Amazing Grace, How Sweet The Sound
I had a lot of fun writing these arrangements. It was so satisfying. I think Amazing Grace must be one of the most popular songs of all time. Its been around since the 1700s. When I was looking at which songs I should work on to arrange, Amazing Grace popped up right away.
Amazing Grace was written in 1772 by John Newton (1725-1807), an English poet and Anglican clergyman. There were more than 20 melodies created for the hymn but the most known tune used today was composed by William Walker in 1835.
John Newton did not grow up religious. His personal experience and suffering were the basis of the very words he scribbled on the hymn. Newton was born in Wapping, London in the year 1725. His father was brought up as a Catholic while his mother was Independent and not attached with the Anglican Church. Her mother died of tuberculosis when he was six years old. His father was a merchant on ships and when he was eleven, he became an apprentice of his father, but it was said that Newton wasn't very obedient during his career. He once denounced his faith when one of his shipmates discussed to him a book called “Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times” by Third Earl of Shaftesbury. He was pressed into the navy because of his disobedience but he deserted it because he fell in love with his family friend, Mary “Polly” Catlett. He was traded as a crew to a slave ship because of his abandonment. In the slave ship, he was imprisoned, chained and almost starved to death because of creating obscene poems and songs about his captain. He later became a slave on a plantation in Sierra Leone and was found by another ship called Greyhound. A violent storm came upon the ship in March 1748, and it was when Newton, for the first time since he disregarded his faith and denounced God as a myth, that he called upon the Lord. It was the moment when he considered God’s power and mercy to take control of their life. He called, “If this will not do, then Lord have mercy upon us!”
Newton ended seafaring several years after the storm and studied Christian Theology. He became a curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, where he became friends with Willliam Cowper, a famous English poet and hymnodist who failed his law career and suffered bouts of insanity that lead him to attempt suicide multiple times. They both have written poems and hymns together for each prayer meeting in Olney. "1 Chronicles 17:16–17", Amazing Grace's original title, was used for the first in a prayer meeting on January 1, 1773 and was published in 1779 under Olney Hymns. Newton wrote the hymn to remind us that God is walking with us each day of our lives. Like David, he was overcome by the power of His grace even though he was undeserving and unworthy. Amazing Grace is a hymn of gratitude to God for simply being there always for us.
Now, let’s get to the arrangement. I understand that there are many different levels of pianists. Some are beginners, some are intermediate, and some more advanced. That's why I like to arrange for all levels. If you are a beginner, you can still play the song. I wrote a very simple left hand and provided fingerings so that it is as easy as possible and still Amazing Grace. If you want a slightly harder challenge, I arranged an intermediate version. Here the left hand is more complicated and you need to be more coordinated on piano to play, but the bottom line is that it is accessible for intermediate pianists. Then comes the advanced version. Here I tend to just do whatever I want holding nothing back. I can make it as hard as I want and in any style or configuration. I can add a completely improvised section or do a key change or time signature change. I really enjoy the freedom I have to write my advanced arrangements.
In this particular advanced arrangement, I started embellishing the melody right away. Just add a few extra notes here and there makes the song much more exciting to listen and to play. Later on in the arrangement, I put the melody in the Left hand with the Right hand playing some scale passages. I think it sounds very fun, as long as the pianist can play the right hand quieter than the left hand. In any case, all these arrangements are free to download and play. I want everyone in the world to have access to good arrangements and have a good time playing then. Enjoy!