This was originally published in four installments. By popular request, all four posts have now been combined into this single, 5350-word mega-review.
Today, according to CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International), the 10 most popular songs in American churches are, in order, “How Great is Our God,” “Mighty to Save,” “Our God,” “Blessed Be Your Name,” “Here I Am to Worship,” “Revelation Song,” “Everlasting God,” “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone),” “Jesus Messiah,” and “Your Grace is Enough.”
According to an annual nationwide poll, the 1964 results were rather different. Again in order: “The Old Rugged Cross,” “How Great Thou Art,” “What a Friend We have in Jesus,” “In the Garden,” “Amazing Grace,” “Rock of Ages,” “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” “Abide With Me,” “Beyond the Sunset,” and “Whispering Hope.”
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In 1964, the newly formed Cathedral Quartet decided to record these ten most popular songs for their third overall album, and first as a quartet. They added “Pearly White City” as a feature for Glen Payne and “When They Ring the Golden Bells” as a piano solo for Danny Koker.
After Earl and Lily Weatherford left Rex Humbard’s staff, in 1963, Rex Humbard offered Weatherfords lead singer Glen Payne, tenor Bobby Clark, and pianist Danny Koker the opportunity to stay with the Cathedral of Tomorrow on a trial basis as the Cathedral Trio. (Koker also assumed baritone duties.) They made two recordings while present on an interim basis, Introducing the Cathedral Trio and When the Saints Go Marching In, both in 1963. In September 1963, Humbard hired them on a permanent basis.
In winter 1964, in Bobby Clark’s words, Humbard “had taken the liberty of contacting George [Younce] and offering him the position of bass singer in our group.” Younce accepted the offer, and the Cathedrals became a quartet.
It is immediately evident that the group is thrilled to have a bass singer to show off. Danny Koker has no vocal solos. Glen Payne only has two full-verse or longer solos; Bobby Clark has three. George Younce, meanwhile, has solos or step-outs at key points in no less than five songs.
The first song the Cathedrals performed as a quartet was “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.” Though it immediately started receiving consistently enthusiastic responses, they did not record it until their second quartet project, Taller Than Trees. Despite its retrospective recognition as a historic landmark, Beyond the Sunset was a table project.
As was customary for table projects at the time, there is very little in the way of credits. The songs and song titles are listed, but no song copyright / radio licensing information is listed. The players are not credited, though it is virtually certain that Danny Koker was the pianist. As this is a table project, instrumentation is sparse; Koker’s piano carries several of the tracks on its own, perhaps accompanied by a light bass at points. The bass, which sounds like an upright (plucked string) bass, is more audible at other points. A skilled guitarist, perhaps Vic Clay, joins the band on half of the tracks—”Old Rugged Cross,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Whispering Hope,” “Amazing Grace,” “In the Garden,” and “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” Female singers provide background vocals on two songs, “Beyond the Sunset” and “Whispering Hope.”
Introducing the Cathedral Trio (1963) was a very cautious recording, with arrangements leaning more toward sacred music than toward Southern Gospel. When the Saints Go Marching In (later in 1963) was far more energetic, more distinctively Southern Gospel in song selection and arrangements. Beyond the Sunset returns to the more cautious sacred music arrangements. This is partly necessitated by the choice of material, hymns; perhaps there was also an inclination to play it safe.
There is, however, a third possibility; for years, including during this time period, the Blackwood Brothers would target some of their recordings (especially those on RCA Victor) toward fans of sacred music, while they would release more energetic recordings for Southern Gospel fans on their own label, Skylite. The Cathedral Quartet may have followed a similar course, recording some albums appropriate for attendees at Rex Humbard’s crusades and television fans, and other albums for fans who saw them at all-night singings.
1. Beyond the Sunset. “Beyond the Sunset” was written by husband-and-wife team Virgil P. Brock (1887-1978) and Blanche Kerr Brock (1888-1958). Virgil was born to a Quaker family in Ohio and accepted Christ as his Savior at age 16, during a revival meeting. He studied at Fairmount Friends Academy and at Indiana’s Earlham College, becoming a Quaker pastor. He married Blanche Kerr, a talented singer and pianist.
