Sunday, 15 July 2012

What a Friend we Have in Jesus -- blues piano

About this hymn

The original lyrics for "What a Friend we Have in Jesus" were written in the 19th century by Irish poet Joseph Scriven, who was living in Canada at the time. The well known tune was composed several years later by a US attorney called Charles Converse. As with many hymns, there are now several variations, and it is known by quite different names in other languages, such as "World of Stars" in some Japanese translations.

About this recording

I find the lyrics to this hymn very powerful, and for me they capture some of the vitality of Christianity (or at least what Christianity should be). However, I find a traditional rendition of the tune can become quite sullen, so with this recording I was aiming to express the sentiment in a different way. Everybody faces difficulties, and there are times when solemnity is important. But as a Christian, I believe we've always got a faithful friend in Christ, and that's something we can be happy about!

I chose to play this version in F, which is a little unusual for this style of blues. I felt it worked with the pitch of the melody though. In many places, I was just playing some slightly bluesy versions of the simplified traditional chords. However, in places I played some variations, such as transitioning from a Bb to a non-traditional Bbm7 near the beginning of some verses.

I also found that some parts of the tune leant themselves very well to some fairly typical chromatic blues progressions, particularly leading up to the end of the verses.


I've licensed the recording as Creative Commons Attribution, which means you're free to re-use it as long as you give me credit. I'd like to request that you don't use it for commercial purposes without my permission though.

If you find it useful, then please let me know. I'd love to know what you're using it for!


  1. Hi Peter: Only one thing missing, brother - a bluesy alto sax to sing the melody - so, as you've already given me the OK here, I'm going to do just that for my song service in church tomorrow. And yessir, you'll get a shout out during the performance.

    This piece captures the way I'm feeling lately - singing the blues over a job situation and knowing that God's got it under control and all, but still not completely settled on it yet - I guess I'm just not really wanting to go through an already tight situation about to get tighter still.

    Thank you for the piece. Keep writing 'cause I'll be back for more, for sure.


    1. Hi Rick. Some bluesy sax sounds fabulous! I hope your performance went well.

      Sorry to hear about your job situation. Work is such a big part of life that it can definitely seem overwhelming when things are tough. I pray that you come through it safely though, strengthened and encouraged, by God's grace.

      All the best,