Robert Lau (b. 1943) — Variations on the Shaker Hymn “The Humble Heart” (1995) for organ
“Variations on the Shaker Hymn ‘The Humble Heart’” was commissioned by David H. Binkley for the 1995 centennial of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania. “The Humble Heart” is a Shaker hymn written by Thomas Hammond, Jr. (music) and Eunice Wyeth (words) around 1820. Wyeth’s six verses are in Daniel Patterson’s words “a distillation of several of the images that most powerfully moved the Shaker imagination.” The music is loosely based on an 18th century British ballad “The Lowlands of Holland.” In Lau’s organ work, the theme (heard first in an unadorned Shaker manner) is followed by five contrasting variations.
Whence comes this bright celestial light
What cause produces this?
A heaven opens to my sight
Bright scenes of joy and bliss.
O Lord Jehovah, art thou here?
This light proclaims thou art.
“I am indeed. I’m always near
Unto the humble heart.”
American composer and organist Robert Lau (b. 1943) was educated at Lebanon Valley College (B.S.), Eastman School of Music (M.A.), and Catholic University of American (Ph.D.). He then served on the music faculty of Lebanon Valley College for 22 years, chairing the music department for 11 of them. Wishing to pursue other musical endeavors, he left the school, though also taught as an adjunct faculty member at Penn State Harrisburg. Lau has been Organist/Choirmaster at Mt. Calvary Episcopal Church (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania) for more than 25 years. He has composed and published numerous works for organ and choir with a number of publishers.