Virgil later described writing the song in these words:
The song was born during a conversation at the dinner table one evening in 1936. We had been watching a very unusual sunset at Winona Lake, Indiana, with a blind guest, my cousin Horace Burr, and his wife Grace. A large area of the water appeared ablaze with the glory of God, yet there were threatening storm clouds gathering overhead.
Our blind guest excitedly remarked, “I’ve just never seen a more beautiful sunset.”
I responded, “People are always amazed when you talk about seeing, Horace.”
“I can see,” he replied. “I see through other people’s eyes, and I think I can see more clearly because I see beyond the sunset.”
The phrase “beyond the sunset” and the inflection of his voice struck me so forcibly….I began singing the first few measures.
“That’s beautiful,” his wife interrupted. “Virgil, please go to the piano and sing that phrase again.”
They went to the piano and wrote the first verse immediately. Before the night was over, they had completed all four verses. According to one account, the dinner was at the home of Horace Rodheaver, who was hosting a dinner for the faculty of the Rodheaver School of Music.
Through his lifetime, Virgil Brock wrote more than 500 Gospel songs. He was primarily a lyricist; Blanche composed the melodies to most of the songs until cancer took her life in 1958. Virgil passed away in 1978, at age ninety-one.
Given the extent to which George Younce’s recitations would become one of the most distinctive and memorable elements of a Cathedrals concert, it is perhaps fitting that their first project as a quartet would open with a Younce recitation. It wasn’t just any recitation, either—it is his most remembered and beloved recitation, “Should You Go First and I Remain.”
The poem was written by radio sports commentator Albert K. Rowswell, who went by A.K. Rowswell or “Rosey.” He published it in a short 109-page book of poems and prose insights, Rosey Reflections, published in 1945 by the A.E.P. Kerr Company. Rowswell was the on-air radio announcer for Pittsburgh Pirates games from 1936-1954. He was also a popular after-dinner speaker, where he was known for witty anecdotes and for reciting his own poems. He passed away in February 1955.
Country legend Doc Williams and his band, the Border Riders, were the first artists to record the poem as a narration. In 1947, Doc’s wife and fellow band-member, Chickie Williams, recorded the poem as a narration as a Valentine’s Day gift for him. Maxine and Eileen Newcomer, blind twins with whom she had previously performed, sang “I Love You Truly” in the background. In 1948, Doc Williams and the Border Riders cut the song, pairing it for the first time with “Beyond the Sunset.” This recording reached #3 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. (Incidentally, Doc Williams passed away this January, at age 96.)
Within a few years of the Border Riders’ rendition, country stars Red Foley and Hank Williams cut the song and narration. Hank Williams’ rendition of “Beyond the Sunset / Should You Go First and I Remain” is on YouTube, here.
Several Southern Gospel groups recorded the song in the years preceding the Cathedrals’ rendition. In 1958, the Couriers cut it (on Beyond the Sunset). Bass singer Dave Kyllonen performed a recitation—the 23rd Psalm. The Blackwood Brothers cut it on At Home (1962), featuring tenor Bill Shaw.
In 1964, the same year as the Cathedrals’ rendition, the Florida Boys also recorded “Beyond the Sunset” with “Should You Go First.” It is unknown, however, whether the Cathedrals or the Florida Boys were the first to bring the combination to Southern Gospel.
On the Cathedrals’ rendition, the first voices you hear are those of the female vocalists, who sing the line “Beyond the sunset, forevermore.” The group sings the first verse in quartet harmonies. As George Younce delivers the recitation, Bobby, Glen, Danny, and the female background vocalists sing the song’s melody with “oohs.” Coming out of the narration, Bobby Clark delivers a soaring lead on the line “beyond the sunset”; the group comes in on the final word, “forevermore.”
