Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Charles Villiers Stanford

Composer Charles Villiers Stanford was born on September 30, 1852 in Ireland, but spent most of his life and career in England. He composed a wide variety of pieces: seven symphonies, multiple concertos and chamber works, ten operas, and, of course, much sacred choral music and several hymn tunes (list of works and longer biography at the link above).

He was also an acclaimed organist, conducted several choral groups and festivals, and was named the first professor of composition at the Royal College of Music in 1883. Later, he also taught at Cambridge University. His students included most of the prominent English composers of the next generation: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, John Ireland, Charles Wood, and Herbert Howells.

Though Stanford wrote several hymn tunes, only one of them is still in wide use today.
ENGELBERG was written in 1904 to be sung with For all the saints, but Ralph Vaughan Williams' tune SINE NOMINE, written only two years later, has become the standard tune for that hymn. Stanford's original version of the tune was much more elaborate than we know it today; each verse had different harmony and not all the verses were sung in unison.

The text most commonly sung today with ENGELBERG is by Fred Pratt Green, and is still under copyright. However, you can see and hear When in our music God is glorified at the Oremus Hymnal site, where they have permission to reproduce it.

Some of Stanford's other hymn tunes can be heard at the Cyber Hymnal site, since they are unlikely to be sung in your church. The one I was most curious to hear is called GERONIMO, and I would also like to know how that name came to be matched with the tune. Though it may just be that Stanford thought it was a properly "exotic" one for early 20th-century England.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Saint Michael and All Angels

September 29 is the feast day of Saint Michael and All Angels. The story of the war in heaven, where St. Michael kills a dragon, is told in Revelation 12:7-12. The Archangel Michael is leader of God's angelic army, also appearing in the Old Testament in the Books of Daniel and Joshua (though he is unnamed there). Much of the other information about him is found in the apocryphal Book of Enoch.

However, the feast day encompasses all angels, the few others that have names and the legions of angels who are not named. Michael's compatriots Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel have come down to us in scripture and other works, from Haydn's The Creation, where they narrate and comment on the six days of creation, to a number of hymns.

The unnamed angels are probably the ones we think of first, though, and they also frequently appear in hymns. and Christmas carols.

Around the throne of God a band
Of bright and glorious angels stand;
Sweet harps within their hands they hold,
And on their heads are crowns of gold.

Some wait in service, ready still
To sing God's praise and do God's will,
And some, when God commands them, go
To guard the pilgrims here below.

God, give thine angels every day
Command to guard us on our way,
And bid them every evening keep
Their watch around us while we sleep.

So shall no threatening thing draw near
To do us harm or cause us fear;
And we shall dwell, when life is past,
With angels round thy throne at last.

John Mason Neale, 1842; alt.
Musikalisches Handbuch, 1690; harm. William H. Monk, 1847

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Watching and Waiting

Today's hymn is perhaps the most familiar and popular ever written by two women. Though Fanny Crosby has been mentioned here before, this is the first of her gospel songs that I've featured. It's kind of unlikely that we will ever get through all of them because it's reported that she wrote more than 5000. Many of them were published under pseudonyms because her publishers didn't want their hymnals to appear to be overly dominated by her texts. Her collaborator here, Phoebe Knapp, may have written as many as 500 tunes and songs, though her other tunes are generally more obscure than many of Fanny's other texts.

The two women were good friends, both members of the John Street Methodist Church in New York City. The story goes that Phoebe wrote the melody first and played it for Fanny, asking "what does this song say?" Fanny immediately replied "Why, that says 'Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!'" and the rest of the text quickly followed.

Blessèd assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of your Spirit, washed in your blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with your goodness, lost in your love.

Fanny Crosby, 1873; alt.
Tune: ASSURANCE (Irregular with refrain)
Phoebe Palmer Knapp, 1873

This song was immediately popular and probably appears in hundreds of hymnals published in the last 135 years. A wax cylinder recording of the song (pictured above) was released in 1909 by the Edison Phonograph Company and can now be heard online.

