Friday, February 27, 2009

Charles Hubert Hastings Parry

Today is the birthday of English composer Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (C.H.H., as his music was generally attributed, and apparently Hubert to his friends). Born in 1848, his interest in music was cultivated was first cultivated during his years at Oxford. However, he studied outside the college curriculum, with composer George Elvey, organist at St. George's Chapel. His first compositions were for Elvey's choir.

From Oxford, where he officially studied law and modern history, he became an insurance underwriter for Lloyds of London. He continued to study music on the side, and finally in 1880 his first major compositions appeared, a piano concerto and choral scenes from Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. He contributed articles to the original Grove Dictionary of Music, and in 1884 became in instructor at the Royal College of Music. Later, he returned to Oxford as a professor of music, succeeding John Stainer.

Parry composed in many forms, including symphonies and concertos, but much of his music was vocal (art songs) and choral (oratorios, anthems, oratorios, and hymns). His most well-known work is probably the song Jerusalem, originally written to the words of a poem by William Blake for a womens' suffrage event and later sometimes used as a hymn, particularly in England. The familiar tune has also been used for other words, such as the modern hymn text by Carl P. Daw, O day of peace, that dimly shines.

Among Parry's other hymn tunes, this one is a favorite of mine, used here with a paraphrase of Psalm 149.

Sing praise unto God; proclaim a new song,
Amid all the saints God's praises prolong;
A song to your Maker and Ruler now raise,
All children of Zion, rejoice and give praise!

With timbrel and harp and joyful acclaim,
With gladness and mirth, we praise your great Name,
For here in your people great pleasure you seek,
With robes of salvation you cover the meek.

In glory exult, ye saints of the Lord;
With songs in the night, high praises accord;
Go forth in God's service, be strong in God's might,
To conquer oppression and stand for the right.

For this is God's Word: The saints shall not fail,
But over the earth their power shall prevail;
All kingdoms and nations shall yield to their sway.
To God give the glory! Sing praises for aye!

The Psalter, 1912; alt.
C.H.H. Parry, 1894

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Today is the forty-sixth day before Easter Sunday, which means that it is Ash Wednesday and therefore the beginning of Lent in many Western Christian traditions. There are some hymns that refer to the "forty days" of Lent, because technically the Sundays of Lent are not counted for some reason. As the dates of Easter and Ash Wednesday change each year, some hymnals over the years printed charts giving the dates for several years into the future, but now we have the Internet to do that calculation for us, and it can go both into the future and the past as far as we might want.

The custom of the distribution of ashes dates back to at least the tenth century, signifying public penitence at the start of a season of repentance and reflection. Different denominations (and, of course, different churches within denominations) have different ideas about Lent, whether it requires fasting or only "giving up" things, or whether it might be better to focus on the "turning away" aspect of repentance rather than the self-flagellistic aspect.

At any rate, fasting of some sort has generally been considered part of the Lenten tradition, as seen in this hymn by Joseph Thrupp, which first appeared in Psalms and Hymns for Pub­lic Wor­ship (1853).

Awhile in spirit, Christ, to thee
Into the desert we would flee;
Awhile upon the barren steep
Our fast with thee in spirit keep.

And in our hearts to feel and own
That we live not by bread alone.
Be thou our Helper in the strife,
Be thou our true, our inward Life.

And while, at thy command we pray,
“Give us our bread from day to day,”
May we with thee, O Christ, be fed,
Thou Word of God, thou living Bread.

Joseph F. Thrupp, 1853; alt.
Robert H. Earnshaw, 19th c. (?)

One Year Ago: Lord, who throughout these forty days

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sarah Flower Adams

English Unitarian hymnwriter and poet Sarah Flower Adams (February 22, 1805 - August 14, 1848) was born in Essex. Her father, Benjamin Flower, was the editor of the Cambridge Intelligencer, a "journal of weekly events,"and was known as a radical, urging political reform (he was jailed temporarily for referring to a Church of England bishop as an apostate). Sarah's mother, Eliza Gould Flower, who once operated a school for girls, had met Benjamin after first corresponding with him regarding their shared ideals, as expressed in his newspaper.

