All Good Gifts from “Godspell” – The Story Behind the Song

by Carol on 12/01/2014

When John-Michael Tebelak was first piecing together the college production of Godspell, he remembered a harvest song in the Episcopal hymnal that is sometimes performed at Thanksgiving services with other music: Hymn 138, “We Plow the Fields, and Scatter.” Tebelak asked his friend Duane Bolick to write music to go with the words so the song could be used in Act I of the new musical. Bolick wrote a slow ballad that would be accompanied by a rock band.

In 1971, Stephen Schwartz prepared his version of the music for the final incarnation of Godspell at the Cherry Lane Theatre. He used the same lyrics but wrote his own music. He says he was inspired, in part, by the introductory chords to James Taylor’s song “Fire and Rain.”

In this YouTube video, the Broadway revival cast sings “All Good Gifts” during the launch event for their cast album. The soloist is Telly Leung. Visit the STORE page for album ordering information.

“All Good Gifts” has always been a favorite for Godspell performers and fans. It makes an ideal song of gratitude for special occasions or gatherings. Read more this and other songs in The Godspell Experience.

The lyrics were originally a German poem written by Matthias Claudius. This “Wir pflügen und wir streuen” was published in 1782. When Jane Montgomery Campbell translated it in the 19th century, she included three verses, but Schwartz substituted a recorder break for one of the verses. (In most Godspell productions, during the instrumental break the actor playing Jesus speaks a few lines from Matthew chapter 6 about not storing up treasures on earth. The revival production used different comments.)

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