Gabriel's Horn, Pastor George Weaver, November, 2015

posted Oct 27, 2015, 12:30 PM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Oct 27, 2015, 12:30 PM ]
The Music of Thanksgiving

As we come to the month of November and the celebration of the annual Thanksgiving  holiday, I've been thinking that there aren't all that many "Thanksgiving songs," compared especially to what we have available for Christmas.  I can name practically all the Thanksgiving songs that come to my memory on the fingers of one hand.  If you look in church hymnals, you won't find many songs associated with Thanksgiving.

"Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" is considered to be one of the best of all harvest and thanksgiving hymns in all of the hymnals of Christian singing.  It is found in nearly every published hymnal, most especially, Evangelical hymnals.  It was written for the harvest festival time in England, a movable feast day which varies according to the harvest season in different villages.

You probably are quite familiar with the first stanza of this hymn, which goes as follows:

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;

all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.

God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;

come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.


I can't say there is too much with which I find fault here except to mention that I do take issue with the 3rd line of that 1st stanza, which may be overstating the case in saying: “ God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied.” If I were the writer, it would say something more to the effect that God will supply our “needs,” but not necessarily our “wants.”


The hymn writer, Henry "Dean" Alford, is regarded as a gifted, Christian leader of the 19th century, a distinguished theologian and scholar. He was also a writer, poet, artist and musician. The composer is George J. Elvey, a long-time organist (for 47 years) at the historic Royal Chapel in Windsor Castle.


One of the major interests of the writer, Henry Alford, was hymnology. He translated and composed numerous hymns which he published in his Psalms and Hymns (1844,) The Year of Praise (1867,) and Poetical Works (1852 and 1868.) Of his many works, "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come," remains the only hymn that is still in use in most evangelical hymnals.


"Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" first appeared in Alford's Psalms and Hymns in 1844. Originally, it was meant to be a harvest song, and titled "After Harvest" with seven stanzas, only four of which have remained in common use.


Henry Alford, who was born on October 7, 1810 in London, England, became Dean of Canterbury Cathedral at age 47, and continued in the position until his death on January 12, 1871. He was also a prominent Greek scholar. I will remember to give thanks for Henry Alfrod, who gave us the words of this hymn, as well as for George Elvey, the composer of the music for this hymn, as we approach our celebration of the Thanksgiving Season in this year of our Lord, 2015.


George M. Weaver, Pastor of Maturing Ministries