Followiing the death of both parents, Sarah and her sister Eliza became the wards of William Johnson Fox, a popular Unitarian minister and orator. Fox wanted to produce a hymnal for his London congregation, and both sisters contributed to it. The first edition appeared in 1841, containing thirteen hymn texts by Sarah and more than sixty tunes by Eliza. This text by Sarah, now loved around the world, survived and flourished, though Eliza's tune for it did not.

Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!
E'en though it be a cross
That raiseth me;
Still, all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God to thee;
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!

Though like the wanderer,
The sun gone down,
Darkness be over me,
My rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be,
Nearer, my God, to thee;
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!

There let the way appear,
Steps unto heav'n;
All that thou sendest me,
In mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me,
Nearer, my God, to thee;
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!

Then, with my waking thoughts
Bright with thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs,
Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be
Nearer, my God, to thee;
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!

Or if on joyful wing,
Cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot,
Upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to thee;
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!

Sarah Flower Adams, 1841
Lowell Mason, 1856

This tune by Lowell Mason became the most familiar one in the US, printed in many hymnals, and also as sheet music (pictured above). It has been sung at the funerals of several Presidents such as Ford, Garfield, and McKinley (the first lines were reportedly among McKinley's dying words).

Of course, its most enduring historical association is with the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic in 1912. Several survivors reported that the ship's band continued to play as the lifeboats were launched, and that the last song played was this hymn. At least two film versions of the disaster (1963 and 1997) used Mason's tune, though it seems unlikely that the band (all British) would have played the American tune. Anglican hymnals usually used a tune by John Bacchus Dykes, HORBURY (used in the 1957 British film A Night to Remember) while British Methodists knew Arthur Sullivan's PROPIOR DEO. The band leader, Wallace Hartley, was a Methodist and his family later said that he would have chosen the Sullivan tune (which was used for this hymn at his funeral) but did all the other band members know the same tune? Also, both British and American survivors claimed to have recognized the hymn, so it's impossible to say with any certainty exactly what tune was played. The text is certainly appropriate to the tragedy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Marion Franklin Ham

Marion Franklin Ham (February 18, 1867 - July 23, 1956) was born in Harveysburg, Ohio, where he grew up and completed high school.

Early association with the peculiar beauty of the fertile valleys of southern Ohio developed and fostered the poetic sentiment within him, according to a biographical sketch printed in the Magazine of Poetry in 1894. His first book of poetry, The Golden Shuttle (1896) was published to mixed reviews, though it was apparently successful enough to go through at least three printings. He was then living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he had joined the Unitarian Church. In 1898 he was ordained, despite having no college education.

From Tennessee, he moved to Dallas, pastoring the First Unitarian congregation there, then went on to churches in Massachusetts. His earliest hymns appeared in the Unitarian New Hymn and Tune Book (1914), including one we have seen before and this one.

I hear thy voice, within the silence speaking;
Above earth's din it rises, calm and clear;
Whatever goal my yearning soul is seeking,
Its whispered message tells me thou art near.

In sorrow's hour, when frowning storm-clouds hide thee,
And faith can see no friendly stars above,
Still, through the gloom, thy words of comfort guide me,
And I find light and shelter in thy love.

When troubles come, our doubt and fear revealing,
And all the good seems sadly marred by wrong,
Amidst the discord, like sweet music stealing,
Thy voice, abiding, fills my soul with song.

O living voice, within the silence calling!
My spirit answers, wheresoe'er I roam;
Through life's brief day still keep my feet from falling,
And lead me, though the evening shadows, home.

Marion Franklin Ham, 1912; alt.
Tune: EIRENE (
Frances Ridley Havergal, 1871

Ham continued to write hymns for the rest of his life (many are still under copyright) which appeared in different denominational hymnals. His most well-known hymn to the Unitarians is probably As tranquil streams that meet and merge (1933), which became a sort of anthem for the joining of the Unitarian and Universalist denominations, long-discussed but only brought to fruition in 1961, after his death.

