Monday, July 9, 2012

Rock of Ages set to the Richard Redhead tune

 Richard Redhead tune

Rock of Ages' is a popular Christian hymn by Reverend Augustus Montague Toplady. It can be sung to the hymn tunes TOPLADY by Thomas Hastings or REDHEAD 76 by Richard Redhead. The words of the hymn were written in 1763 and first published in The Gospel Magazine in 1775, with the music added in around 1830.

The Rock of Ages, Burrington Combe where the Rev. Toplady is reputed to have sheltered from a storm. According to a famous but largely unsubstantiated story, Rev. Toplady drew his inspiration from an incident in the famous gorge of Burrington Combe, a Mendip gorge close to the Cheddar Gorge. Toplady, a preacher in the nearby village of Blagdon, was travelling along the gorge when he was caught in a storm. Finding shelter in a gap in the gorge, he was struck by the title and scribbled down the initial lyrics on a playing card.

The fissure that is believed to have sheltered Toplady is now marked as the 'Rock of Ages', both on the rock itself and on some maps, and is also reflected in the name of a nearby tea shop.

Others have viewed the hymn as a criticism of the theology of John Wesley and the early Methodists, citing the line, 'Thou must save, and Thou alone'. This line was believed to refer to the Wesleyan notion that human beings may exercise free will and thus play a role in salvation, an idea which Toplady and his Calvinist colleagues rejected.

The hymn was a favourite of Prince Albert, who asked it to be played to him on his deathbed, as did Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. It was also played at the funeral of William Ewart Gladstone.

In his book Hymns That Have Helped, W. T. Stead reported "when the London went down in the Bay of Biscay, 11 January 1866, the last thing which the last man who left the ship heard as the boat pushed off from the doomed vessel was the voices of the passengers singing 'Rock of Ages'.

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