Phoebe Knapp's husband was one of the founders of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. She went on a trip to Europe in 1883 and when she returned, she found that he had built an addition on their Brooklyn mansion that included a lavish music room for her (pictured below), with a three-manual pipe organ. Phoebe and Fanny probably spent a good deal of time in this room, writing and singing together. Following her husband's death, Phoebe moved to the Savoy Hotel in Manhattan, bringing the organ along.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

But Naming Only Thee

I've talked about evening hymns before (since my church does evening worship regularly) but not about morning hymns. They're probably more useful because nearly every church has some kind of morning worship. Usually, (in my experience) a hymn about the morning will be the opening one in the service. There are quite a few of them out there; I'm not sure that anyone is really looking for more, but this is one that I've liked for a long time.

Bring, O morn, thy music! Night, thy starlit silence!
Oceans, laugh the rapture to the storm winds coursing free!
Suns and planets chorus, thou art our Creator,
Who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be!

Life and death, thy creatures, praise thee, mighty Giver!
Praise and prayer are rising in thy beast and bird and tree:
Lo! they praise and vanish, vanish at thy bidding,
Who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be!

Light us! lead us! love us! cry thy myriad nations,
Pleading in the thousand tongues, but naming only thee,
Weaving ever out thy holy, happy purpose,
Who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be!

Life nor death can part us, O thou Love eternal,
Shepherd of the wandering star and souls that wayward flee!
Homeward draws the spirit to thy Spirit yearning,
Who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be!

William Channing Gannett, 1893; alt.
Tune: NICAEA (
John Bacchus Dykes, 1861

William Channing Gannett was a nineteenth-century Unitarian minister who served in many different places, including Rochester, NY, where Susan B. Anthony was one of his congregants. Together they helped raise money to send women to the University of Rochester, only a small part of Gannett's work in support of women's rights. Before his ordination he had spent four years helping freed African-American slaves in South Carolina.

The prolific Victorian composer John Bacchus Dykes wrote this very familiar tune for the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, usually sung to an equally well-known text.

Monday, September 22, 2008

More Voices Found: Emma Ashford

Composer Emma Louise Ashford died on this day in 1930. Generally I commemorate birthdays here, but hers (March 27, 1850) is shared with a few other hymnists, and I didn't want to wait until March to write about her anyway.

Emma sang and played musical instruments from a very young age, including a solo at a charity concert at age three. She was a teenage organist at an Episcopal church in Connecticut where
Dudley Buck was the director of music; later, after her marriage, she and her husband moved to Chicago where she was an alto soloist at the church where Buck was then employed. By now she had also begun her composing career.

Her husband took a position at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where she was to live the rest of her life. She traveled often to conduct and perform her works. She was very active in the musical life of Vanderbilt, and a small collection of her papers is maintained there.

She was invited to submit hymn tunes to the Methodist Hymnal of 1905, and two of her tunes were published there, one of which we'll hear today.

Life of ages, richly poured,
Love of God, unspent and free,
Flowing in the prophet’s word,
And the people’s liberty.

Never was to chosen race
That unfailing tide confined;
Thine is every time and place,
Fountain sweet of heart and mind.

Breathing in the thinker’s creed,
Pulsing in the hero’s blood,
Nerving noblest thought and deed,
Fresh’ning time with truth and good.

Consecrating art and song,
Holy book and pilgrim way,
Quelling strife and tyrant wrong,
Widening freedom’s sacred sway.

Life of ages, richly poured,
Love of God, unspent and free,
Flowing in the prophet’s word,
And the people’s liberty.

Samuel Johnson, 1864; alt.
Tune: EVELYN (
Emma L. Ashford, 1905

Samuel Johnson, co-editor of the Unitarian Hymns of the Spirit (1864) with his lifelong friend Samuel Longfellow, has a birthday coming up in a few weeks so we will talk more about him then.

Emma Ashford eventually composed over 600 pieces, for instruments, organ, and voice, including anthems, cantatas, and song cycles. One of her art songs can be seen online at the Sibley Library collection.

