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Updated 05/31/2013

 

Let All Things Now Living

The lyrics to "Let All Things Now Living" were written by Katherine Davis.  Katherine K. Davis was a composer, pianist, and author of the famous Christmas tune "The Little Drummer Boy".   She was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, on June 25, 1892, and composed her first piece of music, "Shadow March," at the age of 15. She graduated from St. Joseph High School in 1910, and studied music at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. After her graduation, she continued at Wellesley as an assistant in the Music Department, teaching music theory and piano. At the same time, she studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Davis also studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

She taught music at the Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts, and at the Shady Hill School for Girls in Philadelphia. Many of her over 600 compositions were written for the choirs at her school.

She left all of the royalties and proceeds from her compositions, which include operas, choruses, children's operettas, cantatas, piano and organ pieces, and songs, to Wellesley College's Music Department. These funds are used to support musical instrument instruction.

Katherine K. Davis continued writing music until she became ill in the winter of 1979-1980. She died on April 20, 1980, at the age of 88, in Littleton, Massachusetts.


Katherine K. Davis

The lyrics are set to the tune of The Ash Grove. The Ash Grove (Welsh: Llwyn Onn) is a traditional Welsh folk song whose melody has been set to numerous sets of lyrics. The most well-known was written, in English, by John Oxenford in the 19th century.

The first published version of the tune was in 1802 in "The Bardic Museum". The book was written by Edward Jones, a harpist. About 4 years later a version with words appeared, under the name "Llwyn Onn". It tells of a sailor's love for "Gwen of Llwyn". The tune might be much older, as a similar tune appears in "The Beggar's Opera" by John Gay (1728), in the song "Cease Your Funning". In 1922 , however Kidson claimed that John Gay's tune derives from the Morris dance tune "Constant Billy", which is first known in Playford's "Dancing Master".

The tune of "The Ash Grove" is used for the hymn "Let All Things Now Living" in 1939 by composer Katherine K. Davis. Around 1962 another song called "The Irish Free State" was written to this tune. "The Ash Grove" featured in the 1980 BBC mini-series Pride and Prejudice.


Lyrics by Katherine Davis

Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving

To God the creator triumphantly raise.

Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,

Who still guides us on to the end of our days.

God's banners are o'er us, His light goes before us,

A pillar of fire shining forth in the night.

Till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished

As forward we travel from light into light.

 

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses

And sun in its orbit obediently shine;

The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,

The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.

We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;

With glad adoration a Song let us raise

Till all things now living unite in thanksgiving:

"To God in the highest, Hosanna and praise!"