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  "Joy To The World"Sunday, May 26th, 2024  

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. (Psalm 98:4)

Isaac Watts (see related article) who wrote Joy To The World, found his inspiration for the words in Psalms, as he did many of his works. Originally it was only a poem. After Isaac Watts died it was later given music most likely by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). The hymn as we know it today first appeared in an 1839 collection with Lowell Mason listed as the editor. The hymn was originally called "Antioch" by Mason, and the music is based on several instrumental portions of "The Messiah" by Frederick Handel. He was also not the only one to finding Handel worthy of adaptation. John Foster (1762-1822) composed "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night" from a Handel opera. Lowell Mason himself was a prolific writer of hymns, however, unlike Watts, it took Mason years to be finally recognized for his contributions.

"I was then a bank officer in Savannah, and did not wish to be known as a musical man, as I had not the least thought of ever making music a profession." Thus said Lowell Mason as to why his name did not appear on a collection of his music that he finally managed to get published when he was thirty. The music sold so well that he decided to devote himself to music. Mason turned first to being a church music director, and later became the first music teacher in an American public school. Later still he co-founded the Boston Academy of Music. He ended his public career as Superintendent of Music for all the Boston public schools.

Besides "Joy to the World" perhaps he is next best known for "Nearer My God to Thee". Once again he took the words of another, Sarah Adams, and put his music to it. Supposedly the last hymn heard by those that died on the Titanic, it also inspired the last words of President McKinley. He quoted the first line, "Nearer My God to Thee, e'en though it be a cross" and said it was his constant prayer. With over 1,600 hymns to his credit, Lowell Mason is truly 'the father of American church music'.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

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