Let the Lower Lights be Burning

Let the Lower Lights Be Burning

Pap and Paul have been fooling around with the old song Let the Lower Lights be Burning for the last few months. The song was written by Philip P. Bliss.  I’ve always had a fondness for songs containing the theme of darkness being broken by the comfort of light. Maybe it’s because I’ve been afraid of the darkness before or maybe it’s just because the battle between dark and light is one easily recognized by us humans-in both a literal and a spiritual sense.

I found the following quote about Bliss on this website.

“P.P. Bliss One of God’s gifts to modern Christian music was Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876).
A Pennsylvania farm boy who wrote some of the earliest gospel songs to gain wide popularity in both Britain and America, he had little formal music training and minimal schooling. Yet in the short span of 12 years (1864-1876) a devoted heart and a natural sensitivity to common folks inspired “Hold the Fort,” “Almost Persuaded,” “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning,” “Hallelujah! What a Savior!” and the music to “It Is Well with My Soul,” among many others.

Evangelist D. L. Moody said of Bliss: “…I loved and admired him. I believe he was raised up of God to write hymns for the Church of Christ in this age, as Charles Wesley was for the church in his day. … In my estimate, he was the most highly honored of God, of any man of his time, as a writer and singer of Gospel Songs, and with all his gifts he was the most humble man I ever knew. I loved him as a brother, and shall cherish his memory….”

Growing up mostly around Rome, in western Pennsylvania, just south of Elmira, New York, the Bliss family was rich in heart, but poor. A hard-scrabble, transient childhood, allowed Philip Bliss few educational opportunities. Early learning the songs of his father, a devout and earnest man who loved to sing aloud, young Philip whistled and sang those same tunes, and occasionally “played” them on crude musical instruments. He did not hear a piano until he was ten. At age 11, he left home to ease the burden on his family, earning his own living in farms and logging camps, fitting in whatever schooling might be possible along the way. His sister remembered the touching scene that day he left home, the sweetly sensitive boy carrying all his clothes wrapped in a handkerchief and tossing his sisters two pennies over his shoulder as he made his way down the lane, not allowing himself to look back in a final farewell.”

As I researched the song I quickly discovered Paul and Pap’s words are not exactly the same as the original lines penned by Bliss.

A change in lyrics often occurs with songs that are learned by word of mouth and as times change different arrangements of songs are often developed to keep them in use or bring a newness to them.

While Pap and Paul’s words might be slightly different there is absolutely nothing wrong with their harmony. The smoothness of their signature two-part harmony really stands out in Let the Lower Lights be Burning.

I hope you enjoyed the song and the history!




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  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    December 11, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Beautiful — one of their best. I, too, picked up on the spit-shine 🙂

  • Reply
    January 10, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I loved this so very much, Tipper. Thank you for the history and the harmony. The Lord blessed me today with this post!

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    January 10, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    Loved it.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    January 10, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Thanks, Tipper. All of those songs are part of my growing up. Nice to know what a prolific writer Phillip Bliss was!

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    January 10, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    Sad story about him leaving home to ease his financial burden on his family. Not many kids like that nowadays.
    I wonder if many young boys did that, cause we had an uncle Isaac McKinney who left town, supposedly with a circus at about age 14 who wasn’t seen again until about 50 years later when he looked up his youngest sister, our Great Grandmother Mabel McKinney Fry in Oil City, PA. Though he had a home and family in Texas, a family reunion was held in PA to welcome him back for a visit. It was a wonderful time, but sad after-thoughts too – because they were both aged and didn’t have many years left together.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 10, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Somehow this one was not one I heard growing up, though several others by him were. I read everything at the link you embedded. His life story was both heart-warming and sad in its tragic ending, at least to us for now.
    Stay warm this week you all. As you posted, winter has come. And it is making up for lost time…

  • Reply
    John Faircloth
    January 10, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    Tipper: I love watching Pap’s technique with the guitar. The song and its harmonies make my
    faith stand at attention. Thanks for the gift.
    Hearing the history reminds me of playing church with my siblings. Whoever announced the hymns
    would always say “Now let us sing ‘Let the lower lights be burning’ by P.P. Bliss, and we would all

