Music Notes

by Organist and Choirmaster Joyce Neel Crofts

As I study the Lectionary each week and search for the best hymn texts to reflect those lessons and the liturgy, I find myself immersed in the world of hymnology and amazed by how some of our hymns have come to be in their current form. Rarely do we find a tune that was written for a particular text or a text that was written for a particular tune. More often, there has been an evolution of both that at some point in time come together. Often, too, new texts have been paired to old tunes and old texts paired to new tunes. Through “Music Notes” I am sharing some of the stories of hymns we are singing in hopes that our hymn singing will be enriched and enhanced.

May 18, 2017

To my surprise, when I prepared to write these hymn notes, I found an interesting synchronicity in three of our hymns this Sunday. There are two texts by St. Francis of Assisi and two hymn tunes by the famed British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. You may know him best as the composer of SINE NOMINE (“For All the Saints”).

“All Creatures of Our God and King” – H-400 (Lasst uns erfreuen)

The text of the opening processional hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King” (H-400) was written in 1225 by St. Francis as his “Canticle of brother sun and of all creatures.” This canticle, often referred to as the first genuine religious poem in Italian, was written a year before his death when he was blind and quite ill. It was translated into a hymn version by Anglican priest William Draper in the last part of the 19th century and set in the metre of the German tune LASST UNS ERFREUENfirst published with that tune in 1919.

The origins of that tune can be found in various snippets from the 16th and 17th centuries which inspired some Catholic musicians in Cologne to compose a new tune, LASST UNS ERFREUEN. In 1895,German musician Henrich Reimann made some rhythmic changes and other editorial adjustments and published the tune in a collection of tunes. This version was Ralph Vaughan Williams’ source for his own revisions for the tune which subsequently appeared in The English Hymnal in 1906. The popularity of this tune to this text is directly attributed to that hymnal and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ setting. It is indeed a powerful tune for a hymn of praise.

“Come Down, O Love Divine” – H-516 (Down Ampney)

This prayerful, contemplative hymn seeks to shape our response to both the Epistle and Gospel lessons. The text asks for the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts, God’s glorious light to illuminate our paths, and Love to create a place in our hearts for the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. These words are a translation in 1867 by Richard Littledale of a poem by 15th century monk Bianco of Siena.

The tune DOWN AMPNEY is another one by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It is named for Vaughan Williams’ birthplace. He composed it especially for this text and published both together in The English Hymnal in 1906. The highly respected English hymnologist, Erik Routley, has called this tune “The most beautiful hymn-tune composition since OLD 100th (The Doxology).

“Lord, Make Us Servants of Your Peace” – H-593 (Dickinson College)

Although this may seem like an unusual recessional hymn, it seems to summarize our response to the Word for Sunday. We go into the world as servants of God’s peace, sowing faith, hope, light, and joy. We seek to provide consolation, understanding hearts, unselfish love, and a forgiving spirit; and in so doing we walk as children of the light.

The source of the text of this hymn is a prayer attributed to the medieval mystic St. Francis of Assisi. This prayer appears in translation among the Prayers and Thanksgivings in the BCP (page 833, no. 62). The actual hymn text based on that prayer is by the noted Roman Catholic hymn writer and theologian Rev. James Quinn, S.J.

The tune DICKINSON COLLEGE was composed by Lee Hastings Bristol, an outstanding layman of the Episcopal Church, composer, and educator. The tune name honors Dickinson College, Pa, the composer’s alma mater.

by Joyce Crofts, Choirmaster

 

April 2, 2017

“Humbly I Adore Thee” H-314 (Adore devote)
(Communion Hymn)

It never ceases to amaze me how hymns have lasted over 400 years and continue to speak to us today and no doubt will go on to speak to future generations of Christians. My imagination can visualize our joining with all the Christians through the ages who have sung these hymns. This beautiful communion hymn initially appeared as a poem in popular devotional collections of the Middle Ages. In the Roman Missal of 1570, Pope Pius V included the text as a poem among the Prayers of Preparation and Thanksgiving, where it has appeared ever since. For Episcopal use, it first appeared in Hymnal 1940.

The Latin text has been ascribed to Thomas Aquinas and is believed to have been written when he was preparing the Office Mass for the Festival of Corpus Christi, 1263. The Text Committee for Hymnal 1982 prepared a new translation of stanza 4 to facilitate congregational singing and to remove archaic language. You might want to spend some time with this text, reading it as a poem, to truly absorb its devotional communion message. It is a powerful meditation.

ADORO DEVOTE is the tune long associated with this text. The earliest known source of this melody is a Parisian Processional dating from 1697. Plainsong-like in nature, it is probably more recent than many of the plainsong melodies we sing. It is based on thirteenth century Benedictine plainsong, Mode V. You may notice its similarity to one of the melodies we use for chanting the Psalm on some Sundays. It’s not the one we are using during Lent, however.

“Go Forth for God; Go to the World in Peace” H-347 (Litton)
(Recessional Hymn)

This is not an easy hymn to learn, but we have been singing it a number of times in the last two years, and it’s getting stronger. Due to its strong text, it is definitely worthy of learning and keeping in our hymn repertoire; so continue your good efforts to learn it. The choir is there to lead and support the singing, not do it for us. The hymn is definitely a unified body-of-Christ proclamation.

The hymn is very fitting for a closing hymn since it is based on the Eucharistic prayer “send us now into the world in peace . . . to love and serve you” and on the dismissal “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Inspired by the Confirmation blessing in the 1928 Prayer Book, the text was written by British priest and poet John Raphael Peacey. The date of composition is unknown, but we know that in March 1970 Canon Peacey submitted a revision to the Hymn Society.

The tune LITTON was written especially for this text by the famed composer, hymnologist, and teacher, the Rev. Dr. Erik Routley. It was commissioned in 1982 by the Choir of Trinity Parish, Princeton, NJ, to honor its organist and choirmaster James R. Litton upon the end of his tenure there. Dr. Routley’s tune paints the mood of the text with its tone of command and action. Notice the opening phrase that rises up in strength with the word “God” at its peak and extends the words “go to the world.” It is my hope that we can sing this text with a sense of commitment and strength.

Joyce Neel Crofts
Organist/Choirmaster

 

March 26, 2017

“O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”     H-493 (Azmon)

This opening processional hymn is one of the most popular hymns of praise sung today across all denominations. On this particular Sunday, we sing of our praise and belief as we reflect on both our baptism and the Gospel’s story of the blind man healed by Jesus.  Charles Wesley was inspired to write the poem after a conversation with Moravian Peter Bohler during which Wesley asked him about praising Christ.  Bohler replied, “Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Him with them all.”

Written by Charles Wesley on the first anniversary of his conversion in 1740, the text originally contained eighteen stanzas and was titled “For the anniversary day of one’s conversion.”  It could easily reflect the praise we all feel at the moment of our declared belief and baptism.   Of the eighteen stanzas, the most common contemporary version consists of original stanzas 7-12 with stanza 1 now being our last stanza 6.

