The new album, Mormon Guitar: Tune My Heart, is almost done. It should be in Deseret Book, Seagull Book and on iTunes in October. And what better way to get ready for it than to post one of the first new arrangements on the album – All Creatures of Our God and King.
I’m always amazed by how popular this hymn is. Mainly because I was never crazy about it growing up. I think it’s because the “Alleluias” always put me to sleep more than anything. I’m sure this was because we always sang it slow, lacking all enthusiasm.
“What hymn are we singing? The Alleluia song? Goodnight.”
It was so bad that I never really learned the words to this hymn because I never looked at the hymnal. It just repeats “Alleluia” a bunch of times. That’s half the lyrics and that’s all I need to know. I can fumble my way through the rest, if I can stay awake.
Sidebar: This drives my wife crazy. I’m the worst at misheard lyrics because of it. I still swear that Lonely Street of Dreams says “To walk alone when it’s only three degrees” and that the outro for Nirvana’s All Apologies is “I want another Sobe, yeah.”
So when I finally picked up the hymnbook to read through this one, I was kind of amazed at what I had been missing. The lyrics are beautiful.
But I do have one criticism about the hymn… The title is totally misleading.
The hymn is more similar to How Great Thou Art than The Circle of Life from the Lion King. And because of my tendency to not pay attention to the lyrics, I was under the impression it was more like the Lion King.
So I thought this was the perfect opportunity to combine them both, minus Elton John.
The arrangement is based on the first two lyrics. It’s the gathering of all the creatures of our God and King. It’s in 6/8 time to give it a marching pace. I wanted to really focus on building this one as much as I could all the way to the end to emphasize “lift up your voice.” As more creatures come together the more intense it is. Like a flash mob. (Did I really just compare a hymn to a flash mob?)
I used a new tuning for me on this one, a double drop D. That just means you drop your high E and low E to D. It allows you play a lot more open strings that way.
It also made the first chord of each verse an open chord that didn’t require my left hand. That made it easier to focus on moving the capo instead of getting ready for the next chord. There are a lot of different capos out there. I don’t usually use this type, but it’s the only one I had that would let me move it quick enough.
I also did a massive amount of palm muting in this one, primarily on the second beat of each measure to accent the rhythm. This is the same thing I do while moving the capo. I’m just digging my palm into the strings so they don’t play any notes while I’m chucking them with the pick. It’s easier than it looks. Just takes some practice.
Enough technical mumbo jumbo. I had a lot of fun doing this one. It’s also a fun one to play, which is important to me when arranging hymns. No one is going to play it if it isn’t fun to play.
There aren’t a lot of hymns that I can do like this and get away with it. So it’s fun to make the most of it while I can.
I hope you enjoy this first arrangement from the new album, due out in October.