Near the end of her life, her Vanderbilt Ode was performed by the Nashville Symplony with a large chorus. On that occasion, the chancellor of the university predicted that Vanderbilt men and women would remember her and her music for a long time. I hope that's still true, and also that some of her other music can become more widely known.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saint Matthew

Today many churches observe the feast day of Saint Matthew, another of the twelve apostles and author of the Gospel that appears first in the New Testament. Modern scholarship now holds that the Gospel writer might possibly be some other Matthew instead (the things I find in doing a little research!) but since I already had this hymn picked out I am going to go with the tradition that there is only one.

In that first Gospel, Matthew is described as a tax collector who left his position to follow Jesus. His profession would have made him an outcast at the time, like many others who joined Jesus and his followers. He is traditionally depicted, as in this window, with a winged man, the third of the four living creatures named in Revelation 4 (the other three Evangelists have creatures of their own).

We've seen part of the following hymn before, on the feast day of Saint Mark. The first two verses speak of the four Gospel writers (and the four living creatures); the third verse is unique to each. Today we have a different, but familiar, tune.

Come sing, ye choirs exultant,
Those messengers of God,
Through whom the living Gospels
Came sounding all abroad!
In one harmonious witness
The chosen four combine,
While each his own commission
Fulfills in ev'ry line.

As, in the prophet's vision,
From out the amber flame
In form of visage diverse
Four living creatures came;
Lo, these the fourfold river
Of paradise above,
Whence flow for all earth's people
New mysteries of love.

O Christ, in Matthew's Gospel
Thy godhood was declared,
He, worldly gains forsaking,
Thy path of suff'ring shared.
From all unrighteous mammon,
O give us hearts set free,
That we, whate'er our calling,
May rise and follow thee.

Adam of St. Victor, c.1170;
tr. Jackson Mason, 1889; alt. (v 1 & 2)
Horatio Bolton Nelson, 1864; alt. (v.3)
Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864

"Mammon" is a rather archaic word, and I considered changing it to something like "riches." But it is biblical, and it calls attention to itself because it's unique. It speaks of greed and unethical passion for wealth. In light of the economic news that has everyone a bit on edge this week, how appropriate that the saint of the day is a man who left behind his position in the financial system of his time to follow a different path.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Therefore Give Us Love

Recently we've seen some psalm paraphrases, the poetry that much of our familiar hymnody is based on. Other parts of scripture were often turned into verse in order to be sung, such as this hymn which comes from the well-known 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.

Love is kind, and suffers long,
Love is meek, and thinks no wrong,
Love than death itself more strong;
Therefore, give us love.

Prophecy will fade away,
Melting in the light of day,
Love will always with us stay;
Therefore, give us love.

Faith will vanish into sight;
Hope be emptied in delight;
Love in heav'n will shine more bright;
Therefore, give us love.

Faith and hope and love we see
Joining hand in hand agree;
But the greatest of the three,
And the best, is love.

Christopher Wordsworth, 1862
Clement C. Scholefield, 1874

These verses are from a longer Pentecost hymn in eight verses by Christopher Wordsworth, but some hymnals give these four verses alone (the others do not all derive from the Corinthians passage). Simple and to the point.

Clement Cotterill Scholefield was a clergyman who wrote a few hymn tunes, most of which were included in Church Hymns With Tunes (1874), which was edited by his friend Arthur Sullivan.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Horatio W. Parker

Horatio William Parker (born September 15, 1863) was a church musician, composer, conductor, and college professor well known in his own time. But like many others I've written about, his fame has not lasted into the present. He spent three years of his musical education in Munich, studying with Josef Rheinberger. He became organist at Trinity Church, Boston in 1893, around the time be was working on a new musical edition of the 1892 Episcopal hymnal (there were eventually to be five different versions with the same hymns, but often different tunes). He later served on the committee that produced the Hymnal of 1916.

He composed chamber and symphonic works , as well as service music, anthems, oratorios and operas. The Easter anthem Light's glittering morn is still sung in many churches. Parker's Mona was the winner of a competition sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera, for which he received $10,000 and the work received four performances. The oratorio Hora Novissima was widely performed in the US and even occasionally in Europe (where they tended to look down on American classical music).

In his later years, until his death in 1919, he was dean of the music department at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, while still holding an organist position in New York City. His most famous Yale pupils were Charles Ives and Roger Sessions, who rejected Parker's conservatism in their own compositions.