The tune AZMON was written in 1828 by German composer Carl Gotthilf Glaser.  The name assigned by Lowell Mason in a hymnal collection was the name of derived a place mentioned in the Bible (Num. 34:4-5 and Jos. 15:4).  Composed for this text, the hymn tune was first used in an Episcopal hymnal in The Second Supplement to Hymnal 1940.

“I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light”   H-490 (Houston)

(Reprinted in part from February 5, 2017)

The Sequence hymn is our response to today’s Epistle reading:  “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light.  Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.”

This contemporary hymn, both text and tune written by Kathleen Tomerson, began in the summer of 1966 when a heat wave and an airline strike simultaneously hit the city of St. Louis at a time when her mother was visiting her.  She decided to drive her mother back to Houston working out the harmonies in her head.  She finished the harmonization in Houston at her parents’ piano.

As you have noticed, many hymn tunes derive their names from the geographical location where they were composed.  Mrs. Tomerson honors the city of Houston, the home of her family and the location of the parish with which she has deep emotional ties and where the hymn was first sung.

“Thine Arm, O Lord, in Days of Old”    H-567 (St. Matthew)

This closing recessional hymn from the nineteenth century is rich in references to Christ’s healing ministry in both physical infirmities and spiritual healing—“. . . thy touch brought life and health. . . .”   The closing stanza begins “Be thou our great deliverer still, thou Lord of life and death” and ends with the declaration that all “praise thee evermore.”  So, as we ponder our own healing, belief, and baptism, we sing joyfully in praise.

Edward Hayes Plumtre, Oxford chaplain and biblical scholar, wrote the text to this hymn which was first published in 1864 in leaflet form as A Hymn used in the Chapel of King’s College Hospital.

The tune ST. MATTHEW has long been attributed to William Croft, although there is no solid evidence of that and no other suggestion of the composer’s identity. It was originally used with Tate & Brady’s Psalm 33, but in the next hundred years, it was used with numerous texts, none of which seemed to dominate.  There is no specific reason found for the tune’s name, although it seems that the unidentified editors of the 1708 Supplement chose names of major saints not already associated with psalm tunes and distributed them among the tunes printed in that edition.

Joyce Neel Crofts

Organist/Choirmaster

 

March 19, 2017

“Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” – H-522 (Austria)

This opening processional hymn of praise is based on a paraphrase of Isaiah 33: 20-21 and reflects the state of the redeemed in the kingdom of God.  A phrase specifically linking the “living water” theme in our lectionary this day is in the second stanza—“See! the streams of living waters, springing from eternal love, well supply thy sons and daughters. . .Grace which, like the Lord, the giver, never fails from age to age.”

The first published matching to the tune Austria was in 1889 in the Primitive Methodist Hymnal and a supplement to Hymns Ancient and Modern.  The text was written by John Newton, an ex-slaveship captain and Anglican evangelist, who was converted at sea and wrote “Amazing Grace” to describe his experience.  Newton was a prolific hymn writer, often writing one a week to correspond to his sermon.  This text first appeared in 1779 in the Olney Hymns, the result of collaboration with English poet William Cowper.

Franz Joseph Haydn composed the tune Austria in 1797 as the Austrian national anthem for the birthday of the Austrian Emperor.  In his prior visits to London he had been struck by the powerful hold that “God Save the King” had over the emotions of the British people and sought to compose such an anthem for Germany.  Haydn loved the tune so much that he used it in the second movement of String Quartet No. 3 in C.  As you know, Haydn was a prolific composer.  Haydn was a devout Christian and was grateful to God for his talent.  According to one source, the tune was the last thing he played on the piano five days before his death.

No discussion of this hymn is complete without noting its strong popularity until the beginning of World War II when its use was associated with the German oppression of the Jews.  Since then, the singing of this tune has been difficult for some people.  Of note, however, is that a number of other hymn texts have since been set to this tune, and as the years have gone by, its temporary negative association has been severely diluted.

When we as contemporary Christians sing this hymn, I believe we attach the message of the text we sing, which is praise to God for our redemption into his kingdom.  The fact that Hitler tried to co-opt the hymn for his own purposes does not take away the marvelous texts and Haydn’s beloved tune that we sang before and since WWII.  My hope is that on Sunday we will sing this hymn with the strong faith expression and dignity it requires.  As Haydn wrote at the end of every composition:  “Laus Deo”

“O Love of God, How Strong and True” H-456 (de Tar)

We first learned this contemporary hymn about 3 years ago and have been singing it ever since to two different texts, the second being “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee” (H-659).  It is a beautiful lyrical text set to a contemporary meditative tune that is in the style of a slow rock song.  Although the style is different from the usual hymn, it helps to simply sing it with a relaxed flow, letting the organ’s accompaniment flow in and out of the singing.

The text was written by Horatius Bonar, a minister in the Free Church of Scotland and a prolific hymn writer who included this text in a hymnal in 1861.  His text was first matched with this tune in a supplement to Hymnal 1982.  The text, which consists of four phrases, each containing a separate thought, fits the four phrases of the tune, each separated by rests.

The tune de Tar was composed in 1970 by Calvin Hampton and named in honor of a supportive colleague, Dr. Vernon de Tar, Organist/Choirmaster, Church of the Ascension, New York City.  Although he was a distinguished recitalist and organist/choirmaster of Calvary Church, New York, Calvin Hampton is best known as a writer of hymn tunes—our hymnal contains five of his tunes.  Famed hymnologist Dr. Erik Routley called him “the greatest living composer of hymn tunes.”  Dr. Routley went on to say “. . .It is fair to say that nobody so far has achieved as completely as Hampton a liberated hymn writing style while at the same time insisting on providing a truly congregational tune.”

So, as we sing this sequence tune, just let it flow easily, unhurried, and allow the text of each phrase to infuse your heart and mind as it ponders the love of God in redeeming his people, even as we are reminded of this from the Epistle lesson: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”

Joyce Neel Crofts

Organist/Choirmaster

March 12, 2017

“How Firm a Foundation, Ye Saints of the Lord” – H-636

The Epistle for this Sunday speaks of God’s promise to Abraham:  “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.”  This sequence hymn reflects the Christian’s faith in God’s grace and presence through all the events of our lives.

The text of the hymn appeared in a hymnal edited by John Rippon in 1787 in England and became popular on both sides of the Atlantic.  Early U.S. imprints occurred in 1792, 1803, and 1804.  The hymn entered the hymnal of the Episcopal Church in 1826.  Various suggestions have been made regarding the identity of the author.  The most likely appears to be Richard Keen, the precentor (the cantor who introduced hymns) of the Baptist congregation in London where John Rippon was minister.  The hymn was sung to several different tunes before being matched with this American folk hymn tune in 1832.  This matching was first included in the Episcopal Hymnal Supplement II in 1976.

The tune FOUNDATION, often noted as perhaps the most widely sung of any of the American folk-hymns, was apparently first printed in a shape-note tune book around 1832 where it was matched with this text.  Prior to this matching, this tune was entitled PROTECTION. 

