A spectacular version of one of the most recognised songs in the World has attracted over 27.2 million video views – performed by Celtic Woman.
“Amazing Grace” was first published in 1779, with words of the Christian hymn were written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807).
Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction and later worked in the slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. Whilst his boat was being repaired he wrote the first verse of his world famous song. Around 1755, he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology.
More than twenty musical settings of “Amazing Grace” circulated with varying popularity until 1835 when William Walker assigned Newton’s words to a traditional song named “New Britain”. This combination of words and melody appeared for the first time in Walker’s shape note tunebook Southern Harmony in 1847. It was, according to author Steve Turner, a “marriage made in heaven”. Walker’s collection was enormously popular, selling about 600,000 copies all over the U.S. when the total population was just over 20 million.
With the advent of recorded music and radio, “Amazing Grace” began to cross over from primarily a gospel standard to secular audiences. The ability to record combined with the marketing of records to specific audiences allowed “Amazing Grace” to take on thousands of different forms in the 20th century.
In 1972 the Royal Scottish Dragoon Guards, the senior Scottish regiment of the British Army, recorded an instrumental version. Their version was No.1 in the UK singles chart for 5 weeks, topped the RPM national singles chart in Canada for three weeks, and rose as high as number 11 in the USA. The track sold over seven million copies by mid 1977, and was awarded a gold disc. Funeral processions for killed police, fire, and military personnel have often played a bagpipes version ever since.
Celtic Woman perform ‘Amazing Grace’ at Slane Castle in County Meath, Ireland, on 23 and 24 August 2006, in preparation for their third studio album, which hit the Billboard World Music chart at No.1.