Sunday, April 26, 2009
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel
Into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke
Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot
Through the Red Sea waters.
’Tis the spring of souls today;
Christ has burst the prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death
As a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins,
Long and cold, is flying
From thy light, to whom we give
Laud and praise undying.
Now the queen of seasons, bright
With the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts,
Comes its joy to render;
Comes to glad Jerusalem,
Who with true affection
Welcomes in unwearied strains
Neither might the gates of death,
Nor the tomb’s cold portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal
Hold thee as a mortal;
But today amidst thine own,
Thou didst stand, bestowing
That, thy peace which evermore
Passeth human knowing.
John of Damascus, 6th c.
tr. John Mason Neale, 1859; alt.
Tune: ST. KEVIN (126.96.36.199.D.)
Arthur Sullivan, 1872
There are several different versions of this hymn out there, depending on which hymnal you use. I grew up knowing only three verses; some denominations replaced the last four lines of the first verse with the last four lines of the third verse, thus leaving out the Exodus connection (maybe someone thought it would be confusing) and the "queen of seasons" lines. Some hymnals add a fifth, Trinitarian verse, apparently written by the editors of Hymns Ancient and Modern. The hymnal where I think this tune first appeared with this text, Church Hymns With Tunes (1874), omitted the fourth verse seen above. There are probably other permutations, and definitely many other word or phrase changes that have been made by different editors over the years.
Compare this translation into rhyming verse by John Mason Neale to another English translation (into prose) of the same Greek text by John of Damascus.
All peoples let us sing a song of victory to him who rescued Israel from the bitter slavery of Pharao, and guided them dryshod in the depths of the sea, for he has been glorified.
To-day is the spring of souls, for Christ, shining from the tomb like the sun, has dispelled the foggy winter of our sin. Let us sing to him, for he has been glorified.
The queen of seasons, filled with light, as escort to the brilliant queen of days, delights the chosen people of the Church, which unceasingly praises the risen Christ.
Neither death’s gates, O Christ, nor the seals of the tomb, nor the bolts of the doors stood in your way; but having risen you came to your friends, O Master, giving them the peace which passes all understanding.
Its all there.
Some sources say that the "queen of seasons" is the Eastertide season of the church year, which is probably correct, but others believe that it refers to spring, of the four we usually think of as "seasons." Since Easter can never fall earlier than March 22, Eastertide always happens during spring anyway.
This tune, ST. KEVIN, was probably the most widely used one for its first hundred years or so. It's the kind of tune that congregations tend to know and sing well, but that church musicians often disdain. I don't believe we've sung it at my current church since I've.been there, though the choir sings the text as an anthem during the Easter Vigil with music by a different composer. Since Arthur Sullivan's birthday is coming up in a few weeks, we'll talk about his affinity for Easter tunes at that time (it will still be within the queen of seasons -- either way you define her).
Saturday, April 25, 2009
We praise your grace, O Savior
Enduring with us long,
And ever out of weakness,
Your servants making strong.
The saint who led his comrades
And turned back from the fight,
Behold at last victorious
In your prevailing might!
From you, Lord, came the courage,
Once more to face the host;
Your strength, most mighty Savior,
In weakness shines the most.
Your love Saint Mark has numbered
Among the blessed Four,
And all the world rejoices
To learn his Gospel lore.
O Jesus, glorious Victor,
O'er all the hosts of sin,
In us your strength make perfect,
In us the victory win.
William Walsham How, 1871; alt.
Tune: VULPIUS (188.8.131.52.)
Melchior Vulpius, 1609
As I wrote last year, Mark is believed to have been the man who ran away when Jesus was arrested (one reason he may be considered "weak"). He was then "made strong" by his later accomplishments: the gospel account, his evangelism, and his eventual martyrdom.
It's interesting that both this hymn and Adin Ballou's hymn from Thursday refer to the same night in Gethsemane. While Mark's running away is generally seen as "weak" (requiring later vindication), I wonder if Ballou would have considered it "non-resistant" (and therefore commendable).
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Still more "conversions" followed; he formed a denomination called the Massachusetts Association of Universal Restorationists in 1831, the same year he was dismissed from his Unitarian pulpit in Milford, MA. In 1838 he declared himself a follower of Christian Non-Resistance (what we might call pacifism), and shortly thereafter published a pamphlet called Standard of Practical Christianity. Believing that for Christians to make their beliefs into reality, they had to refashion society, he founded a utopian community named Hopedale on a farm outside Milford. He and his followers embraced his causes of Non-Resistance and Practical Christianity, as well as abolitionism, temperance, and women's rights.
