"Amazing Grace" is extremely well known in Germany and I sing it very often, accompanying myself with the concertina and sometimes, if I can squeeze it in, a melodic introduction on penny-whistle. There is a lot of confusion here in Germany as to where this song comes from. I've even met one gentleman who thinks that "Amazing Grace" is the American National Anthem! And furthermore, 100 Best Folk Songs For Recorder
, by an American publisher, describes it as a Spiritual! Everybody seems to claim this tune, the Americans, the Scots, the Irish (of course!), the English and maybe the Welsh. Considering it as a song
I tentatively place it as an English or possibly Welsh hymn.
I first heard the tune as bagpipe music when it was hit in 1972. The history to this hit lies in the merging of two Scottish Regiments, the 3rd Carabiniers and the Royal Scots Greys into the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The regimental bands, one a bagpipe band and the other, a brass band were also merged creating something at that time, quite unique namely the use of brass instruments with a traditional Scottish pipe and drum band. The sleeve note of an LP I possess of the same title, states that "Amazing Grace" is a 200-year-old American hymn tune. It could well be correct as John Wesley's first publication appeared in Charleston, South Carolina in 1737 according to The Oxford Companion to Music
. One of my popular German songbooks states that the lyrics are by John Newton (1725-1807). The "Companion" also tantalisingly describes John Newton as a sea captain, Evangelical clergyman, and author (with Cowper) of the "Olney Hymns". (Olney, by the way, is village on the River Ouse in Buckinghamshire, somewhat to the south-east of Northampton - fascinating isn't it, dear Surfer?)
I first started singing it solo in 1992 and we do it almost each year at my private ceilidhs. Here we really muck around with it because the ladies have to imitate the brass while the gents imitate bagpipes. Loads of fun and quite juvenile of course!
With this song, my recorder and folk-music worlds overlap as I have played Amazing Grace on bass recorder a number of times with Blue Tuesday.