"Gospel music is hymns," my Gospel-style piano teacher told me. An amazing musician, he held two bachelor degrees in music from Jackson State, and was the music director emeritus of a large African-American church in Chicago. His statement, out of context, might have raised a few questions, but I knew what he meant.
Of course black Gospel music is more than the Reformation-based, European SATB songs of the 16th through the 20th century. Black Gospel has had plenty of its own great composers that have written using the structure of hymnody (e.g. Thomas Dorsey, Andrae Crouch, Richard Smallwood). However, I think a point that my teacher was making was that congregants of African-American churches do additionally connect with certain hymns written by non-black composers (e.g. Fanny Crosby), and that there are hymns that can also sound really powerful when there's some "Gospel flavor" added. So, I'd like to start a conversational blog series about such hymns.
Today, I'll talk about "I Am Thine, O Lord."
Sometimes my senior pastor liked to close his sermon with his wife (both from the south side of Chicago) singing a hymn that they chose. I was asked to be the Gospel-style piano accompanist. Once we were concluding a sermon, and the song to sing was Fanny Crosby's "I Am Thine, O Lord." Lyrics below:
I am Thine O Lord I have heard Thy voice
And it told Thy love to me
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee
Draw me nearer nearer blessed Lord
To the cross where Thou hast died
Draw me nearer nearer nearer blessed Lord
To Thy precious bleeding side
Consecrate me now to Thy service Lord
By the pow'r of grace divine Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope
And my will be lost in Thine
Oh the pure delight of a single hour That before Thy throne I spend When I kneel in prayer and with Thee my God
I commune as friend with friend
There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee