look on their faces! Makes me giggle.. uh, maybe I shouldn't.

    One time our choir had as the offertory anthem a shape note song and oh my goodness, if you have never sung that style, it's hard to do it because you have to undo in your mind everything you have been taught on how to sing. But it's so addicting once you "get it". (I probably never really "got it" but I sure did try).

    Anyway, I know we sang "Praise to the God the almighty the King of Creation" and "O, for a thousand tongues we sing" (and I couldn't find the arrangement on Youtube - boooooo - it only had the Ralph Vaughn Williams one, which isn't too bad, but oh well...

    I can't remember the Communion hymns but it was in the Wonder Love and Praise book.

  3. What a great recording of that song. You're right - it does reach deep down in your gut and grab hold.

    This morning was a big morning for us, as it was our first back in the Sanctuary since June. We've been renovating the Sanctuary all summer. Oh, how I've missed leading the hymns with the organ. So, we had one of the children's choirs sing, our bell choir, some trumpets, timpani, chimes, etc. Our hymns were Ye Servants of God (Hanover), We Praise The O God (Kremser), and Our God, Our Help in Ages Past (St. Anne). The choir sang a setting of Psalm 8 written by Ariel Quintana that was commissioned by our choir in honor of our director's 20th year here.
    Big music Sunday!

  4. hmm, at alternative worship we sang Awesome is the Lord, Get Together (the youngbloods!), Lord I Don't Know, and With My Own Two Hands. By the end we were all acoustic and people were actually singing! Such a nice change.
    At traditional worship we sang Come Christians Join to Sing--which people were loving! I was almost bowled over by the sound. And then How Can I Keep From Singing and Live Into Hope. And the choir--oh my. The choir sang the Kyrie from the Ellingboe Requiem and True Light--both times they were great. 25 people were in the choir today, in spite of the rain! Fantastic. It was a good Sunday.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. We sang:

    O day of radiant gladness
    Sing, my soul, his wondrous love
    O Lord, hear my prayer
    Now thank we all our God

    And service music and an anthem.

    My favorite part of the day (musically speaking) was watching the 3-5 year olds learning "I sing a song of the saints of God" -- preparing for All Saints' day. So adorable!

    (Oh, and I blog over here

  7. Wow!

    Qui cantat bonum bis orat...That's how I always heard it.

    And now I need to go get that arrangement and see if my band will do it. Skippy, but that was wondrous.

  8. Michelle! I loved this! Thank you for putting this up for all of us.

  9. And without Cathy's brilliant idea of doing these videos I never would have found Blue Highway either...I listened to this on my headed out to the monastery playlist this morning. (Yes, I'm checking my email at the monastery...I'm repetant, does that count??)

    Cathy, it was the looks on their faces that first dragged me into this version...

    Tripp....I sometimes see Qui bene cantat, bis orat. But to the best of my knowledge neither version appears verbatim in the extant texts (rather like "Elementary, my dear Watson"...)

    grace and peace!

  10. p.s. I suspect if I can't spell repentant, I'm not really....


You don't want to comment here; instead, come visit our new blog, We'll see you there!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.