This hymn (with its Parker tune and seventeenth-century text) is not really one that anyone would choose to put into a modern-day hymnal. Maybe next year we will hear one of his more serviceable tunes (he wrote more than a dozen), but this (one of his earliest) is a sentimental favorite of mine.

O ’twas a joyful sound to hear
Our tribes devoutly say,
Up, Israel! to the temple haste,
And keep your festal day.
At Salem’s courts we must appear,
With our assembled powers,
In calm and beauteous order ranged,
Like her united towers.

O ever pray for Salem’s peace;
For they shall prosperous be,
Thou holy city of our God,
Who bear true love to thee.
May peace within thy sacred walls
A constant guest be found;
With plenty and prosperity
Thy palaces be crowned.

For my dear kindred’s sake, and friends
No less than kindred dear,
I’ll pray: May peace in Salem’s towers
A constant guest appear.
But most of all I’ll seek thy good,
And ever wish thee well,
For Zion and the temple’s sake,
Where God vouchsafes to dwell.

Nahum Tate & Nicholas Brady, 1698
Horatio Parker, 1886

Very much of its time, and that time has passed, but I think a few people out there will be singing along. I still remember my friend Jeff breaking into laughter as we sang this, having misread part of the first verse as "beauteous or deranged." But anyway.

The text is a paraphrase of Psalm 122, from A New Version of the Psalms of David in Metre, published in 1698 by Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady. Their psalms were sung in many different churches for more than two centuries. There's another verse of this one (originally the second) which is even more obscure:

'Tis thither, by divine command
The tribes of God repair,
Before the ark to celebrate
God's name in praise and prayer.
Tribunals stand erected there;
Where equity takes place;
There stand the courts and palaces
Of royal David's race.

The hymn, put into verse, comes out even longer than the psalm.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Freely May We Learn to Give

Jesus Christ, eternal Savior,
Source of life and truth and grace,
Word made flesh, whose birth incarnate
Hallows all our human race,
Thou, our head who, throned in glory,
For thine own dost ever plead,
Fill us with thy love and pity;
Heal our wrongs, and help our need.

Bind us all as one together
In thy church’s sacred fold,
Weak and healthy, poor and wealthy,
Sad and joyful, young and old.
Is there want, or pain, or sorrow?
Make us all the burden share.
Are there spirits crushed and broken?
Teach us how to soothe their care.

Jesus, thou hast lived for others,
So may we for others live;
Freely have thy gifts been granted,
Freely may we learn to give.
Thine the gold and thine the silver,
Thine the wealth of land and sea,
We but stewards of thy bounty,
Held in solemn trust for thee.

Come, O Christ, and reign among us,
Fount of love and strength and peace,
Hush the storm of strife and passion,
Bid its cruel discords cease:
Thou who hopest, thou who willest,
That thy people should be one,
Grant, O grant our prayer’s fruition:
Here on earth thy will be done.

Somerset Lowry, 1893; alt.
Thomas J. Williams, 1890

It's generally agreed that the first thirty years or so of the twentieth century was the first great flowering of hymns in support of social justice and our obligation to the world around us, from the hymns of Frank Mason North, Walter Russell Bowie, and John Haynes Holmes to Harry Emerson Fosdick's God of grace and God of glory. Here's one that was written a bit earlier, in England, that those men may have known, though I don't think it's as well known today as their later hymns.

In order to make a hymn like this spread to a wider audience it needs a strong, somewhat familiar tune that people will remember and want to sing again. I like picking my own tunes for less-familiar texts so I usually don't look at what's been used before. I went first to this page (for the meter) and listened to several of the 143 possible tunes there (which have sound files so that you can hear them too -- I have lists of many more that I don't use because you can't hear them). I finally chose this one for its muscular drive and was pleased and surprised to find that it's one of the tunes already used at the Cyber Hymnal. Even stranger, my second-choice tune (WEISSE FLAGGEN) was one of theirs as well. Odd.