The Cathedrals would later re-record this twice, in 1972 on Welcome to Our World and in 1989 on 25th Anniversary. George would also be featured on this narration on the 2000 Memphis Homecoming.
The song and narration served as a career bookend for Younce; he also opened his final album, Poetic Narrations (2004), with the by-then classic narration.
2. What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Joseph Scriven wrote this lyric in 1855. Scriven, born in Ireland 1819, faced more than a few trials in his life. His fianceé drowned the night before their wedding. He moved to Canada, and became engaged a second time. This young lady also died shortly before their wedding. He died in 1868. The lyric, which he had originally published anonymously, would not be credited to him until after his death, thirty years after its publication.
Charles C. Converse, a composer and attorney who lived in Erie, Pennsylvania wrote the melody in 1868. Through the years, the melody would service several different lyrics, including a World War I song called “When this Bloody War is Over.” However, it was already being published with Scriven’s lyric by 1894, and that association would ultimately become permanent.
This rendition only includes the first and third verses. The first verse is sung with full quartet harmonies. A guitar does assorted licks throughout the song; it is especially prominent in the first verse. Bobby Clark sings the first two lines of the second (third) verse as a solo, as Danny Koker’s piano runs become more prominent in the mix.
Perhaps Clark was singing from memory in the studio; he sang “Precious Jesus, still our refuge,” where the original lyric begins with “Precious Savior.” He may have caught the mistake immediately, since he cuts off “Jesus” so quickly it seems almost abrupt, and is tentative for the next several notes.
Today, recording studios will typically record soundtracks on one day, and vocals one verse (or even line) at a time on another. But in 1964, the the standard practice was still to cut the entire arrangement, with all vocals and instruments, at once. Had Clark stopped, the Cathedrals would have had to scrap the entire take, which had been perfect to that point. So it would have made sense for Clark to continue and save the take.
Glen Payne sings the line “Do thy friends despise forsake thee” solo; then the quartet comes back in. There is a particularly elegant group transition to lighter head tones on “shield thee”; Clark, Payne, and Koker, singing perfect thirds/fourths apart, match each other’s head tones as perfectly as in their full-voice harmonic balance. The group comes back full voice for the big ending on “Thou wilt find a solace there.”
The song has been recorded dozens of times on major national Southern Gospel group’s projects; nearly fifty years later, the song is still in the top 10 most recorded songs in Southern Gospel, coming in at #7. One particularly notable rendition was the Blue Ridge Quartet’s 1961 take on Our Best to You; George Younce had the solo. But this 1964 version would be the only time the Cathedral Quartet recorded the song.
3. How Great Thou Art. This song began its winding path to the version we know today when Carl Gustav Boberg wrote “O Store Gud” in 1885. He was inspired to write the lyric when walking home from church; a sudden, majestic thunderstorm arose, and shortly gave way to calm stillness. Boberg first published the lyric as a poem on March 13, 1886. Within two years, it was paired up with the Swedish folk tune we still use, and was first performed.
Contrary to what one might suppose, the version we sing today was actually not translated from the Swedish. (The hymn, though, has been translated from English to Swedish; a widespread 1925 version, “O Mighty God,” can be found here.)
The version we know today made its way into English by way of a Russian translation. Ivan S. Prokhanov translated the hymn into Russian in 1912 as Великий Бог.
Stuart K. Hine discovered the Russian translation when serving as a Salvation Army missionary in Poland in 1931. He translated the chorus and first two verses from the Russian. He himself wrote the third verse (“And when I think that God, His son not sparing”) shortly thereafter, inspired by witnessing Polish people repent and profess faith in Christ. He would not write the fourth verse (“When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation”) until after World War II. Hine finalized his translation and new verses in 1949, publishing them in his Russian Grace and Peace magazine.
Billy Graham’s evangelistic team discovered the song in their 1954 London crusade. Though they first performed it during their 1955 Toronto crusade, the song really caught on during the 1957 Madison Square Garden crusade in New York City. It became widely accepted in a short span of time, as evidenced by its presence on this top ten most popular hymns list less than a decade later.
