Monday, May 30, 2016

We Will Remember Them

This anthem's text by Robert Laurence Binyon was written in 1914, following the earliest casualties in World War I.  It's part of a longer text, but this particular verse, the first written by Binyon, was set to music by English composer and choirmaster Douglas Guest in 1971. for the choir of Westminster Abbey in London.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trinity Sunday

Creator holy, merciful, and loving,
Jesus, Redeemer, ever to be worshipped,
Life-giving Spirit, Comforter most gracious,
God everlasting.

Three in a wondrous unity unbroken,
One perfect God-head, love that never faileth,
Light of the angels, succor of the needy,
Hope of all living.

All of creation serveth its creator;
Thee every creature praiseth without ceasing;
We, too, would sing the psalms of true devotion;
Hear, we beseech thee.

Great God almighty, unto thee be glory,
One in three Persons, over all exalted;
Thine, as is meet, be honor, praise, and blessing,
Now and forever.

Latin, 11th cent.; tr. Alfred E. Alston, 1903; alt.
Poitiers Antiphoner, 1746

Eight Years Ago: Lead us, great Creator, lead us

Seven Years Ago: Holy! Holy! Holy!

Six Years Ago: I bind unto myself this day

Five Years Ago: O Trinity of blessed light

Three Years Ago: Mighty Creator, merciful and tender

One Year Ago: Sound aloud our highest praises

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Feast of Pentecost

Our blest Redeemer, ere he breathed
His tender last farewell,
A Guide, a Comforter, bequeathed
With us to dwell.

She came in semblance of a dove,
With sheltering wings outspread,
The holy balm of peace and love
On earth to shed.

She came in tongues of living flame
To teach, convince, subdue,
All pow'rful as the wind she came
As viewless too.

And hers that gentle voice we hear,
Soft as the breath of ev'n,
That checks each fault, that calms each fear,
And speaks of heav’n.

Spirit of purity and grace,
Our love, we plead thee, see:
O make our hearts thy dwelling place
And worthier thee.

Harriet Auber, 1829; alt.
Edmund S. Carter, 1874

This text by Anglican hymnwriter Harriet Auber (somewhat amended here) is cited by John Julian in his Dictionary of Hymnology as one of her most well-known, and it did still appear in twentieth-century hymnals, though perhaps not as often in the present day.

The much less famous Edmund Sardinson Carter (1845-1923), another Victorian member of the clergy with musical tendencies, probably wrote more tunes than the few currently mentioned online.

Eight (Liturgical) Years Ago: Joy! because the circling year

Seven (Liturgical) Years Ago:  O prophet souls of all the years

Seven (Calendar) Years Ago: Samuel Webbe

Six (Liturgical) Years Ago: Above the starry spheres

Six (Calendar) Years Ago: Austin C. Lovelace    

Five (Liturgical) Years Ago: Hail thee, festival day

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: Hail festal day! through every age

Three (Liturgical) Years Ago: O God, the Holy Ghost

Three (Calendar) Years Ago: Samuel Webbe

Two (Liturgical) Years Ago: Spirit of grace and health and pow'r

One (Liturgical) Year Ago: Come, O come, thou quick'ning Spirit

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Lift Our Hearts Above

In most Christian churches, today marks the observance of the Ascension of Jesus, though technically the feast day was this past Thursday, forty days after Easter.  Most hymns for the day are written around the "lifting up" of Christ into heaven (as related in Luke 24:44-53 and Acts 1:1-11), but there are other possible themes for the day as well, including the commissioning of the disciples as witnesses to the life and work of Jesus.  Today's hymn includes another possibility: the hope that we would eventually be lifted up ourselves to join Jesus and the saints.  The last stanza looks forward to next week's celebration of Pentecost.

O Christ, who hast prepared a place
For us around thy throne of grace,
We pray you, lift our hearts above,
And draw them with the cords of love.

Source of all good, thou, gracious Lord,
Art our exceeding great reward;
How transient is our present pain,
How boundless our eternal gain!

