“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:

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in 2012 Dance, Liturgical Music. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Fly!

  1. Marcey says:

    I have to say I love this one. I have an album(cd) with these three local women on it singing this. The harmonies they sing it with are very easy to sing along with even if you make up your own harmony.

  2. Karl says:

    In the Garden is what might be called a white Gospel hymn. It’s my mother’s favorite. I prefer Beagle’s Wings. In The Garden is naturally saccharine, and there’s not escaping it, but it helps mightily to have a somewhat straightforward solo voice to lead it – among versions by major female singers (and, since the text obviously is inspired by Mary Magdelene, a female voice has pride of place with this text), I would recommend Patti Page’s; among the major male singers, Perry Como’s….

    • Randolph Nichols says:

      Patti Page, Perry Como? O my, Karl, I thought you were much too young for that. Also don’t forget that “In the Garden” is a waltz. I still get requests to play it at Protestant funerals.

      OEW’s opening chord (subdominant G major with that C# in the melody) is unique to any congregational liturgical song I’ve ever heard. A persistent problem is that the typical parish cantor can’t nail the C# dead center (forget the congregation trying to). Patti Page to my knowledge never sang OEW, but Pat Boone surely did.

      • Karl says:

        Patti Page recorded her version about 15 years ago, btw…. I had my reasons for researching this….

        And the opening of OEW is, um, uniquely treacherous and flubbed in some way most of the time: it was cheeky of Fr Joncas to do that, and I believe he understands that. (I am not a fan of the minefield school of sacred music composition – I especially have in mind the counterpoint fault of overlapping voices (which is a different fault from crossing voices) as probably the single most common iceberg (to mix metaphors) against which amateur choirs founder.)

      • Randolph and Karl, I remember sitting just to the left of Joncas at Chicago NPM on the platform stage when he “debuted” OEW, and the effect of that melodic entrance was truly electric. And he only used his acoustic guitar for accompaniment.
        The genius of that melody/chord assignment, as you both likely know well, is its ambiguity: it could function as the V in a 4/2 inversion “hearkening” to the tonic D, as the C# is also supported by the dominant A in the accompaniment which tempers the tritone dissonance. But the C# resolves down to B and a solid IV which, to me, makes the union of YooHoo both exotic and plagal when getting to “shelter” on the tonic, finally. At the time, not even the SLJ’s or Dameans would have dreamt of such a progression. That’s not to say the Jebbies didn’t have little harmonic gems of their own at that time, say like “Turn to me.”
        However I remember a song from the mid 70’s that employed another harmonic device that was similar to the Joncas cliche. “Peace I leave with you, my friends” has that motive where from the opening tonic D the next chord is a Major II E/D (4/2 again, in theory) that doesn’t resolve classically but moves to the IV and then back to I. Again, a fairly standard progression in classical and likely pop rep., but novel to the “folkie” medium at the time, or so I thought.

  3. Jimmy Mac says:

    I spent many years in a small nondenominational congregation. Even to this day, when I hear/sing “In the Garden” I get all teary-eyed.

    I like “Eagle’s Wings,” but ITG still gets me where it is important – in the soul.

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