“Be Not Afraid” is fending off a stiff challenge from a lesser-known Lent chant. Let’s see how the most popular psalm setting in English-speaking Catholicism will fare against another funeral/old-timey favorite, “In the Garden.”
When I first heard “On Eagles’ Wings” I admit I was a skeptic. I found the 1979 album of that title to be a bit over-produced, and not at all what I would expect a parish choir to sound like. The vocal performances were, of course, all good. Just a little too good. And the piano arrangements that extended for up to a dozen pages–sheesh. When one of the group leaders at the Newman Community taught the song, I felt it fell flat. I guess I was wrong about that.
“In The Garden” registered on a few musical polls, including one I found on a conservative website that listed some chants and other truly Catholic-traditional music.
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
How to identify the genre? I’d say it’s a Gospel song, but not in the modern style of Gospel music. Charles Austin Miles wrote the hymn a hundred years ago next month. From his own story of it:
One day in April, 1912, 1 was seated in the dark room, where I kept my photographic equipment and organ. I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20–whether by chance or inspiration let each reader decide.
Listen to Elvis sing it. Then come back and vote: