Meditation on “Wondrous Love”

“Wondrous Love” is the hymn tune name for a folk melody that was published in the 1840 shape-note hymnal, Southern Harmony, to accompany a text by an anonymous author that expresses his awe at the wondrous love of Christ, who “laid aside his crown” to suffer death and rise again to save humanity from the eternal consequences of sin and death. It was later published in the other great 19th-century shape-note hymnal, The Sacred Harp, and since the mid-20th century has become widely known through its publication in the hymnals of many Christian denominations.

The melody is said to be based on a popular 1701 English song, the “Ballad of Captain Kidd,” and it is likely it predates that by a century or more. It employs a hexatonic scale of six tones with no major or minor third, comprising 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 (e.g., G, A, C, D, E, F). The English clergyman and hymn scholar Erik Routley (1817-1982) described the tune as “incomparably beautiful.”

In this arrangement, an improvisatory statement precedes the presentation of the tune by trombone in verse 1 and organ in verse 2, and returns prior to a modulation into the final verse.

Organ score, bass clef and Bb treble clef solo parts — $5.99