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Background on the "Italian Hymn"


Tiffany Alfonso

"Come, Thou Almighty King" was one of the most popular hymns sung to honor the Holy Trinity. An anonymous writer (possibly Charles Wesley) wrote the words to Felice Di Giardini's music and it was named the "Italian Hymn" in the mid-eighteenth century. A really high majority of Christian churches usually sing this in either the key of F or G major and the whole congregation sings it in unison.

When I first heard the hymn, I decided to arrange it for two-part treble choir and I want it in A major instead of the usual F or G major versions sung in churches. To make this more interesting, I composed a flute solo along with the piano accompaniment and this version is suitable enough for small churches. For larger ones, like cathedrals, I added the optional instrumentation of strings, oboe, oboe d' amore, English horn, and French horn. Middle and high school girls who participated in church choirs would have an equal chance of singing this alongside women members and I hope that a publisher of Christian music would create copies of it.

In the original version of "Come, Thou Almighty King," it's always the same melody in each and every verse but in my version, I varied the harmonies and melodies of the choir. In verse one, the soprano sings the melody and the altos sings its parallel and in verse two the sopranos' part stays the same. There's something different in the latter, however, as the altos sing the counterpoint. Verse three is the longest part of the arrangement and the counterpoint of both parts blend well in the key of G flat minor. All instrumental parts play the same key in this verse, though. In the last verse, the altos sing most of the main melody before merging into their harmony while the sopranos sing the descant before singing the last few bars of the main melody. In verses one, two, and four, the instrumental parts play the same parts and a graceful slowdown in the end concludes this piece spiritually.

Recently, I revised the piano accompaniment and I'll work on revising the alto part. I want this piece commissioned by one of the large churches I've been to the past. I'll be playing the revised piano accompaniment to accompany the choir alongside the musicians (pros and/or amateurs) in the future because I recently started on piano lessons. "Come, Thou Almighty King" was not only one of my favorite hymns, but it's my first musical arrangement since eighth grade. Composed by a lesser-known operatic composer, it was regarded as one of the most popular hymns sung during the day of the Holy Trinity.

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