Serene Sunday – Oh Happy Day

Did you know that Oh Happy Day was the 1967 gospel arrangement of an 18th century hymn?  English clergyman Phillips Doddridge first wrote the song in the mid 18th century.  It was rewritten several times and given a new melody into the 20th century.  In 1969, the Edwin Hawkins gospel singers turned it into an international hit.  It enjoyed renewed popularity after Sister Act 2 in 1993.  The lead singer was 15 year old Ryan Toby.
This is a cheerful uplifting song which never fails to get my foot tapping and put a smile on my face. Enjoy.

10 thoughts on “Serene Sunday – Oh Happy Day

    • I was just trying to figure out if we could find the 1704 tune. Freylinghausen was an important Lutheran pietist composer, and Doddridge was a dissenter, which tends to suggest that the original tune probably was fairly peppy. Hymnody was one thing that drew people away from the Church of England (the tunes of the original Methodist hymns are very energetic, and their original performance style included drums and brass instruments). I’ll keep looking, though. Cyberhymnal says that Prince Albert asked for the 1854 version of the tune (which doesn’t sound that different from this one) to be played at his children’s confirmations.

  1. @servetus, thank you for clarifying that; I didn’t know that Dodderige was a dissenter. That would indeed suggest that the original tune was not very different. Please let us know if you can track down a performance of the Freylinghausen version. (The Prince Albert version will do!)

    • You can hear the Prince Albert version (combosed by Edwin Rimbault) at cyberhymnal:

      The original text of Doddridge’s hymnal (in the 1755 edition available on googlebooks) doesn’t specify which tune of Freylinghausen’s it was sung to. That reference (that “Oh Happy Day that Fixed my Choice” was sung to a tune from Freylinghausen’s 1704 Geistliches Gesangbuch) seems to come from a dictionary of hymnody also on googlebooks that doesn’t specify the original tune. The reason I got interested in this is that I’ve run across Freylinghausen in my own research in another context. His most widely known tune is possibly familiar to you as the advent / Christmas hymn, “Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates.” This is a personal favorite of mine, although a friend of mine who’s a pastor in Germany says he feels like it includes every emotional cliche of hymn writing.

      With apologies for threadnapping.

  2. Many thanks. That version shows the transition to the 20th C.  Now I’m trying to recall whether the Advent/Christmas carol was included in the Anglican hymnals of my young experience. I just liked singing, and how can we escape cliches, anyway?

    • One of the point of pietism was supposed to be to “bring the emotion back in.” The Lutheran pietists — Zinzendorf et al. — played a decisive role in influencing Wesley. I don’t have a problem with it, I love the song 🙂

  3. I’d forgotten Maggie Smith was in this!  What a pop culture mashup cast…Whoopi Goldberg, Dame Maggie Smith and James Coburn.  Thanks for posting this, judaing!

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