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Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Actually, the name of this hymn is “Hymn of Joy”, but everybody I know calls it, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”. There’s a long tradition of referring to hymns by their first line, instead of by the name of the hymn. In fact, many popular hymns don’t actually have names, but this one does.

The author, Henry van Dyke, originally wrote it as a poem, which he intended to be sung to the tune “Ode to Joy,” part of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, his last and greatest creation. Beethoven, in turn, composed the tune as a musical setting to a poem by the German poet, Friedrich Schiller, which Schiller called (surprise, surprise!), “Ode to Joy.”  The symphony includes a choir singing the the poem, but with some of the words changed or omitted. 

Some people think it was shabby of Beethoven to steal the title and alter the words of the great poet, but Schiller got his revenge, two centuries late, when the European Union adopted the tune, with different words, as their Union anthem, without giving credit to either the poet OR the composer! Now, every schoolchild in Europe will grow up thinking of Beethoven’s masterpiece as, “that stupid song we had to sing in school!”

At the end of this post, you will find Henry van Dyke’s original lyrics. They have been altered by various churches to fit their own theology in detail, but are all pretty much the same. I am not including Schiller’s original poem, because it is quite lengthy, and I can’t read German, anyway.

Performance notes:

Not much to tell, the tab is really very simple.  Only three chords, and they are dead easy: G, D7, and a slightly unusual version of D7 called D7/A.  Don’t let the complex name scare you, it’s fretted EXACTLY like a regular D7, only you play the open A string too.  Strum the chords where marked with a wiggly, vertical line, and pinch the others where not marked.

Playing the melody is truly easy, if you remember a couple of things:

LEFT HAND: fret the notes in the first space (between the nut and the first fret) with the index     finger, the second space with the middle finger, etc., regardless of which string they are on.  This does not apply to chords, just to the melody line.  Strum all chords with the thumb, where marked.  

RIGHT HAND: pluck the first string with the ring finger, the second string with the middle finger, the third string with the index finger, and the bass string (whichever it is) with the thumb.  When two or more notes in succession fall on the same string, alternate fingers.  Don’t try to pluck the same string twice in a row with the same finger-- it’ll ruin your timing!

Pinch chords involving one of the 3 bass strings and one or more of the three treble strings by plucking the bass string with your thumb and simultaneously plucking the treble string(s) with the appropriate finger(s).  Pinch chords involving only treble strings using the appropriate fingers of the right hand simultaneously.

Hammer-ons are shown with an underscore between the notes. Play them by playing the open second string normally, then immediately hammering the index finger of the left hand down into the first space on the same string.  This allows you to play two notes in succession very rapidly, and also gives you time to play the next note with the same right-hand finger if you wish, without ruining your timing. The two notes will sound smoothly connected to each other, so this technique is also called a ligado, Spanish for “tied”.  Hammer-ons also sound way cool.

That’s it!

 Henry van Dyke’s original lyrics:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
hearts unfold like flow'rs before Thee,
hail Thee as the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day.

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
earth and heav'n reflect Thy rays,
stars and angels sing around Thee,
center of unbroken praise:
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
blossoming meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird and flowing fountain,
call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
ever blessing, ever blest,
wellspring of the joy of living,
ocean-depth of happy rest!
Thou the Father, Christ our Brother,—
all who live in love are Thine:
Teach us how to love each other,
lift us to the Joy Divine.

Mortals join the mighty chorus,
which the morning stars began;
Father-love is reigning o'er us,
brother-love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music lifts us sunward
in the triumph song of life.

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