Tuesday, January 13, 2009

John Darwall

English clergyman, composer and poet John Darwall was baptized on this day in 1731, another case where an actual birth date is lost to posterity. He served the congregation of St. Matthew's parish in Walsall, Staffordshire from his ordination to his death in 1789.

Darwall composed tunes for all 150 psalms as paraphrased in A New Version of the Psalms of David (1696) by Nicholas Brady and Nahum Tate. His tunes were written in two parts only: melody and bass. The British Museum has his manuscript books of the tunes, and the first line of each can be seen online (the opening of Psalm 1 is the picture above).

However, only one of his tunes is still known, though it appears in just about any hymnal you might find today. We know it as DARWALL, or sometimes DARWALL'S 148th as it was written for this Tate and Brady paraphrase of that psalm.

Ye boundless realms of joy,
Exalt your Maker's fame,
God's praise your song employ
Above the starry frame;
Your voices raise,
Ye cherubim
And seraphim,
To sing God's praise.

Thou moon, that rul'st the night,
And sun, that guid'st the day,
Ye glittering stars of light,
To God your homage pay.
God's praise declare,
Ye heavens above
And clouds that move
In liquid air.

Let all their powers be stirred,
To praise God's holy name,
By whose almighty Word
They all from nothing came;
And all shall last
From changes free;
God's firm decree
Stands ever fast.

United zeal be shown
God's wondrous fame to raise,
whose glorious name alone
Deserves our endless praise.
Earth's utmost ends
God's power obey;
This glorious sway
The sky transcends.

Nicholas Brady & Nahum Tate, 1696; alt.
John Darwall, 1773

DARWALL has been used for a great many texts over the years, some fitting better than others. The law of averages alone would indicate that anyone who could write one tune as remarkable and long-lasting as this one must have written something else worthwhile among those other 149 tunes (and the unknown others that he wrote to non-psalm texts). But somehow this is the only one that has come down to us.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

Lest this post pass without comment, here are the texts my comprehensive index currently shows set to DARWALL; I've bolded those I think I would set to it, and italicized those I would set to something else.

Come, let us praise the Lord
Come, sing, O church, in joy
God is gone up on high
How sure the scriptures are
Join all the glorious names
Rejoice, the Lord is King*
We come, O Christ, to thee
We sing to you, O God (probably CAMANO)
Ye holy angels bright

* I would either set "Rejoice, the Lord is King" to DARWALL and GOPSAL, or set the former to it and a thoroughly demonarchicized rewrite to the latter. "Rejoice..." is the text I associate with the tune from childhood.

Leland aka Haruo

C.W.S. said...

Same here; that's probably the first one I sang to it. The Lutheran Hymnal uses the tune six times, though I don't think all are a good fit, and I doubt we sang them all.

I was going to use Join all the Glorious names for this entry but I can't find our (somewhat extensive) revision. Sometime in the future it will turn up. We used DARWALL for that, for Ye holy angels bright (with two of these Tate & Brady verses added, something I probably wouldn't suggest today), and for God (Lord) of the worlds above.