WARNING: CONTAINS VERY EASY CHORDS (with scary names.) And lots of barre chords. If you can play barre chords, you should have no trouble.
According to the piano music in the hymnal, this song is a long series of chords, with hardly any melody notes. That sounds good when accompanying choral or congregational singing, but does not do so well as an instrumental solo. But it’s such a beautiful song, with such a lovely chord progression, that I could not resist it. It did require a bit of arranging for instrumental guitar, and in one case, I had to substitute an F#7 chord for Fdim7, to bring out the melody.
There are lots of “diminished seventh” chords in this song. Don’t let that throw you. They are beautiful, and easy to play. Only the names are scary. And there’s a secret to playing them that you may not know.
THE SECRET: Nearly all diminished seventh chords are played exactly the same way; only the barre position varies. Sometimes, even that does not change. The second chord in the first measure is actually an Fdm7, but it’s played exactly the same as Ddim7. The name is the only difference! That’s right-- the very same chord has two different names. Actually, it has four different names: Ddim7 = Fdim7 = G#dim7 = Bdim7. All four are exactly the same chord, played exactly the same way. All four names are equally correct.
I call them all Ddim7 for simplicity. Change the barre position, and you get other diminished seventh chords, in similar groups of four. There are technical reasons for this. I won’t go into them here, but if you are interested, see the PDF document in The Tabs at right, called “Diminished Seventh Chord Theory”. You’ll learn how, by mastering one easy, four-string chord, you can play five dozen really beautiful chords. Really.
Those dim7 chords probably all should have Roman numerals attached, to show which space the barre goes in. I didn’t do it, because their names would be ridiculously long, and would not fit in the tablature. G#dim7II, for example.
Some chords called for in the piano music have been replaced with single notes or two-note pinches, for playability. In the interest of simplicity, and to avoid confusion, I have left their chord names out of the tab entirely.
There are two different ways of playing A7 in this tab, two ways of playing Bm, and two ways to play D7. All are necessary to bring out the melody. If you just play them one way, the melody will go down where it’s supposed to go up,. There are also two different ways of playing G. You may find it easier to fret the non-barred G as if you were playing G7, for easier chord changes. The #1 string is not played, so there is no difference between G and G7, so far as the actual notes played are concerned. Use which ever feels easiest to you.
-- At the end of the second measure, you can ease the transition from G to BmII by releasing the G chord early. It won’t matter, as the third pinch is on two open strings. Do the same at the end of the tenth measure, where the transition is from G to BII .
-- The first measure of the second line shows a ligado on the G string, from the 4th fret to the 2nd fret. Normally, this would be played as a pull-off, but if your fingers are short, like mine, you may find it easier to do a push off instead. Whichever way you do it. leave the index finger on the string in the 2nd space, where it will be perfectly positioned for the following D chord.
-- In the first measure of the last line, you will normally use your ring finger to fret the G note on the #1 string. If you leave it on the string, you can easily move it to the second space, to make the pull off, in preparation for the following GIII chord.
-- Following this chord, there are two notes (C and B) on the #1 string, which are to be played with “strong tremolo”. This is done by rapidly vibrating the fretting finger (probably the ring finger) along the string, while continuing to hold the note. The tremolo will be strongest if performed with the finger closer to the next higher fret, rather than in the middle of the space. If you are playing more than one verse, you may choose to omit the tremolo from the earlier verses, adding it in on the last verse for emphasis.
-- The final three chords require you to go from an Em7 shape to an A7 shape to an E shape, while simultaneously sliding the barre from VII to V to III. Quickly. There is no trick for doing this easily. It’s a hard series to play well, even though the chords individually are not difficult. As in all such situations, the only strategy that works is lots of practice. Sorry, there is no royal road here. It just takes work. However, it’s worth it, as this is a lovely way to end the phrase. You may even wish to repeat the last four measures, slowly, as a finale after the last verse.
-- Since this guitar arrangement is still mostly chords, it works without alteration as a guitar accompaniment for singers, or as a duet with some other instrument. I’d love to hear it done as a duet with a violin. Any violinists out there want to jam?
Text of the lyrics is by Annie Pinnock Malin, an early Utah pioneer. I have been unable to learn anything about the circumstances under which she wrote this song. Anyone have any information?
The music is from a tune called “Mercy”, by Louis M. Gottschalk, adapted by Edwin P. Parker. Gottschalk was a child prodigy of the piano, born in the USA, but classically trained in Europe, who performed throughout the United States. He left the U.S. after a scandal, and died in Brazil, leaving a large corpus of music. Several of his tunes are well-known hymns, but this is the only one included in the LDS Hymnal, which states that it was “adapted by Edwin P. Parker.
Parker is listed in hymnals of various churches as adapting works by Gottschalk (and other composers), though the names are often misspelled. To further cloud the issue, there are several historical personages of note named Edwin P. Parker, with conflicting birthdates and biographical information. I’m not going to repeat any of them, as I have no way to tell which are true, or even which refer to this-- and not some other-- Edwin P. Parker.
This song is in the public domain.
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