Holly Haase is one of many Renaissance women whom I have had the good fortune of featuring in the How Can I Keep from Singing? series. I now know that in addition to her many other talents, Holly is a beautiful spiritual writer. We met through our voice teacher many years ago, and I am so happy that we became friendly. I know you will enjoy her thoughts on a hymn that is familiar to many of us.
One of the most beautiful sounds to me on Sunday morning is the music of the prelude in a church sanctuary. Most times it is a gentle melody that allows the listener to prepare themselves for worship. Of course not everyone listens, but for those who do there’s a feeling of peace that wraps itself around them. The music of the church has always fascinated me and it is during the preludes, postludes, anthems, and hymns that I feel closest God.
Although I would not call “Softly and Tenderly” my favorite hymn, over the summer I have often found it floating in my mind. The hymn was originally composed and used as an “invitation hymn” in the evangelical meetings conducted by the preacher Dwight Moody. In this hymn Christ calls to the sinner in a gentle voice and offers rest, peace and love if he or she is willing to accept it. I believe that Matthew 11:28-29 may best depict the meaning of this hymn: Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Being an introvert the world seems loud and demanding to me. Oftentimes I find myself searching for quiet and in this hymn I find some of that quiet. The melody is like the sound of ocean waves lapping against the shore on a calm day. It begins softly, rises little by little into the refrain and gently abates. The words are not harsh, threatening or demanding, but more like a loving parent gently calling to their child.
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
calling for you and for me;
see, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home;
you who are weary come home;
earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
calling, O sinner, come home!
Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
mercies for you and for me? [Refrain]
O for the wonderful love he has promised,
promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
pardon for you and for me. [Refrain]
There’s a stain glass window in a church I once attended. I would often sit in the choir loft examining it over and over. The scripture underneath read: “Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” The picture shows Jesus outside the door gently knocking and softly calling. The choice to open the door and accept “the wonderful love He has promised” belongs to each of us. I thank God for the music of the church, for it is there that I have found His love.
Holly Haase has been living a life of music since birth. The daughter of a singer, she was introduced to many different musical styles in her youth. In her late teens she bought herself a guitar, taught herself to play and attempted to sing in the folk and pop genre. Although she enjoyed the style, she found her voice was not suited to sing it so she turned to classical music. As an adult she studied voice at Longy School of Music in Cambridge. There she developed a special love for the art song because, to her both, the accompaniment and the vocal line have their own melody and together make one song. Her teachers include Annette Anfinrud, Gale Livingston, Katherine FitzGibbon and Jayne West. She sings with Masterworks Chorale in Cambridge, and has sung in area choirs and served as a cantor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in West Boylston. She runs the concert series for the Shirley Meeting House, is an avid photographer, enjoys art, the ocean and sitting back and reading a good book. Holly is the mother of two and the grandmother of four (three boys and one girl) children and resides in Shirley.