Music Notes

Whispering Hope

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Whispering Hope is one of Western civilisation’s most engaging and enduring ballads. I was told by my Liverpool-Irish mother that at the onset of World War II, the suicide rate went through the roof, such was the anti-war sentiment.

‘The government advised the BBC to play as often as they wished Whispering Hope to alleviate depression. As a consequence, the suicide rate dropped significantly.

No known story of the writing of this hymn is available, but the life of the author is very interesting.

Septimus Winner was born in 1827 in Philadelphia to a violin-maker father.  He was the seventh child in the family, which is why they named him Septimus.  By the age of twenty, he was running his own music shop and had formed a music publishing company with his brother.  He gave lessons on several instruments and performed around the city.

He wrote both sacred and secular music, including ‘Oh Where, Oh Where has my little dog gone?’

Septimus was arrested for treason when he published ‘Give Us Back Our Old Commander: Little Mac, The People’s Pride,’ over the firing of General George B. McClellan during the Civil War.  The song sold over 80,000 copies in just days.  In 1880, General Ulysses S. Grant rewrote the words for his campaign song.

Septimus Winner wrote thousands of musical arrangements, published numerous instructional books for various instruments, and continued to write sacred and secular pieces.  He published a vast majority of his music under the pen name, Alice Hawthorne.  The belief is that he did not ‘deem himself worthy to receive the honour for the words he penned.’

Whispering Hope was based on Hebrews 6:19, Hebrews 12:1, and 1 Thessalonians 5:8.  Published in 1868, this was the last popular song he wrote.

‘Whispering Hope,’ published in 1868 and also written under the name Alice Hawthorne, was not meant to be a religious song, according to friends of Winner, but it proved to be his most successful song, a fact that amazed, and even amused, Winner. The hymn gained instant success in churches and has been published in hymnbooks continuously since that time.

Based on Hebrews 6:19, ‘This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the presence behind the veil,’ the text of the song refers to the anchor that keeps the soul unwavering — the ‘Whispering Hope’ for all Christians. This is the work Winner will be most remembered for — the last popular song written before his death. Septimus passed to the other side on November 22, 1902. ‘Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice, Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.’ Michael Walsh’s Poetry book Whispering hope.

Michael Walsh’s Poetry book Whispering hope.

WHISPERING HOPE.

Soft as the voice of an angel
Breathing a lesson unheard,
Hope with a gentle persuasiou,
Whispers her comforting word;
Wait till the darkness is over,
Wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine to-morrow,
After the darkness is gone.

Chorus.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice;
Welcome thy voice, oh, how welcome thy voice
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

If in the dusk of the twilight,
Dim be the region afar,
Will not the deepening darkness
Brighten the glimmering star?
Then when the night is upon us,
Why should the heart sink away?
When the dark miduight is over,
Watch for the breaking of day .

Chorus.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice;
Welcome thy voice, oh, how welcome thy voice
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

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