With open face and joyful heart,
We then shall see thee as thou art:
Our love shall never cease to glow,
Our praise shall never cease to flow.

Thy never-failing grace to prove,
A surety of thine endless love,
Send down thy Holy Ghost, to be
The raiser of our souls to thee.

Jean B. de Santeuil, 1686
tr. John Chandler, 1837
Tune: ILLSLEY (L.M.)
John Bishop, 1710

Eight (Liturgical) Years Ago: Alleluia! sing to Jesus

Eight (Calendar) Years Ago: How shall we praise thee, Lord of light

Six (Liturgical) Years Ago: A hymn of glory let us sing

Five (Liturgical) Years Ago: Hail the day that sees him rise

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: On Olivet a little band

Three (Liturgical) Years Ago: God is ascended up on high

It's Also Mothers' Day: Motherhood, sublime, eternal

Another Mothering Hymn: Like as a mother comforteth

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Saint Philip and Saint James

May 1 is the feast day of Saint Philip and Saint James, two of the less well-known Apostles who are commemorated together apparently only because they were buried together in a church in Rome (though there is now some doubt about that).

Today's hymn is from the Book of Common Praise (1909), published for the Church of England in Canada.  Author William Edgar Enman (1869-1950), though born in Canada, worked for several years in U.S. publishing houses.  He wrote articles for several journals including The Living Church, an Episcopal publication (still in existence) which also published several of his hymn texts.  After returning to Canada, Enman published privately One Hundred Hymns and Sacred Lyrics (c.1945).  This book seems to be largely unknown, as only three of his texts are available on the Cyber Hymnal and

Jesus Christ, we offer highest praise to thee,
Who didst free thy people from captivity;
Sending thine apostles to convey thy grace
Unto every nation, unto every race.

Two of those apostles we remember now,
Whom thou didst so freely with thy grace endow.
Thou unto Saint Philip hast thyself revealed,
Maker, Christ, and Spirit, though in flesh concealed.

O how can we thank thee for the light conferred
By Saint James, thy servant, in his faithful word.
Like these two apostles, faithful unto death,
May we love and serve thee till our latest breath.

Make us, dear Redeemer, more and more like thee,
Be the Way to lead us over life's broad sea;
Be the Truth to light us to our home on high;
Be the Life within us that can never die.

William Edgar Enman, 1908; alt.
George Job Elvey, 1881

The final stanza incorporates the "Way and the Truth and the Life" language from John 14:6-14, one of the passages where Philip is prominent.

Unfortunately, George Elvey (1816-1893) is only known today for two familiar tunes: DIADEMATA and ST. GEORGE'S WINDSOR but he wrote many more, as well as many anthems and chants for the church.

Four Years Ago: Saint Philip and Saint James

Seven Years Ago: Saint Philip and Saint James

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Horatio R. Palmer

On the birthday of Baptist composer Horatio Richmond Palmer (1834-1907) we remember a man dedicated to spreading sacred song as far as possible.

Palmer's various musical occupations were described here six years ago (music teacher, choir leader and organizer, writer of gospel song tunes and texts, editor of fifty hymn and song collections, author of several books on music and other subjects) but he was even busier than that.  From 1877-1891 he led the Summer School of Music at the Chautauqua Institution, a program that has continued to expand to the present day. While there he must have met hymnwriters Mary Lathbury and William Fisk SherwinFor eleven years he also directed the choir at the Broome Street Tabernacle in New York City.

Today's tune by Palmer (with text by Fanny Crosby) appeared first in Our Treasury of Song (1883) compiled by Hubert P. Main and published by Biglow & Main, probably the largest producer of Sunday School music and gospel songs in its day.  You can imagine this as a popular marching song for children, but adults probably liked it too.

Sing praise to God,
Joyfully sound hosanna,
Praising God with glad acclaim.
Lift up your hearts
Unto the throne with gladness,
Magnify God's holy name.
Marching along
Under that banner bright,
Trust in promised mercy as we go,
God's light divine
Tenderly o’er us will shine,
Guided by God's protecting hand
Now and forever.

