Sunday, January 18, 2009

William Henry Havergal

William Henry Havergal (January 18, 1793 - April 19, 1870) was a composer, hymnwriter and hymnologist. Ordained in 1817, he served as rector in three different parishes until his health forced him to retire in 1867. In fact, his health was never very good; a carriage accident in 1829 disabled him and he turned to composing music as a form of relaxation, then a few years later he lost most of his sight.

He made a study of hymn tunes and in 1844 published a reprint of the Thomas Ravenscroft Whole Booke of Psalmes, which had been originally published in 1618. He followed this with Old Church Psalmody (1847), another collection of older tunes, many with his new arrangements. Later, he brought out A Hundred Psalm and Hymn Tunes (1859) which were all new compositions. A History of the Old Hundredth Psalm Tune appeared in 1854. He also wrote hymn texts in addition to other sacred compositions, and many of his sermons were published.

To praise our Shepherd's care,
That wisdom, love, and might,
Our loudest, loftiest songs prepare
And bid the world unite!

Supremely good and great,
Christ tends the earthly fold;
And stoops, though throned in highest state

The weary to uphold.

Kind Shepherd of the sheep,
A wandering flock are we,
And snares and foes are nigh; but keep
The lambs who look to thee.

And if through death's sad vale
Our feet should early tread,
Oh, may we reach thy fold, and hail
The love which has us led.

William Henry Havergal, 19th c.; alt.
Tune: SWABIA (S.M.)
Johann Speiss, 1745;
arr. William Henry Havergal, 1847

Most of his texts and tunes are little known today. SWABIA is still found in some modern hymnals, though I don't know that it's anyone's favorite tune (someone will no doubt show up now to tell me that it is); also surviving is EVAN, an original Havergal tune. William Henry is probably better known today as the father of another hymnwriter and composer, Frances Ridley Havergal.

The painting below, by an unknown artist, depicts St. Nicholas' church in Worcester, where Havergal was rector for eighteen years and was probably painted around the time he was there. However, the church was closed in 1990 and is now a pub/restaurant, part of the "Slug & Lettuce" chain (if you should ever find yourself in Worcester).

3 comments:

Dorothy said...

"EVAN" is in our hymnal (Blue Trinity Hymnal) but "SWABIA" is not.

I always feel a bit sad when you mention hymns or tunes that are lost or little known today. At least William Henry leaves us the legacy of his daughter, Frances Ridley Havergal, and her work.

Leland Bryant Ross said...

One William Havergal arrangement that you didn't mention, but that is still alive, is RATISBON, the default tune for Wesley's "Christ, Whose glory fills the skies". My lisr shows 7 occurrences of this pairing, versus 5 for the other four tunes (2 for LUX PRIMA, 1 ea. for DIX, SPANISH HYMN, and a © 1962 Josef Weinberger Ltd tune called CHRIST WHOSE GLORY) combined; CyberHymnal also shows it set to DAY-STAR, FRED TIL BOD, and MINISTRES DE L'√ČTERNEL, and Oremus adds HEATHLANDS. The only other text I show set to RATISBON is "We believe in one true God", and that only once. Still and all, Frances was surely his most memorable work.

Leland aka Haruo

C.W.S. said...

Oddly enough, we sang RATISBON today in church and I only then recalled that it was Havergal's arrangement / harmonization. Today's hymns were all generic "light" themed ones for Epiphany, and unfortunately a most appropriate one would have been one of those that's been nearly lost -- so it will be tomorrow's entry here.

I think I know what you mean about those "lost" hymns and tunes, Dorothy, but they're all still out there in old hymnbooks waiting to be rediscovered. That's been the most fun part of the research for this blog.