“How Great Thou Art! (Until That Day)” 75 Years Later

Joshua Swanson

In a heartwarming tribute to a timeless classic, 2024 ushers in the 75th anniversary of “How Great Thou Art!,” a hymn deeply cherished across the globe. This year, a remarkable rendition titled “How Great Thou Art (Until That Day)” breathes new life into this sacred melody. Set for release on January 26th, along with a captivating music video, this rendition is not just a musical masterpiece but also a beacon of hope, with proceeds dedicated to humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

Nashville, Tennessee, the cradle of musical heritage, played host to this extraordinary collaboration. A constellation of today’s most celebrated Christian artists, including Chris Tomlin, Hillary Scott, Naomi Raines, TAYA, Blessing Offor, Matt Redman, and a host of others, lent their voices to this project. Matt Redman and Mitch Wong, under the auspices of the Stuart Hine Trust, composed an additional verse, adding a contemporary resonance to the hymn while maintaining its timeless essence.

How Great Thou Art Until That Day Single Cover

Matt Redman, reflecting on the new lyrics, emphasized the importance of acknowledging our tumultuous world while singing with hope and faith. Worship, as Redman notes, is not about turning a blind eye to the world’s fragility but about engaging with it, praying through it, and recognizing God’s sovereignty over it.

This new version, produced by Matt Maher and Steve Marcia and featuring string arrangements by Tommee Profitt, was recorded at Gold Pacific Studios in Los Angeles and the iconic RCA Studio B in Nashville. The latter holds historical significance, being the site where Elvis Presley recorded his GRAMMY-winning version of the hymn in 1966.

The hymn’s roots trace back to the 1930s Carpathian Mountains (see below), where Stuart K. Hine, the original composer, was inspired during his 300-mile missionary journey. The hymn’s profound impact over the decades is a testament to Hine’s heartfelt composition. Before his passing, Hine and his daughter Sonia established the Stuart Hine Trust, which now oversees his catalog and uses royalties to support missions aligning with Hine’s vision.

In 2022, recognizing the turmoil in Ukraine, the same land that inspired Hine, the trustees of the Stuart Hine Trust decided to commission a new verse for the hymn. This gesture aimed to give back to the land that birthed the original inspiration. Matt Redman, Mitch Wong, and Integrity Music graciously dedicated this song to the Trust, ensuring that proceeds will support Ukraine’s humanitarian and rebuilding efforts amidst the ongoing conflict.

Phil Loose from The Stuart Hine Trust eloquently captures the essence of this endeavor:

“This derivative of ‘How Great Thou Art’ will see the hymn’s fruit sow seeds of hope for generations to come.”

He highlights the transformative power of worship and mission merging, underscoring the church’s role as a beacon of hope in the world.

A Video Interview with Matt Redman and Matt Maher

Behind the Scenes

The Story and History of How Great Thou Art!

Picture this: It’s 1934, and Stuart K. Hine, a 34-year-old British missionary and World War I veteran, embarks on a transformative 300-mile bicycle journey across the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe. This demanding expedition through rugged terrains becomes the crucible for his globally cherished hymn, “How Great Thou Art!.” Each verse of this hymn sprouted, line by line, amidst the majestic Carpathian landscapes, forever etching his experiences into its lyrics.

Rewind to 1885. In Sweden, Carl Boberg, a preacher and poet who’d later turn politician, is struck by the profound beauty of nature after a storm. This moment of awe compels him to pen a nine-verse poem, ‘O Store Gud’ (‘O Great God’). Initially, Boberg didn’t envision his poem as a hymn, nor did he imagine setting it to music. However, to his surprise, years later, he hears his words being sung to a traditional Swedish melody in a church. Intrigued and impressed, Boberg publishes the poem and melody together in 1891. Despite this, the hymn’s popularity dwindles in Sweden, especially after it was paired with a different tune in 1921.

In 1925, E. Gustav Johnson brings some of these verses to the American audience with an English translation titled ‘O Mighty God’, yet it fails to gain traction. The poem had earlier been translated into German in 1907 by Manfred von Glehn in Estonia. This German version is then rendered into Russian by Ivan Prokhanoff in 1927 and published in Moscow as ‘Kak Ti Velik’ (How Great You Are). Prokhanoff’s translation, steeped in the depth of his own imprisonment for faith in Stalin’s Soviet Union, breathes new life into Boberg’s words. While the hymn had been all but forgotten in Sweden and barely noticed in America, it finds an unlikely rebirth in the Soviet Union, eventually inspiring Hine’s English version.

Back in 1934, as Hine traverses the Carpathian Mountains, distributing Bibles and preaching, the majesty of these mountains and the echoes of Prokhanoff’s hymn spur him to craft the first three English verses of ‘How Great Thou Art’. In one village, a storm confines him to a local schoolmaster’s home. That night, thunder roaring through the mountains inspires the powerful imagery of God’s might in the hymn’s first verse.

Moving on, Hine crosses into Romania, where the serenity of the woods and melodies of birds lead him to write the second verse. As he continues his journey, distributing Bibles, he is struck by the ignorance of many villagers about God’s saving grace. The discovery of a Bible left by a Russian soldier in 1915, which led to conversions in a village, moves Hine to write the hymn’s third verse.

With the onset of war in Europe in 1939, Hine returns to England, continuing his ministry. In 1948, he and his wife Mercy minister to refugees, and their stories of loss and hope inspire the fourth verse of the hymn, filled with the promise of eternal reunion.

Stuart Hine first published ‘How Great Thou Art!’ in his Russian gospel magazine, ‘Grace and Peace’, on 15th April 1949. This hymn, rich in its depiction of God’s grandeur, Christ’s redemption, and the promise of eternal inheritance, continues to resonate with believers worldwide. It has been a beacon of hope and faith, voted as the number one hymn in the USA in 1974 and the UK’s favorite hymn at the turn of the millennium.

Stuart K. Hine’s journey from a West London-born child, deeply influenced by his Salvation Army parents, to a fervent missionary in Eastern Europe, is a testament to the profound ways God works through life’s experiences to inspire timeless expressions of worship.

“How Great Thou Art! (Until That Day)” – Lyrics

O LORD my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made;
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed:

Chorus

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home – what joy shall fill my heart!
Then shall I bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God how great Thou art!

Bridge

Until that day
When heaven bids us welcome,
And as we walk this broken warring world,
Your kingdom come,
Deliver us from evil,
And we’ll proclaim our God how great You are!
With hope we’ll sing our God how great You are!

Chorus

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

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