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The Band Of The Imperial Guard

Plays An Old Version Of The Hymn "Amazing Grace" At Waterloo

The Christian Hymn "Amazing Grace" was only married together with its (now) recognisable melody late in the 19th Century. What we now recognise as the hymn's tune is in fact an earlier melody titled "New Britain". The (Belgian reenactment group) "Musique de la Garde" often play an early arrangement of this tune during their activities on and around the Waterloo battlefield...

British Redcoats fire their muskets at French troops while shrouded in black powder smoke, on the battlefield at Waterloo.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

"New Britain" was originally a traditional song which was itself an amalgamation of two melodies ("Gallaher" and "St. Mary") first published in the Columbian Harmony by Charles H. Spilman and Benjamin Shaw (Cincinnati, 1829). Spilman and Shaw, both students at Kentucky's Centre College, compiled their tunebook both for public worship and revivals, to satisfy "the wants of the Church in her triumphal march."

Most of the tunes had been previously published, but "Gallaher" and "St. Mary" had not. As neither tune is attributed and both show elements of oral transmission, scholars can only speculate that they are possibly of British origin.

The video below shows the Band Of The Imperial Guard (more accurately, "Musique de la Garde") playing an early arrangement of "New Britain", at Placenoit in Belgium.

On the evening of the 16th June 2015, just a couple of days short of the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, The Band Of The Imperial Guard marched into the village on Placenoit in Belgium (part of the Waterloo battlefield), and played an early arrangement of "New Britain" which most people recognise as the melody used for the hymn 'Amazing Grace'.

In 1974, the musical formation l’Indépendance Musicale de Waterloo, under the initiative of its former director Pierre Grapin, created a group of highly trained and qualified musicians under the name "Musique de la Garde", from which the objective would be to revive memories of the glorious historical formation that was 'La Musique de la Garde Impériale' at the time of the first French empire.

For more information on the band see: http://www.lamusiquedelagarde.be

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