Amazing Grace: the tune

"It is fascinating to see, sing or hear the early tunes to 'Amazing Grace'.   Although not perhaps immediately commending themselves compared with today's tunes, the third one does have lovely lift to it and there is a special touch to the heart to sing the tunes they sang in Newton's day and after." michaelbaughen

New !!

the earliest known tunes in use for Amazing Grace,

during Newton's lifetime and possibly in his presence


Even Newer!!

click here to listen to 6 different tunes
in one hymn

sung by
The English Chamber Choir

English Chamber Choir

or click here to access mp3, music score & background notes from Amazing Grace Resources
In 1789
he Moravians published

A Collection of Hymns
for the use of
the Protestant Church
of the United Brethren
Moravian 1789 Within this book,
Hymn No. 297
is Amazing Grace.

Above the hymn
is the code T14,
standing for
'Tune 14'.
Moravian AG 297
A few years earlier, in 1784, Christian Gregor published a comprehensive collection of tunes in use by Moravians:

Choral-Buch: enthaltend alle zu dem Gesangbuche der Evangelischen Brüder-Gemeinen
vom Jahre 1778 gehörige Melodien

He numbered these tunes, assembling them by meter.
Christian Gregor Choralbuch Choralbuch pp8 9

Gregor shows four different tunes labelled T14, i.e. 'Tune 14'. These are:

T14a: audio file
T14 700 156 a

T14b: audio file

T14c: audio file
T14 700 156 c

T14d: audio file
T14 700 156 d
Newton sometimes worshipped with the Moravians at their chapel
in Fetter Lane

Perhaps he even sang
Amazing Grace
to one of the above tunes!
Moravian Fetter Lane
Acknowledgements: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich; 4 Liturg. 697 ch, pp 8-9. View the originals here.]
  Our thanks to Andrew Marshall for the audio files
  Moravian Church on
  The Evangelical Library

New Britain


'New Britain'

The Origin of the Tune
Most Commonly Used Today

Carl P Daw, Jr
Adjunct Professor of Hymnology
Curator of the Hymnological Collections
Boston University

Carl P Daw Jr
col har 1829 The anonymous Common Metre shape-note tune now commonly known as New Britain made its first appearance in the collection Columbian Harmony (Cincinnati, 1829), ed. Benjamin Shaw and Charles H. Spilman.
It was printed there in two distinct open-score versions, a four-part setting called St. Mary’s (with Isaac Watts’s “Arise, my soul, my joyful powers”) and a three-part setting called Gallaher (with Charles Wesley’s “Come let us join our friends above”).

Although the former tune was not reprinted, the latter one occurred with a series of texts in a number of books, where it was variously called Harmony Grove or Solon.
The pentatonic character of the tune strongly suggests that it had folk origins, most likely in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States.

Many of the musical traditions of that region had roots in Scotland, as the recent popularity of bagpipe renditions of the tune has corroborated.
Appalachian Mtns
Southern Harmony The tune was first assigned the name New Britain when it appeared with all six stanzas of Newton’s “Amazing Grace!” text in The Southern Harmony, ed. William Walker (New Haven, CT, 1835). It is printed there in open score for three parts, with the melody assigned to the middle voice (tenor). The four-part harmonizations commonly used today largely derive from Edwin O. Excell’s Coronation Hymns  (Chicago, 1910) or his earlier collection Revival Praises (Chicago, 1907). Wm Walker
William Walker
WW 1835
Appalachian chapel
A chapel in the Appalachian Mountains
amidst isolated farmsteads
New Britain New Britain CT
Because tune names often allude to place names, New Britain may well be tied to the publication history of the tune. This tune name was first assigned in a collection printed in New Haven, Connecticut, from which the town of New Britain lies approximately thirty miles northeast. This seems a much more likely reference than the New Britain Township in Pennsylvania, 170 miles to the southwest.


Carl P Daw, Jr, Adjunct Professor of Hymnology, Curator of the Hymnological Collections, Boston University
Archives of Appalachia, East Tennessee State University
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

Marylynn Rouse, 29/07/2015