Sunday, February 3, 2013

William Howard Doane

William Howard Doane, who was born on this date in 1832, has often been described in hymn histories as an enthusiastic amateur, but the hundreds of gospel song melodies he composed have been sung by many thousands of people over the last 150 years.  He worked for more than forty years in the manufacturing field, but continued composing and editing collections of gospel and Sunday school songs in his spare time.

He composed his first music at age sixteen, and by the age of twenty he was the conductor of the Norwich Harmonic Society in Connecticut.  The first collection he compiled, Sabbath School Gems, was published in 1862, but by that time he had already been employed for more than a decade by the J. A. Fay Company, and had been the managing partner of the firm for two years.

A later collection, Pure Gold for the Sunday School (1871), which he edited with Robert Lowry, contained this popular song, which is probably still remembered by many.

Take the name of Jesus with you,
Through your sorrow and your woe,
It will joy and comfort give you;
Take it then, where’er you go.

Precious name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of heav’n.
Precious name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of heav’n.

Take the name of Jesus ever,
As a shield from every care;
If temptations round you gather,
Breathe that holy name in prayer.

O the precious name of Jesus!
How it thrills our souls with joy,
When his loving arms receive us,
Blissful songs our tongues employ!

Lydia Baxter, 1870; alt.
Tune: PRECIOUS NAME ( with refrain)
William H. Doane, 1871

Many of Doane's most well-known songs were written to texts by Fanny Crosby, but he composed tunes for many other writers, and even wrote a number of texts himself.  He also wrote a series of Christmas cantatas which were widely sung, and some of these were secular, including one called Santa Claus (1879).

Some of Doane's papers, including correspondence with other gospel song writers and composers, are preserved at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, IL

Four Years Ago: William Howard Doane

Three Years Ago:  William Howard Doane

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