On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss

From Wind Repertory Project
David Holsinger

David Holsinger

General Info

Year: 1876 / 1989
Duration: c. 4:35
Difficulty: III (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: TRN Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $65.00    |    Score Only - $8.00


Full Score
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Triangle


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

On A Hymnsong Of Philip Bliss is a radical departure of style of this composer. The frantic tempos, the ebullient rhythms we associate with Holsinger are replaced with a restful, gentle, and reflective composition based on the 1876 Philip Bliss-Horatio Spafford hymn, It Is Well with My Soul. Written to honor the retiring principal of Shady Grove Christian Academy, On A Hymnsong Of Philip Blis' was presented as a gift from the SGCA Concert Band to Rev. Steve Edel in May of 1989.

Horatio G. Spafford, a Chicago Presbyterian layman and successful businessman, planned a European trip for his family in 1873. In November of that year, due to unexpected last minute business developments, he had to remain in Chicago; but he sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled aboard the S.S. Ville du Havre. He expected to follow in a few days. On November 22, the ship was struck by the Lochearn, an English vessel, and sank in twelve minutes. Several days later the survivors were finally landed in Cardiff, Wales, and Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband, “Saved alone.” Shortly afterward, Spafford left by ship to join his bereaved wife.

It is speculated that on the sea near the area where it was thought his four daughters had drowned, Spafford penned this text with words so significantly describing his own personal grief, “When sorrows like sea billows roll...” It is noteworthy, however, that Spafford does not dwell on the theme of life’s sorrows and trials, but focuses attention in the third stanza on the redemptive work of Christ. Humanly speaking, it is amazing that one could experience such personal tragedy and sorrow as did Horatio Spafford and still be able to say with such convincing clarity, “It is well with my soul...”

Hymnwriter Philip Bliss was so impressed with the experience and expression of Spafford’s text that he shortly wrote the music for it, first published in 1876. Bliss was a prolific writer of gospel songs throughout his brief lifetime, and in most cases he wrote both the words and the music. This hymn is one of the few exceptions.

There is speculation that this was perhaps the last gospel song written by Bliss. Bliss and his wife, Lucy, were killed in a train wreck in Ashtabula, Ohio, on December 29, 1876. Most sources mention that Bliss actually escaped from the flames first, but was then killed when he went back into the train to try to rescue is wife. Neither body was ever found.

As a postscript, Bliss’s trunk was salvaged from the wreckage, and in it, evangelist D. W. Whittle found an unfinished hymn, which began, “I know not what awaits me, God kindly veils my eyes...”

- Program Note by composer

Words to the hymn "It is Well with My Soul":

It Is Well with My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.


State Ratings

  • Arkansas: II
  • Florida: III
  • Georgia: IV
  • Iowa: III
  • Louisiana: III
  • Maryland: III
  • Minnesota: III
  • North Carolina: III
  • North Carolina: III
  • South Carolina: IV
  • Texas: III. Complete
  • Virginia: III


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Kansas State University Concert Band (Zack Deininger, conductor) - 7 March 2024
  • Wisconsin Lutheran College (Milwaukee) Concert Band (Daniel Hubert, conductor) - 1 March 2024
  • Youngstown (Ohio) State University Concert Band (Michael Scott Butler, conductor) - 15 October 2023
  • Lee University (Cleveland, Tenn.) Wind Ensemble (Winona Holsinger, conductor) - 14 April 2023
  • ʻAiea (Hi.) High School Band (Lee Ikeda, conductor) - 6 April 2023
  • Dos Palos (Calif.) High School Wind Symphony (Luis Angel Gonzalez, conductor) - 26 March 2023 (2023 Sutherland Wind Festival (Fresno, Calif.)
  • Justin Garza High School (Fresno, Calif.) Symphonic Band (Kevin Tinkle, conductor) - 24 March 2023 (2023 Sutherland Wind Festival (Fresno, Calif.)
  • St. Mark’s High School (Wilmington, Del.) Concert Band (Emily Poll, conductor) - 17 March 2023
  • West Valley High School (Yakima, Wash.) Symphonic Band (Kirk Knight, conductor) - 8 March 2023
  • Bluewater Wind Ensemble (Sarnia, Ont., Can.) (Charles Dalmas, conductor) 20 October 2022
  • Denver (Colo.) Concert Band (Jacinda Bouton, conductor) – 4 May 2022 (ACB 2022 Annual Convention (Santa Fe, New Mexico))
  • Ontario High School (Ohio) Concert Band (Sean DeLong, conductor) - 30 January 2022 (Severance Music Center, Cleveland)
  • University of Wisconsin Green Bay Symphonic Band (Kevin Collins) - 1 December 2021
  • University of Nebraska (Lincoln) Lentz Concert Band (Joseph P. Cutting, conductor) – 25 April 2021
  • Grace College (Winona Lake, Ind.) Wind Ensemble (Eric Criss, conductor) – 16 April 2021
  • University of Kentucky (Lexington) Concert Band (Michael Hudson, conductor) – 17 November 2020
  • Kountze (Tx.) High School Wind Ensemble (Brad Long, conductor) – 28 April 2020
  • Cumberland County (Tenn.) Community Band (William T. Kerr, conductor) – 19 March 2020
  • University of Arkansas at Little Rock Wind Ensemble (Ken Goff, conductor) – 10 March 2020
  • Parkland College (Champaign, Ill.) Concert Band (Larry Stoner, conductor) – 8 March 2020
  • Strongsville (Ohio) High School Band (Brian King, conductor) – 14 February 2020
  • Lakeview High School Wind Ensemble (Hilary Patriok, conductor) – 26 January 2020 (Severance Hall, Cleveland)

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • David Holsinger website Accessed 29 August 2021
  • Eastvold, Jared. (2007). An Examination of Works for Wind Band Masters Report.
  • Miles, Richard B., and Larry Blocher. (2010). Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 1. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 341-349.
  • Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 294.