Now we get to the hymn part. The Hopedale Collection of Hymns and Songs, for the Use of Practical Christians, compiled by Ballou and including several hymns written by him, was published in 1850. The hymnal contained many established psalm paraphrases and older texts by Watts, Wesley, and others. Perhaps in accordance with Ballou's support for women's rights, there is a good proportion of texts by women; established writers such as Anne Steele and Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and some who were members of the Hopedale community, such as Abby Price and Mary Colburn.
The new texts by Ballou and his followers were largely instructional, meant to reinforce the beliefs of the community. The hymnal contains the usual sort of sections, such as "Devotional," "Jesus Christ," and "Joy, Gratitude, Praise," but also sections for hymns of "Temperance," "Anti-Slavery," and "Christian Non-Resistance."
For example, these abolitionist verses of Ballou's:
Shall kidnapped Afric's race,
In Southern bondage held,
Forever plead their deep distress
And coldly be repelled?
O Lord, in thunder tones,
Rebuke these giant crimes;
Behold the victims, hear their groans,
And rescue them betimes.
The challenges of living in community were (perhaps) addressed in another hymn, which began:
My fleshly lusts I hate,
And all their works detest;
Yet strangely on their mandate wait,
And do their vile behest.
The citizens of Hopedale were longing for a better world, seen in Ballou's Years are coming, speed them onward (perhaps his only hymn to survive into the twentieth century). A more specific goal than world peace was expressed in these verses from another hymn:
Not individual souls alone
Require the new and heavenly birth,
Society, in sin up-grown,
Needs Christianizing o'er the earth.
The principles, by Jesus taught
Must be impartially applied,
And social institutions brought,
With laws divine to coincide.
While interesting in their historical and social context, none of these hymns is likely to be sung anywhere today. This following one of Ballou's perhaps comes closest for a modern congregation, though I think it might need a different first verse and the "non-resistant" jargon seems a bit clumsy today.
Forbear that treacherous sword!
Its deadly blade restrain;
For they that trust its base support
Shall perish with the slain.
Thus Jesus promptly stayed
Impetuous Peter's arm,
And though to murderous foes betrayed,
Forbade to do them harm.
Obedient to his voice
The first disciples proved --
And bore their non-resistant cross,
By scorn and wrath unmoved.
And let the faithful still
Revere its high command,
Returning only good for ill
With ever generous hand.
Adin Ballou, 1850
Tune: BOYLSTON (S.M.)
Lowell Mason, 1832
I think Lowell Mason's BOYLSTON is the kind of tune that would have been known and sung by the people of Hopedale. Ballou clearly believed in the "powerful engine" of hymn singing (as Tuesday's Reginald Heber called it). Tuesday nights in Hopedale were devoted to community singing because Ballou felt that they needed more opportunities than Sunday worship to express their faith through song. He published another hymnal in 1856, Communal Songs and Hymns.
Like most other utopian communities, Hopedale had a fairly brief life, lasting only until 1856. It continued as a church, Hopedale Parish, in 1867 was admitted to the Unitarian denomination, and still is open today. Adin Ballou remained as the minister until his retirement in 1880.
Today, an organization of Friends of Adin Ballou continues to espouse his belief in a future of peace and cooperation.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
He then spent sixteen years as rector of Hodnet, a village in Shropshire, and it was during this period that he wrote nearly all of his hymns, some of which were published in church periodicals. Hymns were not yet a regular part of Anglican worship, but Heber knew how popular they were among Methodists and other Dissenting congregations.
He began to assemble a collection of new hymns, written both by himself and by friends of his, such as Henry Hart Milman. Two Church of England bishops were approached for permission to publish a hymnal with suggested hymns for each Sunday of the church year. Heber wrote of the "powerful engine" that hymn singing was becoming in other denominations, and that it might be better to regulate, through ecclesiastical approval, the content of hymns rather than to try to suppress them altogether. Approval was denied.
In 1823 Heber was appointed Bishop of Calcutta. He had turned down the appointment twice before but finally consented. He traveled extensively throughout his domain (which at the time included all of India, Ceylon, and Australia) and was acclaimed for his hard work. However, he died suddenly in India in 1826, following a service where he confirmed forty-two people.
After his death, his wife Amelia finally received the necessary permission to publish the hymnal he had worked on years before. Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year (1827) contained all fifty-seven of Heber's hymns, including this one, which is still sung today.