“Lift High the Cross” – H-473

This recessional hymn is a fitting go-out-into-the-world hymn reflecting the Gospel lesson that to enter the Kingdom of God we must be “born from above of water and the spirit.”  The hymn, long popular in the British Church, was also popular in Episcopal congregations soon after its appearance in an Episcopal hymnal, Hymns III.  Many people consider this hymn a modern day revision of “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”

The text, rich in biblical and baptismal imagery, is a revision by English priest and canon Michael Robert Newbolt of a text written earlier by George William Kitchin, a highly respected professor and dean in several English universities.  Kitchin wrote the original version in 1887 for use at a Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Festival in Winchester Cathedral.  The Newbolt revision first appeared in the 1916 Supplement of Hymns Ancient and Modern matched with this tune written for it.

The tune CRUCIFER plays on the literal meaning of the word “cross-bearer” to suggest both the person who carries the cross in a liturgical procession and each Christian who bears the cross as a baptismal sign.  The composer was Sydney Hugo Nicholson, English church music composer, organist, and founder of the Royal School of Church Music.

There is a definite contrast between the refrain and the stanzas.  The unison refrain is strong and martial while the four-part refrain is more lyric and contemplative than the refrain.  For our singing of this hymn, I would suggest that we sing to reflect those two contrasts between the stanzas and the refrain—strong, resolute, and declarative refrains and softer, smoother, and reflective stanzas.  You will note that the closing organ voluntary continues the mood of the refrain.  Let us declare our faith in song.

Joyce Neel Crofts, Organist/Choirmaster

 

February 26, 2017- Transfiguration

 [Note about opening voluntaries:   As you know, the organ voluntaries before the processional are reflective of the day and designed to help the worshiper prepare for the service either in prayer, quiet meditation, or mental focus. Thus, in many ways, the voluntary is the beginning of worship. I observe many of you, before the service begins, kneeling in prayer or just sitting very quietly, and it is my hope that in the Lenten season, the opening voluntaries will be especially helpful in supporting your reflection and prayerful preparation for the service.

 When I first came to Holy Trinity, I was impressed with the congregation’s demeanor upon entering the sanctuary.  Unlike many places I had served, there was no loud talking and visiting.  Rather, everyone was sitting reverently and quietly, and many were praying or meditating. People greeted each other warmly with quiet smiles. That reverent atmosphere penetrated the voluntary and drew me in as well.  Thus, we join together in worshipful preparation for the liturgy to come.  My grateful thanks to you for that. ]

“Songs of Thankfulness and Praise”   H-135

           This opening processional hymn for this last Sunday of the Epiphany season reviews the manifestations of Christ which have been presented in our services of the last six weeks and concludes with the transfiguration and the final manifestation of the glorious Epiphany of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Day and beyond.

Stanzas 1-3 were written by Christopher Wordsworth, an English priest, bishop, and teacher, around 1862.  A new stanza 4 on the Transfiguration was added to Hymnal 82 by Bland Tucker, an American Episcopal priest-poet.  Dr. Tucker not only distinguished himself as a parish priest but also as a nationally known hymn writer honored by the House of Deputies of the 67th General Convention.  Today, his hymns are found in hymnals around the world.

The tune SALZBURG   appeared in 1678 and 1690 hymnals with other texts and continued with another text in the Episcopal Church since 1871.  The tune is attributed to Jakob Hintze who served as court musician from 1666 to 1695 to the Elector at Brandenburg.  He wrote more than sixty-five hymns.  The name SALZBURG   was given to this tune by the editors of the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern and has been retained in Episcopal hymnals since that time.  The harmonization for this tune on H-135 is by Johann Sebastian Bach.

“O Wondrous Type!  O Vision Fair!”    H-137  

          This anonymous 15th century hymn was written for the Feast of Transfiguration and was translated by John Mason Neale in 1851 in The Hymnal Noted.  Until Hymnal 1982, this was the only text for a Transfiguration hymn. The H82 contains the original chant form on H-136 and the setting to the tune WAREHAM as matched in Hymnal 1940 on H-137.

The tune WAREHAM   was composed by William Knapp, parish clerk of Poole, Dorset, and presented in his settings of psalm tunes and anthems in 1738.  Not only was Wareham his birthplace but was also the place where he worked as a singing teacher.  This tune has proved to be very durable and popular for a very long time, and more than a hundred texts have been matched to it.  Our hymnal has three.

The hymn is festive in its presentation of the Transfiguration and in its climax of the Christian’s transfiguration into our final glory face to face with Christ.  Our joyful anticipation arises in stanzas 4-5.

Joyce Neel Crofts, Organist/Choirmaster

 

February 12, 2017

 “Praise to the Living God”   H-372 

This Processional Hymn takes its text from Jewish liturgy and its melody from Hebrew roots and has been part of Episcopal Church singing for over 160 years.  The words are a paraphrase of the Yigdal, the Jewish articles of faith written in the 12th century.  The first English version of the Yigdal is another text we sing to this tune, “The God of Abraham Praise,” (H-401) written around 1763.  “Praise to the Living God” originated in 1884 when Rabbi Max Landsberg, Rochester, NY, asked a local Unitarian minister, Newton Mann, to help him make a closer metrical English version suitable for both Jewish and Christian worship. This original version has not survived because it was not in the same metre as the traditional Hebrew tune known as LEONI..  Later, Rabbi Landsberg contacted Mann’s successor, William Gannett, to reset it in the appropriate metre, and it is this version that first appeared in 1910 in a Jewish hymnal and that we sing today.

The tune LEONI, also known as YIGDAL, is based on the Hebrew melody traditionally used for the Yigdal.  The tune’s name refers to Meier Leoni, the Jewish cantor who wrote it out. The tune we sing has very few differences between it and the traditional versions heard in synagogues.

 

“I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord”   (H-304)

The text to this Communion hymn was written in 1968 by a well known contemporary hymn writer, theologian, and activist for world development, the Rev. Brian Wren.  Wren was an ordained minister of the United Reformed Church in England but is now a retired professor in Columbia Theological Seminary.  While still in theological training, he began writing hymns that intentionally used contemporary and inclusive language.  Today, eighty-nine of his hymns are in print and included in most contemporary English language hymnals.  Our hymnal contains four additional texts by him–H-129/130, H-182, H-304, and H-603/604.  Rev. Wren wrote this hymn for his congregation to sum up a series of sermons on the meaning of Communion.  It begins with the individual worshiper who “comes with joy to meet my Lord” and moves into the corporate dimension, “the new community of love.”  It ends as in the dismissal in the Eucharist, “together met, together bound, we’ll go our different ways, and . . . in the world we’ll live and speak his praise.”

The tune used for this text is LAND OF REST, a pentatonic tune (remember the five black keys on the keyboard?) from the shaped note tradition.  It has undergone several alterations and harmonizations; the version we are singing is from an 1864 version.

