Saturday, May 31, 2008
My soul proclaims the greatness of our God,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
who has looked with favor on this lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
You O God have done great things for me,
and holy is your Name.
You have mercy on those who fear you in every generation.
You have shown the strength of your arm,
and have scattered the proud in their conceit.
You have cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and have lifted up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich you have sent away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel,
for you have remembered your promise of mercy,
The promise you made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and Sarah and their children for ever.
(Version by Frank Huber, 1999)
Taken out of the passage in Luke, Mary's song has been set to music thousands of times: in large choral works by composers such as J.S. Bach and Antonio Vivaldi, in liturgical settings used in worship (Evensong in the Episcopal and Anglican traditions, and Matins in the Eastern Orthodox Church), and of course, as congregational hymns. The metrical version from the Scottish Psalter of 1650 begins:
My soul and spirit, filled with joy,
My God and Saviour praise,
Whose goodness did from poor estate
This humble handmaid raise.
Nearly 350 years later, Miriam Therese Winter of the Medical Mission Sisters wrote a version called My soul gives glory to my God, which appears in some newer hymnals.
Somewhere in-between (probably around 1708) Isaac Watts wrote his version of the Magnificat, broadening it from the song of one woman to a hymn for the congregation. Back in the twentieth century we adapted it for contemporary use, taking Watts's original (which subtly warned of Marian idolatry in one verse) and building on it.
Our souls shall magnify our God,
In God the Savior we rejoice;
While we repeat the Virgin's song,
May the same spirit tune our voice.
The Highest saw her low estate,
And mighty things God's hand has done
For Mary, chosen to become
The mother of the Promised One.
Let every nation call her bless'd,
Let endless years prolong her fame;
And God above shall be ador'd;
Holy and mighty is God's Name.
To those that hope and trust in God
Whose mercy stands for ever sure:
From age to age the promise lives,
And God's performance is secure.
God spake to Abr'am and his line,
"In thee shall all the earth be blest;"
From Sarah's child, through ages long
We see the promise manifest.
And now no more shall Israel wait,
No more the world shall lie forlorn:
Lo, the desire of nations comes;
Behold, the Savior Christ is born!
Isaac Watts, c. 1708; adapt.
Tune: TRURO (L.M.)
from Psalmodia Evangelica, 1789
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Back on January 30 I wrote about Charlotte Barnard, the first entry in the More Voices Found series. I wondered whether any more tunes by her were out there, and now I seem to have found one. The tune PILGRIMAGE is used in one version of the 1916 Episcopal hymnal. I'm assuming that C.A. Barnard is Charlotte, though I suppose there's a chance that it isn't. Since there's no sound file available online, I'm reproducing the tune below.
The alternate tune indicated, INNOCENTS, is the one usually sung with that particular text, Advent tells us Christ is near. I once wrote some additional verses for that hymn, but today's not the day to bring them out.
***UPDATE (6/9/08) - Commenter Leland Bryant Ross has graciously created a sound file so that we can all hear Charlotte Barnard's PILGRIMAGE. Thanks!!***
On April 8 I was talking about William Muhlenberg and the Church of the Holy Communion in New York, where he was rector for many years. The church was deconsecrated in 1976 and became very well known as the Limelight discotheque a few years later. The Limelight has changed ownership over the years and has been closed for different periods, and I had read that the Episcopal Diocese of New York was interested in reacquiring the building, but the last two owners wanted too high a price. I walked by the former church recently during the day and there's no indication that the club is still open, but I suppose I should check it out after dark someday.
On April 20 I mentioned that I had once wanted to call our would-be hymnal Hymns of Glory, Songs of Praise. It turns out that the Church Hymnary of Scotland has retitled itself with my title just this year. Guess it was a good idea. It's OK, there are lots of hymnals out there that share the same names.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
The wonders of that love,
Thomas Cotterill, c. 1805; Isaac Watts v.2; adapt.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing of mercy and of grace.
