Beautiful Savior would be much more beautiful if people would write about it

I’m finding myself in this horrible trend where I think of a super cool topic that has very little research to back it up. Right now, I’m synthesizing the sources that I have to see if there’s actually enough to continue with this topic… to be determined.

I’m interested in looking at Beautiful Savior. I had never heard this hymn before coming to St. Olaf, and obviously it’s inescapable here. I have a lot of questions that I could answer: does it align with Luther’s beliefs about congregational singing? How do the militaristic connotations of the text and melody relate to early beliefs about Christ as a warrior, and does that influence the popularity of the hymn? Does it appear in other faith traditions? (And does that have any significance?)

I think my best shot will be the first question, though I can’t stop thinking about the militaristic connotations. I am hoping that by performing my own analysis of the text and the chorale tune, I can compare and relate to what Luther says in his Preface to Symphoniae iucundae, what we read on the Lutheran chorale, and draw from new sources. For instance, there are SO many dissertations out there on the function of music in worship. The challenging thing for me right now is that most scholarship on the tune itself is part of a narrative about St. Olaf, and that feels like too narrow of a topic. I feel that the lack of other sources proves that the hymn is not super prevalent, answering a previous question.

My next step is to try to dig deeper into the tune and text themselves. I have some preliminary background knowledge from and the minimal background information in the “History of the St. Olaf Choir” books that the library has (side note: why have so many people written books about that? At least there are some killer photos of Dr. Armstrong).

I’m going to take a look at the companion commentaries to the ELW next: we looked at those frequently with JBobb in his interim course, and they typically provided a good background bio and often some places to look next. I welcome any other sources about specific hymns that I might not have thought of yet. I’m really hoping that there’s enough this time that I don’t have to change my thesis again, so any direction and feedback is VERY welcome.

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