Rev Dr Erik Routley

The Choir Corner: The Tree of Life

As an avid gardener and champion of Agriculture, I adore all the hymns and anthems with a garden, vineyard, or tree allusion: “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, “ “Christ hath a garden,” the Hebrew canticle “Etz Chaim” (literally Tree of Life,) etc. This year on The Day of Easter, we will again all sing “The Tree of Life,” AKA “There in God’s Garden.” This hymn has continued to gain in popularity for decades.

The original text is by Kiraly Imre von Pecselye ( 1590-1641) and was translated into English by The Rev Dr Erik Routley (1917-1982), who is credited with being the greatest hymnologist the world has ever seen. He was an English Congregational Minister, musician, and scholar whose influence was international. He immigrated to the US in 1975 to become a professor at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ. You will know him as the author of “All that love and serve Your city,” among other texts and the composer of the tune “Sharpethorn” for “What does the Lord require for praise and offering.”

K. Lee Scott (1950– ) composed the tune “Shades Mountain “ for this text and also gussied it up in the arrangement “Everyone” does. An Alabama native, he has the gift of composing works of quality for choirs of very limited resources, but like the proverbial “ good black dress” these works handle more resources equally well and don’t sound “composed down.” The choir has several of his anthems and arrangements, including this year’s anthem for the Day of Pentecost.