Rock of Ages (Ruth Buchanan version)

A couple of reasons why I appreciate this arrangement:

  • It’s very singable. Cheryl and I first heard this at YLC conference, and picked it up reasonably quickly.
  • It matches the words better. In my opinion, Thomas Hasting’s original “Toplady” tune and Richard Redhead’s Petra variation both sound a bit too bright and chirpy, compared with the helplessness and pathos that Augustus Toplady’s words evoke. Ruth Buchanan’s melody gets more urgent (diminutes) and lifts in pitch right at the emotional climax of the verse.
  • It suits a contemporary band better. Ruth’s melody I feel gives more space for each line of the hymn, which allows the church to think more on the words. Guitar and bass players might also appreciate the chords changing around less often.
  • It’s helped many younger Christians sing historical-redemptive theology. Toplady has packed this hymn with rich imagery, the most obvious one being that Jesus Christ is our Rock of refuge (Numbers 20:11, 1 Corinthians 10:4) and the only source of salvation. Verse 1’s line about the “double cure” helps to image both the justifying and sanctifying work of Christ on behalf of His children, and the third verse alludes to Genesis with “naked come to Thee for dress”. Ruth Buchanan’s melody continues to give wings to this hymn of the faith.

In preparation for introducing it at church this Sunday, I put together some sheet music based on the video above (edit: contact me to find out more about it).

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2 thoughts on “Rock of Ages (Ruth Buchanan version)

  1. Rob Morton

    Hey William

    I think the beauty of this version is most obvious in the last verse…the music matches the words so well. As a non-musician I have no idea why…but it does!

    I first got to know this version in Australia when we lived there. It’s funny now singing the old Toplady tune, I’m not sure it’s as appropriate.

    Thanks for posting the vid.

  2. William

    Rob I agree with you re: the Toplady tune – I feel like I’m jumping for joy with that tune, rather than approaching God with fearful gratefulness. But I’m sure others have different emotions with the tune, it’s often quite subjective…

    Cheers

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