Bread of the world, in mercy broken,
Wine of the soul, in mercy shed,
By whom the words of life were spoken,
And in whose death our sins are dead.
Look on the heart by sorrow broken,
Look on the tears by sinners shed;
And be thy feast to us the token,
That by thy grace our souls are fed.
Reginald Heber, 1827
Tune: EUCHARISTIC HYMN (184.108.40.206.)
John S. B. Hodges, 1868
John Sebastian Bach Hodges (yes, his father was a composer) was born in England but lived in the US for many years. He attended Columbia University and the General Theological Seminary, and was ordained in the Episcopal Church, serving congregations for many years. Given that name he was perhaps destined to have at least some musical interests, and he did write some hymn tunes and helped compile more than one hymnal.
P.S. The kneeling statue of Reginald Heber by sculptor Francis Chantrey is in St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Chantrey also erected a statue of Heber in Calcutta.
One Year Ago: Saint Anselm
Sunday, April 19, 2009
She displayed musical talent from an early age and composed songs under the direction of a teacher who was also the organist at the village church in Harlow, where the Flower girls grew up. In 1831 her first published composition appeared: Fourteen Musical Illustrations of the Waverley Novels (of Sir Walter Scott).
Eliza and Sarah had became the wards of the Unitarian minister William Johnson Fox following the deaths of their parents. They sang in the choir at Fox's South Place Chapel, and when Fox planned a hymnal for his congregation, both girls made contributions to it. Eliza, in fact, became the musical editor of the book, Hymns and Anthems, writing sixty-three original tunes (out of the 150 hymns) and arranging some of the others. Sarah's hymn Nearer, my God, to thee, appeared here, with a tune by Eliza. Sadly, the only edition of this hymnal that is available online does not include the tunes. I am continuing the search.
So what happened to all of those tunes? The Church of England Quarterly Review, in 1842, pronounced Eliza's work in Fox's hymnal to "exhibit genius of the highest order," "finely harmonized, and vividly depict(ing) the feeling of the words." Another (unnamed ) critic says that, "in musical composition, (she) attained a higher rank than, before her time, had been reached by any of her sex." Were the tunes simply too out of fashion for later generations?
I have only found one of them which appeared in the Bristol Tune Book (1891), though it's not quite a hymn -- more of a national song: Now pray we for our country (scroll down to the bottom of the page). It's also possible that the five tunes in Christopher Wordsworth's hymnal The Holy Year (1864) credited to "E.F." were Eliza's, but that was nearly 20 years after her death. The only tenuous connection I have found is that the Flower sisters were friends of Wordsworth's more famous cousin, the poet William Wordsworth.
One possible explanation for the disuse of Flower's hymn tunes stems from her personal life. In 1835, following the marriage of Sarah, Eliza returned to William Fox's house, reportedly to manage his household. But Fox also separated from his wife around this time, and Flower continued to live with Fox and his children until her death in 1846 (of consumption). In A Historical Dictionary of British Women (2003), we read that "although their relationship was platonic, the connection brought a degree of social ostracism upon her." It seems that that disapproval (the situation was widely known and appears in a number of contemporary accounts) might have kept hymnal editors from considering her tunes.
One Year Ago: Anna Laetitia Waring
Thursday, April 16, 2009
She learned to play the piano as a child and always sang in the choir of the Methodist church her family attended. She married Charles Morris in 1881, and she with her husband continued to be active Methodists in the community. For many years she was the organist at the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church.
At the age of thirty, she attended a camp meeting in Maryland associated with the Holiness Movement, where, as she later recounted, "I opened my heart and let the Holy Spirit come in." After this, she felt that she had been given a gift to share, and she began writing gospel songs, both the words and the music. The choir director at Trinity Church encouraged her to meet with H. L. Gilmour, who was an established songwriter and publisher, and Gilmour helped Morris to get her earliest songs published.
She soon became quite successful, with her songs appearing in many hymnals (always credited during her lifetime as "Mrs. C.H. Morris"). She apparently wrote at least one thousand songs and hymns, though some estimates go even higher.
O magnify the Lord with me,
Sing praise with one glad voice.
Let all to whom God lendeth breath
In God's great Name rejoice.
For love’s blest revelation,
For rest from condemnation,
For uttermost salvation,
To God give thanks.
Let all the people praise thee.
Let all the people praise thee,
Let all the people praise thy Name
Forever and forevermore.
Praise God for blessed holiness,
For wisdom, and for grace;
Sing praises for the precious blood
Which saved the human race.