EIRENE is a tune by Frances Ridley Havergal, who remains primarily known for her hymn texts. I think some of her tunes are definitely worth another look.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper the hymnwriter (as opposed to the more well known artist) was born on February 17, 1818 in New York City. His mother came from an old Huguenot family and his father was a successful merchant. He was first educated at the Nash & Mann School on Bleecker Street (then considered "uptown"), and later graduated from New York University and Union Seminary.

He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1843 and served a few congregations in New York and Long Island. In 1870 he came to the Church of the Sea and Land, located in lower Manhattan at Market and Henry Streets, with a special ministry to sailors, where he remained until his death in 1888.

This familiar hymn, using the language of his congregation, first appeared anonymously in the Sailors' Magazine in 1871, and later that same year in the Baptist Praise Book (apparently without Hopper's knowledge).

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey thy will,
When thou sayest to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar’
Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on thy breast,
May I hear thee say to me,
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”

Edward Hopper, 1871
Tune: PILOT (
John E. Gould, 1871

Hopper originally wrote six verses in the magazine; the Baptist Praise Book printed four, but these three verses, originally the second, third, and fourth, have generally not been used in hymnals:

While th’Apostles’ fragile bark
Struggled with the billows dark,
On the stormy Galilee,
Thou didst walk upon the sea;
And when they beheld thy form,
Safe they glided through the storm.

Though the sea be smooth and bright,
Sparkling with the stars of night,
And my ship’s path be ablaze
With the light of halcyon days,
Still I know my need of thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

When the darkling heavens frown,
And the wrathful winds come down,
And the fierce waves, tossed on high,
Lash themselves against the sky,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me,
Over life’s tempestuous sea.

In 1880, Hopper was asked to write a hymn for an anniversary of the Seamen's Friends Society. Rather than a new text, he brought this one, and his authorship was finally revealed. Though he wrote other hymns, they seem to be mostly unknown today, perhaps because he also published them anonymously. He was working on a hymn text about heaven when he died on April 22, 1888.

A few years after Hopper's death, the Church of the Sea and Land (pictured below) went through a period of instability, and was nearly closed and the building sold by the Presbytery of New York, according to a few articles in the New York Times. Apparently the sale never happened, as the building is still intact, and is now the home of the First Chinese Presbyterian Church (the Sea and Land Church finally closed in 1972, after sharing the building with the Chinese congregation for more than 20 years).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Washington Gladden

Washington Gladden was born on this day in 1836 in Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Williams College (where he wrote the school's alma mater), and also beginning a career in journalism, he was ordained a Congregational minister in 1860. He pastored a number of churches in New York and New England, then spent thirty-two years at the First Congregational Church in Columbus, Ohio, where he more than doubled membership (to more than 1,200) during his time there.

Gladden was an early leader in the social gospel movement and was one of the most well-known liberal ministers in the US. He supported labor unions and helped settle a strike in Cleveland, and spoke and wrote often on the evils of segregation. While serving as the Moderator of the National Council of Congregational Churches, he denounced a $100,000 gift to the denomination from industrialist John D. Rockefeller, believing that the money was "tainted."

He wrote nearly forty books, many of which can now be seen online thanks to Google Books. One of his most influential books was Who Wrote the Bible? (1891). In an online excerpt, he discusses his conviction that scripture must be reinterpreted for the times in which it is read, and its teachings not limited by the customs of the times in which it was written.

This hymn by Gladden, written a few years later, is a favorite of mine, written on that same theme.

Behold a Sower! from afar
Who goeth forth with might;
The rolling years as furrows are,
As seed, the growing light;
For all the world the Word is sown,
It springeth up alway;
The tender blade is hope’s young dawn,
The harvest, love’s new day.

O Source of life, to thee we lift
Our hearts in praise for those,
Thy prophets, who have shown thy gift
Of grace that ever grows,
Of truth that spreads from shore to shore,
Of wisdom’s widening ray,
Of light that shineth more and more
Unto thy perfect day.

