Hastings, Thomas


b Washington, Connecticut, USA 1784, d New York city, 1872. At the age of 12 he moved with his parents to Clinton in NY state by ox-drawn sledge. A doctor’s son and a near-sighted albino, said to have been able to read a page held upside down, he survived a fairly rigorous childhood and only basic schooling. But he taught himself the basics of music until at 18 he was leading a country choir and compiling a collection of hymns. As a Presbyterian he became the first popular hymnwriter of that N American denomination. At 1816 he edited the Utica Collection for the Oneida County Musical Society, which took the title Musica Sacra and went through several edns, and in 1822 he issued a personal reforming manifesto in his Dissertation on Musical Taste. From 1823 to 1832 he edited the Western Recorder in Utica, using its pages among other purposes to commend good singing. He moved to New York city in 1832, compiling Spiritual Songs for Social Worship in partnership with Lowell Mason (qv, whose views on unworthy tunes he shared), and many more books including the 1834 Mother’s Hymn Book. The Musical Magazine which he founded in 1836 gave a further outlet for his ideals for sacred song, of which he believed that ‘the homage that we owe Almighty God calls for the noblest and most reverential tribute that music can render’. Among his later writings he illustrated his aims with many personal experiences narrated in the History of Forty Choirs (1854) and he was awarded the DMus by the Univ of the City of New York, 1858. His output was reportedly some 600 texts and 1000 tunes (some of these published anonymously or with initials only, not always his own), and 50 volumes of music. Given considerable space in Julian, F M Bird describes his aim as ‘the greater glory of God through better musical worship’, while acknowledging that he wrote no hymn of the first rank. Nos.932, 933*.

Hymns and songs by Hastings, Thomas

Number Hymn Name
932 God of mercy, hear our prayer
933 Our children, Lord, in faith and prayer