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“What a Mighty God We Serve”

TITLE: " What a Mighty God We Serve "
AUTHOR: Traditional African Folk Song
TUNE: Traditional African Folk Song
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3016, and The Faith We Sing, no. 2021
SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 10:17; Nehemiah 9:32
TOPICS: angels; heaven and earth; kingship; power; might; praise; serve; singing

Background

The origins of this traditional African folk song are lost to us. The song continues to reinvent itself in a variety of versions – words and music – in publications, recordings and videos.

Words

The editors of The Faith We Sing (Abingdon Press, 2000) chose to include a version adapted by Jack Schrader of Hope Publishing Company that included only a four-fold repetition of the title as its text with additional stanzas added. Countless other verses have been sung, many spontaneously in the fervor of the moment of singing.

Research and a study of published versions of this song showed that the most popular and performed version was the one that now appears in Worship & Song (Abingdon Press, 2011), with the three-fold repetition of the title book-ending the phrase, "Angels bow before you, heaven and earth adore you."

Music

Each of the first three phrases of "What a mighty God we serve" of the Schrader adaptation in The Faith We Sing begins on the tonic note and harmony, but ends on a different harmony. The first phrase ends on the tonic, the second phrase on the dominant, and the third phrase on the subdominant, nicely setting up the musical climax with the final fourth repetition. It's as if the first three phrases are designed to be sung in increasing excitement with the final explosive fourth statement beginning on the syncopated second beat.

Jackson Henry's arrangement in Worship & Song provides a simple four-part hymnal harmonization that can be sung accompanied or a cappella, perhaps sung especially effectively with drums and percussion only.

Dean McIntyre has combined both versions together as a medley for congregational singing with new, up-tempo piano accompaniment, including guitar chords and a modulation.

Sources

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