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“When the Waves Are Crashing”

TITLE:"When the Waves Are Crashing"
AUTHOR: Gareth Hill
TUNE: BLUE MOOD
COMPOSER: Jackson Henry
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3144
SCRIPTURE: Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25; 1 Corinthians 13:13
TOPIC: affliction; danger; darkness; faith; hope; might; power; storms; tribulation; trust

Background

The Rev. Gareth Hill is a minister in the Methodist Church of Great Britain and a former BBC Radio 2 hymn writer of the year. He is the Head of the Mission and Advocacy cluster in the central London office, responsible for staff who deal with a range of different areas of the church's work, including world church relationships, communications, and media. He has previously been a local church pastor and a pioneer minister, working with people who have no connection with the church. He spent eighteen years in journalism as a reporter, sports writer and editor. He later became head of postgraduate journalism as a teacher, training more than 300 reporters over ten years. He has been writing since the age of seventeen - as a reporter and a songwriter. "My local church sang a song I had written when I was still a teenager," he said. "It wasn't very good, but the encouragement set me on a path that I'm still walking out today." He has two hymns in Worship & Song and three hymns in the British Methodist hymnbook, Singing the Faith, published in October 2011, as well as several dozen hymns on the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries worship website.

The Rev. Jackson W. Henry is an ordained Deacon in the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church, where he supports both local and conference-wide ministries. He joined the staff of Discipleship Ministries in 2015 as the Director of Music Ministries. He holds a Bachelor of Music performance degree from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville and a Master of Sacred Music in Choral Conducting from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. In addition to his church position, he is a hymn and choral composer and has served as worship leader, lecturer, and clinician at events across the U.S.A. He writes about this hymn setting:

When we (the Worship & Song editorial committee) reflected upon this heart-wrenching text, the only issue to consider was what tune to use. The text struck us with both a simple and disturbing poignancy, but it was originally written in four very short stanzas (66.63), which makes writing a hymn tune quite difficult. The blues idiom seemed to fit it perfectly, however, when we combined four stanzas into two. The last three words in each stanza could be sung effectively even with a bit of a scoop, adding to the bluesy atmosphere of the hymn setting.

Music

The blues-like harmonies are used effectively in this song, with the third scale degree sometimes flatted to form the seventh of the subdominant harmony and sometimes natural to serve as the third of the tonic harmony. The first phrase is repeated three times on different scale degrees to make up the first half of the song. The same three phrases are repeated to form the second half of the song. The concluding cadence points of each half occur on the "hold me, Lord" text, the first on the dominant, the second on the closing tonic.

Words

This non-rhyming text is filled with unwelcome images that continue to stack up and assail in each stanza:

  • Stanza one: crashing waves… drowning faith… forgetting God… steep cliffs… weakest hope… failure to trust God
  • Stanza two: dark clouds… battered love… desertion of God

Despite the obstacles that assail, both stanzas have a mid-stanza plea to "hold me, Lord," stanza one continuing on with more obstacles. Stanza two, however, moves on to conclude with statements of hope: eternal faith, hope that lasts forever, and God's love that holds us.

Sources

  • "Gareth Hill" on the Discipleship Ministries website.
  • Personal email correspondence with composer Jackson Henry, February 13, 2012.

See more Hymn Studies.

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