5,000 Songs – Or More!

It’s Friday and time to take a look at another gospel song.  As I thought back over the many gospel songs I grew up singing, I noticed how many had the same name listed as the author….Fanny Crosby.

Songs I have loved:

  • Blessed Assurance
  • To God Be the Glory
  • Rescue the Perishing
  • Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross
  • I Am Thine O Lord
  • Near the Cross

The list goes on and on.  I don’t think anyone knows exactly how many songs she wrote.  In my research I found articles giving numbers from 5,000 to 9,000.

For anyone to write so many songs – with so many becoming favorites – is amazing.  When you realize this woman was blind it is even more amazing.

Born in 1820 she became ill and a man who was later determined to be a quack prescribed hot mustard poultices for her eyes.  The treatment left her blind at just a few weeks old.  Shortly thereafter, her father died leaving her mother to support the family.  Fanny was then raised by her Christian grandmother.

She quickly showed signs of high intelligence, memorizing large portions of the Bible.  She had a positive attitude about her blindness, writing a poem at age eight expressing her outlook on life.

Oh, what a happy soul I am,
although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t,
To weep and sigh because I’m blind
I cannot, and I won’t!

Often asked how disappointing it must be to have been blind since a small baby, she replied:

“Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

She attended the New York Institute for the Blind in New York.  After 12 years as a student, she then became a teacher there for another 11 years.  She met her husband there, Alexander van Alstine.  An accomplished organist, he wrote the music to many of her hymns.  While she wrote the words to these many songs, she composed the music to only a few of them.  Rather, many musicians would bring their music to her and ask her to compose words to fit the music.

The contract she had with the music publisher require her to submit three hymns a week.  However, she usually wrote six or seven a day.  Writing that many songs naturally meant that many were simple, sentimental verses – but she did also compose music with a more classical structure.  When Dwight Moody began holding revivals in the late 1800’s with the musician Ira Sankey they introduced many of Fanny’s songs to the masses and from there they became popular.

Her songs were especially popular with the Methodist denomination and they used to hold an annual “Fanny Crosby Day.”

Today she has been all but forgotten by the modern church and as the last of the baby boomers die, her songs will probably be remembered no more.

But for those baby boomers who loved her songs here’s one of my favorite for you to enjoy.

My Little Composer

Years ago my father sometimes held revivals in small churches in southern Illinois.  Many of the churches either had no piano player (this was before the era of drums and guitars in worship) or a very untalented player.  Since he felt music was important for sharing the gospel, he came up with a solution.

He would give his daughter piano lessons and she could go with him to play at these services.

I was excited to learn to play.  Unlike most piano students who start with music books like “John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano,” my book was an old hymnbook.

 

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The first song I learned to play was an OLD hymn called “When I See the Blood.”  It was written in the key of “C” with no sharps or flats and a good place to start for a beginner where I could just play on the “white” keys.

After 10 months of lessons I was quite adept at playing all the songs in the hymnbook.  My teacher said I was the best student she had ever had and she wanted to teach me classical music.  I was so excited as I started this course of study.

Shortly after a few lessons in this new genre, my father felt learning classical music was money wasted.  He wanted someone to play in church.  Who needed to know how to play Bach or Beethoven?

Although I had no more lessons as a child, I continued to study on my own and took more lessons as an adult.

My music has been such a blessing to me – and I hope to others.

When I have experienced great “highs” and great “lows” in my life, music has been a release.  I can play lively show tunes or songs of praise in times of great joy.  When I have experienced times of distress or sorrow, music has also been a place of comfort.

Now I am enjoying one of the greatest joys of my musical experience.  My little granddaughter has a love for music and for the piano.  A few months ago I started giving her lessons.  Her parents say they never have to tell her practice – she loves to play and needs no prompting to play.

What is so sweet – last week she decided to become a composer.  She has a lot of stuffed animals she calls the wolf pack and she is writing a song for them.  “The Theme of the Wolf Pack.”  Not only is she writing the music – she also has words to go with the music.

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She is not quite ready to draw the lines and the actual notes so she has just written the letter of the note and has specified in some cases if it is the right or the left hand that plays the note.  She also has a repeat bar at the end so you can go back and play for the second verse she has yet to write.

It thrills this old grandma’s heart to be able to share this love of music and pass on a little of my own knowledge to the next generation.

Who knows?  Maybe some day she will write songs of worship for her generation to praise the Lord!