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‘Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love

This is not an easy one, but it’s pretty, and that’s excuse enough. It’s got hard, unusual chords, difficult chord changes, and a most unusual time signature.  I can’t remember ever playing anything in 6/4 time before. Fortunately, that’s the easiest part. You play it just like 6/8 time, except at half speed. The song, as written for choral singing, is even slower. I’ve speeded it up by nearly fifty percent for the guitar solo. It still sounds slow and deliberate, but it doesn’t d-r-a-g.

The faster speed does make the difficult chord transitions even more difficult, as they have to be done quickly. For all the above reasons, I’ve classified this song as “advanced.” If you’re at home with barre chords, especially with barred C-shape chords, you won’t find this piece especially hard. There are two of them: FV and GVII. Both need to be reached in a single, quick motion: the   Ffrom a normal C chord, and the GVII from a GIII. Neither is easy to accomplish quickly, without lots of practice. If you are an advanced player, you will already have done this practice. Most intermediate players are not used to this chord shape. But if you are an intermediate player, and want to move up, this is a good song to learn on, as it’ll force you to learn to hit the chord in a single motion, without any “finger dancing.”

If you look closely at the tab or the chord charts, you will see that there are three different G chords used in this song, and three different G7 chords. Please do use all of them. They have different sounds, and relate to different harmonies and different chord progressions. None of them should be particularly difficult for an intermediate or advanced player.

Please note that this tab is for the tune name HANCOCK, as shown in Hymns #177, and will not work for the tune name MEREDITH (Hymns #176). I can’t recall ever having heard #176 actually sung in church. The lyrics are the same, but the melodies are very different, and have different composers.

Ebenezer Beesley (1840-1906), who composed this tune, was a prolific writer and composer. He was a handcart pioneer who emigrated to Utah from England with his family. In 1880 he became the director of the Tabernacle Choir. Besides this hymn, there are eleven others of his compositions in the current English language LDS Church hymnal:

    5 “High on the Mountain Top”
  16 “What Glorious Scenes Mine Eyes Behold”
  32 “The Happy Day at Last Has Come”
  76 “God of Our Fathers, We Come unto Thee”
  77 “Great Is the Lord”
153 “Lord We Ask Thee Ere We Part”
156 “Sing We Now at Parting”
185 “Reverently and Meekly Now”
232 “Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words”
280 “Welcome, Welcome, Sabbath Morning”
282 “We Meet Again in Sabbath School”.

George A. Manwaring (1854-1889), the lyricist for this hymn, often collaborated with Beesley. They had much in common. Both were pioneers, British emigrés, polygamists, early Tabarnacle Choir members, and prolific hymn writers. A more extensive biography of Manwaring can be found attached to the posting for “Lord, We Ask Thee Ere We Part”.

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