Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More Voices Found: Charlotte Barnard

One hobby of mine is tracking down hymn texts and tunes (particularly the latter) written by women. For various cultural reasons, those creative efforts have rarely survived to the present day to a degree anywhere near those of their male counterparts. Church Publishing (an Episcopal outfit) published a collection of women's hymn tunes and texts in 2003 called Voices Found, but their emphasis, while partly historical, was more contemporary in scope.

So who didn't make it into Voices Found? One such woman is Charlotte Alington Barnard, who died on this day in 1869. While Barnard wrote some poetry, none has, to my knowledge, been used as a hymn. However, under the pseudonym of 'Claribel' she was a prolific composer of ballads and popular songs. One "standard" hymn tune written by her has come down to us called BROCKLESBURY (sometimes called, in error, BROCKLESBY - Brocklesbury was the name of a town near Dover where Barnard and her husband lived). It was published in several nineteenth-century hymnals but fared somewhat worse as the years went on. The Episcopalians still included it in the Hymnal 1940 but it was left out of the Hymnal 1982. Written for an meter, it's a perfectly serviceable tune that could sometimes be used in place of more ubiquitous tunes such as STUTTGART.

Try Barnard's tune to the following text:

Hear, O God, the prayer we offer,
Not for ease that prayer shall be,
But for strength, that we may ever
Live our lives courageously.

Not forever in green pastures
Do we ask our way to be,
But by steep and rugged pathways
Always strive to climb to thee.

Not forever by still waters
Would we, idly, quiet, stay;
But would smite the living fountains
From the rocks along our way.

Be our strength in hours of weakness,
In our wanderings be our guide;
Through endeavor, failure, danger,
Be thou ever at our side.

Love Maria Willis, c.1859; alt.
Charlotte A. Barnard, 1868

Yes, Love Maria Willis is another woman who didn't make it into Voices Found. Sometimes hymn texts by women are considered overly sentimental and 'weak,' but this one, I think, takes a practical, 'go for it' kind of attitude that deserves to be kept in the modern repertory of hymns. This text is the only one credited to Willis at the CyberHymnal, so maybe it's fitting to pair it with Charlotte Barnard's solitary hymn tune. There is another Barnard melody, which she wrote for a secular text, and which was later adapted for a gospel song by Howard B. Grose (who probably then named the tune BARNARD) in 1902. Are there others?

***UPDATE (6/9/08) - On May 28 I reported that I have found another hymn tune by Charlotte Barnard called PILGRIMAGE, which you can now hear thanks to commenter Leland Bryant Ross's creadion of a sound file.***

***UPDATE #2***  This hymn with words and music together is now posted to be shared on Facebook.  Go to "Conjubilant W. Song" and click on "Photos" then "Albums" -- it's in the Downloadable Hymns album.***

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Foundation Hymn

As I said last time, Sunday was our parish feast day (transferred) as well as our annual meeting. We did indeed sing the glorious conquest, as well as a newer (copyrighted) text by Gracia Grindal, A light from heaven shone around, with one of those odd-rhythmed "modern" tunes that makes the congregation prove they know a half note from a quarter note. Add Christ is made the sure foundation and Who are these like stars appearing (an all-time favorite) and it was a pretty good day. The fifth hymn (which we've used before) bears further examination.

Praise the Lord for our Foundation,
Praise God for our holy name;
Christ, our host and our salvation,
Yesterday, today, the same.
In his tender love he sought us
When we needed most his aid;
By the hands of all he brought us
To the home his love had made.

Praise God for religious guiding;
To the loyal founders sing,
For this stately home providing
Shelter 'neath her guiding wing.
Prosper, Lord, with heav'nly blessing
Lives of those who love her peace,
With Thy love their hearts possessing,
Make their number to increase.

Praise God for th'unbroken story
Linking present with the past,
Old world habit, civic glory,
Timeworn customs newly cast.
Praise God for our spacious dwelling,
Ringed with lawns and gardens fair,
Wind and storm and rain forthtelling
All God's Word in earth and air.

Friends, best with a loving spirit
Shall our grateful thanks be paid;
Lifting up with hearts forgiving
Holy prayer in gladness made.
Praise we now the God of heaven,
Christ our Savior and our host,
With the Lord of spirits seven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

I had never encountered this anywhere else, and something about it was nagging at me, so I pursued it online and found that it appears to be the alma mater song of Christ's Hospital, an English boarding school that dates back to the sixteenth century (the original version is here, about a third of the way down the page). The writer of the hymn, A.W. Upcott (1857-1922), was associated with the school, perhaps as headmaster, which means that this text would have been used (and published) during his lifetime and is therefore no longer under copyright in Great Britain or the US. Someone (I'd love to know who) has revised it to make it less specific to the school and useful as a hymn for a church anniversary or commemoration.

