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Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
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There's a Friend for little children – In memoriam
There’s a Friend for little children Above the bright blue sky, A Friend who never changes, Whose love will never die; Our earthly friends may fail us, And change with changing years, This Friend is always worthy Of that dear name he bears.
There’s a home for little children Above the bright blue sky, Where Jesus reigns in glory, A home of peace and joy; No home on earth is like it, Nor can with it compare; For every one is happy, Nor could be happier, there.
There’s a song for little children Above the bright blue sky, A song that will not weary, Though sung continually; A song which even angels Can never, never sing; They know not Christ as Saviour, But worship him as King.
There’s a robe for little children Above the bright blue sky, And a harp of sweetest music, And palms of victory. All, all above is treasured, And found in Christ alone; Lord, grant thy little children, To know Thee as their own.
Albert Midlane (1825-1909)
This hymn has had very wide use and has been published in very many hymn books. A notable 19th-century divine said to the author, ‘I would rather have written that hymn than have preached the most eloquent sermon, for your audience is the whole world’. Yet it has not been included in any recent books.
The reason for the change in opinion lies in that word that begins the second line of each verse, ‘above’. It is this placing of all good things in a far away heaven that has gone against the grain of 20th and 21st century Christianity. The first two verses rub this in by contrasting the friend and the home ‘above’ with the poor quality of that which bears these names below. Today we prefer to remember the presence of God through his Holy Spirit in the world, and to emphasize that his love is shared with us in and through our normal relationships with other people, especially in the life of the Christian community.
Albert Midlane was an ironmonger at Newport on the Isle of Wight. He belonged to the Strict Brethren and was very active in Sunday School work and wrote most of his 500 odd hymns for that work. The story is often told of the writing of the tune. Sir John Stainer was working in the Langham Hotel with the committee selecting the music for the 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. They were unhappy with the several tunes for these words and sent Stainer off to Sir Henry Baker’s bedroom to come up with something better. Within a short time he returned with this attractive lilting tune that is proving to have a longer life than the words. Stainer called it ‘In Memoriam’ ‘in memory’ of a little child of his own who had died.