O Sing to Me of Heaven

Today is Reformation Sunday and if you found yourself in a Lutheran church (or some of the other Reformed church congregations) you’re likely to have sung “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” The Reformation, of course, was one of the Church’s Great Disagreements that yielded both good things and bad, and eventually resulted in a whole slew of denominations.

Among the many groups born from theological disagreement are the Primitive Baptists.  Also known as Hard Shell, or Anti-Mission Baptists, these American Christians split off from other Baptists in the 1800s due to a controversy over missions and the understanding of grace and atonement.

Because they believe the New Testament only commands us to sing, Primitive Baptists do not usually play musical instruments as part of worship.  All singing is a cappella.  The hymn “O Sing to Me of Heaven” is sung here by a congregation from southwestern Virginia, and is another example of lining out.  It’s an ecstatic song about dying and the joys of heaven. When I listen to it, the plainness of the voices, the interplay between the leader and the congregation, and the over-the-top imagery unexpectedly combine to convey strangeness and power.  It’s an other-worldly sound.

 

O Sing to me of Heaven –  words: Mary Dana Schindler

O Sing to me of Heaven.
When I am called to die.
Sweet songs of holy ecstasy.
To waft my soul on high.

CHORUS:
There’ll be no sorrow there.
There’ll be no sorrow there.
In Heaven above where all is love.
There’ll be no sorrow there.

When cold and sluggish drops.
Roll off my dying brow.
Break forth in songs of joyfulness.
Let Heaven begin below.

When the last moments come.
O, soothe my dying face.
To catch the bright seraphic gleam.
Which o’er my features play.

Then to my raptured ear.
Let one sweet song be given;
Let music charm me last on earth,
And greet me first in Heaven.

Then round my senseless clay.
Assemble those I love,
And sing of Heaven, delightful Heaven,
My glorious home above.

One comment

  1. Bob says:

    Not too far from alabama shape note singing.

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