Season after Pentecost, 2023
Always pioneering in our hymnological research, we at Sinden.org are using Google to research the tunes associated with "In Christ there is no east or west".
Before we begin, however, please note that many hymnals (and web authors) credit the words of this hymn to John Oxenham, the author's pseudonymn.
We're thinking here of the tunes ST. PETER, which seems to us to be the mainline, evangelical choice, and McKEE, which is the upstart "liturgical hymnal" choice.
Google gives us the Cyberhymnal, which lists ST. PETER as the tune, with McKEE as an "alternate tune".
We must face the sad fact that when we stand to sing, "In Christ there is no East or West," we stand in the most segregated hour of America.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Oremus Hymnal, ever the Anglican choice, lists McKEE first, and another tune, ST. BERNARD, about which I cannot say I know anything.
Christian Web Resources (UK) lists ST. STEPHEN as the tune, but the MIDI file plays what I know as ST. PETER. There might be naming confusion here.
The blog Hymns of the Spirit Three, about a hymnal of the same name, lists McKEE in this entry.
Of course, the wonderful thing about a Google search is that you can run across a wide variety of sound and video.
These video results reveal the popularity Josiah Fahey's McKEE arrangement among folk musicians (note the ASCII tablature at a domain named after him). It's popularity was likely helped by guitarist Leo Kottke.
Google also cleverly pulls up books these days. And here's where things get a little interesting.
ST. PETER is the tune of choice in the 1919 Hymnal for American Youth. This is noteworthy, because the text to "In Christ there is no east or west" was written in 1913, and some sources don't have it coming to American hymnals until 1925, at which point it is apparently sung to ST. PETER. This Hymnal for American Youth is copywritten in 1919, and the copy digitized by Google appears to be a 1922 edition.
Am I actually doing groundbreaking hymnological research using the internet? Can someone check me on this, please? Have I just moved the earliest known American publication of this hymn up three, possibly six years?
Presumably "In Christ" was first published to ST. PETER, as it is in this early source. Harry T. Burleigh wed the hymn to McKEE in the late 1930s, in time for publication in the Episcopal Hymnal 1940. But now the groups that share interest in McKEE are guitarists, mainline protestants and Episcopalians. How exciting.
It seems that McKEE is a tune that knows no east or west.
Bonus: Lectionary.org points out that "In Christ there is no east or west" is best understood in relation to Kipling poem.
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