Most of it works. Certainly "guiding" shouldn't appear twice in the first half of verse two; the second one needs to be changed again (it was originally "kindly"). The first line of the last verse should rhyme with the third line, as it does in the other verses. The line that really nagged at me is in verse three ("Ringed with lawns and gardens fair"), as it sounds like bad Victoriana (which most of the rest really doesn't). The line was indeed changed from the original "Ringed with downs and woodlands fair," which I think is a better transition from the "spacious dwelling" to the world of Nature invoked in the last two lines of the verse, but still not useful. Besides, it's too specific; your church may well be "ringed" with something else entirely. So, not a bad revision overall, but it could be better.

The mysterious "Lord of spirits seven" appears in both versions, but it's not a theological concept I've encountered before. Bears more investigation.

I can't find anything online about the tune, called MIDDLETON, nor does it appear in the few hymnals I searched. It's a good, strong one, even if the last line is exactly the same as the last line of ZEUCH MICH, ZEUCH MICH (more noticeable becaue we sang both on the same day).

P.S. Of course, some of the current students of Christ's Hospital have no particular reverence toward Upcott's work and they have been soliciting
parody verses. (It's surely been going on since the verses were first introduced, but now it's on the internet for all to see.)

UPDATE: Thanks to commenters J.H. and D.E. (the Old Blues clearly monitor the internets for mentions of their alma mater) we have more information about Upcott and his hymn, including a midi file of the tune MIDDLETON (complete with fanfares galore - before, after, and between the verses!) by Wilkinson, who was director of music at the school at the same time Upcott was headmaster.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Conversion of Saint Paul

As our particular patronal feast, we will transfer it to Sunday, but it actually occurs today, the 25th. On Sunday we shall no doubt sing We sing the glorious conquest, so today let us be content with the Pauline verse from the smorgasbordal From all Thy saints in warfare (which has verses for everyone! - pick one for the day at hand).

Praise for the light from heaven, praise for the voice of awe,
Praise for the glorious vision the persecutor saw!
Thee, God, for his conversion, we glorify today;
So change our misconceptions with Thy true Spirit's ray.

Horatio Nelson, 1864; alt.

It's a simple meter, surprisingly (but nicely) linked to
EWING, the tune from the previous blog entry, but other tunes would work, such as WOODBIRD (Es flog ein kleins Waldvögelein), KING'S LYNN, or (if you must) AURELIA.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Opus One or, Embarking on a New Adventure

If you recognize the title of this blog, you’re in the right place. Or, you might sort of recognize the verse above from which it’s taken. It’s the second verse of Jerusalem the golden, a very proper Victorian hymn generally paired with an extremely Victorian hymn tune (EWING).

They stand, those halls of Zion,
Conjubilant with song,
And bright with many an angel
And all the martyr throng...

I don’t remember when I first encountered this hymn but I always loved that word. Conjubilant! Some hymnals (even the online one I linked to!) render the phrase “All jubilant with song,” no doubt in an effort to keep the congregation from stumbling over an unfamiliar word, but diminishing the sumptuous text in the process. Hymnal editors and their notions! (I can say that as someone who’s done a fair amount of that work myself). Microsoft Word’s spellcheck doesn’t recognize it either, but Bill Gates is no Victorian.

It was
John Mason Neale who came up with that word in that particular place when he translated a large portion of De contemptu mundi by Bernard of Cluny. Bernard wrote a poem of nearly three thousand lines, “a satirical arraignment of the twelfth century for its vices in Church and society.” Parts of the work, however, proclaimed the beauty of the heavenly Jerusalem, and those parts made up Neale’s Rhythm of Bernard de Morlaix, Monk of Cluny, in the Celestial Country, published in 1858. In addition to Jerusalem the golden, Neale also cut-and-pasted together at least three more hymns from his translated Rhythm:

Brief life is here our portion
For thee, O dear, dear country
The world is very evil (not much in use these days, as you might imagine)

The more I look into this, the more interesting it looks. So maybe you’ll be hearing more about the Celestial Country. I’ve been told that Jerusalem the golden is not particularly relevant or useful to a modern congregation: the tune’s “unsingable” (I don’t think so, though admittedly, it's not
ELLACOMBE) and the text is overly archaic (OK, maybe). Maybe there’s another hymn waiting to be excavated from Bernard’s opus that would be more useful in these times.

I’m a singer. Not a Singer! (as in pro) Hymns were probably the first things I sang, and my interest in them has only grown over the years. Moved on to choral music through church choirs and other singing and theater societies, even a little opera chorus work. It’s all singing, and it’s all a deep, deep part of who I am and what I do in my spare time. Lately I decided that I wanted to put down some of my thoughts about it all, and here we are. More to follow!