He Will Hold Me Fast Lead Sheet – This hymn of devotion has roots in three regions. The story was told by American evangelist R.A. Touring Australia in 1902, Torrey (1856–1928) and music director Charles Alexander (1867–1920) met the young pianist Robert Harkness (1880–1961).

Dr. Torrey and Mr. Alexander came to my home town of Bendigo in June. Before I came, a committee of the Mission came to me and asked if I would help the meetings by playing the piano. I was not interested in gospel meetings; Indeed, I was against them, but I was struck by the thought that perhaps if I attended these meetings, my good father and mother would agree, and I agreed. I didn’t get to the first meeting ten minutes before I saw it was going to be hotter and warmer than expected.

He Will Hold Me Fast Lead Sheet

Mr. Alexander announced hymn 7, and soon I was playing a two-line hymn with an old southern tune. I didn’t care and played rough. I closed the book when I came to the chorus when I played with “Song of Glory”; I quickly memorized it, and to Mr. Alexander’s delight I composed a chorus with the chorus; but instead of being offended, he turned and looked at me and said, “Go on. Continue. This is what we want. So I continued. The next time we had a choir, I played the accompaniment a full octave, thinking he would definitely be angry, but he wasn’t there to be angry. At the end of the meeting, Dr. Torrey asked me if I was not a Christian. I straightened up and said, “No, I’m here to play the piano.” Dr. Torrey left me and went to pray for me. [1]

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After that experience, Alexander opposed Harkness’s acceptance of Christ. Impressed by Alexander’s genuine concern for his spiritual well-being, Harkness accepted. In addition, Alexander was so impressed with Harkness’ abilities that he hired the young man in a touring band, forming a partnership that lasted for several years.

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After working in Australia, the group traveled to Tasmania, New Zealand and India before shifting their efforts to the British Isles. In 1905, when the group was in London at the end of their campaign, they made contact with singer Ada Habershon (1861–1918) and produced their first joint composition:

A few days before the end of the action at the Strand, Mr. Alexander added a new gospel song to his collection of popular revival songs. He said, “Oh, what a difference!” and the holy verse was written by a woman widely known as Miss Ada R. Habershon. He was a campaign worker and heard Dr. Torrey speak about “The Second Coming of Christ” that afternoon. He was deeply moved by the doctor’s words and returned home to write the beautiful lines of the hymn. … After a while Miss Habershon gave the lines to Mr. Harkness, asking him to arrange the music. During Dr. Torrey’s sermon one night, while the pianist was reviewing the lines, he was inspired and pulled out of his pocket a sheet of paper on which he had written the music. The hymn was quickly printed as originally written, and without any alteration, to the delight of all who had the privilege of hearing it. During the last days of Strand’s campaign, it was sung on average at least once per meeting. [2]

In early 1906, the group was in Toronto, Canada. According to one account, Harkness met a young convert there who said he was “afraid he couldn’t keep it”, [3] so he wrote to Habershon in England, asking for more texts to address this feeling. Harkness described Habershon’s response after moving his team to Philadelphia:

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It was in 1906 during a mission in Philadelphia. I remember Dr. Torrey preaching to about 4,000 men in arms. During the sermon I took out a slip of paper with some of the words that Miss Habersho had sent in response to a request for some scriptures to uphold the power of Christ. I read the lines “He’ll hold me tight”; the music came to me and I worked on it there, writing the verses and the chorus. [4]

The following summer, in 1907, the song was presented at the Moody Bible Conference in Northfield, Massachusetts. One reporter described the song as “getting everyone involved…the music and squealing all over the place”. [5]

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In the spring of 1908, Charles Alexander returned to Philadelphia with evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman (1859–1918) and later gave this instruction regarding the impact of the song:

Last spring, on our business in Philadelphia, Dr. Charles W. Gordon called me through the waiting room of our hotel, introduced me to a handsome young man, and told me the story. … His face was beaming when he told us how he had been and his conversion at our meeting a few days ago. When I asked him, I felt that he was in darkness and could not live the Christian life. He was in the congregation when I led the crowd in singing “He’ll Hold Me Strong” and he said that’s exactly the message he needed. The idea that Christ could hold him fast and not depend on his own will or power was the means of resolution for Christ. [6]

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A few weeks after the Philadelphia march, Chapman and Alexander (and possibly Harkness) led a crusade in Kansas City. The reporter said “He’ll hold me tight” was a highlight of the experience:

The climax of the song service came when Mr. Alexander joined the 6,000,000 strong choir and audience in singing Mr. Harkness’ new song, “He’ll Hold Me Tight.” The crowd was electrified by the volume of music that had never been heard inside the building and the thought that Christ will sustain us through all the trials and tribulations of life. [7]

“He Will Hold Me Fast” was first distributed in pamphlets and/or pamphlets for revival meetings, including a 1907 electronic tablet published in Toronto (WorldCat). First appearance in a hymn or songbook

(NY: Christian Herald, 1907). The original has four lines and one word. Musically, it has the unusual feature of placing the music on the bass line. In a 1909 interview, Harkness explained why:

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Taking the idea of ​​putting the music in the left hand and listening to a cello in the orchestra, I adopted the plan of writing a small accompaniment in the right hand. It was used in secular music, but it was something completely new in gospel songs, I wanted to get away from the old three or four chords. Some of the leading gospel writers said that these should never be sung because they were against the rules of gospel songs, but the general public ignored these rules because they quickly became popular, and since then the number of writers has multiplied. [8]

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Despite the initial success of the song, it fell into disuse after the middle of the 20th century. In recent years, it has been revived through new music by Matt Merker of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Washington, D.C.). According to Merker, a member of his church gave him a copy of the original Gospel, but he initially put it aside.

I had forgotten about the song for a while, but brought it out again when I was going through a difficult season of personal doubt and uncertainty. I wrestled with difficult questions of faith and struggled to trust God’s saving grace. Jude v. John Piper from T4G 2012 20-25 was a lifeline for me, and Jude 24 was an anchor for my heart in that difficult moment: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from stumbling, and to show you guilty in the presence of his glory with great joy.. . I put out “…He’ll catch me fast” and the lyrics served me deeply. I wanted to see Christ’s resurrection and return in the lyrics, because our hope is guaranteed by Christ’s resurrection and return. I shared the song first with my wife and then with our pastor, who and suggested that we try singing it as a congregation. We presented this song to CHBC in early 2013, and the church quickly picked it up and began singing it with joy (and really loud voices!).[9]

Mercer’s version divides Habershaw’s original four lines and adds them with some minor changes

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