Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Feast of Pentecost

Happy Birthday to the Church!  One more Pentecost - a day that I have not yet missed here for the last six years (so there are plenty of hymns to explore again below) You have to look closely at the picture above to see the tongues of fire on the heads of Mary and the apostles.

Spirit of grace and health and pow'r,
Fountain of life and light below,
On us your healing influence show'r
O'er all the nations let it flow.

Inflame our hearts with perfect love;
In us the work of faith instill;
So not heavn's host shall swifter move
Than we on earth to do your will.

In faith we wait and long and pray

To see that time by prophets told,
When nations, new-born into day,
Shall be ingathered to your fold.

We cannot doubt your gracious will,
O Spirit, merciful and just;
And you will speedily fulfill
The word in which your people trust.

Charles Wesley, 1742; alt.
Tune: HEBRON (L.M.)

Lowell Mason, 1830

This text, which I found in the Mission Hymnal (1929) of the Unitarian Laymen's League, is at least partly taken from Charles Wesley's Son of thy Sire's eternal love,  The text as amended seems to have appeared first in a later edition of A Book of Hymns for Public and Private Devotion, which was originally compiled in 1844 by our old friends Samuel Longfellow and Samuel Johnson, so it's likely that they adapted it from Wesley's original words. 

Six Years Ago: Joy! because the circling year

Five Years Ago:  O prophet souls of all the years

Four Years Ago: Above the starry spheres

Three Years Ago: Hail thee, festival day

Two Years Ago: Hail festal day! through every age

One Year Ago: O God, the Holy Ghost

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Not (yet?) a Liturgical Observance

I hardly know what to write about the article at this link, so just go read it.

(I think my favorite of the hymns listed is the fourth of the suggested recessional hymns.)

Ir's unlikely that your church celebrated May Fourth in this way, but apparently there were a few...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Peter Hallock

Word is spreading that composer and church musician Peter Hallock died on Sunday at the age of 89.  Hallock was for 40 years (1951-1991) the music director at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle.  One of his most lasting contributions to St. Mark's (and to the wider Episcopal church) was his development and promotion of the weekly service of Compline on Sunday nights, which he began in the 1950s and continued to direct until 2003.  During the second half of the twentieth century, when evening worship was disappearing in many places, St. Mark's Compline service grew and grew and continues today, inspiring many other churches to offer this kind of service.

Hallock's choral music and his psalm settings are widely sung in different denominations. If you have 30 minutes to spare, you can listen to the St. Mark's Compline service from January 12 of this year, which includes his setting of Psalm 89 and his anthem The Baptism of Jesus (1980), which I've chosen because my own choir sings this anthem every year at our Advent Lessons and Carols service.  The text is from a medieval carol, in both Latin and English.

Jesus autem hodie regressus est a Jordane. (But today Jesus emerges from the Jordan.) 
When Jesus Christ baptized was, the Holy Ghost descended with grace;
the Father’s voice was heard in the place:
Hic est filius meus, ipsum intende. (This is my Son, listen to him.) 
There were Three Persons and one Lord, the Son baptized with one accord,
the Father said this blessed word:
Hic est filius meus, ipsum intende. (This is my Son, listen to him.) 
Now, Jesus, as thou art both God and man, and were baptized in from Jordan,
At our last end, we pray thee, say then:
Hic est filius meus, ipsum intende. (This is my Son, listen to him.)

I heartily recommend taking the time to listen -- it could be a pleasant way to end the day. (we also sing Compline every week at my church, though our service is somewhat simpler than Seattle's.). 
 We remember Peter Hallock today and give thanks for his ministry in music, which will surely continue through his many works.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A World Renewed to Life

The season of Easter links resurrection with new life and rebirth,  and sometimes with the season of spring as well.  It's been a long winter in many places in the US and we're ready for all these things, so I like that we have several more weeks of the Easter season.

A trip to a local library book sale yesterday yielded two interesting hymnals, one of them being Hymns of the Kingdom of God (1910), edited by Henry Sloane Coffin and Ambrose White Vernon.  This was a nondenominational hymnal, described in the Preface as "a small collection of large hymns" (small in its own time, perhaps, but it includes 488 hymns, which we probably wouldn't call small today).  Coincidentally, the Preface is dated Easter 1910, and so I looked for something new and different (to me) for the season.  The thing I like about today's text is that it's not just about the Easter story, it's about going out and telling the good news of the resurrection.

Proclaim to all, both far and near
That Christ is ris'n again;
That he is with us now and here,
And ever shall remain.

And what we say, let all this morn,
Go tell it to their friends,
That soon in every place shall dawn
Christ's reign, which never ends.

The earthly paths that Jesus trod
To heav'n at last shall come,
And all who hearken to the Word
Shall reach God's promised home.

He lives! His presence has not ceased,
Though foes and fears be rife;
And thus we hail in Easter’s feast
A world renewed to life!

Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1799;
tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1858; alt.
Tune: MAGNIFY (C.M.)

Calvin W. Laufer, 20th cent.