TON-Y-BOTEL is a tune by Welsh composer/organist Thomas Williams. The tune comes from an anthem he had written, Light in the Valley (the great Welsh title is Gloeu yn y Glyn), adapted into a hymn tune a few years later. There was a legend, since proven false, that the tune was found on a beach washed ashore in a bottle, which is where its name comes from ("tune in a bottle"). Hymns for the Celebration of Life, the Unitarian hymnal of 1964, claims that the tale was "improvised by a fun-loving youth at a party," which suggests that there's more to the story. Who was at that party that then put that tune name into a hymnal? Nowadays they call the tune EBENEZER, but here on the blog I'm sticking to the "discredited" earlier name. At least it's a Welsh name, unlike EBENEZER. Plus, it's a good story, like Purcell and the chocolate poisoning.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Catherine Winkworth

Anyone who sings hymns has sung the words of Catherine Winkworth though she never wrote a hymn text herself. However, she was widely considered the best, and was certainly the most prolific, translator of German hymns into English. Her work was especially prevalent in Lutheran hymnals for more than a hundred years, but most other denominations also know many of her translations.

Winkworth was especially interested in women's education and held many positions in that field. In 1872 she was a delegate to the Conference on Women's Work in Darmstadt, Germany. She had earlier spent a year in Dresden, no doubt perfecting her proficiency in the language. Many of her hymn translations appeared in her Lyra Germanica, first published in 1855 and proceeding through many subsequent editions. Another book, Christian Singers of Germany, followed in 1869 with more translations and also biographical sketches of German hymnwriters.

This text is probably one of the ones not widely known outside Lutheran hymnals, though you probably know the tune.

O Holy Spirit, enter in,
And in our hearts thy work begin;
Thy temple deign to make us,
Sun of the soul, thou light divine,
Around and in us brightly shine
To joy and gladness wake us
That we, in thee,
Truly living, to thee giving prayer unceasing,
May in love be still increasing.

Give to thy Word persuasive power
That in our hearts, from this good hour
As fire it may be glowing;
And give us steadfastness, that we
May henceforth truly follow thee,
Thy glory ever showing.
Stay thou, guide now,
Our souls ever that they never may forsake thee,
But by faith their refuge make thee.

Thou Fountain whence all wisdom flows
Which God on grateful hearts bestows,
Grant us thy consolation
That in our pure faith’s unity
We faithful witnesses may be
Of grace that bring salvation.
Hear us, cheer us,
By thy teaching; let our preaching, and our labor
Praise thee, God, and serve our neighbor.

O mighty Rock, O Source of life,
Let thy strong word ’mid doubt and strife
Be so within us burning,
That we be faithful unto death,
In thy pure love and holy faith,
From thee true wisdom learning!
O Dove, thy love
On us shower; by thy power Christ confessing,
Let us win thy grace and blessing.

Thy heavenly strength sustain our heart
That we may act the valiant part
With thee as our reliance;
Be thou our refuge and our shield
That we may never quit the field,
But bid all foes defiance.
Descend, defend
From all errors and earth’s terrors, thy salvation
Be our constant consolation.

O gentle Dew, from heaven now fall
With power upon the hearts of all,
Thy precious grace instilling,
That heart to heart more closely bound,
In kindly deeds be fruitful found,
The law of love fulfilling.
Dwell thus in us;
Envy banish, strife will vanish where thou livest.
Peace and love and joy thou givest.

Michael Schirmer, 1640; tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1863, alt.
Philipp Nicolai, 1599; harm. J.S. Bach

The familiar tune, known as the "Queen of Chorales" was first used with the German hymn Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern (both words and music by Philipp Nicolai), also translated by Winkworth as O morning star how fair and bright.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell (September 10, 1659 - November 21, 1695) is considered to be England's most important pre-twentieth century composer (he was supplanted after that by Edward Elgar).

He began his musical life, as many English composers do, as a boy chorister at the Chapel Royal. His earliest known compositions date from his pre-teen years. At seventeen he was appointed as the organist at Westminster Abbey. He went on to compose both sacred and secular pieces: many anthems and choral works (though the pieces listed as "hymns" are not what we would consider hymns), as well as a great amount of music for the theater. Toward the end of his life he served as organist at both Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal.

