The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Hymns Articles

The Story Behind "Over the River and Through the Wood"

“Over the River and Through the Wood” was originally published in 1844 as a poem written by Lydia Maria Child. The poem was published in Child’s book of poems Flowers for ChildrenVolume 2, and was originally titled “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day.” In time, Child’s poem was set to music by an unknown composer, and over the years many children have grown up singing the song in school or community holiday programs.

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"Danny Boy": The History and Lyrics

“Danny Boy” is a popular ballad that was written in 1910. Many people associate the song with Ireland, even though lyricist Frederic Weatherly was a British lawyer. The connection came when his Irish-born sister-in-law sent him a copy of the tune “Londonderry Air” in 1913. Upon receiving it, Weatherly modified his lyrics to fit the meter of the tune.

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"God Be with You Till We Meet Again" Sung in Dutch—Live from The Netherlands

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performed the last concert of their 2016 European tour in Rotterdam, Netherlands, at De Doelen concert hall. The hall was originally built in 1934 but was destroyed in 1940 by the German bombardment of Rotterdam at the beginning of World War II. De Doelen was rebuilt in 1966, and additional halls were added in the 1990s.

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The Inspirational Story Behind “I’ll Follow Him in Faith” by Janice Kapp Perry

In 2001 Janice Kapp Perry received a request from the Music Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to write a song for the first-ever Primary satellite broadcast, which would be held the following year. She was given a theme and suggested ideas of what she could include in her song. In her songwriting career, Perry has written over 1,000 songs, so we can only guess there wasn’t much doubt that she was up for the challenge.

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The Origin of the Primary Song “He Sent His Son”

The timeless Primary song “He Sent His Son” was written by the prolific poet and songwriter Mabel Jones Gabbott (1910–2004) and Michael Moody. Gabbott (lyrics) and Moody (music) also cowrote many other Primary songs that are included in the current Children’s Songbook, such as “Sleep, Little Jesus,”  “Who Is This Child?” “There Was Starlight on the Hillside,” and “Have a Very Merry Christmas.” The two also worked on the General Music Committee of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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"The Iron Rod" Was Written by Two Sunday School Workers

“The Iron Rod” is a hymn composed by William Clayson, with lyrics by Joseph L. Townsend. The hymn is number 274 in the 1985 hymnal but was originally written for the Payson Sunday School in Utah, where both Townsend and Clayson were Sunday School workers. The hymn was first included in the Deseret Sunday School Song Book in 1892.

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"My Redeemer Lives": A Hymn by Gordon B. Hinckley and Lifelong Friend G. Homer Durham

In 1995, Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), became the 15th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Under his leadership, the Church doubled its number of existing temples to beyond 100. At the time of his passing in 2008, President Hinckley had dedicated more temples than all of the other Church leaders of this dispensation combined. Church membership grew from 9 million to more than 15 million during his presidency.

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The Story Behind "Softly and Tenderly (Jesus Is Calling)"

“Softly and Tenderly,” which was originally known as “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling,” is a classic invitation hymn from the 19th century.  It was written by Will Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909) who was a composer of gospel, secular, and patriotic songs.  

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“The Prayer” Is a Song of Safety and Inspiration

“The Prayer” is a popular classical crossover song by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa, and Tony Renis. It was originally released as separate solo tracks on the soundtrack for the animated film Quest for Camelot, with a solo version for Celine Dion recorded in English and one for Andrea Bocelli in Italian.

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9 Sam Cardon Arrangements Performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Whether you know it or not, musical arrangements are a very important part of the music we consume every day. An arrangement is a new approach to an existing musical piece. When an artist records a cover song, it is almost always a new arrangement, which sometimes outperforms the original. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston became one of the best-selling singles of all time. Most people thought the 1992 hit was her own song, but Dolly Parton composed it as a country song in 1973. Aretha Franklin’s version of Otis Redding’s “Respect” is the go-to version for any American Idol singer looking to wow the audience.