“Go Forth for God; Go to the World in Peace”   H-347

This hymn is very fitting for a closing hymn since it is based on the Eucharistic prayer “send us now into the world in peace . . . to love and serve you” and on the dismissal “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  The text was written by British priest and poet John Raphael Peacey.  The verses are inspired by the Confirmation blessing in the 1928 Revised Prayer Book.  The date of composition is unknown, but we know that in March 1970 Canon Peacey submitted a revision to the Hymn Society.

This hymn is also very suitable as a Confirmation hymn.  After the opening title line, the text paraphrases portions of the traditional prayer of the bishop at the laying on of hands in the Confirmation rite.  The stanzas that follow direct us to go forth in love, in strength, and in joy.  Each incorporates phrases from the Epistle of Paul to the Romans.

The tune LITTON was written especially for this text by the famed composer, hymnologist, and teacher, the Rev. Dr. Erik Routley.  It was commissioned in 1982 by the Choir of Trinity Parish, Princeton, NJ, to honor its organist and choirmaster James R. Litton upon the end of his tenure there.  Dr. Routley’s tune paints the mood of the text with its tone of command and action.  Notice the opening phrase that rises up in strength with the word “God” at its peak and extends the words “go to the world.”  It is my hope that we can sing this text with a sense of commitment and strength.

Joyce Neel Crofts

Organist/Choirmaster

 

February 5, 2017

“How Bright Appears the Morning Star”   H-497

 The original text to this German chorale was written by Lutheran pastor Philip Nicolai around 1599 for his chorale tune WIE SCHON LEUCHTET DER MORGENSTERN.  However, that text has been altered many times by other writers and editors and bears little resemblance to the original.  The altered version in Hymnal 1982 (H82) is the version that entered Hymnal 1916 (H16) and has become one of our most beloved Epiphany season hymns.

Nicolai’s tune WIE SCHON LEUCHTET DER MORGENSTERN is commonly known as the “Queen of Chorales.”  This tune occurs in our hymnal in two different forms—its original rhythmic form (#496) and the metric (#497) form harmonized by J.S. Bach and used in several of his cantatas and organ works. Many organ compositions through the centuries are based on this tune.  The prelude today presents such a composition by Pachelbel.

As our processional hymn, it celebrates the light that Jesus brings into the world and offers praises for the incarnation.  We join all the hosts of heaven in this hymn of rejoicing.

 

“I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light”   H-490

The Gospel reading today containing Jesus’ words “You are the light of the world. . .” compels us to leave the service singing of going out into the world as children of light.  This contemporary hymn by Kathleen Tomerson began in the summer of 1966 when a heat wave and an airline strike simultaneously hit the city of St. Louis at a time when her mother was visiting her.  She decided to drive her mother back to Houston working out the harmonies in her head.  She finished the harmonization in Houston at her parents’ piano.

As you have noticed, many hymn tunes derive their names from the geographical location where they were composed.  Mrs. Tomerson honors the city of Houston, the home of her family and the location of the parish with which she has deep emotional ties and where the hymn was first sung.

 

Joyce Neel Crofts, Organist/Choirmaster

 

January 22, 2017

Thy Strong Word Did Cleave the Darkness” – H-381

 In the season of Epiphany as we retrace the revealing of Jesus and his mission to the world, we find the image of light in both the scriptures and hymns.  This processional hymn weaves the imagery of light together with God’s activity in creation, Christ’s redemptive activity, and our challenge to live as “the light of the world.”

This powerful text was written in 1954 by Lutheran theologian Martin Franzmann, then Professor of New Testament at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, to respond to the need for a suitable processional hymn at the Seminary’s annual commencement ceremony. He was requested to use the Welsh tune TON-Y-BOTEL.   In ensuing years, he added stanzas to the hymn to accommodate the length of the processional.  By 1959, the hymn contained ten stanzas.  The four stanzas we find in our hymnal are the original ones.  Franzmann is regarded by many as a pioneer of later 20th century American hymn writing.

Thomas John Williams, Welsh composer of anthems and hymn tunes and member of Ebenezer Chapel, composed the tune EBENEZER in 1896.  In 1902, it appeared in the Baptist Book of Praise with the name ASSURANCE because there was already another hymn named EBENEZER.   The name TON-Y-BOTEL (tune in a bottle) is the result of a false sensation-seeking story circulated in 1902 that claimed that a peasant had discovered it washed up in a bottle on the North Wales coast.

Widely popular in Wales, the tune was known in England by the early 1900’s.  The famed English composer Vaughan Williams referred to the tune as one of the very great hymn tunes and included it in English Hymnal in 1906.  Today, there are a number of hymn texts set to this powerful tune.

 

“Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” – H-652

 Being a hymnal editor has to be one of the more difficult positions in church life.  It requires not only deep theological and musical knowledge but also a sharp awareness of the history, issues, emotions, and controversies surrounding each hymn.  Plus—when you have made the hard decisions and completed the hymnal, you are barraged with complaints about the changes, omissions, and inclusions.  What a thankless task!

The author of this hymn, John Greenleaf Whittier, presented one of these controversies.  Whittier is a revered American poet, but when some of his poems were used as sources for hymn texts, many voiced opposition to poetic texts that were inappropriate as Christian hymnody.  Thus, through the years, most of his texts have been deleted from most denominational hymnals.

 

This hymn text we sing Sunday is one of the few texts that have been retained.  These stanzas are the final prayer stanzas of a 17-stanza poem, “The Brewing of Soma,” describing the brewing of East Indian priests of a “drink of the gods” and its intoxicating effect on worshippers.  According to some researchers, the poem contrasts the serenity of the Christian faith with the kind of drug-addictive transcendental meditation associated with the drinking of Soma.  These quiet stanzas are a beautiful prayer for inner peace and commitment, perhaps reflecting Whittier’s own Quaker faith.

 

The tune REST was composed by English hymn and anthem composer Frederick C. Maker for this text in the Congregational Hymnal (1887).  Its serenity and lack of drawing attention to itself is particularly effective for use with this prayerful text.  Its focus on our inward prayer is especially appropriate for a Communion meditation hymn in which we reflect on our own commitment to following Jesus as the disciples did in the Gospel lesson.  Even though you will be coming and going to the altar during this hymn, try to grab your hymnal and sing and absorb these quiet moving words.  It’s a wonderful prayer.

 

 

Joyce Neel Crofts

Organist/Choirmaster

January 18, 2017 – 2nd Sunday after Epiphany

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” – LEVAS 136

It seems fitting that, as the offertory hymn this Sunday, we are not only bringing our gifts to God but also declaring our personal commitment and laying that, too, on the altar.  At some point in the hymn, the organ will withdraw, signifying that there is no barrier between our commitment and our Christ.

Most of my music life, I had thought this hymn was a spiritual, but when LEVAS noted that the words are ascribed to an Indian Prince as sung in Garo, Assam, I had to research it further.  I found a variety of stories about the late 19th century origin of this hymn, yet all of them agree that it was written in northeastern India by someone facing persecution who was affirming loyalty to Christ. Some say that person was an Indian convert singing the song to an Indian folk tune; others say it was a Welsh missionary and his family singing it to a tune from Wales.