Shortly after its adoption by the Graham crusades, numerous Southern Gospel groups started singing the song. Its popularity to this day leaves it as the #2 most-recorded Southern Gospel song in the last decade.
The Cathedrals’ rendition starts out with quartet harmonies on a chorus. Glen Payne and Bobby Clark sing the first verse as a lead/tenor duet. Payne keeps the lead heading into the chorus. The chorus’s first line features quartet harmonies. After a unison second line, the arrangement goes up a key for the third line. As Payne sings the melody, the rest of the chorus sings “aahs” in the background vocal. They come back in for the final line, suspending into the closing chord.
The Cathedrals would record this song two other times in their career—in 1970 on A Little Bit of Everything and in 1974 on Live in Concert.
4. Abide With Me. The lyric to “Abide With Me” was written by Anglican minister Henry Francis Lyte. Lyte was born in 1793 in Scotland. He served at All Saints Church in Lower Brixham, Devonshire, England for much of his career. He wrote the lyric to “Abide With Me” in 1847 as he was dying of tuberculosis.
William Monk, who wrote the music, was also an Englishman. He was a college music instructor, music director at a church, and editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern. He wrote the tune in 1861.
The arrangement is more a classical tenor solo than a Southern Gospel quartet arrangement. Bobby Clark’s is the only vocal, while the piano is the only instrument. Clark starts the first verse in his rich lower tenor register, as Danny Koker provides busy piano fills.
In the second verse, Koker switches to triplets to build the soaring arrangement. Clark ends the second verse by going up to the octave interval for a high ending.
There is actually a mistaken lyric; instead of beginning the second verse with “I need Thy presence every passing hour,” Clark sings “I need Thy presence every passing day.” It’s not known whether this escaped notice or whether the rest of the take was so strong that the Cathedrals decided to keep it despite the slip.
The Cathedrals would revisit the song once, sans instruments, on Voices in Praise Acapella (1983).
Despite the song’s popularity as a hymn, it has not been recorded frequently in Southern Gospel. The Blue Ridge Quartet recorded it three years later, on their 1967 album Sings America’s Twelve Favorite Hymns. The Blackwood Brothers did it in 1980 on Hymns of the Church. After a quarter-century gap, it has appeared several times in recent years: Gerald Wolfe piano solo (2006), Liberty Quartet (2007), and even a Gaither Homecoming video (2008).
5. Whispering Hope. Though many hymnals today credit “Whispering Hope” to Alice Hawthorne, it was actually written by Septimus Winner. Born in 1827, Winner was a seventh child, hence a name derived from the Latin word for “seven.” Through his career, he frequently employed “Alice Hawthorne” as a pseudonym.
Winner’s best-remembered songs today, other than “Whispering Hope,” are actually nursery rhymes. He wrote “Ten Little Indians” and “Der Deitcher’s Dog” (“Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone / oh where, oh where could he be”).
In 1862, after Lincoln fired Gen. George McClellan from the command of the Union Army, Winner wrote a song entitled “Give Us Back Our Old Commander, Little Mac, the People’s Pride.” He was arrested and charged with treason, only being released upon his promise to destroy all copies of the song. He continued to write and publish music until his 1902 death.
Due to the song’s popularity as a hymn, it was recorded by a number of Southern Gospel groups over the years, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. The LeFevres’ renditions are perhaps the best-remembered. This 1964 rendition is the only time the Cathedrals recorded the song.
This version features piano with a prominent jazz guitar. The quartet harmonies are subdued for the first half of the eight-line first verse. Intensity builds halfway through the verse (“Wait till the darkness is over…”). Glen Payne carries the solo in the chorus, as Clark, Koker, and Younce hold down the answer-back parts.
In an arranging decision that seems odd in retrospect, female vocalists carry the melody in the second time through the chorus, while the whole Cathedral Quartet switches to answer-back parts. The song ends after the second verse.