In the mansions bright and blessèd
Christ prepares for us a place.
When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!
While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when trav'ling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh.
Let us then be true and faithful,
Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of Christ in glory
Will the toils of life repay.
Onward to the prize before us!
Soon its beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.
Eliza E. Hewitt, 1898; alt.
Tune: HEAVEN (184.108.40.206. with refrain)
Emily Divine Wilson, 1898
Emily Wilson may have been playing the piano for some of those camp meetings -- there really isn't much known about her. This is her best-known tune but probably not the only one, so I will be keeping an eye out for more. If you like banjos with your gospel songs, try this version (but you may nearly miss the melody on the keyboard when it comes in). The tune works best with a lot of energy behind it from both the accompaniment and the congregation, and kind of a rollicking tempo.
Of course, this song is not in a style readily recognized by many Episcopalians, but Voices Found does include two gospel songs by Fanny Crosby, so it wouldn't have been impossible for them to have included this one, since both the text and the tune are by women. Happily, it was restored to the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal after having been removed previously.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I have many favored hymns for the Eucharist, or (Holy) Communion, as many know it. There's a wide range of them from the extremely vivid verses about the body and blood of Jesus Christ to the commemorative ones about shared experience and fellowship. I think there's a place for all of them, though I know many people would require a stricter doctrine in one way or another.
Here, O my God, I see thee face to face;
Here would I touch and handle things unseen;
Here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
And all my weariness upon thee lean.
Here would I feed upon the Bread of God,
Here drink with thee the royal Wine of heaven;
Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
Here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven.
This is the hour of banquet and of song;
This is the heavenly table spread for me;
Here let me feast, and feasting, still prolong
The brief, bright hour of fellowship with thee.
Too soon we rise, we go our several ways;
The feast, though not the love, is past and gone,
The bread and cup consumed, yet all our days
Thou art still here with us -- our Shield and Sun.
Feast after feast thus comes and passes by;
Yet, passing, points to the glad feast above,
Giving us foretaste of the festal joy,
The Lamb's eternal feast of bliss and love.
Horatius Bonar, 1855; alt.
Tune: MORECAMBE (10.10.10.10.)
Frederick C. Atkinson, 1870
There are three more verses but they drift away from the Communion theme a bit. In the Hymnal 1940 the Episcopalians actually split the verses up and made two different hymns out of it, giving each one an odd "modern" tune. They tried again with some different/additional (but similarly odd) tunes for the two separate hymns in the Hymnal 1982.
Free advice: Give it up. Frederick Atkinson's tune will never die no matter how unsophisticated you think it to be. While you're at it, put the text back together like it is here. Everyone in the pews will be content, if not the organists and theologians who need to tinker.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
O'er the world's tempestuous sea;
Guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
For we have no help but thee;
Yet possessing ev'ry blessing
If our God our comfort be.
Savior, breathe forgiveness o'er us;
All our weakness thou dost know;
Thou didst tread this earth before us,
Thou didst feel its keenest woe;
Lone and dreary, faint and weary,
Through the desert thou didst go.
Spirit of our God, descending,
Fill our hearts with heav'nly joy,
Love with ev'ry passion blending,
Pleasure that can never cloy;
Thus provided, pardoned, guided,
Nothing can our peace destroy.
John Edmeston, 1821: alt.
Tune: DULCE CARMEN (220.127.116.11.8.7.)
An Essay on the Church Plain Chant, 1782
This is not the grandest of Trinitarian hymns, but I still want to post it here today. I bind unto myself today may be about the longest (in English, at least), and Holy, Holy, Holy may be the most familiar (it's even the first hymn - #1 - in some hymnals). But this is the one that I always think of first. There's a story behind it that I've known for many years.
