Do You Know the Inspiring Story Behind This Revered Hymn – It Is Well With My Soul?
How I First Heard the History
I don’t know about you, but I grew up attending church with my parents and singing many different hymns out of a hymnal to the point that I can now (over a half century later) still sing them almost perfectly word for word. The interesting thing about this is that I didn’t have a clue as to the meaning of the words of these hymns when I first learned them. Can anyone relate?
As a relatively young family man I and my family began to attend a local “community” church with a small choir and a choir director that had good musical skills and a deep interest in the history and meaning of the music he loved and directed. It was from him, Paul Woodie, that I first heard of the history of the hymn It Is Well With My Soul. Knowing this hymn’s history so enriched its meaning that I took an interest in the history of other hymns and hymn writers. And, although I have almost no musical talent as a singer or instrumentalist, knowing the stories behind the hymns (and the newer christian songs, too) has added a much appreciated dimension to my worship experience.
The Story Behind It Is Well With My Soul
This hymn was written after traumatic events in Horatio Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his son at the age of 2 and the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone …”. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.
My hope is that this example will spur your interest in discovering the story behind some of your favorite hymns and praise songs. The internet makes it much easier to do so give it a try by Googling the title and author and add “history” and see what you get!
One of My Favorite Versions
You Have Never Heard it like This Before!
I have also included an extraordinary, relatively recent acapella version utilizing multiple tracks by the same artist, Sam Robson, to achieve an unbelievable harmony. Sam has recorded numerous hymns using the technique on YouTube. You can find them by clicking this link: Sam Robson on YouTube.
Sam Robson video:
I hope you enjoyed learning the history of this great hymn and hearing it performed emotionally in two distinctively different ways.
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I appreciate it.