The Creation of "Amazing Grace"
Article. Article. Arguably the best-known Christian hymn is "Amazing Grace." Its text, a poem penned in 1772 by John Newton, describes the joy and peace of a soul uplifted from despair to salvation through the gift of grace. Newton's words are also a vivid autobiographical commentary on how he was spared from both physical and spiritual ruin. It relates the happy ending of the...
The Dissemination of "Amazing Grace"
Article. Article. John Newton wrote the words to "Amazing Grace" in 1772. It was not for another 60 years that the text was wed to the tune to which it is sung today.
"Amazing Grace" and Shape-Note Singing
Article. Article. One way that "Amazing Grace" was disseminated in 19th-century America was shape-note hymnals. The principle behind writing music in this unique, non-traditional notation was pedagogical, as was the English fasola technique. Fasola taught students to identify pitches by names: fa-sol-la. Shape notation, however, is different: each pitch, as the name implies, has a specific shape. For instance, fa is triangular, sol is...
Early Sound Recordings of "Amazing Grace" in the LC Collections
Article. Article. Although the birth of sound recording can be dated to 1877 when Thomas Edison made a tinfoil recording of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on his prototype machine, "Amazing Grace" was not recorded until 1922. This fact is hardly surprising given the typical penchant of record companies to record marches, standard popular tunes, classical music, and comedic songs and sketches in the...