Notes on For the Beauty of the Earth

After Martin Prachař had spent many hours working on a beautiful instrumental recording of my men’s choir arrangement of Abide with Me, I asked him if I might arrange one of his favorite hymns.  He said, “as the spring came in fast this year and brought in hope, I have been really feeling like singing For the Beauty of the Earth…”

I began work immediately on an arrangement that I soon discarded.  When I arrange, I want to bring something fresh to the song.  If I cannot improve upon the original, an arrangement is a waste of time.  I felt that the tune of the hymn was already well harmonized, and I didn’t want to tinker with it too much.  I got frustrated and walked away from the project for over six months.

In January 2013, my family and I attended the funeral of a brilliant mathematician and scientist, John Downing.  The closing hymn at the service was For the Beauty of the Earth.  This brought the song back to the front of my mind.

Last week, I was sitting at the piano and working out a little tune, and the lyrics to For the Beauty of the Earth began to fit with it.  I wrote and harmonized the tune, and then I went back to the original hymn tune by Conrad Kocher.  I was able to quote that melody in the bass line of verse 2.

To me, beauty in music is achieved through shimmering dissonance as much as consonant chords.  That aesthetic idea guided the voicing of this piece.  See and hear the results here.

Published by


Nathan Howe is a Colorado composer, performer, and teacher. If you enjoy the free music available on this website, please share it with friends, commission a composition, or make a donation. Thank you!

3 thoughts on “Notes on For the Beauty of the Earth”

  1. I am now more familiar with each part of this arrangement, as I work on recordings for my site. I love it, and especially the ending. The song is like going through and intense spiritual experience, and the ending like the peace that fills your soul when all is well and all is done …

  2. Nathan, I loved your arrangement of this piece. I can appreciate your comments on the song as well. Certainly, arranging is one gift. But, creating something out of nothing is another beautiful gift all together. I’d rather have the latter if I had to pick. Arranging drives me bonkers; I’m not that good at it. I’ve written a bit over the years and my wife talked me into putting 2 pieces on the freeldssheetmusic site which she uses as a resource. That’s when I heard your piece and decided to check out your web page. We’ll certainly use your hymns as well! All the best.

    1. James,
      Thank you so much for your comments. I’m sorry it took me so long to respond. I appreciate so much that your style does not completely fit in the box that so many LDS composers can’t escape. My favorite piece that I have seen of yours is Creation: . A very nice text and setting – intelligently written, but not beyond the grasp of a choir of volunteers. I hope to speak with you more about your music sometime.

Leave a Reply