6. Amazing Grace. The song has been among the most popular English-language hymns for generations, and remains the #1 most-recorded Southern Gospel song. Virtually every Southern Gospel group has recorded this song.
John Newton, a former slave trader turned Anglican clergyman, wrote “Amazing Grace” in 1779. He published it in his landmark hymnal Olney Hymns, under the title “Faith’s Review and Expectations.” The hymnal only contained lyrics; the lyric would not be combined with the now-familiar melody for years.
Newton was in the habit of writing hymns to accompany the sermons he would preach. He wrote “Faith’s Review and Expectations” to accompany his sermon on I Chronicles 17:16-17:
And David the king came and sat before the LORD, and said, Who am I, O LORD God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? And yet this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; for thou hast also spoken of thy servant’s house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O LORD God. (KJV)
The connection is likely not evident at first glance. But that’s partly since we are so accustomed to calling the song “amazing grace” that we’re looking for those words in the verse. Of course, they’re not there. But both the passage and the song fit the theme of Newton’s original title, “Faith’s Review and Expectations.” In verse 16, David reviewed how God had brought him to the place he was (faith’s review…), and in verse 17, David looked ahead to the future promises (…and expectations.) Newton undoubtedly started there and pivoted to review the past and promise of the Christian’s faith.
The verse we sing today as the closing verse, beginning with “when we’ve been there ten thousand years,” was added by an anonymous American author in the early 1800s. It appeared as early as 1829, originally attached to the hymn “Jerusalem, My Happy Home.” Newton’s original closing verses are largely forgotten:
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Much like “Abide With Me” was a straight-ahead solo for Bobby Clark, “Amazing Grace” features Younce’s voice without any harmonies. A light bass complements the piano’s rhythm, and jazz guitar is incorporated on the narration. After singing the first verse solo, Younce elaborates the “through many dangers” verse into a narration. He sings the “when we’ve been there ten thousand years” verse to close the song.
This would be the only time that the Cathedrals recorded a full version, though they did include the song in a hymns medley on Right On (1971). George Younce also carried the solo there.
7. The Old Rugged Cross. George Bennard wrote the words and music for “The Old Rugged Cross” in 1913. He was born in 1873 in Youngstown, Ohio, and moved to Iowa as a child. Though he dreamed of being an evangelist, his father’s death required him to stay home to provide for his mother and family for several years. After marrying, he worked with the Salvation Army for several years before becoming a Methodist evangelist. Three towns claim that Bennard wrote “The Old Rugged Cross” within their limits—Albion and Pokagon, Michigan, and Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. (Albion’s claim does offer the strength of specific detail; local historians say that Bennard wrote the first verse and chorus there, before finishing it in time for a revival in Pokagon.) Bennard died in Reed City, Michigan in 1953.
The hymn became popularized when evangelist Billy Sunday’s song leader, Homer Rodheaver, started using the song in his crusades. Bennard did not get rich from the song; he sold the copyright to Rodheaver for $500.
The Cathedrals’ rendition only contains the first verse and chorus. Glen Payne sings the first verse solo, with “oohs” in the background from the other members. The group does straight, non-answer-back harmonies on the first two lines of the chorus. Payne does a step-out solo on line three, as the quartet sings aahs. The quartet harmonies return on line four, and Clark, Koker, and Younce sing the answer-back harmonies on the final line only—but as “aahs,” not as the full words.
The Cathedrals would revisit the song two other times, on Land of the Bible (1966) and on Right On! (1971). Oddly, they don’t do more than one verse on any of their three renditions; much like the Beyond the Sunset rendition, the Right On version includes only the first verse and chorus. Meanwhile, the Land of the Bible rendition includes only the final verse and chorus!
8. In the Garden. C. Austin Miles wrote “In the Garden” in March 1912; he was inspired by the story of Mary Magdalene meeting Jesus in Joseph of Arimathea’s garden after the resurrection.