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I Know That My Savior Loves Me

“I Know That My Savior Loves Me” is a children’s song composed by Tami Jeppson Creamer, with lyrics by Derena Bell. It was published in 2002 in the Friend magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first verse of the song describes children gathered around Jesus and being blessed by Him and feeling His love during His time on earth; the second verse describes how we can learn about Jesus and feel His love today.

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Because He Lives

Jesus Christ lived. He walked the Holy Land, working miracles and teaching truth. Then He was crucified. But His death was not the end. Because of His Resurrection, we will live again. Because of His sacrifice, we can rise above sin to experience true joy. Because He lives, we can find His help and healing every day of our lives.

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6,000 Hymns Were Submitted For 1985 Hymnbook

Each Sunday, members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather to worship and sing sacred hymns from the book's beloved pages. Twice a year, a general conference of the entire Church is broadcast from Salt Lake City, Utah, where instruction is given by Church leaders, and hymns are sung by the 360-member Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 

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The Children's Song "If the Savior Stood Beside Me" Was a Gift from Mother to Daughter

The children's song “If the Savior Stood Beside Me” was written by Sally DeFord and published in October 1993 in the Friend magazine, which is a children’s publication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The song's lyrics help us think about how we might do things differently if the Savior were right there with us as we go about our lives. The last verse affirms that He is with us always, even though we may not see Him.

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A Brief History of “Down by the Riverside”

“Down By the Riverside” is a spiritual that was sung by slaves in the South as a work song. It dates back to before the American Civil War but remained unpublished until 1918, when it was included in Plantation Melodies: A Collection of Modern, Popular and Old-time Negro-Songs of the Southland.

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The Unique Story Behind the Children’s Hymn “Love Is Spoken Here”

What do you do when you can’t find the perfect title for a song contest, and the deadline is only two days away? Simple, you ask your husband—that’s just what Janice Kapp Perry did while attending a church party. As she and her husband, Doug, were leaving the party, he looked above the kitchen sink and saw a cross-stitch sampler that read, “Love Is Spoken Here.” He said, “There’s your title, get busy.”

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"This Is My Father’s World": The History and Lyrics

“This is My Father’s World” was written by Maltbie Davenport Babcock and was published after his death in 1901. It was originally written as a poem containing sixteen verses of four lines each. Franklin L. Sheppard set the poem to music in 1915 and selected three verses for the final hymn.

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The History of the Hymn "Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise"

In the early 1830s, members of The Church of The Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were already becoming unwelcome guests wherever they went and wherever they tried to establish a livelihood. In every state, county, and city where they attempted to settle, they were forced out of their homes and left with nothing but prayers in their hearts for a land they could call home. That home would later become known as Zion.

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The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Brings Back That "Old Time Religion"

“Old Time Religion” was first published in 1873, when a tour book about the Fisk Jubilee Singers was written to recount their northern states tour. In 1889, Charlie D. Tillman, who was the son of a Baptist minister, was helping his father with a tent meeting in Lexington, South Carolina. It was there that he first heard an African American group singing “Old Time Religion.”

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Mack Wilberg's Arrangement of "Fum, Fum, Fum": The History and Lyrics

“Fum, Fum, Fum” is a Catalonian Christmas carol that originated in the 16th or 17th century. The word “fum” has many meanings ranging from the sound of a rocking cradle, the sound of a drum, the strum of a guitar or playing on a fiddle. The literal definition of “fum” in Catalan means smoke, which could refer to smoke rising from a chimney.

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The Author of “Love is Spoken Here” Became a Member of the Choir

The origin of “Love Is Spoken Here” is one of good timing and inspiration. The song’s author, Janice Kapp Perry, was in need of a title for a song she was going to enter into a song contest for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During a party she was attending, she turned to her husband and said, “Could you give me a good idea for the song contest? When he asked when the deadline was, her reply was “Two days.” He then asked how long she knew about it, to which she replied, “Just this one . . . year.” As they were leaving the party, her husband saw a cross-stitch sampler above the kitchen sink that said "Love Is Spoken Here." He said, “There’s your title, get busy.”

