During the decades of my life one of my best memories are experiences singing with many excellent choirs. I remember the performances of many classic hymns and stirring cantatas.
But my best memories of these choir performances were the acapella presentations of "The Lord Bless You And Keep You". Not only did the words always touch me, but the "Sevenfold Amen" was always a touching and memorable close.
The author of this classic number was Peter Lutkin (1858-1931) who specialized in writing unaccompanied choral music, primarily for his own choir. He wrote at least thirty hymn tunes, numerous songs for children, and sixty-five choral anthems.
Lutkin was born in Wisconsin. His parents emigrated to the U.S. from Denmark in 1844. He attended Chicago public schools and was a chorister and organist at St. Peter and St. Paul's Episcopal Church. At age thirteen he began formal music training, studying organ and music theory. From 1881–1884, Lutkin followed the practice of many serious composers and performers by studying in Europe. His years abroad took him to Berlin, Vienna, and Paris.
The lyrics of this hymn are found in Numbers 6:24-36, "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."
The Dead Sea Scrolls were, until recently, the oldest copies of Biblical text. But in 1979, Villanova professor, Judith Hadley, was assisting archaeologist Gabriel Barkay, in excavating a site in Jerusalem's Hinnom Valley. In a burial cave, she saw something resembling the metal cap of a pencil. It was a sensational find, a tiny silver scroll of great antiquity. Another was found nearby. These dated to seven centuries before Christ. They were so small and fragile that it took years to clean and open them.
When scientists finally unrolled them, they found the world's oldest extant copy of a biblical text. And what was the text they found? The words to Numbers 6:24-36.
Listen to it here, BLESS YOU.