Hymn #524: This Little Light of Mine

            This was a traditional parting hymn in African American worship and perhaps took the evening sky as its inspiration, as many services were held outdoors in the evening hours.  The text included many biblical references to light, especially Jesus’ admonition to “let your light shine.”

            Although this text most likely developed over a period of time, the motif of light and stars is a familiar one in African American hymns.  The God who created the stars and light is capable of giving each life purpose; and every individual, no matter how downtrodden, has “the gift of shining.”

            THIS JOY is the name of this tune, taken from the opening phrase of “This Joy I Have.”  It was arranged by Jeffrey Radford in 1993.  As with much African American music, great latitude can be taken in the singing of the melody, and improvisation is encouraged.

            Jeffrey Radford (1953-2002), a member of The New Century Hymnal committee, arranged this tune for congregational singing from an African American tune of unknown origin.  Radford was responsible for arranging eight different spirituals for The New Century Hymnal and for several keyboard arrangements in the accompanist edition.