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Music & the Spoken Word: ‘As the Dew from Heaven Distilling’

Steppe grass with drops of fresh morning dew

“As the Dew from Heaven Distilling” is the closing refrain for "Music & the Spoken Word."

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Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given July 17, 2022.

Today, we begin our 94th year of continuous weekly broadcasting with an observation about the way each of those weekly broadcasts ends. For nearly all its history, “Music & the Spoken Word” has concluded with a signature theme, performed by the organist. The tune was written by Joseph J. Daynes, a Tabernacle organist who began playing for the choir when he was just 16 years old and accompanied the choir for 33 years in the late 1800s.

If you’ve listened to the broadcast before, you will recognize his reverent and exalting melody, titled “As the Dew from Heaven Distilling.” Less well-known, however, are the lyrics that go with it.

They were written by Thomas Kelly, a 19th-century Irish preacher. But Kelly’s hymn text actually has much more ancient roots, reaching back to the biblical “song of Moses”:

“Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew” (Deuteronomy 32:1-2).

Historical records are not clear on why “As the Dew from Heaven Distilling” was chosen as the closing refrain for “Music & the Spoken Word.” Even so, the symbolism does feel appropriate. Dew from heaven can revive, nourish and uplift. And yet, unlike the occasional heavy rainstorm, dew distills gently, peacefully and consistently — morning after morning, year after year. This is our hope: to share with all the world God’s love, His hope, and His nourishing truth “as the dew from heaven distilling.”

So today, when the organist plays the closing theme, in addition to enjoying the beautiful music, you might also think about dew from heaven, its gentle influence on your soul, and these words written by Thomas Kelly so long ago:

As the dew from heav’n distillingGently on the grass descendsAnd revives it, thus fulfillingWhat thy providence intends,Let thy doctrine, Lord, so gracious,Thus descending from above,Blest by thee, prove efficaciousTo fulfill thy work of love.

(See “Hymns,” no. 149.)

Tuning in …

The “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV,KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, KSL.com, BYUtv, BYUradio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the tabernaclechoir.org, youtube.com/TheTabernacleChoir and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.com/viewers-listeners/airing-schedules.

See the Church News’ archive of ‘Spoken Word’ messages

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