Shine forth, O Light, that we may see,
With hearts all unafraid,
The meaning and the mystery
Of things that thou hast made;
Shine forth, and let the distant past
Beneath thy beam grow bright;
Shine forth, and touch the future vast
With thine untroubled light.

Light up thy Word; the fettered page
From killing bondage free;
Light up our way; lead forth this age
In love’s large liberty.
O Light of light! within us dwell,
Through us thy radiance pour,
That word and life thy truths may tell,
And praise thee evermore.

Washington Gladden, 1897; alt.
Kentucky Harmony, 1816

SALVATION is a muscular American folk tune, good for sowing fields and freeing things from bondage (though this synthesizer version tones that down a bit). Gladden wrote other hymns and poems, some of which were published in a weekly magazine he edited called Sunday Afternoon.

In another of his books, Parish Problems (1887) he includes a chapter on hymnbooks, laying out his own ideas on good hymnody and practice around congregational singing.

Today, there is a Washington Gladden Society that hopes to continue his social gospel ideals. They meet each year during the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. At this year's meeting in June, they will present a workshop titled There will be no World Peace until there is Peace among the World's Religions.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Its Depth and Height and Splendor

Another Sunday after Epiphany, another light-themed hymn (there are plenty of them to choose from). I know that there are some readers out there who are ready for Lent to begin but it will be here soon enough. Last year it had already started on February 6, so we have a bit of a reprieve.
Bringer of light -- in thee, both sun and shadow --
Giver of every good and perfect gift!
With one accord we seek thy holy presence,
Gladly our hearts to thee in praise we lift.

Glad for the cause that binds our lives together,
Through thee united, worshiping as one;
Glad for the shining gifts that thou hast given,
Grateful for glorious works in us begun.

Thou art the Christ! To thee we own allegiance.
May our devotion sweep from sea to sea,
Even as we, all gifts from thee receiving,
Joyfully minister those gifts for thee.

Light of the world, through whom we know the Maker!
Pour out upon us thine abiding love,
That we may know its depth and height and splendor,
That heaven may come to earth from heaven above.

Elizabeth Wilson and Helen Thoburn, 1913
Tune: WELWYN (
Alfred Scott-Gatty, 1902

Writers Wilson and Thoburn seem not to be well-known. I hope, though, that someone at least considered their hymn for Voices Found.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Raindrops On My Window

On February 5, 1967, there was a sold out concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. This would not otherwise be remarkable except that it was the first concert of ecumenical, modern sacred music that had been held in that venue.

About two years earlier, a group of Roman Catholic nuns from the
Medical Mission Sisters had recorded an album of music by one of their members, Miriam Therese Winter. The album, Joy Is Like the Rain, was hugely successful worldwide, and not just among Catholics. Its folk-flavored songs were sung in many churches and heard on the radio.

Avant Garde Records, the secular company who had brought out the album, organized the Carnegie Hall concert, Praise the Lord in Many Voices, which also included performances by Jewish and Protestant musicians. The sisters were joined by a group of Pauline seminarians (to sing the men's vocal parts). Winter's Mass for a Pilgrim People was premiered that night and recorded. In press materials promoting the concert, she spoke of "mak(ing) a big noise to the Lord"and "break(ing) down the barrier betwen church and life."

Miriam Therese Winter has gone on to become an influential figure in modern church music, particularly in the area of inclusive language and feminist thought. She has gone back and rewritten her earlier songs to reflect these changes in her philosophy.

I was only able to find this one piano performance of Joy is like the rain on YouTube, but it may bring back some memories.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

William Howard Doane

William H. Doane (February 3, 1832 - December 23, 1915) was a prolific and popular composer of gospel songs (perhaps as many as six hundred) who also wrote some texts and edited at least forty-three collections. However, he was also quite a successful businessman who ran a woodworking company in Cincinnati, so his extensive musical endeavors were "only" a sideline.

