I just heard recently that the composer of the hymn, “Borning Cry,” John Ylvisaker died this week. Here’s the story of how this hymn was itself was “born.” It’s one of my favorites. Some family friends sang it at our daughter Kate’s wedding.
Prior to the merger of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Media Services Center of the American Lutheran Church (ALC) employed John Ylvisaker to write original compositions for its resources.
During 1985, the ALC was doing a series on baptism called “Reflections”. John began work on the song before any footage for the video had been shot. When the media team met to put the music with the video for the first time, it became obvious that the dance-like beat and fast rhythm of the music did not match the gentle scenes being depicted on the screen. The lyrics were on target, but not the music. As he left the studio that day, John received the suggestion to “take it home and personalize it”.
Thus began the most arduous task any composer can face – changing a completed work into something else. However, the original “false labor” later gave way to the “birth” of “Borning Cry”, which is now included in songbooks and hymnals around the world.