The Corner

Battle Hymn

The wonderful orchestral arrangement of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” performed at Friday morning’s funeral service, with its trumpet fanfares, unaccompanied setting of the verse beginning “In the beauty of the lilies/Christ was born across the sea,” and thunderous climactic octaves, was made by by Peter J. Wilhousky. It is frequently heard on great occasions and is also beloved of high-school choirs (mine sang it thirty years ago). If memory serves, it was first recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the fanfares and coda were used to preface the congregational singing of the “Battle Hymn” at the National Cathedral’s 9/11 memorial service. “The soft, slightly discordant trumpet fanfares at the beginning,” I wrote on that occasion, “are a haunting detail-a stern reminder that there can be no remission of sins without the shedding of blood-and the climactic amen, with its skyrocketing sweep up the chromatic scale, never fails to bring down the house.”

Terry TeachoutMr. Teachout is the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal and the critic-at-large of Commentary. Satchmo at the Waldorf, his 2011 play about Louis Armstrong, has been produced off Broadway and throughout America.

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