In Cincinnati he belonged to the Mount Auburn Baptist Church, where he was also the superintendent of the Sunday school for many years. He received a Doctor of Music degree in 1875 from Denison University in Granville OH. In later years he was a major donor to Denison, the William Howard Doane Library (original building pictured below) being one of his gifts.

He worked with many of the important gospel song writers and composers of his day, particularly Robert Lowry and Fanny Crosby. Doane wrote the tunes for some of Crosby's most well-known songs, including this one.

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Savior, Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Let me at thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief,
Kneeling there in deep contrition;
Help my unbelief.

Trusting only in thy merit,
Would I seek thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by thy grace.

Thou the Spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me,
Whom have I on earth beside thee?
Whom in heav’n but thee?

Fanny Crosby, 1868
Tune: PASS ME NOT ( with refrain)
William H. Doane, 1870

There's an affectionate parody song written some years ago by J. Thomas Sopko that uses this tune that begins "Sing a song by Fanny Crosby/Every Sabbath day..." with the refrain:

Pastor, Pastor,
Hear my irate cry:
When you pick the hymns for Sunday,
Don't pass Fanny by!

It continues for three verses, I believe. I suppose I should try to locate Mr.Sopko sometime to get permission to post the whole thing (he has a few other more serious items that would fit in here as well).

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Feast of the Presentation

More specifically, it's sometimes called the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Or sometimes, the Purification of Mary, or Candlemas, or even (according to Wikipedia) The Meeting of the Lord. The story is told in Luke 2:22-40 and has been frequently depicted in art (such as Rembrandt's painting here) and music.

Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple forty days after his birth, in accordance with ancient custom. The prophet Anna and old Simeon, who had waited for many years, immediately recognized the child as the fulfillment of ancient prophecy. Simeon's joyful declaration, which we know as the Nunc dimittis, has long been a part of Christian worship.

This hymn by John Ellerton was first published in The Children's Hymn Book (1880).

Hail to the Lord who comes,
Comes to the temple gate;
Not with an angel host,
Not in a kingly state;
No shouts proclaim him nigh,
No crowds his coming wait.

But, borne upon the throne
Of Mary’s gentle breast,
Watched by her duteous love,
In her fond arms at rest,
Thus to Jerusalem
He comes, the heav’nly Guest.

There Joseph at her side
In reverent wonder stands,
And, filled with holy joy,
Old Simeon in his hands
Takes up the promised Child,
The Glory of all lands.

O Light of all the earth,
Thy people wait for thee!
Come to thy temples here,
That we, from sin set free,
Before our Maker’s face
May all presented be!

John Ellerton, 1880; alt.
Tune: OLD 120th (
Thomas Est, 1592

The Cyber Hymnal suggests a somewhat unique tune, ST. VERONICA, which I like, but not necessarily for this text.

One Year Ago: O Zion, open wide thy gates

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Undimming and Unsetting

We are still in the season of Epiphany -- a long one this year because Lent does not start until late February. One of Epiphany's ongoing themes is light, deriving from the star over Bethlehem that led the Eastern sages to the manger, light that reveals Jesus to those who have not yet known him. Many hymns about light are often used in the later weeks of the season so we aren't singing about the three kings all the way to Ash Wednesday.

In John 8:12 Jesus makes a famous proclamation: "I am the Light of the world," a phrase that has given inspiration for many creations of prose, poetry, and music (naturally including hymns).

Light of the world!
Forever, ever shining,
There is no change in thee;
True Light of life,
All joy and health enshrining,
Thou canst not fade nor flee.

Thou hast aris'n,
But thou descendeth never;
Today shines as the past;
All that thou wast
Thou art and shalt be ever,
Brightness from first to last.

Night visits not
Thy sky, nor storm, nor sadness;
Day fills up all its blue --
Unfailing beauty,
And unfaltering gladness,
And love forever new.

Light of the world!
Undimming and unsetting,
O shine each mist away;
Banish the fear,
The falsehood, and the fretting;
Be our unchanging Day.

Horatius Bonar, 1861
Tune: WILTON (
Arthur Henry Mann, 19th c. (?)