Back in the Presbyterian church my family attended when I was in high school and college, there was a family from New Zealand, here for a few years on assignment from one of those big multinational companies. They were active members in the church, he in the choir and she in a weekly Bible study group; probably in other areas I don't remember any more.
One Sunday before we sang this hymn, our pastor told a story about it. This couple had attended seminary together (they may have met there; I don't recall) and at some point, this hymn became "theirs." They often sang it together, and over many years, if they were apart, there was a particular time of day when they would go off alone and sing it, feeling connected by the hymn regardless of the physical distance between them. Back then I was sitting in the back of the choir loft, familiarizing myself with the indexes in the back of the hymnal during the sermon (not always...), developing this interest of mine, but this was the first time I had encountered the idea that you could have "your own" hymn. After that, the story would be mentioned whenever we sang this (maybe 3 times a year or so); everyone knew the story. I thought it was soooo cool.
A year or two later, the husband was killed in a car accident. Of course we sang this hymn at his funeral and the story was told again. The family moved back to New Zealand after that and most of us lost touch with them over the years, but the story lived on and was retold for years to come. There's a new pastor there now (I guess he's been there several years now, but he's still new to me) and I hope he knows the story -- it became a part of that congregation. And I always think of Mr. and Mrs. C. when this hymn comes to mind.
You may have a hymn story of your own, or one from your church - please consider sharing it. I'm sure psychologists can tell us why and how music can bring memories back to us, but whatever it is, if you're reading this you probably know that the convergence of music and Spirit, combined in a hymn or song can revive a story you haven't thought about in ages. I have other stories, of course, or I probably wouldn't be writing this blog. There's one in particular (actually, it's a hymnal story) about Christmas Eve but I probably can't tell it here - I wouldn't be able to see the screen as I was typing. But it comes to me every year.
Friday, May 16, 2008
I've added a few new links over on the right which you may or may not have noticed. The Sibley Music Library, located at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY bills itself as "the largest academic music library in North America." But the most interesting thing about them is that they are making vast amounts of their public domain (pre-1922 for the most part) music available online. I've been prowling around the choral music, but there's lots of instrumental pieces, songs, organ pieces, etc. From the main page, follow the links from "Music Resources" to " Sibley Resources" and then to "Sibley Digitized Material." where you can search by composer.
You will also see a link to "Request Public Domain Scores" where you can request particular PD items from their library to be put online. There's a limit to how many you can ask for at once, so if you don't know what to request I have A LOT of suggestions (just kidding).
Farther down on the right I have added two links to "Inclusive & Expansive Language Resources." The first one, Ohio Conference Guidelines (UCC) I've discussed here before (see February 8 for that background if you haven't been reading here that long). The second link is actually to a book review written fifteen years ago by Ruth Duck, but I think there's plenty of food for thought even without the context of the book being discussed. Ruth Duck, now professor of worship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL is one of the pioneers of inclusive language beginning more than thirty years ago as part of the Ecumenical Women's Center of Chicago, a group that published the inclusive language resource Because We Are One People in 1974. Duck's website, linked above, may also give you a lot to explore and think about.
One of her earliest hymns, Lead on, O cloud of Presence, while under copyright, can be found in a book titled Bearing Fruit in Due Season by Elizabeth J. Smith, (thanks fo Google Books -- if the link doesn't take you directly there, go to midway down page 196). The book quotes the first line as Lead on, O cloud of Yahweh, an earlier version that has since been revised by Duck - no text is set in stone. Tying in with our earlier discussion of Onward, Christian soldiers, this text was written to take the place of the older Lead on, O King eternal. It's no mere revision, but a new text altogether (though generally sung to the same tune, LANCASHIRE) -- and one of my favorite twentieth century hymns.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
However, Sullivan did produce a good number of anthems and hymn tunes, as well as four major choral works (The Prodigal Son, The Light of the World, The Martyr of Antioch, and The Golden Legend). This church and choral music was hugely popular in its time and for many years after, but has gradually fallen out of favor.
His best-known hymn tune has always been ST. GERTRUDE, but even that is in danger of becoming lost, since the text it is nearly always paired with is Onward, Christian soldiers. Over the last twenty years, most new hymnals have left out that hymn, and now a whole generation of churchgoers haven't learned Sullivan's tune either.
The Unitarians came up with a solution even before the "problem" of OCS's militaristic language became widely expressed in other denominations, by pairing the tune with a different text.
Forward through the ages, in unbroken line,
Move the faithful spirits at the call divine;
Gifts in diff'ring measure, hearts of one accord,
Manifold the service, one the sure reward.
Forward through the ages, in unbroken line,
Move the faithful spirits at the call divine.
Wider grows the vision, reign of love and light;
For it we must labor till our faith is sight
Prophets have proclaimed it, martyrs testified,
Poets sung its glory, heroes for it died.
Not alone we conquer, not alone we fall;
In each loss or triumph, lose or triumph all.
Bound by God's far purpose in one living whole,
Move we on together to the shining goal.
Frederick Lucian Hosmer, 1908; alt.
Tune: ST. GERTRUDE (18.104.22.168.D. with Refrain)
Arthur Seymour Sullivan, 1871
There was, in fact, a real Saint Gertrude, but following Victorian custom, Sullivan really named this after an acquaintance, Gertrude Clay Ker Seymer, at whose country home he composed the tune.
Most of Sullivan's hymn tunes were composed early in his career. He edited a hymnal, Church Hymns With Tunes, published in 1874. I've been looking through it and it's not exactly what might be expected, that is, stuffed full of the high-Victorian tunes of his colleagues in the church music business. While there is certainly some of that (including thirty-eight of his own tunes and even more of his arrangements and harmonizations), the tunes of popular contemporaries like John Bacchus Dykes and Joseph Barnby are really not very prevalent, especially when compared with other hymnals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sullivan uses many German melodies, older English composers such as Gibbons and Tallis, Lowell Mason to represent the Americans, and psalter tunes from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as some older chant melodies. Yes, some of these things are "arranged," but I was surprised at the breadth of the music offered. Sullivan also included five hymns with tunes by women, a very high percentage for that time. I don't think there are many other hymnals with three tunes by Frances Ridley Havergal.
Toward the end of his life, he was commissioned to write a tune for a hymn written by Bishop William Walsham How to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The tune, BISHOPGARTH, was sung with How's O King of Kings, whose reign of old throughout the churches of England on Sunday, June 20, 1897. Four more tunes were discovered and published after his death in 1900. Critics continue to debate his overall contribution to hymnody, but there aren't many people who have written anything so familiar as ST. GERTRUDE.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Like to quiv'ring tongues of flame,
Onto each the Spirit came:
Friday, May 9, 2008
Lives in God’s great heart of Love;
Ever holds us, safe enfolds us,
Underneath, around, above;
Patient, tender, kind, forgiving,
Though in distant paths we roam;
Gently chides us, ever guides us,
And all-loving, leads us home.
Ev’ry wrong will sure be righted;
Ev’ry evil swept away;
Truth upspringing, justice bringing,
Ushers in the brighter day;
Mother calls her earthly children,
Loves them, lifts them when they fall;
Striving, calling, fainting, falling,
Motherlove enfolds them all.
God is Love, and love forever
In the motherheart is blest;
Lives the longest, lifts the strongest,
Far outreaching all the rest;
Not by might, and not by wisdom
Comes our lifting from the sod:
Love’s pure glory tells the story
In the Motherheart of God.
J.S. Cutler, date unknown; alt.
Tune: MOTHERHOOD (22.214.171.124.D.)
Willis A. Moore, date unknown
I especially like the internal rhymes (those not at the end of the lines).
I had considered posting this hymn yesterday in relation to Julian of Norwich. There are some (including commenter Leland Bryant Ross) who feel that this text is derived from the theology of Julian, and certainly that's possible. But from the first time I encountered this text about twenty years ago, it's always seemed to me to come from the nineteenth century feminist view of motherhood, an ideal founded on the belief that though women were clearly not the equals of men in the physical sphere, they were morally superior, and none so superior as mothers.
I've since learned that J.S. Cutler appears to be Julian Stearns Cutler (1854-1930), a Universalist minister. This hymn appeared in a number of Universalist hymnals, at least as early as The Life Hymnal (1904) through Hymns of the Spirit (1937), and then, curiously, in the Baptist/Disciples hymnal Christian Worship (1941). Cutler also wrote and published secular poems, for which he was more known than for this hymn. The years of his life suggest that he would certainly have been familiar with the feminism of the nineteenth century. However, it's also quite possible that he had sought out the writings of his thirteenth-century namesake.
One of the Universalist hymnals reveals that both Cutler and Willis Moore were "Rev."s, though Moore remains somewhat elusive (Googling Willis Moore will provide many many pages about the formerly married Bruce Willis and Demi Moore). At any rate, I now know that both text and tune are in the public domain, about which I had often wondered.
Regardless of where the original idea for this hymn came from, it's very appropriate for the upcoming holiday this Sunday (though mothers largely will be upstaged this year by the Feast of Pentecost).
Thursday, May 8, 2008
One line from the book that stands out for me is "As verily as God is our Father, so verily God is our Mother." No hiding behind metaphor - she lays it out starkly. She also writes extensively of "Jesus our Mother." This broad understanding of God is still shocking for many people, who tend to associate similar ideas to Godless modernity and the evils of feminism, and cannot conceive its coming from the fourteenth century.
The church in Norwich, England where she served and wrote is still a shrine today. An American Order of Julian of Norwich, of Episcopal monks and nuns was started in Norwich, Connecticut in 1986 and now mostly resides in Wisconsin. Many of the prayers and hymns that they use in daily worship are now available online.
In recent years hymns about Julian and her theology have become quite fashionable (all are under copyright). Voices Found, the Episcopal worship resource discussed here before, includes three hymns about Julian or adapted from her ideas:
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
But here's one that I came across in an 1848 hymnal (A Book of Hymns for Public and Private Devotion) that seems fairly acceptable. The language is slightly, but not overly archaic. And it just happens to match pretty well to a tune of T. Tertius Noble (the guy from the other day).
How shall we praise thee, Lord of light!
How shall we all thy love declare!
The earth is veiled in shades of night,
But heav'n is open to our prayer.
That heav'n so bright with stars and suns,
That glorious heav'n which has no bound,
Where the full tide of being runs,
And life and beauty glow around.
We would adore thee, God sublime,
Whose power and wisdom, love and grace,
Are greater than the round of time,
And wider than the bounds of space.
Help us to praise thee, Lord of light!
Help us thy boundless love declare;
And, while we fill thy courts tonight,
Aid us, and hearken to our prayer.
John Bowring, date unknown
Tune: EASTWICK (L.M.)
T. Tertius Noble, c.1900
You may notice - no alt.! In the old days we would have changed "Lord" but I'm a little more flexible now. I generally like alliteration, and as long as "Lord" is only one of the many names of God, and is not used in 90% of all hymns, I don't mind using it now and then.
The arching lines of Noble's tune and the (admittedly) high range seem appropriate for a hymn that aspires to heaven and talks about the attributes of God being "wider than the bounds of space."
I doubt that this hymn is in any modern hymnal, but in these days of music notation software there's no reason why it couldnt be used.
P.S. The most perfect evening hymn (and probably the biggest crowdpleaser), is here. We don't sing it very often, though. I assumed that someone in authority believed it to be too "vulgar" for our Anglo-Catholic worship, though I've been told that isn't the case.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Come, labor on!
Who dares stand idle, on the harvest plain
While all around us waves the golden grain?