Steadily marching on,
With our banners waving o’er us;
Steadily marching on,
While we sing the joyful chorus;
Steadily marching on,
Pillar and cloud going before us,
To the realms of glory
To our home on high.

Sing praise to God,
Ruler on high eternal,
Glory be to God on high.
Sing praise to God,
Tell of that loving kindness,
Join the chorus of the sky.
Still marching on,
Cheerily marching on,
In the ranks of heaven we will go,
Home to our rest,
Joyfully home where the blest
Gather and sing our Maker’s name,
Praising forever.

Fanny Crosby, 1883; alt.
Tune: STEADILY MARCHING ON (Irregular with refrain)
Horatio R. Palmer, 1883

The picture below is a musical autograph of Palmer's which quotes one of his most famous songs, Yield not to temptation (1868).

Six Years Ago: Horatio R. Palmer

Friday, April 22, 2016

Accomodating Past, Present, and Future

What will the hymnals of the future look like -- if they exist at all?  Some people say that the whole idea of a printed hymnbook is out of date and others insist that there will always be a place for them in worship.

Maybe we can have it both ways. There is a proposal that will come before this summer's General Conference of the United Methodist Church which shows a way forward that can accommodate both sides.

If you're interested at all in the future of congregational singing you should read about the proposal at this link.

If the proposal passes the Methodists will produce a collection replacing their current hymnal that will be available as a printed book and also in electronic form so that it can be projected on screens or downloaded in other formats.  Why choose just one way?  

There will be a core group of hymns and songs beyond which individual congregations can customize their collections, adding additional material that they will use and avoiding things that they are unlikely to sing (until the pastor or the music director changes, and then they can presumably make other adjustments).  The denomination will be better able to encourage the use of a wide range of texts while ensuring that the texts reflect their own theology and the tunes used are appropriate for congregational singing (one of their core values in worship).  You can read more about that sort of evaluation process in this recent article, which weighs the top one hundred songs used by Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) subscribers against Methodist and Wesleyan theology.  It's fascinating to see how detailed some of their recommendations and objections can be. I would really like to see other denominations sharing similar work around the intersection of what they believe and what they sing.

Most interestingly, there will be a standing committee that will work beyond the initial collection, evaluating both the evolving needs of the church and new material that will be published in years to come, and adding these new  songs and hymns as appropriate.  Even if a congregation buys the printed books, they will be able to supplement their repertory in the future by downloading the new hymns they want to sing and perhaps printing them in the service leaflet.

Yes, there will probably come a time when it's all electronic and we'll only use smartphones or virtual reality glasses or memory chip implants to access our congregational song, but we're not there yet!

Thanks to Brian Hehn, Director of the Center for Congregational Song at the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada for posting the article on the Methodist proposal on Facebook.

Eight Years Ago: Earth Day

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Flowing, Ever Flowing

Back to the topic of water today, on my mind because of a hymn festival on this theme which I will attend today (see the flyer below) in Brooklyn at the historic Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims.

Today's song comes from Spiritual Songs (1908), a collection published in Chicago by the Christian Witness Company. It originally appeared with another tune called LOS FELIZ by John M. Harris, the book's editor, but I like this tune by John Sweney better because it varies the rhythm of the lines a bit more.

Oh, this well of living water
Springing up within my soul,
Gives me blessèd satisfaction
While the changing seasons roll;
And in Jesus’ love rejoicing,
Still a song of praise I bring,
For the blessèd gift of heaven,
For this ever-living spring.

For this well of living water
That is flowing now for me,
Songs of praise and adoration,
Jesus, may I bring to thee.

From the depths unknown ’tis flowing,
From the depths of Jesus’ love,
It was purchased by the Savior,
Gift divine from heav’n above;
Christ alone can give this water,
Whosoever will may come,
Quench our thirst from this pure fountain,
And from Jesus never roam.

So the blessèd news I’m spreading
Of this dear life-giving spring,
Ever pure and free ’tis gushing
As my Savior’s love I sing;
It is flowing, ever flowing
In this grateful heart of mine,
And my tongue shall tell the gladness
Of this matchless grace divine.

