How Can I Keep From Singing?

Audio Sample

How Can I Keep From Singing?

Composer American Hymn
Arranger/Editor Gwyn Arch
Voice/Instrument SSA + PIANO
Difficulty Unrated

RECORDING: Performed by Jubilate, Conducted by Sarah Stroh

This fine hymn is frequently associated with the Shaker sect, or is cited as a traditional Quaker hymn. In fact, it was written by American Baptist minister Robert Wadsworth Lowry (1826-1899). After a period of being in charge of churches in the New York area he turned to academia, eventually becoming chancellor of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. However, he is best remembered as a composer of gospel music and a hymn writer. He was responsible for around 500 compositions of which the best known are "How can I keep from singing?" and "Shall we gather at the river?

The words of "How can I keep from singing?" were first published by Robert Lowry in 1869 in a song book called ‘Bright Jewels for the Sunday School'. They also appeared in the same year in a British periodical ‘The Christian Pioneer' but no author was named. In the first half of the 20th century the hymn was not often heard in congregational services, but in the 1960s Pete Seegar and other folk revivalists popularised it and added what is now verse 5."When tyrants tremble..." refers to the witch hunts of the House of Un-American activities committee's investigations into disloyalty and subversive organisations. Since that time the hymn has become ever more popular and has been recorded by Enya, Eva Cassidy, Aled Jones, Bruce Springsteen, Peter, Paul and Mary, the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral and many others.


Printed Copy



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