A Sweet and Long Song for the Lord: “Come and Let Us Sweetly Join”
There is no doubt that Charles Wesley (1707–1788) is one of the hymn’s world giants. His very long work “Come and Let Us Sweetly Join” may be the lengthiest hymn he has written.
The hymn was published in Wesley’s Hymns and Sacred Poems (1740). It may be the longest hymn yet. This song has 32 stanzas and four lines within those stanzas. It doesn’t have any refrain or chorus. Anyone who would like to sing this hymn can cut off some stanzas or have a perfect singing power to sing all those lines away. A more compact version of this song is a four stanza version, which is ideal for most people.
With a long text, an excellent tune for this hymn is a must. Orlando Gibbons’ (1583-1625) “Canterbury” is the chosen tune for this long hymn. The melody is set in D Minor. Both hymn and tune were published in George Wither’s Hymnes and Songs of the Church (1623).
Like many hymns, “Come, and Let Us Sweetly Join” is inspired by Scripture. In this case, the Scripture verse 2 Samuel 22:50 is credited for this great and inspirational work.
Orlando Gibbons was a 16th century English composer who came from a musical family. His father was an Oxfordian musician while his brother was known to play the organ in Exeter. Gibbons’ formal work at music began when he was 13 and joined the King’s College Choir. His education included King’s College (1599), Cambridge University (Bachelor of Music, 1606) and Oxford University (Doctor of Music, 1622). Gibbons was also a figure in the royal court, acquiring royal appointments as the organist for the Royal Chapel in 1605. He held the same title for Westminster Abbey in 1623. Like many royal and court composers, Gibbons enjoyed an illustrious career. His work is a variety of dances, madrigals, anthems, and fantasias. His melodies include fourteen works with only four with actual titles. The rest of his tunes were only identified as “Song” with an assigned number.