Nearer My God to Thee

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by MRSH, Mar 29, 2012.

  1. MRSH

    MRSH Supporting Member

    Hi - I'm looking for a decent full band arrangement of the hymn tune Nearer My God to Thee. I would like more than just a 4-part harmony version so can anybody tell me what the Nigel Wears and Simon Kerwin arrangements are like?

  2. Number1euph

    Number1euph Member

  3. JR

    JR Member


    I dont know Simon's but I will be playing Nigel Wears's arrangement which is excellent, particularly with regard to it's fresh sounding harmonies

    John R
  4. Red Elvis

    Red Elvis Active Member

    Possibly some debate as to which hymn tune the band on "Titanic" would have played according to this,_My_God,_to_Thee

    "Bethany" is certainly the one that most punters will be familiar with from the last film.
    George Marshall composed an extended setting of "Horbury" , I'd imagine its been many years out of print now but World of Brass might be able to help ?
  5. SteveT

    SteveT Member

    The Nigel Wears is very good... very moving in its simplicity! If it's delivered right of course!
  6. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Agreed. Some lovely writing. A few moments in it remeniscent of Rachmaninov.

    As for it's association with the titanic - that is very likely a myth. There were two bands on the titanic, one a three-piece, one a five-piece, and the first time they ever played together was on the deck as the ship sank.

    The story of 'nearer my god to thee' only comes from one account of a first-class passenger who was on the first lifeboat to be launched and was way too far to hear the band playing as the ship went down. All the other accounts state that the bands stuck to ragtime the whole time they were able to play, the last piece they played probably being 'Autumn.'

    (For those of you who follow my FB account, you can have that as 'Lies you learned in history class #5')
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2012
  7. JR

    JR Member

    Ok - I'll mention the Titanic myth when we play it!

    Nigel Wears is a very interesting bloke and a seriously talented musician - he is an old friend of brother Dave's and has done several arrangements for Rothwell -
    also until fairly recently he was for many years the resident pianist at the 5 star Oulton Hall hotel - he's the sort of bloke who can improvise an arrangement at the keyboard and then transcribe it for band

    John R
  8. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    In that case you may be interested to know that Garry Hallas has just pointed out to me that the basis of this myth may also be related to the rather better evidence for a string quartet aboard the SS valencia when it went down in 1905 possibly having played it on the deck as the ship sank, and looking around I can find more than one historian who thinks that may be the case.

    These things do tend to get confused over time, and the event may well have been wrongly attributed at some point and the mistake become accepted over time. This happens more often than you might think. For example, referring to scandinavian dark-age raiders as 'Vikings' is a similar mistake. The word 'viking' is derived from a verb meaning raiding, specifically from the sea - the men themselves went viking in the same way that someone would go shopping today - but they were never called 'Vikings' at the time. They were more usually referred to based on where they appeared to come from and most were Danes or Norse.

    (Some more useless trivia to help you your compare at your concerts courtesy of Thirteen Ball Music.... ;) )
  9. pbirch

    pbirch Active Member

    the alternative tune to "Nearer, My God to Thee" is called Horbury, and way back in the Salvation Army Festival Series there is an excellent (if somewhat "of its time") arrangement of it by George Marshall.
  10. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Is there an echo here ... ? ;)
  11. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    I would recommend Nigel Wear's arrangement, excellently written and a pleasure to perform.
  12. pbirch

    pbirch Active Member

    my browser was slow catching up today, but it is a good piece {piece,piece piece)
  13. Red Elvis

    Red Elvis Active Member

    It is that pbirch !!

    Certainly it is "of it's time" but still worth a look. For non SA types , George Marshall was perhaps the SA equivalent of Percy Fletcher or Cyril Jenkins - the first SA composer to write original works rather than straight transcriptions / arrangements (albeit bound by the SA strictures on the inclusion of hymn tunes / sacred melodies) and a number of his works still stand up pretty well today - Marches such as "Mighty to Save", "The Liberator" and "Soldiers of Christ" have all been recorded recently and the euph solo "Ransomed" is very much a staple of SA repertoire. He also composed some lovely songster (Choir) music - "My Treasure" being a key example and the basis of Wilf Heaton's eponymous work.

    Like many early brass composers he was largely self taught. A coal miner by trade , he was paralysed in a roof cave in and spent most of his life in a wheel chair.
  14. PlayerPete

    PlayerPete Member

    Dont know if you are interested, but I did a fairly simple arrangement several years ago for an entertainments contest. Starts off as a solo and builds to 4 part harmony for verse 1. Verse 2 has a soprano obligato. Verse 3 has a bass part counter melody feature and finishes with original 4 part opening players plus sop.

