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When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (string orchestra)

Isaac Watts penned beautiful lyrics for a passion hymn focused on man's relationship to the cross of Christ. Lowell Mason adapted a plainsong chant and a classic Christian hymn entered the mainstream.

This new arrangement is very smooth and focuses on harmonies and putting an understanding of the hymn lyric first. The anthem encompasses all four stanzas commonly sung.

The piece begins with the second violins, violas, and cellos in a trio, with the second violins carrying the melody in a rather low key. The bass and first violins soon join and set the tone for the piece. The second stanza is introduced a minor third higher by the violins and violas. The cello and then bass later join to once again add depth.

The third stanza carries the piece back to its plainsong roots with unison violas and cellos, then the bass enters and we break into three parts to complete the stanza. The full ensemble then enters a half step higher with more volume for a broad, rich rendering of the fourth stanza. A simple coda finishes the work.

The arrangement was specifically intended for Good Friday or a communion service, and the intent is smooth sonorous harmonies and great reverence for the sacrifice on the cross, and for this great hymn.

This selection is also available for SATBB choir in the same key, which would allow for a choral performance with string accompaniment. If an introduction is needed before the choir enters, the first sixteen bars (the section prior to the first double bar) can be played for this purpose.

Mp3 sound sample: Entire piece (synthesizer/midi).



WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS, by Isaac Watts, arranged for string orchestra by Tom Kirkland, comes in a pdf file of 200K, with a four-page score, five one-page parts and a license page, ten pages in all. Performance time should be approximately 3:30.


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Last update: 5 June 2017