22 November 2009

We Gather Together

Vermeer 1658

This week's "Take This Tune" is the old Dutch hymn "We Gather Together" usually sung for Thanksgiving Day worship.  The original composer is unknown.  It was written at the end of the 1500s after The Netherlands had started to throw off Spanish domination and establish a post-reformation, Protestant culture.  In 1648, the Spanish endeavors to control Holland were finally destroyed beyond recovery.  The hymn is both thankful for blessing and militant in its view of God as a defender of the faithful, and is considered the best of these defiant musical pieces. 

William the Silent, one of the leaders of the fight against Spain, was eventually murdered by a Catholic assassin. His son, Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, assumed the leadership for more than a quarter century. His rule was called the great golden age of prosperity where rich post-reformation culture developed throughout Holland.  In 1641 he married Mary Stuart, Princess Royal of England and their son William III married his first cousin, Mary Stuart who came to rule  England as "William and Mary". 

"We Gather Together" was first published in 1626 in Haarleem.  In 1877, it was discovered by Edward Kremser, a Viennese musician who published it in his collection of hymns. The English translation was done by Theodore Baker.

This period in the 1600s also ushered in what is considered by many to be the greatest period of dutch painters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer where the virtues of a well ordered, comfortable society with the family at its center are often depicted.

Rembrandt 1635

1 comment:

Linda said...

This has always been one of my very favorite hymns and ushered in a long line of other favorites for the Christmas season. About the only time I really miss going to church is around this time of the year for the simple reason that the hymns are so some of my favorites and you can't help but feel joyful and hopeful during the holiday season.

Still working on a post of my own on this topic but I'm thinking, I'm thinking!

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