In tenderness God sought us;
From depths of woe God brought us;
The way of life God taught us.
To God give thanks.
Had I a thousand tongues to sing,
The half could ne’er be told
Of love so rich, so full and free,
Of blessings manifold;
Of grace that faileth never,
Peace flowing as a river
From God, the glorious Giver.
To God give thanks.
Lelia Naylor Morris, 1906; alt.
Tune: PRAISE FOREVER (220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168. with refrain)
When Morris began to lose her sight at the age of 51, her son Will constructed a twenty-eight foot wide blackboard with musical staves so that she could continue her songwriting. Later, after she became completely blind, she dictated her compositions to her daughter Fanny, with whom she lived during the last year of her life.
There is now a historical marker honoring her outside the Methodist church in McConnelsville. In 1953, a brief biography of Morris was published, Singing At Her Work by Mary Ethel Weiss. Several of her gospel songs are still sung today.
P.S. This entry is a day late because I apparently made a typo in my notes and entered Morris's birthday on the 16th instead of the 15th.
One Year Ago: Ada Rose Gibbs
Sunday, April 12, 2009
This hymn is a pretty rousing one to close the Easter service, but I don't get to do it any more.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Risen our victorious Head!
Sing our praises! Alleluia!
Christ is risen from the dead!
Gratefully our hearts adore you,
As your light once more appears,
Bowing down in joy before you,
Rising up from grief and tears,
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Risen our victorious Head!
Sing our praises! Alleluia!
Christ is risen from the dead!
Christ is risen! all the sadness
Of our Lenten fast is o’er,
Through the open gates of gladness
You return to life once more;
Death and hell before you bending,
See, you rise, the Victor now,
Angels on your steps attending,
Glory round your wounded brow.
Christ is risen! all the sorrow
That last evening round you lay,
Now has found a glorious morrow
In the rising of today;
See the grave, its first-fruits giving,
Springing up from holy ground,
You were dead, but now are living,
You were lost, but now are found.
Christ is risen! henceforth never
Death or hell shall us enthrall;
Be we Christ’s, in whom forever
We have triumphed over all;
All the doubting and dejection
Of our trembling hearts have ceased,
Hail the day of resurrection!
Let us rise and keep the feast.
John Samuel Bewley Monsell, 1863; alt.
Tune: MORGENLIED (22.214.171.124.D with refrain)
Frederick C. Maker, 1876
John Samuel Bewley Monsell was born in Ireland but beame a priest in the Church of England. For some reason, this hymn never really made it into Anglican or Episcopal hymnals, though it was in some Church of Ireland collections. Later, the Lutherans took it up for some reason.
I'm off to take a nap.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
The last day of Lent is finally here and we know the celebration of Easter is at hand. Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, is a day of preparation, but it only lasts until dusk. After sundown, in the Anglican, Catholic, and increasingly, Lutheran traditions, the liturgy of the Great Vigil of Easter is celebrated. The prescribed lessons for this service recount the great stories from the Old Testament of God's promises, including the Creation, Noah and the ark, and the parting of the Red Sea.
Traditionally, the service may include baptisms and reception of new members, proceeds to the proclamation of the resurrection and ends with the celebration of the first Easter Eucharist. The day begins somberly, recalling the events of Good Friday, but ends in joy.
All the sacrifice is ended,
Breathed his body’s latest breath,
And his human soul hath wended
Where the weary rest beneath;
Christ's own body comprehended
All the human law of death!
Yet not there his soul remaineth
Nor his body in the tomb:
Lo! what sudden glory gaineth
Quick dominion o’er the gloom!
Yea, o’er death and hell he reigneth
Bursting back the gates of doom!
Manifold the attestation
Comrades tell the marvel o’er,
And the soldiers from their station,
And the angels at the door,
And his own Word’s revelation,
“Lo! I live for evermore.”
Hail, thou morn of resurrection,
Primal holy Easter Day!
Now the hours of deep dejection
’Neath the night-clouds’ bleak array,
Foes’ reviling, friends’ defection,
In thy glory pass away!
Savior! in our night of weeping
Tell us of the joyful morn,
Guard our souls, their vigil keeping
In the hours of hate and scorn
Raise us falling, wake us sleeping,
Till our Easter day be born.
Samuel J. Stone, 1866
Tune: ORIEL (126.96.36.199.8.7.)
Caspar Ett, 1840
Revisiting an earlier hymn presented here, I've come to recognize that O'er the shoreless waste of waters was probably intended for the Easter Vigil. Bishop How's original last verse for this baptism hymn connected the resurrection with the promises of the Old Testament. (I think my revision still works for the rest of the year.)
