Organ Arrangement of Popular Hymn Published

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When Larry Visser, minister of music and organist at LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., composed an organ arrangement of “By the Sea of Crystal” almost 30 years ago, he always hoped his version of the hymn would be published.

After 30 years, Visser’s organ arrangement of “By the Sea of Crystal” has finally been published.

Publishers had been reluctant to publish the organ piece before because generally only Christian Reformed congregations use the hymn.

“As a result, the piece remained unpublished for many years,” said Visser. “Yet the more people heard the piece, especially CRC organists, the more I received requests for the printed music.”

This year, Wayne Leupold Editions published the arrangement, which features one movement for each verse, specifically composed to match the text of that verse.

“Larry does a brilliant job of clearly communicating the profound text of the hymn in unique ways through the different variations,” said Chris Dekker, one organist who has enjoyed the arrangement since it has been published.

The hymn was originally written in 1933, when The Banner sponsored a hymn-writing contest to help prepare CRC congregations for the change from singing only psalms. The tune was written the following year.

Visser wrote the organ arrangement while he was a music student at Calvin College.

“It’s always been a favorite of mine,” explained Visser. “I think the music is a great marriage to the text. It’s stately and majestic and very singable, which makes it a great hymn and explains why it’s lasted for 80 years.”

The hymn has appeared in denominational hymnals since the 1930s, most recently appearing in the new Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal by Faith Alive.

“I’m hoping now that this is published that our hymn that originated in the CRC can be spread to other denominations and that the richness of its text and tune can be shared with other denominations,” said Visser.

About the Author

Ryan Struyk was a former Banner news correspondent for classes Grand Rapids South and Thornapple Valley. 

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