NEW BRITAIN

Composer: Anonymous

In some hymnals, the editors noted that a hymn's author is unknown to them, and so this artificial "person" entry is used to reflect that fact. Obviously, the hymns attributed to "Author Unknown" "Unknown" or "Anonymous" could have been written by many people over a span of many centuries. Go to person page >

Tune Information

Composer: Anonymous (1829)
Meter: 8.6.8.6
Incipit: 51313 21655 13132
Key: F Major
Source: Virginia Harmony, 1831

Texts

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)

Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

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Notes

NEW BRITAIN (also known as AMAZING GRACE) was originally a folk tune, probably sung slowly with grace notes and melodic embellishments. Typical of the Appalachian tunes from the southern United States, NEW BRITAIN is pentatonic with melodic figures that outline triads. It was first published as a hymn tune in shape notes in Columbian Harmony (1829) to the text "Arise, my soul, my joyful pow'rs." It was first set to "Amazing Grace" in William Walker's (PHH 44) Southern Harmony (1835) (see facsimile at p. 85).

The setting is from Edwin O. Excell's Make His Praise Glorious (1900). Excell (b. Stark County, OH, 1851; d. Louisville, KY, 1921) grew up in a German Reformed parsonage and worked as a bricklayer as a young man. In 1871 he became a singing school teacher. Soon after, while leading the music and singing solos in a Methodist revival, he experienced a conversion. Excell joined evangelist Sam P. Jones as a song leader, and the two traveled the United States as an evangelistic team. An important figure in the Sunday school movement, Excell wrote over two thousand gospel songs and edited ninety songbooks. He became a very successful publisher of hymn books in Chicago; his company, the Biglow-Main-Excell Company, eventually merged with Hope Publishing Company.

Since NEW BRITAIN is pentatonic, it can be sung unaccompanied in a two- or even four-part canon, with groups entering after one or two measures. Sing stanzas 1 and 5 in unison and stanzas 2 and 3 in harmony, and to illustrate the text, try stanza 4 in canon. Use light accompaniment, but consider singing stanza 3 unaccompanied.

Some recordings of "Amazing Grace" by recent pop singers have cast a sentimental shadow over this hymn, presumably because those performers do not understand the experience of salvation that so amazed Newton. Christians should sing this hymn with some vigor and a moderate tempo that supports their convictions.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Also see this book:
Turner, Steve. Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song. New York: Ecco, 2002.

Media

Baptist Hymnal 1991 #330
Text: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound
  • Bulletin Score (melody only) (PDF)
  • Bulletin Score (PDF)
  • Full Score (PDF)
Christian Classics Ethereal Hymnary #165
  • Four-part harmony, full-score (PDF, NWC)
The Cyber Hymnal #144
Text: Amazing Grace
  • Adobe Acrobat image (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer score (NWC)
  • XML score (XML)
The Cyber Hymnal #8230
Text: Genade Onberskryflik Groot Het
  • PDF (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer Score (NWC)
The Cyber Hymnal #9265
Text: Anugerah Yang Mengherankan
  • PDF (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer Score (NWC)
The Cyber Hymnal #9301
Text: Sungguh Besar Angu'rah Mu
  • PDF (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer Score (NWC)
The Cyber Hymnal #9309
Text: Awake, Ye Saints; To Praise Your King
  • PDF (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer Score (NWC)
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #462
Text: Amazing Grace--How Sweet the Sound
The United Methodist Hymnal #378
Text: Amazing Grace
  • Bulletin Score (PDF)
  • Full Score (PDF)
  • Bulletin Score (melody only) (PDF)
Worship and Rejoice #422
Text: Amazing Grace!
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