This Sunday is a special day in the life of the church. We remember and celebrate those who have finished their work here on earth and are enjoying eternity with their creator.
Last year, my dear friend and fellow FBG member Danette Patterson came to me with an idea for a new hymn arrangement. Throughout 2018, she said goodbye to nine family members, and with their memory in mind, she commissioned a piano arrangement of the beloved hymn “When We All Get to Heaven.” It would eventually accompany a tribute video at a gathering to remember those departed family members. There is always sadness in watching a loved one depart, but we also have the reassurance that we will all be together again.
I felt honored that Danette trusted me with this project, and I enjoyed the process of creating a work that would hopefully be treasured by her family. I love arranging hymns for piano solo because I enjoy the creative process of making music convey the message of the associated lyrics. In this arrangement, the opening motive of four descending notes is taken from the first full measure of the refrain’s melody. It reappears throughout the arrangement to remind us that one day we will all get to heaven.
This setting begins in a more somber mood than most of us are used to hearing, playing or singing this hymn. This is meant to evoke longing and deep reflection. We reflect on the wondrous love of Jesus, his mercy, and his grace while we long for the place he is preparing for us.
The second stanza paints a picture of the pilgrim pathway and the clouds overspreading the sky by hinting at a minor key. The chorus here is a bit brighter than its first appearance, highlighting the difference between life and afterlife.
I marked the third stanza as Risoluto because of the opening line: Let us then be true and faithful. Then the next part is perhaps my favorite in the entire arrangement. Just one glimpse of him in glory comes softly with a surprise key change. I thought of how awe-inspiring it will be to finally see Jesus face to face and wanted to capture that in this moment.
Without a restatement of the chorus, we are ushered into the fourth stanza with more motion as we move onward to the prize before us. The arrangement grows a bit more before it winds back down to the reflective mood of the beginning. The descending four-note motive returns and takes us into eternity.
I dare assume that most of us either are currently grieving or have grieved over the loss of someone dear to us in this life. It is my prayer that when you hear this music on Sunday, you will be encouraged that one day we will all be in heaven, and what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When We All Get to Heaven
Sing the wondrous love of Jesus;
Sing his mercy and his grace.
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place.
While we walk the pilgrim pathway
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when traveling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh.
Let us then be true and faithful,
Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of him in glory
Will the toils of life repay.
Onward to the prize before us!
Soon his beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.
When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory.
Music for Sunday:
“The Lord Is My Shepherd” (a reflection on Psalm 23) by Robert Lau. Copyright © 2017 Lorenz Publishing Co., a division of The Lorenz Corporation.
“When We All Get to Heaven,” lyrics by Eliza E. Hewitt; music by Emily D. Wilson; arranged by Shelton Ridge Love. Commissioned by Danette Moody Patterson as tribute to beloved family members who departed for their heavenly home in 2018. September 9, 2018. Copyright © 2018 Love Notes, Inc.
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” music & lyrics by Martin Luther; arranged by Carolyn Hamlin. Copyright © 2004 Van Ness Press, Inc.