And to each person does the Maker say,
“Go work today.”
Come, labor on!
Claim the high calling angels cannot share—
To young and old the Gospel gladness bear;
Redeem the time; its hours too swiftly fly.
The night draws nigh.
Come, labor on!
Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear!
No arm so weak but may do service here:
By feeblest agents may our God fulfill
One righteous will.
Come, labor on!
No time for rest, till glows the western sky,
Till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
“Well done, well done!”
Jane Laurie Borthwick, 1859; alt.
Tune: ORA LABORA (126.96.36.199.4.)
T. Tertius Noble, 1918
This is Noble's best-known hymn tune, his only composition still in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982. He had at least six tunes in the 1916 edition and four in the 1940, as well as a number of harmonizations (he served on the Committees for both those earlier hymnals). Some of those other tunes include EASTWICK, MAUBURN, and NEW YORK (newer tunes ROCKPORT and NEW ENGLAND are still under copyright). Overall, his hymn tunes have gone out of fashion, (though I like EASTWICK) much like his instrumental and chamber music, and even his anthems, which were well known to earlier generations. Some of his service music still survives: his Evening Services in B minor and A minor, and his Anglican chant settings (we did one on Sunday, though it had no relation to his birthday).
Noble spent thirty years at St. Thomas before retiring at the age of 75. I don't know if they sang Come, labor on at his final service, but it surely would have been appropriate. In retirement, (spent in Rockport, MA), he was known as the dean emeritus of American organists.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Anyway, if your church follows the liturgical year, you may be singing this hymn today. It's not as inevitable as Jesus Christ is risen today on Easter, but it's one of the best-known Ascension hymns with a tune everyone knows and sings.
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!
Thine the scepter, thine the throne.
Alleluia! Thine the triumph,
Thine the victory alone.
Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion
Thunder like a mighty flood.
Jesus, out of every nation
Hast redeemed us by thy blood.
Alleluia! not as orphans
Are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! Thou art near us;
Faith believes, nor questions how;
Though the cloud from sight received thee
When the forty days were o’er
Shall our hearts forget thy promise,
“I am with you evermore”?
Alleluia! Bread of Heaven,
Thou on earth our food, our stay;
Alleluia! Here the weary
Flee to thee from day to day:
Intercessor, Friend of sinners,
Earth’s Redeemer, plead for me,
Where the songs of all the faithful
Sweep across the crystal sea.
William Chatterton Dix, 1866; alt.
Tune: HYFRYDOL (188.8.131.52.D.)
Rowland Hugh Prichard, c.1830
The popular HYFRYDOL first appeared in a collection called Haleliwiah Drachefn (Welsh, as if you couldn't guess) in 1855, some years after Prichard is supposed to have written it. It has been used for many, many different hymn texts since that time. One thing that makes this tune especially singable is that the melody is all within a fifth until the last line, which only rises to a sixth, so everyone can find a comfortable range to sing it in.
James Lightwood, in The Music of the Methodist Hymnbook (UK, 1933), writes that "a generous elasticity in its rhythm enables enthusiasts to fit it to other metres than the one for which it was written." I knew of one such enthusiast who was attempting to find a different text for every Sunday of the church year that could be sung to HYFRYDOL. You'd start with Come, thou long-expected Jesus for the First Sunday in Advent, I suppose, and proceed from there, but the congregation would probably mutiny during Epiphany and even the choir couldn't make it to Easter.
P.S. The picture above is a woodcut by Albrecht Durer that I couldn't resist as it depicts the Ascension from a slightly odd angle. Like the way I look at hymns sometimes.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Through the ages as they change:
Wheresoe’er the truth shall lead,
Christ will give whate’er we need.
Comfortless we will not be:
No, the Spirit still is ours,
Quick'ning, fresh'ning all our powers.
Wait until he comes again:
Tune: CULFORD (184.108.40.206.D)