The following hymn tune was adapted from a melody in the final "Alleluia" section of Purcell's anthem O God, thou art my God (around 1692). The adaptation was by Ernest Hawkins and first appeared in Vincent Novello's tune collection The Psalmist (1843), though the tune (named WESTMINSTER ABBEY in honor of Purcell's longtime association with the church) did not become widely popular for another hundred years or so.

Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone;
Chosen of our God, and precious,
Binding all the church in one,
Holy Zion’s help forever,
Zion's confidence alone.

All that dedicated city,
Dearly loved of God on high,
In exultant jubilation,
Pours perpetual melody,
God the One in Three adoring
In glad hymns eternally.

To this temple, where we call you,
Come, O God of hosts, today;
With your wonted lovingkindness
Hear your people as they pray.
And your fullest benediction
Shed within its walls alway.

Grant, we pray, to every people
All the grace they ask to gain;
What they gain from you forever
With the blessèd to retain,
And hereafter in your glory
Evermore with you to reign.

Latin, 7th century; tr. John Mason Neale, 1851; alt.
Henry Purcell, c.1692; adapt. Ernest Hawkins, 1843

This hymn is better known in some denominations to the tune REGENT SQUARE by Henry Smart (usually without the second verse). The text has been modernized (thou changes to you, etc.), which works fine in this case, I think.

Purcell died at the age of 36; one theory holds that he died of "chocolate poisoning." He was buried in Westminster Abbey, next to the organ. His epitaph reads: "Here lyes Henry Purcell Esq., who left this life and is gone to that blessed place where only his harmony can be exceeded". Today there is a Purcell Club that gives tours and concerts in support of the Abbey.

P.S. Thus far September has seemed weighted toward hymn tune composers rather than text writers, and a look at the rest of the month shows that the trend continues. Just the way the calendar worked out. So I may insert some interesting texts here and there (not that I think the texts so far have been deficient, just not so much the focus).

Monday, September 8, 2008

More Voices Found: Lizzie Tour­jée

Lizzie Tourjee was born on September 8, 1858, into a musical family. Her father, Eben Tour­jée, taught music in several places, then in 1867 founded the New England Conservatory of Music. The following tune by Lizzie was composed for a graduation song at her high school in 1874. A few years later her father was working on the committee that produced the Methodist Hymnal of 1878, and he submitted her tune, calling it WELLESLEY after the New England college that Lizzie had attended. The tune became very popular before long, and was used in a great number of hymnals for at least the next 50-60 years, often paired with There's a wideness in God's mercy, but I prefer it with this text, a paraphrase of Psalm 150.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
In the temple God be praised;
In the high and heavenly places
Be the sounding anthem raised.

Hallelujah! Shout your praises
For God's mighty acts of fame;
Excellent God's might and greatness;
Equal praises then proclaim.

Hallelujah! Sing your praises!
With the trumpet’s joyful sound;
Praises give with harp and psaltery,
Let God's glorious praise abound.

Hallelujah! Lift your praises,
With the flute God's praises sing;
Praise God with the clanging cymbals,
Let them with loud praises ring.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
All that breathe, resound God's praise;
Let the voices God has given
Joyful anthems ever raise.

The Psalter, 1912; alt.
Lizzie Tour­jée, 1874

This tune has grown on me; I didn't always think much of it. The second and fourth lines are better than the slightly frantic first and third. In The Music and Hymnody of the Methodist Hymnal (1911), author Carl Price describes WELLESLEY as "stately," which is not a term I would have chosen. Maybe they played it a lot slower in those days. Still, it's a tune that many have sung over the years and deserves to be remembered, though it doesn't appear in as many hymnals as it used to.

Not much more is known about Tour­jée (no known photograph of her, for example). I've found only one reference to a children's song written by her in a nineteenth-century anthology.

Many psalm paraphrases were written by well-known hymn writers such as Isaac Watts, but most older ones were anonymously written. This one comes mostly from the Presbyterian Psalter of 1912, though it is based on an earlier one.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

With Water From the Rock

Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless
Thy hungering, pilgrim flock
With manna in the wilderness,
With water from the rock.