Miles, whose first name was Charles, was born in 1868 in New Jersey, but lived much of his life in Pennsylvania. He became a pharmacist after attending the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. He wrote his first Gospel song in 1892; it was published by Hall-Mack Publishers. He shortly left his pharmacy career to work in Gospel music; he would be hired by Hall-Mack, serving as editor and publisher there for 37 years. He died in Philadelphia in 1946. “In the Garden” is his best-known song, but he also wrote “A New Name in Glory” and “Dwelling in Beulah Land.”
Like many of the other songs on the project, this song’s musical accompaniment was piano-led, with jazz guitar and a light bass. The first verse featured full quartet harmonies, transitioning to the second verse without a chorus. George Younce sang verse two as a solo, with female background vocalists. On the first and only time through the chorus, Bobby Clark carried the melody. A little vocal run from the background vocalists brought the song to a conclusion.
This is the only time that the Cathedrals recorded the song. It wasn’t, however, the first time that Glen Payne recorded the song; he was a member of the Weatherfords when they recorded their landmark 1959 album In the Garden. That album is frequently named as one of the greatest Southern Gospel albums of all time. In that rendition, alto Lily Fern Weatherford had most of the solo lines throughout, though the bass/baritone lead on the first line of verse two had a certain warm, rich resonance which may have influenced George Younce’s selection to sing that verse in the Cathedrals rendition.
9. Sweet Hour of Prayer. The origin of the lyric to “Sweet Hour of Prayer” is a matter of some mystery. It first appeared in the New York Observer on September 13, 1845. It was submitted by Thomas Salmon, who also submitted the following introduction:
During my residence at Coleshill, Warwickshire, England, I became acquainted with W. W. Walford, the blind preacher, a man of obscure birth and connections and no education, but of strong mind and most retentive memory. In the pulpit he never failed to select a lesson well adapted to his subject, giving chapter and verse with unerring precision and scarcely ever misplacing a word in his repetition of the Psalms, every part of the New Testament, the prophecies, and some of the histories, so as to have the reputation of “knowing the whole Bible by heart.” He actually sat in the chimney corner, employing his mind in composing a sermon or two for Sabbath delivery, and his hands in cutting, shaping and polishing bones for shoe horns and other little useful implements. At intervals he attempted poetry. On one occasion, paying him a visit, he repeated two or three pieces which he had composed, and having no friend at home to commit them to paper, he had laid them up in the storehouse within. “How will this do?” asked he, as he repeated the following lines, with a complacent smile touched with some light lines of fear lest he subject himself to criticism. I rapidly copied the lines with my pencil, as he uttered them, and sent them for insertion in the Observer, if you should think them worthy of preservation.
Some sources, including CyberHymnal.org, associate this W.W. Walford with a noted English author, William W. Walford, who published several Christian books. There are some problems with this theory, though, since William W. Walford had an education and does not appear to have been blind.
The source of the tune is less mysterious; William Bradbury, who wrote music to many of Fanny Crosby’s hymns, composed the melody in 1859, specifically for this lyric. It was first published in the Cottage Melodies hymnal. (It was also published in Golden Bells in 1861; hence, some date it to 1861.)
In this rendition, George Younce sings the first half of the first verse solo. The Bobby Clark / Glen Payne / Danny Koker trio sang lines five and six. George sang lines seven and eight, with the quartet singing oohs. (The Cathedrals seem to have been so happy to have a bass singer that they showed him off more than usual!) At this point, they moved to the second half of the eight-line second verse; Bobby Clark sang lines five and six with the quartet singing oohs. Payne, Koker, and Younce returned to complete quartet harmonies for the last two lines.
10. When They Ring the Golden Bells. Never underestimate clowns.
You see, “When They Ring the Golden Bells” was written by a circus clown. Literally.
Dion (Daniel) de Marbelle was born in Seville, France, on July 4, 1818. In his early years, he worked on a whaling ship. He eventually moved to the United States and joined the American Navy. In the Mexican War in 1847, he was a drummer in a company from New York. He remained a military musician through the Civil War; he was Drum Major for the 6th Michigan Infantry.
