Six of the earliest known tunes for Amazing Grace

Posted on June 27, 2017 
Filed under History, Resources

“People often wonder what tune Amazing Grace was first sung to.

It was not written to any particular tune, but being in the Common Metre there would have been a wide choice of suitable tunes in use at the time.

Today the most familiar tune for the hymn is New Britain, which wasn’t matched to Amazing Grace until 1829, twenty-two years after John Newton’s death.

Amazing Grace was first published in 1779 in a hymnbook by Newton and Cowper called the Olney Hymns. It also appeared soon afterwards in a A Select Collection of Hymns compiled by the Countess of Huntingdon. Then in 1787, exactly 10 years after its first publication, and while Newton was the rector of St Mary Woolnoth in the heart of the city of London, Amazing Grace appeared in a Moravian hymn book called A Collection of Hymns for the use of the Protestant Church of the United Brethren. Above the hymn is the code ‘T14’, which stands for ‘Tune 14’. So what was Tune 14?…”

– Marylynn Rouse at The John Newton Project shares some resources:

“Following our recent event in Blackfriars, London, we’re delighted to be able to share a recording of 6 of the earliest tunes for Amazing Grace, sung by the English Chamber Choir, together with the musical score from their director Guy Protheroe and background notes to the tunes and the verses from the JNP. This will make a short concert, or can be spread over several Sundays or lunch-hours.”