We would not live by bread alone,
But by thy Word of grace,
In strength of which we travel on
To our abiding place.

Be known to us in breaking bread,
But do not then depart;
Savior, abide with us, and spread
Thy table in our heart.

A Collection of Hymns (Philadelphia), 1832;
v.3, James Montgomery, 1825; alt.
Tune: ST. AGNES (C.M.)
John Bacchus Dykes, 1866

I sometimes wish that there were more well-known hymns about the Exodus, one of my favorite stories from the Bible. But I also sometimes forget that there are hymns such as this one which weave some of the imagery of the Exodus story into other themes. It's a communion hymn, no doubt, addressed to Jesus, but using the Old Testament images of a traveling people fed by the hand of God.

This hymn was assembled from two different sources, apparently by the editors of the Episcopal hymnal of 1872. The first two anonymous verses are from an American Moravian hymnal, and the last is by English hymnwriter James Montgomery. The well-known tune ST AGNES by the prolific John Bacchus Dykes has been used for more than a dozen different texts over the years.

P.S. The painting above, Moses Smiteth the Rock in the Desert (from Exodus 17:5-7) is by French painter James J.J. Tissot.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Amy Beach

Today we celebrate the birthday of composer Amy Marcy Cheney Beach, born on this day in 1867. She grew up in New England, then settled in Boston. She was the first significant woman composer in this country, but began her career as a concert pianist in 1883. Only two years later she married Dr. H.H.A. Beach (24 years older than she), and agreed to limit her public performances to one per year, for charity. She turned to composition (a more ladylike pastime, in the doctor's opinion) and became very successful before long, publishing her works under the name of Mrs. H.H.A. Beach.

Her larger works include a symphony, the chamber opera Cabildo, the Mass in E Flat, and several extended choral works. She also wrote many art songs and chamber music pieces, as well as a number of anthems (
six of them are available at the Sibley Music Library site). For many years she lived in New England in the summer, and New York City in the winter, where she became an unofficial composer-in-residence at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church on Park Avenue.

A comprehensive biography, Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian by Adrienne Fried Block was published in 1998. Having sung some of her music, I was interested to read it, and discovered that she wrote one hymn tune, called NORWOOD, which was published in one hymnal, Worship in Song (1943 or 1941 - references differ). The tune was used for the hymn O God of love, O King of peace by Henry Williams Baker. But I also discovered a footnote that referred to two "sketches" she sold to the editor of that hymnal some years earlier. A little detective work uncovered The Hymnal for Boys and Girls, published in 1935, which contains two more childen's hymns with tunes attributed to Beach: PETERBOROUGH and ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S (naturally). This was somewhat exciting, because the biographer had apparently not uncovered these tunes (they were not listed with Beach's other work) I suppose "sketches" is a bit vague, but I'd guess that she at least supplied the tunes, if not the full arrangements. I also had several pieces of service music by Beach published in an Episcopal collection from the early 1940s which were not listed in the biography either. By now I'd guess that they've aleady been uncovered by the biographer for a maybe-someday revised edition.

Unfortunately, all three hymn tunes are still under copyright and not available for us to hear. Worship and Song, in fact, is quite difficult to locate. I couldn't turn up any performances of her choral music online either (though some is available on CD). Someone should definitely put up their rendition of Peace I leave with you (a short but effective anthem). But here's a piano piece, Scottish Legend, from YouTube, which also includes some opening remarks about Beach.

Also, you can watch operatic tenor Jussi Bjoerling perform one of Beach's art songs, Ah, Love, but a day. I think this is from one of the Voice of Firestone programs from the 1950s. It seems a little over-the-top by modern standards, but it may actually be closer to the performance practice of Amy Beach's time.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

One Hundred!

This is my one hundredth post on the blog!

Considering that this is the third try at doing this (no one reading this now ever saw the first two versions), it's a bit of an accomplishment. I didn't know if I could find enough to write about, but here we are almost eight months later. The real test will be the second year. But I haven't actually marked all the hymnic birthdays and anniversaries that there are in the calendar, and many of the people I have written about have more hymns and stories to be showcased.

