James P. Carrell

Amazing Grace (Tune: New Britain)

    Description by Robert Cummings

    Like many old hymns, Amazing Grace, perhaps the most popular of them all, has a piecemeal history, and a not altogether clear one. Its words were written by John Newton and first appeared in the 1779 Olney Hymns book. But the author of the last of its seven stanzas, which begins with the words "When we've been there...," is unknown. The melody, popularly thought to be written by James Carrell, appeared in the volume Virginia Harmony (1831) and was used for the song New Britain. But some now attribute an earlier version of the tune to Charles Spilman and Benjamin Shaw, whose music anthology Columbian Harmony was published in 1829. To confuse matters a bit further, the words and tune first appeared together and in the form we know today in 1835, in Southern Harmony by William Walker.

    Most people know the tune well, and few cannot help but admire its worshipful yet almost bluesy character, with that soulful three-note turn coming on the last syllable of "amazing." The words are touching and simple throughout, quite perfectly matched to the famous melody. Some religious sects, however, apparently took offense to them, their members unwilling to refer to themselves as a "wretch," and thus did not incorporate the song into their hymnals until the mid-twentieth century. In any event, listeners of all stripes, including non-Christians, generally agree this old hymn is truly a classic.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2014 Decca 4821681
    2010 Spectrum Music SPECXX 2048
    2009 Decca / UCJ 4763110
    2008 The Gift of Music CCL CDG1205
    2008 Mormon Tabernacle / Mormon Tabernacle Choir 1262
    2008 UNI Classics Jazz / Universal Classics 5308909
    2007 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4776686
    2007 UCJ / Universal Distribution 4763067
    2007 Universal
    2007 Cala Records 4113
    2006 Sony Music Distribution 80316
    2005 Decca 4763110
    2005 Universal / DG Deutsche Grammophon 4775919
    2005 DG Deutsche Grammophon 000477202
    2004 The Thanksgiving CD 1998
    2004 St. Olaf Records stolafchoir26
    2004 Cala Records CACD 0114
    2003 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) / BCI-Eclipse Distribution 40400
    2003 Euphonium / Euphonium Enterprises 03
    2003 Pearl / Pearl/Pavilion 0204
    2003 Soundline 4028
    2003 Silva America / Silva Classics SILKD 6037
    2003 Talent Records 89
    2003 Cala Records 0114
    2002 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 573502
    2002 CD Accord / Universal Distribution 110
    2002 Primarily A Cappella 4460
    2002 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 5388332
    2000 Collegium Records COLCD 126
    1997 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) / BCI Music 243
    1997 BCI Music / BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 2431
    1995 Music For Pleasure / Scotdisc CDMFP 6198
    1995 Scotdisc 591
    1995 Justin Time 54
    1995 DCD Records Distribution / Summit Records 136
    1993 Telarc Distribution CD-80325
    Mark Custom Recording 3762
    Resmiranda 8029