Click to enlargeThy Holy Wings (SATB, a cappella)

Same tune set for brass quintet or flute and cello duet.

This old Swedish hymn, "Bred Dina Vida Vingar" has been around long enough to bring fond memories, or perhaps tears to the eyes, for many who have heard it at some time in their lives when they most needed comfort. The tune itself is quite simple, having only two unique phrases arranged in AABA structure. The tune involves a lot of interval jumps, mostly arpeggios, which makes it a bit of a challenge to arrange in an interesting fashion. Perhaps this arrangement hits the mark for some choirs. It may be a bit more difficult to sing than some of the simpler arrangements, but the end result should be worth it.

I became familiar with this hymn as a result of contact with the Swedish hymn tradition as a student at Minnehaha Acacemy in Minneapolis. The choir director at that time was Harry P. Opel, a man who had dedicated his life to serving God and found his life's work teaching high schoolers the depth and richness of great Christian choral music. While this included the great works of Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Handel, Faure, Saint-Seans, and many others too numerous to mention, it also included the discovery of the complete musicality and meaning of a great many hymns of various traditions. I had not heard this hymn in perhaps twenty-five years when the organist played an arrangement of it in the prelude to Mr. Opel's funeral, and it choked me up immediately.

The idea of writing something based on this hymn tune began to form over subsequent weeks, and I began in earnest searching for ideas. Finally, after almost three months, I sat down and started writing. The work was complete in less than a day. I will tell you that in my own strength I do not write music that quickly.

The inclusion of verses from Psalm 91 came from deep in my memory, not only of the words of that Psalm, but of something a friend had showed my many years ago. As a sophomore new to Minnehaha Academy, my friend let me look through his yearbook from the previous year. Mr. Opel had signed "Harry P. Opel -- Psalm 91" in my friend's yearbook. Thus, the idea for the work (and the audacity to dedicate it to Mr. Opel with the deepest affection and respect) came from my recollections of the completeness of that man's commitment to serving and honoring God with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Here is the complete lyric:

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Thy holy wings, dear Savior, spread gently over me,
And through the long night watches I'll rest secure in Thee.
Whatever may betide me, be Thou my hiding place,
And let me live and labor each day Lord, by Thy grace.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will rest in the shadow of His might.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will rest in the shadow of His might.
He is my refuge. He is my fortress.
He is my God in whom I trust.
He is my God in whom I trust.

Thy holy wings, dear Savior, spread gently over me,
And let me rest securely through good and ill in Thee.
Oh, be my strength and portion, my rock and hiding place,
And let my ev'ry moment be lived within Thy grace.

Thy holy wings, dear Savior, spread gently over me.

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MP3 sound sample: Entire piece (synthesizer/midi).



THY HOLY WINGS, an anthem for SATB choir, a cappella, arranged by Tom Kirkland, comes in a PDF file of 960K that contains eight pages of complete score and license page, nine pages in all. Performance time should be around 3:30.


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Last update: 5 June 2017