“Praise, to thee o Lord!”

Matthew Hanzel Avatar

This is a story about a song. 

For some, John Rutter is not known for his complex compositions. Most of his songs for choirs are relatively simple, songs of which can train less-experienced singers to get better Choral aptitude. There are, indeed, some Rutter songs that I really adore throughout my choral career, and some of them I can recall easily from memory.

One, however, is really special, for reasons that I don’t really understand.

The song Look at the world, again by John Rutter, has a simple premise: take a look at the beautiful world, and be grateful that God has given us “all the gifts we share and every blessing.”

Look at the world, everything all around us 

In some of his songs, Rutter can repeat certain forms or motives multiple times, only changing the key (modulation) in every repetition. This song Look at the world basically repeats one form four times in different keys, trying to convey different moods.

If I remembered correctly, I learned Look at the world not as the first choral song that I knew. I think I was in the twelfth grade that I got to know this song, and I think I fell in love the first time I listened to the song.

There is a strange serenity listening, and singing, to this song. Why? Firstly, the melody seems to convey a sense of simplicity, with a token of gratitude at the same time. Simplicity of Rutter’s song is often translated as bad, and for some of the more competitive or ambitious choral singers, Rutter’s songs are not something to look forward to (and I have seen some singers who were exactly like that). The song can be divided into three and a half movements: three full and one half composed of only the refrain (chorus) of the song. The notes are relatively easy. The music seems light, I think I often tell my choristers to imagine that they are floating, flying, while singing to this song. As if you are soaring up above the sky, singing, Look at the world, everything all around us. Meaning, doing exactly that, turning your head around and see how beautiful the world is.

That melody, and the words, alone, has never failed to bring the world’s beauties into my mind. Honestly.

Secondly, the words. Rutter may not be the most religious of composers, and Look at the world is no different. Of course, you can say that I am naive if I say that this song is not religious: after all, the refrain is religious down to the dots. Nonetheless, I get the impression that this is the kind of song that everyone, across any faith, can take comfort in.

Not only that, the words convey joy, real joy. If our current contemporaries make songs in all crazy forms, from poliphonies down to making drum sounds, I think Look at the world is an example of music for the ages. You cannot go wrong. The conveyance of joy, gratefulness, and praising your Creator simply for the things that you can actually see everyday, pleasure everyone easily.

You may think I am exaggerating, but no. Look at the world is one of those songs that I listen to almost daily. Especially, every morning. It is a good prayer, a good token of grace. Calling His Majesty to say how thankful you are, for the simplest things in life, and as the song says, Every good gift, all that we need and cherish, comes from the Lord in token of his love.

It is a song so simple, you can be deceived by how deep and mesmerizing it can be.

All things come of Thee.

And if you are not convinced enough, I put the song here. Take a deep breath, plug your earphones, and close your eyes in the silence of your surroundings. Take a moment to think how good the Lord is, and also, think how mankind is capable to take twelve notes to arrange a song as beautiful as this.

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