OK, the word "rife" is probably not the most user-friendly of terms, and I'm not sure modern hymnwriters should use it, but I do like the rest of that stanza.

I've had a copy of this hymnal downloaded from the internet for some time, but there's really no more convenient substitute for holding the book in your hand and leafing through it.

In the spirit of Eastertide I hope to bring some new life of my own to the blog here.  Hope someone out there is still listening.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Emma Mundella

Emma Mundella, a somewhat obscure British composer, died on this day in 1896, but her birth date in 1858 seems to be unknown.  She is described in Otto Ebel's Women Composers (1913) as "a highly gifted lady" who had written part-songs, piano pieces, and "some church music."  She also wrote an oratorio, Victory of Song, for female voices and strings which was published by Novello.

Among her music instructors were Arthur Sullivan and John Stainer, and she attended the Royal College of Music, becoming one of the first students to receive the Associate of the R.C.M. degree.

I mention her here because she was the editor of The Day School Hymn Book (1896)., which was also published by Novello.  She writes in the foreword that it was her aim to

...provide a Hymn Book for school use which should combine throughout an elevated tone of thought and feeling, both in the words and the music, with sufficient sympathy of ideas to make it acceptable to the young people for whom is is especially intended

Of course, dozens, if not hundreds, of other hymnbooks for the use of young persons had already claimed and would continue to express similar intentions.  At any rate, this book included hymns in German, Latin, and French in addition to many standard Church of England hymns.

In the foreword she also thanks her former teacher John Stainer for "his invaluable help and the unfailing interest he has shown throughout the preparation of this book." Stainer had provided her with a previously-unpublished tune by John Bacchus Dykes as well as composing six new tunes for the book.  

Twelve of Mundella's own tunes appear in the book (remember, the best way for women to get their tunes or texts into a hymnbook was to edit it themselves).  Several of these tunes are in unusual meters that would make them unlikely to be used today, but there are a few possibilities. Unfortunately, none of her tunes are available to hear online.  The Cyber Hymnal does not list Mundella at all, and only acknowledges her as the editor of a hymnbook, without listing any of her tunes.  Maybe someday.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Hush of Expectation

In some traditions we are still in the liturgical season of Epiphany, which will run until the Sunday before Lent -- March 2 this year (when we hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus).  It's a long season in 2014; often we have already passed Ash Wednesday by this time.

There are still hymns that can be used for the season without singing about the three kings and the star over Bethlehem, even though some worship planners are out of ideas.  Light is a recurring Epiphany theme, as well as the spreading of the awareness of Jesus.  Today the light comes from the dawn of the coming day of God, which seems appropriate for Epiphany, and also for other times of the year as well.

I encountered this text in an interesting collection I recently found, Social Hymns of Brotherhood and Aspiration (1914), though I suspect it was not first published there.

There’s a light upon the mountains,
As we greet the coming morn;
When our eyes shall see the beauty
And the splendors of the dawn;
Weary was our heart with waiting,
And the night-watch seemed so long,
But the jubilee is breaking
And we hail it with a song.

There’s a hush of expectation
And a quiet in the air
And the breath of God is moving
In the fervent breath of prayer;
Then we hear a distant music
And it comes with fuller swell;
’Tis the triumph-song of Jesus,
Promised One, Immanuel!

Christ is breaking down the barriers,
He is casting up the way;
He is calling for his angels
To build up the gates of day:
But his angels here are human,
Not the shining hosts above;
For the drumbeats of this legion
Are the heartbeats of our love.

Henry Burton, 1910; alt.
Thomas J. Williams, 1890

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thomas Turton

Bishop Thomas Turton (February 5, 1780 - January 7, 1864) was born in the town of Hatfield, in South Yorkshire, the son of Thomas and Ann Turton.

He graduated from St. Catherine's College (part of the University of Cambridge) in 1805, and treturned there to teach, eventually serving as Professor of Mathematics (1822-1826) and of Divinity (1827-1842). In 1834 he published a pamphlet opposing the admission of non-Anglicans for univerity degrees.  During his teaching career, he also served in various clerical capacities following his ordination in the Church of England in 1813, which led to his inclusion in The Extraordinary Black Book (1832) by John Wade, a catalog of corruption and abuse in church and state. After leaving St. Catherine's, he became Dean of Westminster Abbey for three years, and in 1845 he was made Bishop of Ely.

He was also a composer of some church music, and two hymn tunes (including today's) were included in Hymns Ancient and Modern.

O thou, in all thy might so far,
In all thy love so near,
Betond the range of sun and star,
And yet beside us here.

What heart can comprehend thy Name,
Or searching, find thee out,
Who art within, a quick'ning Flame,
A Presence 'round about.

Yet though we know thee but in part,
We ask not, God, for more,
Enough for us to know thou art,
To love thee, and adore.

Frederick Lucian Hosmer, 1876; alt.
Thomas Turton, 1860

This tune was named for Saint Etheldreda, the patron saint of the Diocese of Ely, while Turton's other tune in Hymns Ancient and Modern was called ELY.