Whatever its origin, it has been handed down with this folk song tune, known as ASSAM, which refers to an area in northeastern India.  Obviously the meaning it had originally for Christians facing execution for their faith is not the same that it has for us today.  In Episcopal corporate worship, we don’t often sing hymns that are personal (using the personal pronoun “I” rather than the corporate “we”), but for today’s Gospel reading, it seems appropriate to sing together of our own personal commitment to Christ, even as Andrew and Simon Peter declared their individual commitment to follow the Messiah.  It can be deeply moving.

“Jesus Calls Us; O’er the Tumult”   H-550       

These words written by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander first appeared in an 1852 hymnal in England and appeared subsequently in hymnals in 1853 and 1862.  The hymn has been in the Hymnal since 1892.  Mrs. Alexander based her text on the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel for St. Andrew’s Day, narrating St. Mathew’s account of Andrew’s call while focusing on every Christian’s call to serve Christ.

Hymnal 82 (H82) contains two tunes for this text—ST. ANDREW composed in 1980 by David Hurd, and RESTORATION, a tune from Southern Harmony in 1835.  We will be singing the latter tune this Sunday as our going-out-into-the-world closing hymn.  RESTORATION is a pentatonic tune which consists of a five-note scale (i.e., if you were to play only on the piano’s black keys, you would be playing a pentatonic scale). Many early 19th century rural American tunes were written using the pentatonic scale.  Some say this tune reflects the introspective nature of the text. As with many folk tunes, there have been several variants of this tune, each with a different.  The tune first entered an Episcopal hymn collection in Songs IV attached to the text “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy.”

 

December 18, 2016 – Advent IV 

“Savior of the Nations, Come”    H-54

For many years, organists across the United States have played chorale preludes based on this hymn (today’s prelude is one of those), but the text and tune were not available to Episcopal congregations until 1982. This is a majestic hymn, full of power, rejoicing, and awe as it addresses the Word appearing on earth to redeem the people and points our hearts and minds to the coming of the Savior of Nations.

The text was one of Martin Luther’s earliest hymns, written shortly before Advent 1523 and appearing in three hymnals published in 1524.  Luther’s words are a close translation of the classic Ambrose of Milan Advent hymn, “Veni Redemptor gentium,” Latin plainsong dating from the end of the 4th century. (This plainsong version is our Communion hymn today.)  Luther had to make small changes to accommodate the German language, but in doing so he changed the character of the medieval hymn to that of a distinctive German Lutheran chorale.  Stanza 1 was translated into English by William Reynolds and first published in Baltimore in 1851.  Stanzas 2-4 are reworkings of the Lutheran version by James Waring McCrady made specifically for Hymnal 1982(H82).

The tune NUN KOMM DER HEIDEN HEILAND is an adaptation of a medieval Latin plainsong first found in a 12th to 13th century.  The present form is from Eyn Enchiridion in 1524.

“The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came”    H-265

 This well-known carol is appropriate not only for the Feast of the Annunciation but also for Advent IV and for lessons and carols services.  It was first published in 1922 in the University Carol Book edited by famed hymnologist Erik Routley.  It was comprised of a series of carol pamphlets edited by Edgar Pettman, who also named the tune GABRIEL’S MESSAGE.  It is likely that the source of the words and tune was the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould who had traveled in the Basque country and shared carols with Pettman.  For use in the Episcopal Church, the carol first appeared in Hymns III in 1979.

“Blest Be the King”   H-74

This text, known originally as Benito el Rey, was written in 1960 by Uruguayan Bishop Federico J. Pagura and translated into English in 1973 by Fred Pratt Green, an ordained English Methodist minister and prolific hymn writer.  H82 added this Advent hymn, set to the tune VALET WILL ICH DIR GEBEN, a tune up to that time associated with the Palm/Passion Sunday processional text “All Glory, Laud and Honor.”

The tune, also known as ST. THEODULPH, THEODULPH, OR KRONSTADT, was one of two tunes written by Lutheran pastor and church musician Melchior Teschner in 1614 for a hymn for the dying, following the devastation of the plague of 1613 in his hometown.  The second tune is the one we sing this Sunday to Fred Pratt Green’s Advent text.

 

December 11, 2016 – Advent III

 [Note:  I couldn’t help but notice when I completed the selection of these hymns that they were all “Come” hymns.  Also, all are joyful rejoicing hymns.  Let us sing them with joyful hearts and glorious expectation!

[Reminder:  Hymn Notes can be found on the church’s web site under “News” every week.]

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”   H-56

This Latin hymn text has its origin in the 9th century in a series of seven Advent antiphons, known as the “O antiphons,” sung at Vespers the week prior to Christmas before and after the Magnificat.  Each of these antiphons began with “O” followed by a biblical title for the Messiah. A hymn of unknown origin based on five of the antiphons appeared in 1710.  The hymn is not a translation or a paraphrase of the antiphons.  The Hymnal 1982 (H82) version is based on a translation in 1851 by John Mason Neale and is the result of additional alterations in Hymns Ancient and Modern (HA&M) in 1861, the 1871 edition of the Hymnal, Hymnal 1940 (H40), and our current H82.

The origin of the tune VENI EMMANUEL has been the subject of much speculation, but it was likely from a French Missal in the National Library of Lisbon found by Neale and taken to his collaborator priest-vicar Thomas Helmore as a tune setting for Neale’s text.

“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”   H-66

             This is likely one of Episcopalians’ best-loved Advent hymns.  In a survey taken prior to the 1982 General Convention, this hymn ranked as number one in usage.  You may remember that it was Hymn #1 in H40.

The text is one of eleven written by Rev. Charles Wesley for his 1745 Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord.  After inclusion in several subsequent hymnals, it was introduced into the Hymnal in 1871.  He based his text on Isaiah 9:6f and other OT messianic passages.  Note that the stanzas take us from prophecy through the Incarnation to Christ’s present sovereignty and final triumph which make it a reflective response to the Epistle lesson.

The melody STUTTGART was probably composed by Christian Friedrich Witt and associated with another text.  It was adapted and harmonized by Henry John Gauntlett for the hymn “Earth Has Many a Noble City” in the 1861 edition of HM&A.  The harmonization in H82 is the same as in H40.

“Hark, the Glad Sound” the Savior Comes!”   H-72

The opening four notes of this hymn, almost like a trumpet fanfare, set the jubilant mood for this hymn. This text appears twice in our hymnal, each to a different tune, and this tune is by far the more joyful.

The text, dated in 1735, was written by Philip Doddridge, an English independent theologian, writer, and poet, and contained seven stanzas headed “Christ’s Message, from Luke iv. 18, 19.”  For the most part, as presented in our H82, the text is faithful to the original form.

The tune RICHMOND was written by Anglican clergyman Thomas Haweis for a text in his hymnal in 1792.  The present version of the tune is an arrangement by Samuel Webbe, Jr., English organist and church musician, and appeared in two collections of his psalm tunes in 1808 and 1853.  The tune is also known as CHESTERFIELD.  The tune name honors a friend, the Rev. Leigh Richmond at that time rector of Turvey, Bedfordshire.