W.V. Miller, 1908; alt.
Tune: HILLSDALE ( with refrain)
John R. Sweney, 1884

Author W. V. Miller (as listed at the Cyber Hymnal site) may be the same person as Will V. Miller (listed at as author of a different song published earlier). 

Click on the tag below to see several more hymns on the "water" theme that have appeared here on the blog, some familiar and others less so.  And who knows, someone reading this may just be in Brooklyn and free to join us this afternoon.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lelia Naylor Morris

Today is the birthday of Lelia Naylor Morris, who reportedly wrote more than a thousand gospel songs in her lifetime (only a fraction of them are available to see online). Born in Ohio, she and her four siblings were primarily raised by her mother after the death of her father, a Civil War veteran. 

Lelia began studying piano as a child, practicing at a neighbor's house because her family could not afford one at home, and by age 12 she was playing the organ for prayer meetings. She learned to sew in her mother's millinery shop and expected that she would probably work there for the rest of her life, even after her marriage to Methodist minister Charles Morris. 

She and her husband often attended revivals and outdoor camp meetings, and eventually she tried her hand at writing some songs (both words and music) in that style, which were taken up by the revival leaders and eventually began to be published.  She became very successful at this and continued to attend the camp meetings, which in turn inspired her to write more, based on the stories and testimonies of the other worshippers.

Out on life’s ocean with perils ever nigh,
I have a pilot on whom I can rely;
With him to guide me, life’s storms I can defy,
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Jesus, my pilot on life’s stormy sea,
This wondrous Christ of Galilee;
I’m safe in his keeping,
Tho’ storms are round me sweeping,
This pilot of Galilee.

Wondrous his power and matchless is his skill,
Billows and tempests obey his sovereign will.
Hushed into silence at his blest "Peace, be still,"
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Fierce was the tempest once raging in my soul,
When of my bark he, my pilot, took control.
With voice commanding above the thunder’s roll,
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Hear it, ye storm-tossed, with grief and with sin,
Why will ye not take the heav’nly pilot in?
Safely he’ll guide you, the haven blest to win,
’Tis Christ of Galilee.

Lelia N. Morris, 1912; alt.
Tune: PILOT OF GALILEE (Irregular with refrain)
Lelia N. Morris, 1912

Eight Years Ago: Ada Rose Gibbs

Seven Years Ago: Lelia Naylor Morris

Five Years Ago: Lelia Naylor Morris

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Jane Laurie Borthwick

Born today in 1813, in Edinburgh, Jane Laurie Borthwick became interested in translating German hymns into English while traveling in Europe.  Upon her return, her father encouraged the work so that she could share the hymn texts that so interested her. Eventually she and her sister, Sarah Borthwick Findlater, compiled a book of their translations titled Hymns from the Land of Luther (1854). Borthwick continued the task of hymn and verse translation in later books as well.

A member of the Free Church of Scotland, Borthwick was also involved in mission and social justice work in several Edinburgh organizations.

Today's hymn is intended for Sunday (Sabbath) worship, once a popular theme but less often seen today.

Hallelujah! fairest morning,
Fairer than our words can say!
Down we lay the heavy burden
Of life’s toil and care today,
While this morn of joy and love
Brings fresh vigor from above.

In the gladness of God's worship
We will seek our joy today;
It is then we learn the fullness
Of the grace for which we pray,
When the word of life is giv’n,
Like the Savior’s voice from heav’n.

Let the day with thee be ended,
As with thee it has begun,
And thy blessing, God, be granted,
Till earth’s days and weeks are done;
That at last thy servants may
Keep eternal Sabbath day.

Jonathan Krause, 1739;
tr. Jane Laurie Borthwick, 1858; alt.
Tune: ORIEL (
Caspar Ett, 1840

The author of the original German text, Jonathan Krause (1701-1762), was born in Silesia (now Poland) and was for many years the pastor of the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Legnica. This may be his only hymn that has been widely translated into other languages.

Six Years Ago: Jane Laurie Borthwick