Having grown up in the Episcopal/Anglican church, one of the hymns I grew up learning to sing and love was “Praise My Soul the King of Heaven”. The first time you hear it the melody is a bit tricky. But it’s good. And the lyrics are full of powerful descriptions of the kingship and worth-ship of Jesus. But I never had much success putting the hymn in a more contemporary format.
One night in 2009 I was watching the consecration of Bob Duncan as the first Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America and during the incredibly long procession of clergy and bishops, the orchestra and choir led the congregation in a powerful arrangement of the hymn. It turns out that John Wasson, a worship leader/musician in Texas had written the arrangement just for that occasion.
You can watch the really long procession and hear John’s full arrangement on this rough YouTube video:
It wasn’t long until I was trying to rip off John’s arrangement to use this hymn at my church. I experimented (with varying levels of success), but the result was that I had found a way to bring this amazing hymn into a contemporary context. The other small change I made was to close the song by going back and singing the last line of first verse after singing the final verse. It ends better that way.
When my congregation received word that we’d have to vacate our property of over-275 years, and I started exploring the prospect of recording a live CD in our Sanctuary before we lost it, I knew we’d have to put this hymn on it and try to capture a bit of the arrangement John had written in 2009. But… it couldn’t be as incredibly long.
So I sat at my kitchen island one night, about 6 days before we’d start recording the CD, watching the video of the song from Bishop Duncan’s installation, hearing Carl Albrecht‘s drumming in my head (since I’ve been listening to his drumming since I was a kid and he had kindly agreed to play drums for this project), Russell Crain’s electric guitar genius (since I had come to admire his playing when my Father-in-law began pastoring a church that neighbors his), and Simon Dixon’s organ prowess (since he and I have the privilege of working together).
I wrote a rough arrangement of it and recorded this really (really) rough demo. Oh, I was recovering from the flu, I just remembered:
Like I said, it’s rough. So when we began rehearsals for the CD, Carl suggested we cut the intro by half. Great idea. Then Russell began experimenting with different things he could do on the intro. On the first night we recorded, here’s what the intro sounded like:
Russell thought he could do his part better, so on the second night, he changed some things.
The result of all of this thinking/arranging/demo-ing/rehearsing/tinkering is on my church’s live CD. Here’s the final full-song result in its mixed and mastered form.
If you’d like to download it for free: click here.
Here’s the chord chart we used for the recording. If you want a more simple chord chart (without the crazy chords on verse 4 that we put in to work with the choir descant, click here).
Here’s my church singing the more simplified version of this hymn in our last service ever in our building. The picture at the top of this post is from that night too.
6 thoughts on “Praise My Soul the King of Heaven”
One of my favourite hymns. Uplifting and lifts people’s focus from this world back onto our glorious God. Excellent arrangement you’ve made here, well done with that- have enjoyed it for several months and have incorporated elements of it in our own church also. Thanks for sharing the story behind it!
Yes, a favourite hymn for me too. I went to a Brethren assembly as we were growing up and we sang this regularly. Thank you for sharing your arrangement that I’ve adapted to our Anglican church – it was a hymn I was not always able to use properly in the context of a band because I was mainly familiar with the grand organ versions only.
I love the epic feel of your arrangement, it gives weight to the music side of the song to match the lyrical side in a way I’ve never heard for this song before. The intro gives me goosebumps every time, what a way to then launch into praise with!
Could you fix the links to the chord charts please? They both point to mp3s currently. Thanks.
Thanks, James. I fixed the links!
Bravo, Jamie! I love it when old tunes are given new life instead of discarded.