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Tribute To Stephen Paulus

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir expresses its sincere condolences to the family of composer, Stephen Paulus, who passed away Sunday at the age of 65. He died of medical complications, which resulted from a severe stroke that he suffered on July 4, 2013.

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The History of “God of Our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand"

“God of Our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand” communicates a feeling of patriotism and honors the greatness of God. The hymn’s origins can be traced back to 1876, when the United States was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Daniel C. Roberts wrote the text for the hymn to be used during a small patriotic celebration in Vermont. The lyrics ask God to continue to guide and protect us as He has done in the past.

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"Nearer, My God, to Thee”: The History and Lyrics

Sarah Flower Adams was a British actress who received praise for her performance in an 1837 production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. After health problems disrupted her plans to continue with theater, she found comfort in writing poems and hymns.

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I Stand All Amazed - Video and Lyrics

“I Stand All Amazed” is a hymn of praise and wonder that acknowledges gratitude for the Savior’s Atonement. Charles H. Gabriel, who composed between 7,000 and 8,000 songs, wrote “I Stand All Amazed” in 1898. Born in Wilton, Iowa, in 1856 and raised on a farm, he taught himself to play his family’s reed organ and never had any formal music training.

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"Amazing Grace": Mack Wilberg’s Arrangement of the Famous Folk Hymn

We’ve all heard “Amazing Grace” sung in many forms, from the country to pop, Celtic to gospel. Artists such as Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Rod Stewart and Willie Nelson have recorded it and it has been used in many films and pop culture settings. The hymn is one of the most recognizable English language songs and has been recorded over 6,600 times. "It may be the most recorded song on the planet," said Jerry Bailey, executive at Broadcast Music, Inc., of Nashville.

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“More Holiness Give Me” Author, Philip Bliss Led a Life of Music

Philip Paul Bliss was born on July 9, 1838, in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. He developed an early love of music and singing from hearing his father singing hymns. He did not have much formal education but was taught from the Bible by his mother and eventually became a schoolmaster and later a traveling music teacher.

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The Story Behind "I Will Follow God’s Plan”

If you know any songs from the Children’s Songbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then chances are you know one of Vanja Watkins's songs. Among those songs are such gems as “Families Can Be Together Forever,” “I Will Be Valiant,” and “Latter-day Prophets.” Also included is another well-known Primary favorite, “I Will Follow God’s Plan,” a song about a child’s desire to seek God’s light and to adhere to His word. It teaches that life is a precious gift from God and that all of His children come to Earth for a reason.

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The History of "Love At Home"

John Hugh McNaughton hails from Caledonia, New York, where there is a monument that stands in his honor for his contributions to principles of truth. Born in 1829 to Scottish parents, he was a little-known composer who wrote the well-known hymn “Love at Home.” The hymn is unique in the fact that it doesn’t paraphrase scripture or read like a prayer.

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“I Need Thee Every Hour:” A Hymn of Great Comfort

The author for “I Need Thee Every Hour,” Annie Sherwood Hawks, wrote over 400 hymns in her lifetime. Born in Hoosick, New York on May 28, 1835, Hawks had a love for writing poetry, and her poems were published in local newspapers while she was still in her youth. 

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The Writer of “Holy, Holy, Holy” Was the Bishop of Calcutta

One of the more popular videos on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s YouTube channel is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” It is a Christian hymn written by Reginald Heber. Born in England in 1783, Heber was a hymn writer who attained a reputation as a poet while attending Oxford University. After being ordained in 1807, he served as a clergyman for 16 years, where hymn writing integrated with his other responsibilities. Most of the 57 hymns he wrote in his lifetime are still used today.