So today I'm doing something completely different, though if you watch much television you've probably guessed what it will be. I've had this post in reserve for a long time, but kept hesitating about putting it up. But it's definitely hymn-related.

There was this video that used to be on YouTube but I suspect it was taken down because of protests, so you have to go here to watch it. Go on. I'll wait.


........humming some more...

And, you're back.

Now, as you undoubtedly know, this is a parody of the hymn Joyful, joyful, we adore thee by Henry Van Dyke, with a tune adapted by Edward Hodges from a melody in Beethoven's Ninth Synphony (1824). Many people object to it because it "makes fun" of the hymn (I bet this is why it got pulled from YouTube). You can read some of their objections back on the web page with the video (warning -- not always nice language).

I don't think Beethoven is particularly worried about his reputation; he's had other tunes used in commercials. Van Dyke has a bit more reason to object, because the jingle is clearly based on his text. I'm not really offended by that, though some might be. The people who produced the commercial apparently thought that the commercial would be effective because most people would know the hymn.

My main objection is the clumsiness of the parody text.

Manwich, Manwich, we adore thee,
Fun and easy and sloppy too.
Napkins now unfold before thee,
Manwich, joy does spring from you.

The first three lines are fine, but it all falls apart in the last line. If you're using "thee," then the verb has to be "doth," not "does." But wait! It gets worse -- you can't use both "thee" and "you" in the same text! Would it have been so hard to come up with another rhyme for "too"? Bad. Bad. Bad.

I think I still heard this about a month ago, though I think there's another Manwich spot out that may have finally replaced this one (which has been playing for quite a while).

Well, I hope no one is too offended. Unless you're the type who can never sing the Beethoven/Van Dyke hymn again without thinking about Manwiches for Sunday dinner -- that would be a problem.

P.S. Another anniversary-related fact: I put the counter in about a month ago (over on the right). We get about nine people a day visiting the blog (and I know who most of them are, even though they never say anything), which is ok; it's actually going up a bit more recently.

Also, I promise we'll be back to real hymns tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Queen Liliuokalani

Liliuokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii, was born on September 2, 1838, as Lydia Lili‘u Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamaka‘eha. She studied music from a young age, learned to sing and play several instruments, and would eventually write more than 160 songs, mostly about Hawaiian life and culture. The most popular is Aloha Oe, the story of two lovers parting reluctantly.

She became Queen in 1890 following the death of her brother Kalakaua. He had been forced by powerful business interests from the mainland to accept a new constitution that greatly reduced his power and effectively disenfranchised the native Hawaiians. Liliuokalani attempted to replace that constitution with another, fairer one, but instead, in a shocking coup, a group of businessmen, assisted by US Marines not acting under orders from Washington, forced her at gunpoint to surrender her country into the "protection" of the United States.

Later, she was placed under arrest for allegedly taking part in a plot to regain power. During her imprisonment, she wrote ’O kou aloha nö (The Lord's Mercy), commonly known as The Queen's Prayer, which has since been sung as a hymn.

’O kou aloha nö
Aia I ka lani,
A ’o kou oiä’i’o,

He hemolele ho’i.

Ko’u noho mihi’ana
A pa’ahao ’ia,
O’oe ku’u lama,
Kou nani, ko’u ko’o.

Mai nänä ’ino’ino
Nä hewa o känaka,
Akä, e huikala
A ma’ema’e nö.

No laila e ka Haku,
Ma lalo o kou ’ëheu
Kö makou maluhis
A mau loa aku nö.

Queen Liliuokalani, 1895
Queen Liliuokalani, 1895

I don't believe that there has been a translation into English that preserves the original meter, but this is the meaning:

Your loving mercy
Is as high as heaven
And your truth
So perfect.

I live in sorrow,
You are my light,
Your glory, my support.

Behold not with malevolence
The sins of humankind,
But forgive
And cleanse.

And so, O God
Protect us beneath your wings,
And let peace be our portion
Now and forever more.

Following her death in 1917, her bequest to benefit orphan and destitute children established the Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center, which is still in existence. Not until 1993 did the US Congress finally issue a formal apology to the native people of Hawaii for the overthrow of their lawful government one hundred years earlier.