P.S. The painting above, The Angel is Opening Christ's Tomb, is by 17th century Dutch artist Benjamin Gerritsz Cuyp.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Outside a city wall,
Where Jesus Christ was crucified,
Who died to save us all.
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains you had to bear;
But we believe it was for us
You hung and suffered there.
You died that we might be forgiv’n,
You died to make us good,
That we might go at last to heav’n,
Saved by your precious blood.
There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
You only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.
O dearly, dearly you have loved,
And we must love you, too,
And trust in your redeeming blood,
And try your works to do.
Cecil Frances Alexander, 1847; alt.
Tune: HORSLEY (C.M.)
William Horsley, 1844
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Today's hymn recalls the Last Supper, on the night we now observe as Maundy Thursday. It appeared in several nineteenth-century hymnals, but is less known today.
DUNDEE is another familiar tune, one of twelve common meter tunes in the Scottish Psalter published by Andro Hart in 1615 (where it was called FRENCH TUNE). It was first used with several psalm paraphrases and over the years many other texts have been sung to it (including some we would think of as mismatches today, such as O God, our help in ages past).
One Year Ago:Maundy Thursday
Sunday, April 5, 2009
There are many different traditions in various Christian denominations, but a procession of some kind with palm branches is often included, and many churches encourage their youngest members to participate. This hymn first appeared in a collection of poems primarily for children, Sunshine and Shadow (1873) by Jennette Threlfall, but it has entered many hymnals for general use (often with a combination of the second and third verses, with some lines left out).
Hosanna, loud hosanna,
The little children sang;
Through pillared court and temple
The lovely anthem rang --
To Jesus, who had blessed them
Close folded to his breast,
The children sang their praises,
The simplest and the best.
From Olivet they followed
'Mid an exultant crowd,
The victor palm branch waving,
And chanting clear and loud.
Bright angels joined the chorus
Beyond the cloudless sky,
"Hosanna in the highest!
Glory to God on high!"
Fair leaves of silvery olive
They strewed upon the ground,
While Salem's circling mountains
Sent back the joyful sound.
The Savior of the nations
Rode on in lowly state,
Nor scorned that little children
Should on his bidding wait.
“Hosanna in the highest!”
That ancient song we sing,
For thou art our Redeemer,
To thee our thanks we bring.
O may we ever praise thee
With heart and life and voice,
And in thy blissful presence
Jennette Threlfall, 1872; alt.
Tune: ELLACOMBE (C.M.D.)
Württemberg Gesangbuch, 1774;
adapt. William H. Monk, 1868
ELLACOMBE is one of those tunes everyone seems to know and that congregations sing well. I've managed to hold off from using it for more than a year because it's not a favorite of mine (three of its four lines are practically identical), but I can't deny that it works.
One Year Ago: Palm Sunday
Friday, April 3, 2009
If you're at all involved in church music, you probably know what I'm talking about -- Holy Week is coming!
Nearly every Christian church probably adds at least one service to the upcoming week, and some seem to add as many as possible. Palm Sunday is followed by Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday (or the Great Vigil of Easter) and then Easter Sunday itself. It's a busy time, but it can also be a meaningful and mysterious one. Church musicians (and, ok, the clergy too) spend a lot of time in preparation before they even get to the added time commitment and pressure of the next several days.
In my own church, we will have two Palm Sunday services (up from one), services on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and three on Sunday (including sung compline at 9:00 pm). Could be worse; for a few years we did compline on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday too. The music always encompasses a wide emotional spectrum, and a broad musical range as well.
In preparation for the rigors of Holy Week (which we sometimes complain about but wouldn't miss for anything) here is a little hymn for serenity.
’Mid all the traffic of the ways,
Turmoils without, within,
Make in my heart a quiet place,
And come and dwell therein.
A little shrine of quietness,
All sacred to thyself,
Where thou shalt all my soul possess,
And I may find myself.
A little shelter from life’s stress,
Where I may pray alone,
And bare my soul in peacefulness,
And know as I am known.
A little place of mystic grace,
Of self and sin swept bare,
Where I may look into thy face,
And talk with thee in prayer.
John Oxenham, 1917; alt.
Tune: ST. AGNES (C.M.)
John Bacchus Dykes, 1866
John Oxenham was the pen-name of English writer William Dunkerley. He was a journalist who also published several novels and collections of poetry, and some of his poems have become good hymns.