God’s Shining Jewels, by Marvin and Helen Frey. Columbus, GA: Brentwood Christian Press, 2008.
The song “Kum Ba Yah” is widely known, but few realize that this African-American spiritual emerged from the life of the Pentecostal church.
In 1936, young Pentecostal evangelist and songwriter Marvin Frey (1918-1992) wrote the chorus, “Come By Here.” According to a recently-published biography of Frey, God’s Shining Jewels, this chorus traveled to Belgian Congo with African missionaries, who eventually brought the song to Angola. The Angolan believers sang “Come By Here” in the Lu Valle dialect, sounding like “Kum Ba Yah.” The missionaries, upon their return to America, brought this musical adaptation with them, which quickly spread throughout America and beyond. Frey registered both “Come By Here” and “Kum Ba Yah” with the Library of Congress. For an alternate account of the song’s origins, see the Wikipedia entry for “Kum Ba Yah.”
Who was Marvin Frey? One of twelve children born to immigrants from Germany, Frey was reared in Portland, Oregon. At age seventeen he began a prolific songwriting career, composing some of the most popular Christian choruses of the twentieth century. In 1955 he and Helen united in marriage, and they formed a dedicated ministry team for thirty-five years. The Freys began a children’s and youth ministry in New York City. They held credentials with the Independent Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal organization led by Rev. A. W. Rasmussen.
God’s Shining Jewels is a careful retelling of the lives and ministry of Marvin and Helen Frey. Of particular note are stories of their memories of and interactions with Pentecostal luminaries such as Charles S. Price, Aimee Semple McPherson, Thomas Wyatt, and Jack Coe. This inspiring and informative volume will be of interest not only to friends and ministry partners of the Freys, but also to scholars who will appreciate this account of a significant figure whose influential music and ministry extended over several generations.
Twenty of Frey’s most sung choruses (followed by copyright dates) are below:
Blessing and Honor and Glory, 1977
Do Lord, 1977
He is Lord, 1977
He Showed Me His Hands, 1977
He’s All I Need, 1974
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, 1983
I Have a Jubilee Down in My Heart, 1977
I Know It Was the Blood, 1977
I Love Him For He Is Mine, 1977
Isn’t He Wonderful, 1973
I’ve Got Peace Like a River, 1977
Kum Ba Yah, 1936
Lord Make Us One, 1977
Oh the Blood of Jesus, 1977
Praise Him in the Morning, 1977
The Move Is On, 1977
This Is My Commandment, 1977
We’ll Give the Glory to Jesus, 1977
With Healing in His Wings, 1978
Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers
Paperback, 160 pages, illustrated. $12.00, plus $2.50 postage. Order from: Jubilee Productions, PO Box 273, North Chili, NY 14514. For more information, contact the author by email: firstname.lastname@example.org