The beloved classic hymn “Amazing Grace” is not only sung in church congregations, in many different languages worldwide, but it is also sung during other occasions. The Christian hymn which was published in 1779, was written by English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725-1807).
Newton wrote the words based on his personal life experiences. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but because of his rebelliousness, his life was often filled with unexpected twists and coincidences which might have otherwise been avoided. He was forced to serve in the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service, he became actively engaged in the Atlantic slave trade. When a violent storm off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland threatened to demolish his vessel in 1748, he cried out to God for mercy – the defining moment of his spiritual conversion. While his boat was being repaired in Lough Swilly, he wrote the first verse of the renowned hymn. He continued on in the slave trading business until 1754 or 1755, at which time he abandoned seafaring and began studying Christian theology.
In 1764 he was ordained in the Church of England and became curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, where he stared writing hymns with poet William Cowper. “Amazing Grace” was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773. It is uncertain whether or not there was any musical accompaniment, or if the verses were simply chanted by the congregation. The song debuted in print in 1779 in Newton and Cowper’s Olney Hymns, but soon seemed to fade into obscurity in England. However, “Amazing Grace” was used exclusively in the United States during the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century. Throughout time, the song has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named “New Britain” to which it is most frequently sung today. The song saw a resurgence in popularity in the United States during the 1960s and has been recorded thousands of times during and since the 20th century, occasionally appearing on popular music charts.
This week’s “Video Find of the Week” features Brigham Young University’s a cappella group Noteworthy, a group of nine Noteworthy ladies, all of whom are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their rousing rendition of the timeless classic. Their music video “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” was published to their YouTube channel on 13 October 2015, and has already been viewed more than 4.5 million times. According to the bio on their channel:
The ladies of Noteworthy seek to uplift all those that hear and see them sing. After producing highly acclaimed recordings, touring throughout the United States, appearing on the televised singing competition ”The Sing-Off,” and winning the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, it is no surprise that this nine-voice, all-female ensemble has quickly become one of the most popular collegiate a cappella groups in the nation.
Their melodious sound which is a combination of vocal percussion and tight harmony is sure to capture the heart of every listener regardless of his or her age.