 

December 4, 2016 – Advent II

Our music focus this Sunday is on John the Baptist in the wilderness of Judea, the area east and southeast of Jerusalem.  John the Baptist is sometimes referred to as the intertestamental prophet, the bridge between Old Testament prophets and the New Testament.  As Israel’s earlier prophets announced that the Messiah was coming, John the Baptist announced that the Messiah was here and that we should be prepared.  Our hymns and voluntaries reflect on the message of the “voice crying in the wilderness”– the call to repentance, our inward preparation to receive the Messiah, and our joy for the gift we are about to welcome.

“Comfort, Comfort Ye My People”    H-67

 The original German text was written by Johann Olearius, German pastor, preacher, and professor, as a meditation on Isaiah 40: 1-8.  The translation in Hymnal 1982 is a modification of that by Catherine Winkworth for her book of chorales in 1863.  Found in many other contemporary American Hymnals, this text was first included in an Episcopal hymnal in Hymnal III.

The tune PSALM 42 first appeared in a psalter in 1551 associated with the French version of Psalm 42, probably composed by the psalter editor, Louis Bourgeois.  In a 1560 Anglo-Genevan psalter the tune was associated with a version of Psalm 27.  It moved through the German Lutheran tradition and finally, toward the end of the 17th century, it was associated with Olearius’s text which we sing today.  It is very rhythmic and portrays the joy and excitement of John’s message.

“Prepare the Way, O Zion”      H-65

This Advent hymn has been in regular use for almost two hundred years in the Church of Sweden, and it provides for English-speaking congregations a text with deep biblical roots set to a tune of remarkable rhythmic vitality.  Indeed, it is one of the season’s most joyful.  In today’s closing organ voluntary, you will hear one composer’s delightful treatment of this hymn.

The words were written by Frans Mikael Franzen, a Swedish professor and vicar, and published in 1812 in a collection of hymns.  The text is built on Isaiah 40: 3-5 (“Prepare ye the way of the Lord”) and the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in Matt. 21.

In Sweden, the tune BEREDEN VAG FOR HERRAN first appeared in two manuscripts in 1693-1694.  This tune was originally used with a text for meals, but since 1812 it has been associated with Franzen’s text.  The tune may have originated from 17th century Finnish and Danish sources, possibly from a compilation of two older hymns, or from a 16th century German folk tune.  So, it could be considered a Swedish variant of a German folk tune.  Rhythmically, it changed in the 19th century, but our Hymnal 1982 contains the former rhythmic shape as restored in the Swedish hymnbook of 1921.

The hymn should be sung gladly and energetically as we move into the world with the joyful message of hope and Christ’s impending birth.

 

NOVEMBER 27, 2016 — ADVENT I

 

Advent season is one of joyful hope and thoughtful anticipation. . . reflection and prayer. . . waiting and expectation. . .as we prepare to receive the Christ child into our world.  It is also eschatological in nature, looking both to the coming of God into our world as an infant and to the second coming that God prepares for us.  It’s a season of new beginnings and new hopes in its anticipation of God’s arrival then, now, and in our future.  Thus, the music of Advent reflects all of those ingredients.  This Sunday, Advent I, the lectionary and the music focus on the imminence of Christ’s second coming and the need for Christians to prepare fully to enter this new existence which God has created through Christ.  You will notice the joyful anticipation in all of the music.

“Sleepers, Wake!”    H-61

This processional hymn is a powerful traditional Advent hymn given to us from the 15th and 16th centuries.  The text speaks to both the Epistle and Gospel lessons as it invokes us to “awake” and prepare for the coming.  As in the Epistle, it calls us to “cast away the works of darkness” and to “put on the armor of light.”  It is joyous in nature as we prepare for his coming birth into the world and for his second coming.

The text was written by German Lutheran pastor Philipp Nicolai around 1597-98 at a time when there was a terrible epidemic in his city of Unna, Westphalia and his churchyard claimed up to thirty internments per day.  This hymn text was first published in 1599 in the appendix to a set of meditations he wrote to comfort others at that time.  Translated by Catherine Winkworth in 1858, it entered the Episcopal Hymnal in 1892.  Hymnal 1982 Text Committee thought it desirable to have a fresher translation that conveyed more of the narrative and vigor of the original text.  Carl Daw, a consultant member of that committee, prepared the text we sing Sunday.

The tune WACHET AUF, commonly known as the King of Chorales, was also written by Nicolai, although it has some similarities to a melody by Hans Sach.  The harmonization of this tune on H-61 was written by Johann Sebastian Bach, who also used it in the closing movement of his Cantata No. 140 and composed an organ chorale setting for it.  Mendelssohn used the tune in his oratorio St. Paul.  It is interesting to see that the tune is set to two different rhythms, one each on H-61 and H-62.

“Hark! a Thrilling Voice Is Sounding”     H-59

This sequence hymn is wealthy in scripture references, not the least of which is our Epistle this Sunday which addresses the second coming and how Christians need to prepare for it by living honorably.  The text is found in two 10th century sources.  An original translation in 1859 preserved most of the biblical references though they have been revised in subsequent hymnals.  The hymn first appeared in an Episcopal hymn supplement authorized by the General Convention of 1865.

The tune, MERTON, composed by Anglican church musician William Henry Monk, first appeared in 1859 in the Parish Choir and in 1861 in the historic hymnal Hymns Ancient and Modern. It entered the Hymnal in 1892 associated with the text we sing on H-59.  Interestingly, the opening three notes of this tune (tonic triad) are the same as in “Sleepers, Wake!”

“Rejoice! Rejoice, Believers”      H-68

 Yet another Advent hymn of joyful expectation!  This Advent text has been in the Hymnal since 1871, but its first appearance with the Welsh tune LLANGLOFFAN appears in Hymnal 1982.  The text is by Laurentius Laurenti, a leading hymn writer of the German Pietistic school, and first published in 1700 in a collection of texts with tunes for the entire church year.  This text has been in the Hymnal since 1871.

 

The Welsh folk melody LLANGLOFFAN is one from Hymnau a Thonau (Hymns and Tunes for the service of the Church in Wales) in 1865 edited by Rector Daniel Evans.  The tune’s origin is unknown, although it bears a resemblance to an English folk song.  It is interesting to note that this tune works equally well in both the minor and major mode.  Used in the major mode, the name is usually LLANFRYLLIN.  The prelude today presents the major mode version of the hymn.

 

November 20, 2016

CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY

This Sunday our music celebrates the Feast of Christ the King, a day which falls on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, a cycle shaped by the life of Christ, and precedes the first Sunday of Advent.  We celebrate the Kingdom of God and look forward to the final victory of Christ.  It seems fitting that the Gospel reading describes the death of Jesus on the cross and his final words of redemption to the thief.