Turton was in poor health during much of his term as Bishop and died in 1864, leaving much of his estate to charity.  He was buried next to his friend Dr. Thomas Musgrave, Archbishop of York.

This text, by Frederick Lucian Hosmer, written while he was pastor of the Unitarian congregation in Quincy, Illinois, is described in Hymn Lore (1932) by Calvin Laufer as suggestive of Psalm 139.

Five Years Ago: Joy is like the rain

Four Years Ago: Roger Williams

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Feast of the Presentation

 Joy! joy! the Mother comes,
And in her arms she brings
The Light of all the world,
The Ruler of all things,
And in her heart the while
All silently she sings.

Saint Joseph follows near,
In rapture lost, and love,
While angels 'round about
In glowing circles move,
And o'er the Mother broods
The everlasting Dove.

There in the temple court,
Old Simeon's heart beats high,
And Anna feeds her soul
With food of prophecy;
And see! the shadows pass,
The world's true Light draws nigh.

Frederick William Faber, 1854; alt.
Tune: BACA (
William Henry Havergal,
19th cent.

P.S - The illustration above is from The Presentation of Christ in the Temple by Albrecht Durer.

One Year Ago: In the temple now behold him

Three Years Ago: In peace and joy I now depart

Four Years Ago: O Jerusalem beloved

Five Years Ago: Hail to the Lord who comes

Six Years Ago: O Zion, open wide thy gates

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Baptism of Christ

The Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany sometimes commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by his cousin John, as told in Matthew 3: 13-16.  Infant or adult baptisms are often performed today in churches which mark this day, but even if there are no such celebrations the people of the congregation may renew their baptismal vows together.

O God, our strength in weakness,
We pray to you for grace,
Patience to trust your promise,
And speed to run the race;
When your baptismal waters
Were poured upon our brow,
We then were made your children
And pledged our earliest vow.

So we on earth are bless├Ęd
For we shall see the Lord,
Forever and forever,
By seraphim adored;
And we shall drink the pleasure
Such as no tongue can tell
From heav'ns clear crystal river,
And life’s eternal well.

Then sing to our Creator,
Who formed us with great love;
And sing to God the Savior
Who leads to realms above;
Sing we with saints and angels
Before the heavenly throne,
To God the Holy Spirit,
Sing to the Three in One.

Christopher Wordsworth, 1881; alt.
Tune: STOKE (
Mrs. G. E. Cole, 1889

Christopher Wordsworth wrote this text toward the end of his life, long after his major collection The Holy Year (1862).  He was Bishop of Lincoln from 1868 until his death in 1885, and apparently wrote this hymn for the handbook of the Lincoln Girls' Friendly Society.   Many of his other hymns have already appeared here (click on the tag below).

I am unable to find anything more about Mrs. G. E. Cole, whose tune first appeared in the 1889 supplement of Hymns Ancient and Modern (not even her name!).  It's likely that the initials belong to her husband.

Five Years Ago: 'I come,' the great Redeemer cries

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Feast of the Epiphany

Twelve days after Christmas we come again to the Feast of the Epiphany, marked by the familiar story of three royal visitors to the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12).  

Many churches probably celebrated this occasion yesterday but there will be some service today in various places.

Lo! the pilgrim magi
Leave their royal halls,
And with eager footsteps
Speed to Bethlehem's walls;
As they onward journey,
Faith, which firmly rests,
Built on hope unswerving,
Triumphs in their breasts.

Praise to the Creator,
Fount of Life alone;
who unto the nations,
made Christ's glory known.

O what joy and gladness
Filled each heart, from far
When, to guide their footsteps,
Shone that radiant star;
O'er that home so holy,
Pouring down its ray,
Where the cradled infant
With his mother lay.


Costly pomp and splendor
Earthly kings array;
Christ, a mightier Monarch,
Hath a nobler sway;
Straw may be his pallet,
Mean his garb may be,
Yet with power transcendent
He all hearts can free.


At his crib they worship,
Kneeling on the floor,
And their God there present,
In that babe adore;
To our God and Savior
We, as seekers true,
Give our hearts o'erflowing,
Give our tribute due.


Charles Coffin, 1736;
tr, John David Chambers, 1857; alt.
Tune: ARMAGEDDON ( with refrain)

Luise Richardt, 19th cent.;
adapt. John Goss, 1871 

The Roman Catholic Charles Coffin wrote his hymns in Latin, most for the Paris Breviary (1736).  We saw a much more familiar Epiphany hymn by Coffin a few years ago.

Luise Reichardt (1779-1826), born in Berlin, was the daughter of two composers, Juliane Reichardt and Johann Friedrich Reichardt.  One of her grandfathers had been concert master in the court of Frederick the Great.  Her earliest published songs appeared in 1800 in a collection of her father's work.  This particular melody was adapted into a hymn tune by John Goss, and has been used most often with the text Who is on the Lord's side.

Five Years Ago: Saw you never, in the twilight

Four Years Ago:  Earth has many a noble city

Three Years Ago: What star is this, with beams so bright

Two Years Ago: As with gladness those of old

One Year Ago:  O thou, who by a star didst guide