    If you want a copy please pm me.
  15. TrumpetTom

    TrumpetTom Member

    It think Simon Wood did an arrangement, or he had one at Hade Edge Youth Band a few years back anyway
  16. fartycat

    fartycat Member

    I'm putting on a Titanic concert on the 14th so have done plenty of research including reading the fascinating 'And the Band Played On' written by Chris Ward the grandson of Titanic violinist Jock Hume. The Hume family, and indeed the Hartley family believed that the hymn was played as the ship sunk. I thought that the first class passenger Vera Dick was only one of several witnesses to hear the hymn? But there were plenty of other witnesses including the wireless operator who left the ship much later on that testified that the band were playing Autumn and if you listen to "Songe d'Automne" it does sound a bit like Nearer My God to Thee.

    You also have to remember that all the newspapers who reported that the band had played the hymn when the ship was going down, had reported on the Monday that the Titanic was safe and being towed to Canada with all lives safe on board!

    What is certain and well documented though is the important part that the hymn played in the countless memorial services held to remember those lost at sea. The concert held in May in the Royal Albert Hall was huge (7 orchestras, 500 musicians!) and conducted by among others Henry Wood, Thomas Beecham and Elgar. The hymn was the penultimate played at this huge event. The hymn was also engraved into the memorial statue to Wallace Hartley.

    The other can of worms of course is which version of the hymn was played? Wallace Hartley was a methodist (as was a few others in the bands) so would have known the Propior Deo version. Bethany was more popular with American passengers, Horbury with CofE!
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2012
  17. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Not according to contemporary sources. As I said, she was on the first lifeboat launched, and would have been over a mile away as the ship went down - so how on earth would she know? Difficult to pick a tune out over the screaming and splashing of a few hundred souls abandoning ship and the air howling out of the hull as the water flowed in. Just about everyone who was still aboard during those final moments did not survive, and those that did make no mention of it. There's far more evidence for the story having come from the sinking of the SS valencia in 1905 - which is probably where the titanic story came from, and my guess is that the newspapers, in the absence of any detail, printed whatever they could to make it sound more tragic and 'get one over on each other'.

    The other thing is, never over-estimate the power of suggestion. If Vera dick sits there in a lifeboat and declares she can hear the band playing a hymn, who around is likely to disagree with each other? Far easier for her to square the circle with her own conscience if she allows herself to to believe everyone is quietly going to their inevitable doom holding onto hymn sheets and standing in an ordered circle, rather than screaming and clawing at each other in the fight to stay alive. Plus those who say they heard the hymn 'when the ship went down' have a vested interest in doing so - because it makes it sound as if they were part of the ensuing chaos and therefore more heroic, rather than in the relative comfort of a boat miles away from the calamity. With the stories that came out after the event of first-class passengers offering bribes and dressing up as women to get on board lifeboats (whether true or not) I'm sure everyone who survied in a lifeboat was anxious to paint themselves as being right in the thick of it!

    There's a great book - complete with references and citations - entitled 'Lies, Damn lies and History' (Thought the author excapes me at present) which puts paid to a lot of similar myths, such as The Liberty Bell, Jean D'arc, The assassination of Julius Ceaser, the life and times of Cleopatra etc. You'd be amazed how much of what is taught in school is incomplete, misguided, or demonstrably false.

    Indeed. Glad to see that spirit of journalism is alive and well in the Murdoch press.....

    That may be the case - but it's inclusion may well be entirely based on the misconseption that the band played the hymn as the ship went down - when the nearest to fact that can ever be established is that they didn't. Let's face it, due to a simple mistranslation, all English and American kids grow up thinking cinderella had glass slippers, when in reality they were fur. That's been widely known for many decades now - yet what happens when you go to the pantomine? Cinderella still has glass slippers.

    Generally speaking, when it comes to historical events, memorials etc. most people don't even remotely care what actually happened. They'd far rather stick with the cosy half-truth and downright lies which are generally put together after the event in the populations collective consciousness - and in the modern era, hollywood films REALLY don't help this.

    So appropriate as the sentiment contained in the hymn may be, associating it directly with the Titanic is no more historically accurate than the association several people now have of Barber's Adagio with warfare and military memorials because of it's inclusion in the film 'Platoon.'

    For me, even more evidence that it wasn't played - since no-one can even agree on which tune would have been heard.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2012
  18. fartycat

    fartycat Member

    I'm sceptical myself and for the most part am amazed at the sheer amount of energy various people have put into arguing who played what, where. But intriguingly, the openings of Songe d'Automne, Bethany and Propior Deo do sound quite alike. Only Horbury is noticeably different. And there's also an interesting theory that Songe d'Automne begins with a high register cello leading, which might have then carried to Vera Dick's boat.

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