“At the Name of Jesus”   H-435

Our entrance hymn text was written by Caroline Maria Noel and first published in 1861.  She spent her adult years as an invalid, experiencing great suffering, and it is from that perspective that she wrote this text.  Although this text entered the Hymnal in 1892, it did not gain its greatest popularity and use until the famous composer Ralph Vaughan Williams composed the tune KING’S WESTON for these words in 1925. This version reached Episcopalians in Hymnal 1940.  The tune’s name is that of a village and country house near Bristol.  The tune has a very solid rhythm expressive of the strength of our declaration of faith.  It is a powerful text which we can sing with fervor.

“Lord, Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor”   H-307

 This sequence hymn reflects the Epistle lesson in which Paul presents a strong affirmation of the sole lordship of Christ, both throughout the whole cosmos and in the church.  The words were written by George Hugh Bourne, an Anglican clergyman and educator, in 1874 as a 10-stanza communion hymn; by 1879 five selected stanzas appeared in Hymn Ancient and Modern.  It first appeared in an Episcopal collection in Hymns III in 1979 matched to the Welsh tune BRYN CALFARIA. 

BRYN CALFARIA (means “Hill of Calvary”), written by Welsh musician William Owen, first appeared in 1852 and had wide appeal in both Welsh and English hymnals. It currently appears in most American denominational hymnals.  Noted hymnologist Erik Routley described it as “a piece of real Celtic rock,” a reference to the rock quarry where Owen worked from a young age.  The breadth and strength of the tune reflect the theme of the text—our homage to the Christ who is “risen, ascended, and glorified.”  In keeping with Welsh performance and text theme, we will sing it with heavy accent on both of the quarter notes wherever they appear, slow down near the end of each stanza, pause on the end of the sixth phrase, and then take the last line in strict time but slower.

“Rejoice, the Lord Is King!”   Text:  H-481, Tune: H-625

This hymn encompasses the whole focus of the liturgy and lectionary of this Sunday and gives the community of faith a vehicle to express its rejoicing for the enthronement of Christ and the hope of all Christians to reach their eternal home.  Each stanza prepares for the final line of the refrain “Lift up your heart, lift up your voice!  Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!”  This Sunday, to capture the mood of the text, we will sing it to the exuberant, joyful tune DARWALL’s 148th. .

The words were written by Charles Wesley, published first in 1744 by his brother John in a book of poems and included in ensuing years in various hymn collections for worship.  The tune DARWALL’s 148th   was composed around 1783 by the Rev. John Darwall, a vicar and church musician, who composed tunes for all 150 Psalms.  This popular tune is used with a number of additional texts and is found in almost every Anglican and Episcopalian hymnal of the last hundred years.

NOTE re Psalm singing:  You may have noticed that in our responsorial Psalm singing recently we have been slightly sustaining the last note of a verse so that the singing of the next verse begins as that last note is dying away. This method of chanting allows the fabric of the Psalm to be woven together smoothly as an aesthetic whole with one verse flowing seamlessly into the next.  You probably noticed that Rev. Roxanne Ruggles employed this method when she supplied.  It isn’t difficult.  Just “go with the flow,” so to speak!  There are many ways to sing the Psalms, and we may explore those together as time goes on so that our repertoire is more varied.  The tones we have been using recently come in the Episcopal publication The Plainsong Psalter.

 

November 13

“O Christ, the Word Incarnate” H-632

This opening processional hymn is one of the best-loved hymns about the Holy Scriptures and has been in the Hymnal since 1871 under the author’s original title, “O Word of God Incarnate.” For the Hymnal 82 the Episcopal Standing Committee on Church Music clarified that “Word” meant “Christ” by altering the title as we see it. The words, based on Psalm 119: 105, were written by English priest and Bishop William How and appeared first in 1867. These words have been matched with the present hymn tune, Munich, since the 1892 Hymnal.

Munich first appeared in 1693 associated with the text “O God, My Faithful God.” It is apparently made up of various phrases from several tunes by Hieronymous Gradenthaler in a 1675 German psalter. The present form of the tune comes from a chorus in Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah (1847). The harmonization in our current hymn version is adapted from Mendelssohn’s harmonization. Munich has also been known as Meinengen.

The hymn’s use this Sunday relates to the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel in its call to digest the Holy Scriptures and hold fast to them in our daily lives that we may partake in the hope of everlasting life given us in Jesus Christ.

“Lord of All Hopefulness, Lord of All Joy” H-482

Paul’s message in 2 Thessalonians speaks to those who believed that the end was imminent and all they had to do was to wait. He emphasizes the need to continue in the daily pursuits of life in a regular and orderly way. This hymn is a prayer for God’s presence in our daily activities–waking, sleeping, laboring, and returning home.

The author of the text is Jan Struther, best known as author of the WWII novel Mrs. Miniver. It was printed in Songs of Praise in 1931. The matching of the text with the tune Slane first appeared in Hymnal 1940 (H40) where it gained immediate acceptance by congregations across the country and is continued in Hymnal 1982 (H40) without alteration in either text or tune.

The tune Slane is an ancient Irish ballad named for a hill near Tara, Ireland. In the fifth century, it was at Slane where the first fires of Easter were lighted by St. Patrick as a challenge to King Laoghaire. This tune first appeared in a hymnal of the Episcopal Church in H40 set to two texts—this one and “Be Thou Our Vision.” These two versions are derived from the adaptation and arrangement of the folk melody by David Evans published in The Church Hymnary in 1927.

November 6

 “For All the Saints, Who from their Labors Rest”   H-287

             This stirring hymn is one of the best-loved hymns of the 20th century, and it is always the first choice for All Saints services.  The text to this hymn, written by Anglican priest and bishop William Walsham How, first appeared in a hymnal in London in 1864.  Although our hymnal contains eight stanzas, How’s original third, fourth, and fifth stanzas have been omitted.  When the hymn was first included in the Hymnal in 1871, those three stanzas that reflect the fifth verse of the Te Deum were printed as a separate hymn.

This text was paired first with the tune Sarum, a usage that continued until it was printed in Hymnal 1940 as a second tune.  The first tune, of course, was Ralph Vaughan Williams’ tune Sine Nomine which he wrote for this text in the English Hymnal in 1906.  The tune name, Sine Nomine, means “without a name.”  It has been suggested that this may be a reference to the many saints whose names are known only to God.

What a joyful hymn this is!  It celebrates all the saints who have gone before us in the faith, challenges us to follow in their footsteps, revels in the blessed communion of both the saints and those of us still struggling, and declares that “all are one in thee, for all are thine.”  The last two stanzas we will sing point to the “more glorious day” in the light of the King of glory and, finally, celebrates the countless throngs that come from all over the world and process through the “gates of pearl” singing praises to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  Who can resist pouring our jubilant voices into those “alleluias” as we join that heavenly procession?

“Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation”   H-518

            Paul’s letter to the Ephesians contains powerful, poetic language which was probably drawn in part from early Christian hymns and liturgies.  In Sunday’s Epistle lesson, Paul celebrates the life of the church and the establishment of Christ as its head.

