Bless These Hands

Arranger: Penelope Salinger
Composer: Penelope Salinger
Lyricist: Penelope Salinger

Bless These Hands 20230202

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Submitter Comments

In 2010, after having sung at bedside for several years, I felt the need to create a song we could use when a caregiver comes in to do something for the person we are singing to. In my local group (Santa Barbara Threshold Singers), the singers know that, as soon as a health care practitioner enters the room, we will finish the song we are currently singing and then move into “Bless These Hands” to acknowledge the preciousness of the moment. When we sing at a facility we always stop at the nursing station at some point to sing this to the staff. I discovered another use for the song when I had knee replacement surgery. Before the procedure began I sang it to my medical team, then to every individual who provided care during my hospital stay.

I deliberately chose lyrics that could be sung outwardly, to someone else, or inwardly, to oneself, as a setting of intention. I am tickled that the English language allows me to not specify whether the last line means that we are asking for the person’s heart, which gives so much, to be blessed “with joy, love, and grace” or whether we are acknowledging that this person’s heart gives so much “with joy, love, and grace.”

I shared this song with a dear friend who is a leading spokesperson in the field of gentle birth, and she asked if she could use it for the graduation ceremonies of the doctors, nurses, midwives, and doulas she trains. That prompted me to think about how the song could be used in a ceremonial way, and I created a circle dance for it, which we introduced at the 2018 Southern CA Threshold Choir Regional Gathering.

When I decided to include this song on my CD “To Remember Who We Are,” I added two verses and a bridge. On the recording, the melody and the high harmony are exactly as they appear in the repertoire. The low harmony, however, is different on the two notes of the second “blessing” in each line. (That was inadvertent. When my guitarist created the chart for the chord progressions, he didn’t have access to the low harmony, so he used a different chord. By the time I discovered that, it was too late to change it.) Please use the notes from the notation and audio learning file on the website, not as they are sung on the CD.

See Penelope’s Songwriter Profile

[2023.02.02—Notation changed to add Songwriter’s Note.]

[2019.05.15—The duration of the final word (“grace”) was changed from 12 beats to 6 beats. That is, bars 19 and 20 were deleted.]


Bless these hands and all they touch.
May they bring comfort, may they bring peace.
Bless this heart that gives so much
With joy and love and grace.

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