In anticipation of Memorial Day, the hymn tune playing from the Goddard Chapel carillon this month is God of Our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand.
While the hymn was written to describe the United States, its message petitioning for grace in both one’s physical and spiritual lives is a universal one that can resonate with each of us.
The text was written by Daniel C. Roberts, a priest in the Episcopal Church. He wrote the text in 1876 to commemorate the United States Centennial. In 1892, he submitted his work to be considered for a revision of the Episcopal hymnal. He submitted the hymn anonymously, stating that he would give his name if the hymn was selected for the new hymnal, which it was.
The hymn was originally sung to the tune Russian Hymn (composed by Aleksei Federovich L’vov). However, when Roberts submitted his hymn, the editor of the new hymnal, George W. Warren, decided to use it as a celebration of the Centennial of the United States Constitution. As his contribution, Warren wrote a new tune specifically for Roberts’s hymn. Warren is the composer of over a dozen well-known hymn tunes. He was a highly respected organist and choir director who spent most of his professional life as the organist at St. Thomas’s Church in New York City. At his funeral, no music was played, as the mourners felt that a finer organist than Warren could not be found.