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Temple Dedication Hymn: “The Spirit of God”

William Wines Phelps, born February 17, 1792, in Hanover, New Jersey, wrote “The Spirit of God.” Phelps has a storied history with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that traces back to April 9, 1830. After purchasing a copy of the Book of Mormon from Parley P. Pratt, he spent many hours discussing and learning about the Church. Just over a year later, in June of 1831, he came to Kirtland, Ohio, where he met with Joseph Smith and asked him for a revelation. When the Prophet sought the Lord for information concerning Phelps, section 55 of the Doctrine and Covenants was recorded.

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Joseph Townsend Wrote the Lyrics to “Choose the Right” -- The CTR Ring was Introduced Nearly 30 Years After his Death

Health issues brought Joseph L. Townsend to Salt Lake City in 1872 when he was 23 years-old. He was a hardworking man of many talents who not only ran a Payson drugstore for 15 years and taught at Brigham Young Academy, but also wrote the words to 10 hymns in the current hymnal. "The Day Dawn is Breaking", “Nearer, Dear Savior, to Thee”, “Reverently and Meekly Now”, “Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words To Each Other”, “Choose the Right”, “O Thou Rock Of Our Salvation”, “Hope of Israel”, “Oh, Holy Words of Truth and Love”, “The Iron Rod”, and “Oh, What Songs of the Heart” were all written by Townsend.

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The History and Mystery of “How Firm a Foundation”

“How Firm a Foundation” is a hymn so well known and loved that it was sung during the funerals of U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. It was sung by American troops engaged in the Spanish-American war on Christmas morning in 1898. It was a favorite of General Robert E. Lee and also sung at his funeral. And yet, with all of its notoriety, the author is somewhat of a mystery. The hymn is attributed to “K,” in the original publication.

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“'Give' Said the Little Stream" Author Wrote Over 8,000 Hymns

Despite becoming blind at six weeks of age, due to a medical malpractice, Fanny Crosby went on to write over 8,000 hymns and was one of the most prolific hymnists in history. Born, Frances Jane Van Alstyne Crosby, in 1820, she was also known as the “Queen of Gospel Song Writers,” and the “Mother of Modern Congregation Singing in America.” She wrote so many hymns that she had to use over 200 different pseudonyms in her career because publishers were reluctant to have too many hymns by one person in their hymnbooks.

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John Henry Newman Writes the Lyrics to Lead, Kindly Light

John Henry Newman was 33 years old when he found himself on a boat from the Sicilian city of Palermo to Marseille, France. Newman, who was recovering after being dangerously ill with a fever, was on the boat to return to his native England when he penned the lyrics to “Lead, Kindly Light.”

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A Brief History of “Down to the River to Pray”

While it is hard to pinpoint the exact origins of the song, “Down to the River to Pray” has been referred to as a hymn, a spiritual and an Appalachian song. Some believe it was a Native American Tribal song that was adapted to include Christian lyrics. It is attributed to George H. Allan in the Slave Songbook of 1867, and Alison Krauss popularized it in the 2000 film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? The song also is known by alternate titles such as “Down in the Valley to Pray,” “Come, Let Us All Go Down” and “The Good Old Way.” Whatever the title might truly be, the deeply spiritual song is about keeping the faith in a time of darkness.

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The History and Lyrics to “God Be With You Till We Meet Again”

Many of the popular songs we know and love have a special story behind them. That being said, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again”, which was written by Jeremiah Rankin, was simply composed so his church choir could have something to sing when they parted each week. Rankin was the minister for the First Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. and said this about the hymn, “Written…as a Christian goodbye, it was called forth by no person or occasion, but was deliberately composed as a Christian hymn on basis of the etymology of “goodbye,” which is “God be with you.” He got the idea for the first stanza of the song when he saw the dictionary definition of "good-bye" was short for "God be with you." The song was written in 1882 when Rankin was 54 years old.

