Re-exploring The Commitment Hymn
The Commitment Hymn is what “Take My Life And Let It Be” (1874) was intended for by English poet and hymn writer Frances Havergal. According to her, she had been praying with the Church Missionary Society in Switzerland where she witnessed the consecration of 10 in a house after offering God a prayer: “Lord, give me all in this house”. The fulfillment of her prayer inspired her to write the hymn. Her sacred poetry for this was exactly how she was living her life as if the hymn is a profession of her absolute surrender to the will of God. Decades after she put her poetry on paper, the hymn is being sung around the world. Beyond her catalog of verse, which reads like an inventory of talents, riches and physical parts being offered for the glory of God, it had a tune that lent to its being circulated rapidly. The hymn was published in 1876 in Charles Snepp’s Songs of Grace and Glory.
The composer of the tune of “Take My Life And Let It Be” is Swiss writer and composer H. A. Cesar Malan. Malan’s composition HENDON (1827), named after a village in Middlesex, England, accompanies Frances Havergal’s poetry perfectly. HENDON is composed of five phrases, requiring the repetition of the fourth phrase to adhere to the tune. To a singer, these phrase repetitions are considered a pleasant reflective moment on how he might be able to fulfill his commitment to surrendering his life to God. To add an element of poignancy, solo singing could be administered at the third stanza of “Take My Life And Let It Be”; This is the petition of one who sings, surrendering her vocal gift to only sing or speak of messages from God. To the piano or organ player, the recommendation is to articulate the repetition of tones on the instrument clearly, somewhat loudly in Mezzo Forte. Malan has provided for the harmonization during congregational singing.