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300. Gift of Finest Wheat

Text Information
First Line: As when a shepherd calls his sheep
Title: Gift of Finest Wheat
Author: Omer Westendorf (1976)
Refrain First Line: You satisfy the hungry heart
Meter: CM with refrain
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ; ; ;
Topic: Bread of Life; Shepherd, God/Christ as; Lord's Supper (2 more...)
Copyright: Text and music © 1977, Archdiocese of Philadelphia. All rights reserved.
CCLI Number: 230628
Tune Information
Composer: Robert E. Kreutz (1976)
Meter: CM with refrain
Key: C Major
Copyright: Text and music © 1977, Archdiocese of Philadelphia. All rights reserved.

Text Information:

Scripture References:
ref. = Ps. 81:16, John 6:35
st. 1 = John 10:14-16
st. 2 = Ps. 34:1
st. 3 = 1 Cor. 10:16
st. 4 = Col. 1:27
st. 5 = John 13:14-15

This beautiful song has become widely recognized as one of the finest recent Lord's Supper hymns, primarily because of its use of biblical images (see Scripture references). The stanzas introduce each of these images in turn, and the refrain repeatedly brings us back to the hymn's controlling thought: God's "gift of finest wheat" is Christ, "the bread of life" (Ps. 81:16; John 6:35). The solid theological text aptly presents many of the central meanings of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Cincinnati poet and publisher Orner Westendorf (b. Cincinnati, OH, 1916) submitted "Gift of Finest Wheat" to a eucharistic-hymn competition that judged it the best out of more than two hundred entries. Westendorfs text and the tune BICENTENNIAL were then printed on a song sheet for use at the 41st Eucharistic Congress, a Roman Catholic convention on the eucharist held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1976 (the year of the USA's bicentennial). Both text and tune have recently been published in various hymnals.

Westendorf has had a rich and varied career in music. Educated at the College Conservatory of the University of Cincinnati, he served as organist and choirmaster of St. Bonaventure Church in Cincinnati (1936-1976). His freelance Bonaventure Choir appeared in many concerts and made numerous recordings. He also taught music in several Cincinnati schools and founded the World Library of Sacred Music in 1950 and I World Library Publications in 1957. Since 1976 he has operated his own consulting agency on church music. Westendorf has written some thirty-five hymn texts and compiled four hymnals, including the People’s Mass Book (1964), which was the first vernacular hymnal in the United States to implement the changes in Roman Catholic worship that Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) had approved.

Liturgical Use:
Lord's Supper, especially during distribution of the bread and wine.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

Robert E. Kreutz (b. La Crosse, WI, 1922; d. Golden, Colorado, 1996) carefully crafted BICENTENNIAL for this text in Denver, Colorado, in 1976. Though the meter changes frequently, the sung text flows very naturally, with the changing meters unified by melodic and rhythmic motifs. Singing the refrain and the stanzas in two long lines instead of four short ones brings out the beauty of the text. The entire hymn may be sung in unison, but a choral harmonization of the refrain adds a beautiful effect. The stanzas can be sung antiphonally in a variety of ways: by two or more groups in the congregation, or perhaps by a cantor or soloist(s) singing the stanzas and everyone singing the refrain. For further variety, improvise a descant for the refrain and use instruments other than organ.

Kreutz received a bachelor's degree from the American Conservatory of Music, Chicago, and a master's degree from the University of Colorado, Denver. He also studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg, Leo Sowerby, and Norman Lockwood. A resident of Golden, Kreutz worked for many years for the Gates Rubber Company as a development engineer and also directed the choir at St. Bernadette Church in Lakewood, Colorado, for more than twenty-five years. He published some three hundred choral and instrumental compositions, including many psalm settings and other liturgical music.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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