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Abide with Me; ’Tis Eventide: A Product of the American Civil War

The lyrics and music to the hymn “Abide with Me; ’Tis Eventide” were heavily influenced by the American Civil War. Both the writer of the lyrics, Martin Lowrie Hofford, and the composer of the music, Harrison Millard, held positions in the Union forces and felt the widespread loss and sorrow that the war brought.

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I Know That My Redeemer Lives

Samuel Medley, the author of the lyrics to “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” was born in England, just north of London, in 1738. Although he was raised by a family of faithful Christians, Medley chose not to practice religion during much of his youth. However, in 1759 he witnessed a miracle, and it changed the course of his life.

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Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee: a Famous Hymn with a Famous Author

Bernard of Clairvaux wrote the lyrics to “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee.” He was also one of the most influential spiritual leaders of his time, a man who kings and dignitaries turned to for counsel and advice. His sermons and writings impacted Europe’s religious landscape for centuries and remain relevant to this day. In addition to making contributions through the written and spoken word, Bernard was integral in the establishment of several monasteries across Europe.

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The Author of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” Invented an Odometer

William Clayton, a member of the first company of Mormon pioneers to trek westward out of Nauvoo, wrote the lyrics to “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” The song quickly became a favorite among the Saints traveling west. In fact, in many camps, it was a rule that when anybody started singing the hymn, everyone in the camp should join in.

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The Lyrics to “All Creatures of Our God and King” Are Almost 800 Years Old

St. Francis of Assisi, who was born in 1181 in what is now Italy, is credited with the lyrics to “All Creatures of Our God and King.” The lyrics are adapted from “The Canticle of the Sun” (Canticum Solis), a poem he wrote during the last year of his life. Written at a time when he was weak and struggled with periods of temporary blindness, St. Francis wished to express the unity he felt with nature and the feelings of peace he experienced as his earthly life drew to a close.

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The Story Behind “God Bless America”

From Kate Smith to Celine Dion to New York City’s “singing cop,” Daniel Rodriguez, “God Bless America” has had its fair share of renditions over the years. Irving Berlin originally wrote the song in 1918 while he served in the U.S. Army, but he revised it in 1938 to become a song about peace rather than victory.

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The Original Title of “Praise to the Man” Was Simply “Joseph Smith”

William W. Phelps contributed to several hymns we sing today. Among others, he wrote “Now Let Us Rejoice,” “The Spirit of God,” and “If You Could Hie to Kolob.” He published the first newspaper of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which included the lyrics to “Redeemer of Israel,” and he contributed in many other ways to the early establishment of the Church.

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The Lyrics To “How Great Thou Art” Were Written After A Preacher Was Caught In A Violent Midday Thunderstorm

A British minister, Stuart K. Hine, contributed heavily to the version of “How Great Thou Art” that we are familiar with today. However, the original text came from a Swedish preacher, Carl Boberg, who wrote his lyrics after a unique experience on the southeast coast of Sweden. The experience was chronicled in an episode of the Mormon Channel’s History of Hymns. An excerpt is below:

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The Battle of Jericho History Involves Elvis Presley

The actual Battle of Jericho dates back to biblical times, when Joshua’s Israelite army caused the walls of Jericho to fall. In the biblical account, God speaks to Joshua and tells him to march around the city with his army once every day for six days. On the seventh day, God tells him to march around the city seven times as the priests blow their ram’s horn trumpets. At the sound of the trumpets, Joshua told the people to shout. When they shouted “with a great shout,” as the Bible tells, the wall fell down and Joshua’s army took the city.

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“This Land Is Your Land” was Originally Written with a Different Title in Mind

Composed as a critical response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” “This Land is Your Land” has stood the test of time as one of America’s most famous folk songs. Written by Woody Guthrie in 1940 and originally titled “God Blessed America For Me,” the song was based on an existing melody and went through a number of lyrical changes throughout its creation. A final version with two additional verses was recorded in 1944.

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