This week, our parish welcomes a new hymn to our repertoire. “If thou but suffer God to guide thee” is not in our Hymnal, though it is familiar to many of us who have worshiped in churches that rely on other hymnals. The hymn has inspired many composers to incorporate it in their own work. Bach, Mendelssohn, and Schumann used the tune very straightforwardly, and Brahms may have allusions to it in his Requiem.
The hymn also made an appearance in the 1987 film Babette’s Feast. Near the end of the movie, one of the two pious sisters at the center of the narrative sits at the piano and sings two verses in Danish.
I’ve prepared a page that describes the origins of the text and the melody. It also presents many musical examples of the tune’s use by Bach. Our choir recorded the hymn for singing together after services this week. You may download a copy of it here and sing it at home.