The Holy City is a Victorian religious ballad dating from 1892, with music by Michael Maybrick writing under the alias Stephen Adams, and lyrics by Frederic Weatherly.

An interesting tale about this song is recorded in the African Methodist Episcopal Church Review of 1911.  According to the story, a group of men in San Francisco were awaiting their appearance before the judge on charges of having been drunken and disorderly on the previous evening.  As they waited, another prisoner in the jail – an opera singer awaiting trial on a different charge – began to sing The Holy City.  Hearing the opening line, ‘Last night I lay a-sleeping, There came a dream so fair,’ some of the men dropped to their knees, while others hung their heads in shame and sorrow, their memory of the previous night’s dissipation juxtaposing with the lovely image painted by these lyrics.  By the song’s conclusion, none in the courtroom remained untouched.  The judge offered some words of gentle reproof, then dismissed the charges and sent the offenders forth to act upon the better impulses the song had called forth in each of them that day.

In the following video, Stanford Olsen performs The Holy City with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra At Temple Square.  A powerful performer, Olsen’s voice momentarily breaks with emotion near the middle of the third verse.  Quickly recovering his composure, Olsen’s face is lit with a joyous smile – giving us an unexpected glimpse into the heart of this saintly man.  This is truly a performance to be remembered.

This performance was part of the Choir’s special 2012 program, Golden Days: A Celebration of Life, presented in honor of the 85th birthday of Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The lyrics of The Holy City appear below.


The Holy City

Music by Stephen Adams;
words by Frederick E. Weatherly

-1-

Last night I lay a-sleeping
There came a dream so fair,
I stood in old Jerusalem
Beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing,
And ever as they sang
Methought the voice of angels
From heaven in answer rang,
Methought the voice of angels
From heaven in answer rang.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna to your King!

-2-

And then methought my dream was changed,
The streets no longer rang.
Hushed were the glad Hosannas
The little children sang.
The sun grew dark with mystery,
The morn was cold and chill,
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill,
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Hark! How the angels sing,
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna to your King!

-3-

And once again the scene was changed,
New earth there seemed to be.
I saw the Holy City
Beside the tideless sea.
The light of God was on its streets,
The gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter,
And no one was denied.
No need of moon or stars by night,
Or sun to shine by day;
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away,
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Sing for the night is o’er!
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna forevermore!