  • Reply
    Phyllis S
    January 10, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    One of the very best that I’ve heard Pap and Paul do and it is
    truly beautiful! I’ve listened several times and thank you.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    January 10, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    That was a lovely song. Paul and Pap makes it real again, and I could hear your Base keeping time. It’s been years since I heard that one.
    It drizzled about all night and around 9 this morning turned into SNOW flurries. I couldn’t hardly see across the yard, don’t think it ever got above 26 degrees but it never did lay, except a little on my Jeep. The higher mountains were just White and beautiful, another 200 feet and we’d a been white too. Maybe next time…Ken

  • Reply
    January 10, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing Tipper! Always great to hear Pap and Paul any day. Especially on this snowy, cold Sunday! We got over 2 inches of snow this morning.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Oh, thank you, Paul and Pap for the song- I haven’t heard it in years. Such a blessing!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    It was so wonderful to hear one of the hymns from my childhood, especially with the guitars and harmony. It’s made my Sunday!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 10, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Tipper–Just got home from a most welcome trip to my beloved Smokies, and the song was a joy to hear. Don had told me Bliss and the song were featured on today’s blog, so I knew as I drove that I had a treat awaiting me.
    I might add that it’s a toss-up as to whether Jerry and Paul’s harmony or the exceptional lyrics provided by Bliss are best. It really doesn’t matter since both are top drawer.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    January 10, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    I’ll bet nobody else noticed what Pap is sitting on. A straightback armless rocker. That is a real guitar picker’s chair! I’ll bet it was bought (or made) for just that purpose.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Thanks for lettin’ me sing along! Love

  • Reply
    Will Dixon
    January 10, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Loved the black and white picture of you father wearing his “spit-shined” shoes.
    Once a Marine-Always a Marine!

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    January 10, 2016 at 10:19 am

    This is possibly my favorite gospel song. Great job!

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    January 10, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Beautiful, I love to hear Paul and Pap sing and play! I love the older hymns.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    January 10, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Pap and Paul’s harmony is so wonderful to listen to. I love many of the old songs and they bring back so many memories from my childhood. Although my worship style has changed from the old country church of my youth to the more contemporary praise and worship service I still love the old hymns.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Miss Cindy is right about Pap and Paul’s music -“their pure love for what they are doing” as well as their love for family shine’s through in all that they and any of the Blind Pig gang do.
    “Let the Lower Lights be Burning” was my Granny’s (great-grandmother’s) favorite second only to “Sweet Hour of Prayer”. Sitting by her in church I would feel the cares and pains of her life melt away from her body as she sang these songs.
    Thanks for the memories.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 10, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Let the Lower Lights Keep Burning is a lovely tune with a lovelier message. You’ve got just the right feller in the photo at the top – a man whose light shines as brightly as his polished boots.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 10, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Beautiful music to brighten up a cold, damp, cloudy Sunday morning….
    Thanks for posting Tipper,

  • Reply
    January 10, 2016 at 8:39 am

    What a blessing for this Sunday morning! This was absolutely beautiful.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    January 10, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Thanks to Paul and Pap for their wonderful rendition of “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.” As we say in the mountains, I was “brought up” on all the songs you mention written by Phillip Paul Bliss. We sang them at Choestoe Baptist Church. Then when my husband, Rev. Grover Jones, was in the ministry in mainly “mountain” churches, those hymns were still in the hymn books used by the churches he served and we continued to sing them. The story of how Phillip Bliss composed “It Is Well with My Soul” is also very touching. That hymn, and “Amazing Grace” were my husband’s favorites, and we selected them to be sung at his funeral in January, 2011.
    I appreciate both your account of the hymn’s author and Pap and Paul singing and playing “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning”–with the words showing our Christian responsibility and Christ’s command, for Christians: “You are the light of the world.” Happy New Year, all and have a wonderful Lord’s Day today.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 10, 2016 at 7:10 am

    Your right Tipper, the harmony is beautiful. I did not grow up with gospel music but have come to love Pap and Paul’s harmony. I think one of the reasons they are so good is because of their pure love for what they are doing.

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