Believers live in a union with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit that anticipates the full union in the life to come.  The lesson ends with “he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Our response is this wonderful hymn whose text was found in manuscript collections of Latin hymns from the 9th century, but perhaps dates back as early as the 6th century.  Interestingly, this text was the second part of one long hymn.  The other two parts are on H-519 and H-520 (aren’t you glad we don’t have all those stanzas in one hymn!).  John Mason Neale’s translation into English, published in 1851, has been greatly altered over time, some of it by Neale himself and some by hymnal editors.

This text has gained great favor and use in the Episcopal Church since it was matched with the tune Westminster Abbey in 1976.  Americans were introduced to it in 1960 through the broadcast of Princess Margaret’s wedding.  The tune is derived from an anthem by the great English composer Henry Purcell, who was organist at the Abbey and is now buried there.  The tune had several names before it was given this one by an early 20th century organist at the Abbey.  The descant on the last verse was composed by James Gillespie in 1982 for the boys’ choir in the school where he taught.

October 30

 “God Is Love”    H-379

You may have noticed as you read these hymn notes that clergy have played a prominent role as authors and composers of Anglican hymnody.  In this hymn, both text and tune were written by twentieth-century clergy of the Church of England.  After the death in 1939 of Timothy Rees, Bishop of Llandaff, Wales, seven hymn texts were found in his papers.  This text was one of those.

Several minor alterations were made by Canon Cyril Taylor in order to make it easier to sing to Abbot’s Leigh, which he had composed on a Sunday morning in 1941.  Dr. Taylor was a priest who worked at the time in the BBC religious broadcasting in their wartime headquarters in Abbot’s Leigh, a village near Bristol, England.  Subsequently, it has been included in almost every major internationally used English-language hymnal and has been used with several different texts.  Our hymnal uses it with two additional texts, H-511 and H-523.

King of Glory, King of Peace”    H-382

 The text to this lovely hymn tune was written by George Herbert, a 17th century Anglican priest, whose friend, Nicholas Ferrar found the text in a posthumous collection of Herbert’s poetry.  These words require some deep thinking to understand Herbert’s use of language which was more easily understood by his contemporaries than by current readers.  One writer put it “. . .in many ways Herbert’s use of language is very much like the construction of a maze:  words that offer a wide range of possible meanings require the reader to constantly choose the correct connotation in order to continue moving through the text with adequate comprehension.”

The tune was composed in 1976 for use with this text by 20th century Episcopal priest/musician, David Charles Walker, when he was a faculty member of General Seminary, New York.  This gentle, profoundly moving setting is thoughtfully paired with the text of love, peace, and devotion.  You will notice that a descant is provided for the third stanza and is to be sung either by tenors or trebles.  For your ease of singing, follow the three stanzas written on the top staff.

September 25, 2016

O God, Our Help in Ages Past” (H-680)

This hymn text, a paraphrase of Psalm 90, is one of Issac Watts’ best known works and is contained in almost every English language hymnal in the world.  First published in 1719, it originally had nine stanzas.  These gradually decreased to six stanzas and appeared as such in the Episcopal Hymnal of 1874 as well as in our current hymnal.  Some hymnals use Issac Watts’ original title, “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and other hymnals, like our hymnal, use John Wesley’s title “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

The composer of the tune, St. Anne, has been disputed over the years but current scholarship attributes it in mid-1700 to Dr. William Croft, organist of the Chapel Royal and Westminster Abbey, leading composer of Queen Anne’s reign, and organist at St. Anne’s Church.  The tune consists of several phrases then in common use.  The similarity of the first phrase to Bach’s organ fugue in E flat has caused it to be known as “St. Anne’s Fugue,” and a Handel anthem also begins the same way.  The mastery of Croft’s tune lays in his ability to blend the existing phrases into a powerful melody.  The shape of the tune has been described as “sawtooth” because of its up-down-up-down movement.  The tune was first printed in mid-1700 to mid-1800 and has enjoyed immense popularity since then.  Originally used as a paraphrase of Psalm 42, it was likely joined to the present text in 1814.

The tune is a sturdy, powerful one that depicts the strong words of Psalm 90.  Christians all over the world sing it with strength, vitality, and declaration.

Fight the Good Fight” (H-552)

This text is based on the Epistle lesson for this Sunday, 1 Timothy 6: 6-19, especially verse 12.  It was written by John Monsell, a deacon and priest in Ireland and was introduced to America in The Episcopal Hymnal 1889 and the Presbyterian Hymnal (1895).  The current text is slightly altered from the original.  The opening phrase is an athletic image, not a military one, from a Greek verb meaning “struggle.”  The sports context continues in later stanzas that reflect the experience of a runner.  This text has been sung to various tunes in the past and present.

The hymn tune Pentecost was composed by William Boyd in 1864 for the words “Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire” for a Whitsuntide service.  Later, his friend Arthur Sullivan assigned the text to “Fight the Good Fight” to Boyd’s tune, apparently without Boyd’s permission, who reported in print that  “. . .we had regular fisticuffs about it, but judging from the favour with which the tune has been received, I feel that Sullivan was right in so mating words and music.”  This tune and text was sung at Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral, January 30, 1965.

September 18

“Come, We That Love the Lord”   (H-392)

The text to our opening hymn of praise was written by Issac Watts and originally contained ten stanzas which have been altered over the years.  First published in its entirety in London, 1707, two stanzas were dropped by John Wesley in 1737.  Its first appearance in an Episcopal hymnal in 1871 contained eight stanzas.  Dropped in the 1892 Hymnal, the hymn reappeared in our current hymnal with four stanzas.

The commissioning and first performance of these words to the tune Vineyard Haven was at the installation of Presiding Bishop John Allin in the Washington Cathedral on June 11, 1974.   Composed by Dr. Wayne Dirksen, organist and choirmaster at the Cathedral at that time, the tune name honors a former Dean whose retirement home is in Vineyard Haven, MA.  It is a powerful tune, opening with a series of four gradually ascending phrases and building to a climax at “Hosanna.” The last phrase is a descending one, resting on the same note as in the beginning, thereby shaping the entire tune. As the text indicates, the hymn should be sung with vigor, vitality, and joyful acclamation.

   “God of Grace and God of Glory”   (H-594)

This text is probably one of the most popular 20th century hymns across all denominations.  It was written by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, a preacher of international acclaim during the first of the 20th century.  Some slight alterations were made in mid-century, and that version is the one in our hymnal.  The Hymnal 1940 weds the text to the tune Mannheim (H-595), but the tune’s massive public appeal to the tune Cwm Rhondda resulted in the use of that tune in an Episcopal publication in 1975 and finally in Hymnal 1982.  Both tunes appear in our hymnal.

The Welsh tune Cwm Rhondda was composed by Welsh composer John Hughes in 1903 and sung to many different Welsh texts.  It is most often linked in English with the text of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” (H-690).  The tune name refers to Rhondda Valley, Wales.  Typical of Welsh tunes, this one is vigorous and appealing.  This hymn is the Christians’ prayer to God to grant them the power, resolve, wisdom, and courage to accomplish the mission of the church.

Joyce Crofts