Sunday, November 6, 2016

William Tansu'ur

English composer William Tansu'ur was baptized on this day in 1706, entered into the parish records at Dunchurch as the son of laborer Edward Tanzer, when he was approximately six years old (his birthdate is unrecorded).

Since he was not born into the upper classes, or educated at famous schools, and did not compose music for public events or large urban churches, most of his life is fairly unrecorded also.  Apparently self-taught, he primarily wrote music for country churches, including an estimated two hundred hymn tunes, and some anthems and other choral music. He published several collections of hymn tunes, and his style became the predominant one in the eighteenth century, eventually replaced by the more "refined" church composers of the Victorian age.

His tunes are said to be very influential on early American church music, apparently known to composers such as William Billings and Daniel Read. However, only a fraction of them seem to have survived the nineteenth century, and practically the only one that still appears in modern hymnals is BANGOR.

We are not so limited here on the blog, and I like today's tune quite well, matched here with an Isaac Watts adaptation (not exactly a paraphrase) of Psalm 98, one of the psalms appointed for today in some lectionaries. It's entirely possible that this text and tune were actually sung together in the lifetimes of Tansu'ur and Watts, before particular hymn texts and tunes were firmly wedded to each other in printed hymnals.

To our almighty Maker, God,
New honors be addressed,
Whose great salvation shines abroad,
And makes the nations blessed.

God spake the word to Abraham first,
God's truth fulfills the grace;
And Sarah made God's name her trust,
And learned God's righteousness.

Let the whole earth God's love proclaim,
With all its different tongues,
And spread the honors of God's name
In melody and songs.

Isaac Watts, 1719; alt.
Tune: ST. ANDREW (C.M.)
William Tansu'ur, 1735

Six Years Ago: William Tansu'ur

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