The final movement of Beethoven's final symphony is sometimes described as a "symphony within a symphony". This single movement runs for longer than many entire symphonies of Beethoven's time. Beethoven used the music to showcase Ode to Joy, a poem written by German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller. The symphony was first performed in 1824.
At some point over the next few decades the "Joy" melody must have been extracted and simplified for use as a hymn tune, although I haven't been able to find any documentation about this.
American Henry Van Dyke was a professor of English Literature, poet, clergyman, and diplomat. In 1907 while staying in the Berkshire Mountains, Van Dyke was inspired to write this poem of trust, joy, and hope. He specified the hymn should be sung to the melody from Ode to Joy. To distinguish it from the original poem and the symphony, the hymn tune is usually now referred to as HYMN TO JOY.
On Christmas Day 1989 a concert was held in Berlin, part of the celebrations after the fall of the Berlin Wall six weeks prior. An orchestra and choir from throughout Germany gathered to perform Beethoven's 9th Symphony. The event was televised to more than twenty countries. Conductor Leonard Bernstein put his own stamp on the finale, changing Schiller's word Freude (joy) to Freiheit (freedom). A couple of years ago, watching this magnificent performance on YouTube, I was inspired to put more Beethoven back into the HYMN TO JOY.
I invite you to sing along with me, embraced by the lush orchestration of one of the great masters.
You can listen to this track in the player above, or preview the lyric video on our YouTube Channel.
Available as audio only, or as a High Definition Lyric Video: simply select from the popup above. This setting is has three verses and is a comfortable sing for all congregations.
Interested in other keys or with different words? These options are available to our patrons. Contact us to discuss!