Thomas Kingo's Sacred Song Books
28 January 2016
American Record Guide
John W. Barker
No surprise if you don’t recognize instantly the name of Thomas Hansen Kingo (1634–1703); I didn’t. But, for Danes, he is an important founder of their traditions of popular sacred and devotional music. A descendant of a Scottish immigrant to Denmark, Kingo was a poet, theologian, hymnographer, and bishop. Beginning in 1674 he published a series of collections of “hymns and songs for daily devotions”, where his texts were grafted into tunes taken from here and there. Though so many of his creations have become a formal part of the Danish Lutheran hymnal, Kingo did not intend them for use in formal services, but rather for domestic devotional life, in the spirit of Martin Luther’s own advice.
The songs and hymns are simple, direct, and attractive - qualities that clearly have helped win them durability among Danes. Kingo’s publications were in three parts, assembling the material according to morning, evening, and general penitential use. 13 selections are offered here, sung with fetching loveliness by soprano Else Torp and with manly fervor by bass Jakob Bloch Jespersen. In one case, the two sing together in duet.
To add not only variety but a feeling for general domestic music-making, ten short instrumental pieces are interspersed. These involve the contemporaneous composers Johann Schop, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Adam Krieger, and Diederik Buxtehude.
The album booklet contains interesting background information. But the texts are given only in the original Danish, without translations - somewhat diluting their appreciation.
This release may not attract instant attention or command an immediate audience. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this unpretentious but genuinely appealing program. So I recommend it to others who are likely to find it a minor but very happy discovery.