After the war, he sung and acted with an opera company and with a theatrical troupe. When James Bailey started a circus, de Marbelle was among the first (some say the first) clowns Bailey hired. Bailey ultimately merged with P.T. Barnum to form Barnum & Bailey, leaving de Marbelle out of a job. de Marbelle then formed his own circus, but lost everything in a fire in Canada. Undeterred, he went out west to assist Buffalo Bill Cody in setting up his Wild West show.
He ultimately settled down in Elgin, Illinois. He organized a brass band, performed as a ventriloquist, joined the Methodist choir, and gave orations on a wide variety of topics.
He wrote “When They Ring the Golden Bells” in 1887. Sadly, the song royalties were stolen from him; his lived in an abandoned schoolroom in his old age, and died penniless in 1903.
Danny Koker performed the song as a piano instrumental. Other than brief “aahs” at the beginning and ending from the quartet and female background vocalists, the arrangement is solo piano.
11. Rock of Ages. Rev. Augustus Toplady wrote “Rock of Ages” in 1763 and published it in 1775. The song is said to have been inspired by a thunderstorm which arose one day in the Burrington Combe gorge in Mendip Hills, England. Toplady had to take shelter between two rocks.
Generations of local residents have pointed out a specific rock fissure which is said to have been the rock in which Toplady took shelter; it is pictured in the (public domain) image at right.
Toplady was an Anglican cleric who initially held to Arminian doctrines, but became a Calvinist. He held a multi-year public debate on Calvinism vs. Arminianism with John Wesley. The debate started cordially, but became more heated when Toplady stated that Wesley had attributed statements to him which he did not say. Eventually Wesley became so frustrated that he said he would read no farther than the title page of anything Toplady published! (Isn’t it ironic how time heals so many wounds? Today, Calvinist and Arminian churches alike sing both “Rock of Ages” and hymns from the Wesley brothers.)
In the Cathedrals’ rendition, the first verse features full quartet harmonies, as Danny Koker offers piano runs to the top of the keyboard between each line. They then transition to the final verse. Bobby Clark sings the first line and a half solo; on “eyes” in “when my eyes shall close in death,” Payne, Koker, and Younce join the quartet harmonies. George Younce then offers a two-line bass solo on “When I rise to worlds unknown / and behold Thee on Thy throne.” Bobby Clark moves to the melody for the final line, “Let me hide myself in Thee,” singing the first two words solo before the quartet finishes out the line and the song.
This arrangement would closely inspire the Cathedrals’ only other rendition, the 1969 rendition on Jesus is Coming Soon.
12. Pearly White City. “The Pearly White City” was written and published in 1902 by Arthur F. Ingler. Very little is known of Ingler’s life; he was born in May 1873 or May 1875 in Pennsylvania. In 1900, census documents show that he was living in Denver, Colorado, with a profession of “Gospel soloist.” He married Amelia Sprenger in 1901. After she died (in 1923), he married Lura Hurton (in 1924). By this time, he was a Nazarene minister; the 1920 census listed him as a Nazarene minister living in Tillamook, Oregon.He died in Connecticut in 1935, survived by his wife and by one daughter (Olive).
Glen Payne sings the entire song solo, with just piano accompaniment. Entering the chorus, he slips into lighter head tones on the words “pearly white city.” He used head tones frequently in his Weatherfords days, and far less frequently later in life. Of course, his Weatherfords days were only a year behind him at the time of this recording! He only sings the first verse and chorus, with no tags or encores.
This is the only time the Cathedrals recorded the song.
Producer: Not credited. • Group members: Bobby Clark (tenor), Glen Payne (lead), Danny Koker (baritone / pianist), George Younce (bass). • Song list: Beyond the Sunset; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; How Great Thou Art; Abide With Me; Whispering Hope; Amazing Grace; Old Rugged Cross; In the Garden; Sweet Hour of Prayer; When They Ring the Golden Bells; Rock of Ages; Pearly White City. • Out of print.