July 2, 2018

Nettles & Glosson Take Us to God With “How Great Thou Art”

In case you didn’t know, Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland was one of the mentors of the singing competition reality television show called Duets that premiered on May 24, 2012, on ABC. She was joined in by fellow mentors Kelly Clarkson, John Legend and Robin Thicke in search for singers to duet with them as they perform in front of a live studio audience.

Nettles & Glosson Take Us to God With "How Great Thou Art" 1
Jennifer Nettles and John Glosson |Photo Credits: tasteofcountry.com

One of the most remembered and notable performances on the show was Nettles’ duet with contestant John Glosson. Both Nettles and Glosson rendered a powerful performance of the gospel classic “How Great Thou Art“. Glosson personally chose the hymn in compliance with the week’s criteria, which is to sing “songs that inspire”. He ultimately decided upon “How Great Thou Art” because according to him he correlated its meaning with the loss of his older brother to Leukemia the day after his parents learned his mother was pregnant with him. During the rehearsals, Nettles cannot fight back tears upon hearing the tragic story behind Glosson’s choice.

The performance of the two drew cheers from the viewers. In addition, it left the judges speechless. As a result, all three other judges were on their feet at the end of the impeccable performance. Indeed, it was a night of great singing, amazing talent, and a celebration of life.

WATCH: Jennifer Nettles and John Glosson give a powerful and poignant duet and nail it onstage with their version of “How Great Thou Art”.

About the Song

Based on a Swedish traditional melody, “How Great Thou Art” is a Christian hymn anchored on a poem by Swedish poet and elected official Carl Boberg (1859-1940). Boberg penned the poem in  Mönsterås, Sweden in 1885 and was inspired by a text on the Bible (Deuteronomy 33:26). Later, it was translated into other languages namely, German and Russian before becoming a hymn. English missionary Stuart K. Hine translated the hymn into English from Russian. In addition, he augmented two original verses of his own. The hymn was then set to a Russian melody.

Nettles & Glosson Take Us to God With "How Great Thou Art" 2
Carl Boberg |Photo Credits: hymntime.com

Moreover, the composition became popular during the Billy Graham crusades. It was actually popularized by gospel singers George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows in the 1940s. Furthermore, BBC’s Songs of Praise voted it as the United Kingdom’s favorite hymn. On the other hand, “How Great Thou Art” came in second after “Amazing Grace” on the list of most favorite hymns of all time by Christian Today Magazine in 2001.

The inspiration of the Song

Carl Boberg wrote the poem in Swedish entitled, “O Store Gud” (O Great God) in 1885. Thoughts of writing the poem all started when he was walking back home from church in Kronobäck, Sweden. He was listening to church bells back then. All of a sudden, a storm caught Boberg’s attention and prompted him to observe it over Mönsterås Bay where he eventually wrote the poem. The storm made its appearance and went on to subside peacefully.

An authority on hymnody, J. Irving Erickson narrated how Boberg came up with his idea. He stated:

“Carl Boberg and some friends were returning home to Mönsterås from Kronobäck, where they had participated in an afternoon service. Presently a thundercloud appeared on the horizon, and soon lightning flashed across the sky. Strong winds swept over the meadows and billowing fields of grain. The thunder pealed in loud claps. Then rain came in cool fresh showers. In a little while the storm was over, and a rainbow appeared. When Boberg arrived home, he opened the window and saw the bay of Mönsterås like a mirror before him… From the woods on the other side of the bay, he heard the song of a thrush… the church bells were tolling in the quiet evening. It was this series of sights, sounds, and experiences that inspired the writing of the song.”

On the other hand, Boberg’s great-nephew, Bud Boberg, recalled:

“My dad’s story of its origin was that it was a paraphrase of Psalm 8 and was used in the ‘underground church’ in Sweden in the late 1800s when the Baptists and Mission Friends were persecuted.”

The Author’s Revelation

Direct from the author himself, Carl Boberg revealed what inspired him to craft and give life to his poem:

“It was that time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest colouring; the birds were singing in trees and everywhere. It was very warm; a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon and soon there was thunder and lightning. We had to hurry to shelter. But the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared. When I came home I opened my window toward the sea. There evidently had been a funeral and the bells were playing the tune of “When eternity’s clock calls my saved soul to its Sabbath rest”. That evening, I wrote the song, ‘O Store Gud’.”

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how great thou art, Jennifer Nettles, John Glosson

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