Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Feast of Pentecost

Many churches observe the day of Pentecost to mark the descent of the Holy Spirit on the followers of Jesus, as told in Acts 2:1-17. We remember the rushing wind, the tongues of flame that came to rest on them, and their speaking and understanding many different languages.

I think this hymn by the Unitarian Frederick Lucian Hosmer combines the prophetic passage from the book of Joel that Peter alludes to in Acts ("...I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy...") with Hosmer's own favored theme of unity (i.e., the multitude of languages that are all understood as one). This Pentecost experience did not only happen long ago but is still open to us today.

O prophet souls of all the years,
Speak yet to us in love;
Your far-off vision, toil and tears
To their fulfillment move.

From tropic clime and zones of frost,
They come, of every name;
This, this our day of Pentecost,
On us the tongues of flame.

One Life together we confess,
One all-indwelling Word,
One holy call to righteousness,
Within the silence heard.

One Law that guides the shining spheres
As on through space they roll,
And speaks in flaming characters
On Sinais of the soul.

One Love unfathomed, measureless,
An ever-flowing sea,
That holds within its vast embrace
Time and eternity.

Frederick Lucian Hosmer, 1893
Johann Cruger, 1653

You may recall that the tune GRAFENBERG was already used here for another hymn of the Holy Spirit.

P.S. The painting above, depicting Jesus' mother at the center of the first Pentecost event, is by Jean Restout II, dating from the 18th century and currently held by the Louvre.

One (Liturgical) Year Ago: The Feast of Pentecost

One (Calendar) Year Ago: The Feast of the Visitation

Friday, May 29, 2009

Still Unnumbered...

I'm still working on my list of ten favorite hymns so that I can submit them to the survey taking place at the blog Semicolon. I hope some of my readers are going to participate as well; the deadline for submissions there is this Sunday, the 31st. And please share your lists in the comments here (even if you have never commented before!), or link to your blog where your list is posted.

I think I have identified the ten (that seem like my favorites this week at least) but I still have to rank them, which is almost the harder part. Seven of the ten have already appeared on the blog, and only one is still under copyright, so the remaining two will turn up here eventually.

In the meantime, here are a few of my ten (in no particular order yet, remember):

(almost had to include that one, right?)

I'll post the whole list at a later date, but I'm probably not going to be around the internet very much for the next few days. And of course I (and we) want to follow the results of Semicolon's survey as they are revealed this summer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sir Henry Williams Baker

Henry Williams Baker was born on this day in 1821. His father was both a rear admiral and a baronet. Henry was ordained in the Church of England in 1846, and succeeded to his father's title in 1859.

However, in the words of Edwin Hatfield, writing in The Poets of the Church (1884), Sir Henry distinguished himself principally in the line of hymnology. This was perhaps a bit of an understatement, as Baker is now considered to be instrumental in the development of the popular Hymns Ancient and Modern, the hymnal whose various editions have sold more than sixty million copies.

Baker's first hymn texts were written in 1852, and he was sufficiently known in the field that he was invited to serve as secretary to the committee that was compiling Hymns Ancient & Modern. His role as "secretary" turned out to be very influential in the task of forming the collection. It was Baker's idea to solicit suggestions and submissions for the hymnal through advertisements to the clergy; he believed that giving many people the chance to participate would predispose them in favor of the final product and lead them to purchase it, perhaps even to adopt it for their congregations.

The hymnal appeared in late 1860 (in time for Advent, followed by the musical edition a few months later). It was seen as a broad, ecumenical collection, both theologically and musically. Its supporters and its detractors both cited the same reasons for their opinions (the fine line between "plenty" and "too many"). Though the only name that appeared on the title page was musical editor William Monk, it eventually became known that Baker was the de facto editor-in-chief (no longer simply secretary to the committee).

Sir Henry remained with Hymns Ancient and Modern until his death in 1877, seeing it through supplements and new editions.
He had contributed his own texts, several translations of Latin hymns, and even some tunes. This original hymn, yet another paraphrase of Psalm 23, is probably his most well-known.

The God of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am thine
And thou art mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul thou leadest,
And where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedest.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love thou sought'st me,
And on thy shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought'st me.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With thee, dear God, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And O, what transport of delight
From thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
Within thy house forever.

Henry Williams Baker, 1868; alt.
Traditional Irish melody
arr. Charles V. Stanford, c.1906

Though overall I prefer this tune (surprisingly hard to find in an online version played correctly), I also have a certain fondness for the tune DOMINUS REGIT ME by John Bacchus Dykes that is still used in some denominations, and was written for Baker's text when it first appeared in Hymns Ancient & Modern in the 1868 supplement.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Harry Emerson Fosdick

Harry Emerson Fosdick (May 24, 1878 - October 5, 1969) was one of the most famous ministers of his time. Born in Buffalo, NY, he graduated from Colgate University and Union Seminary and was ordained in the Baptist church in 1903. He was widely acclaimed for his preaching and was hired as pastor by the First Presbyterian Church in NYC even though he was a Baptist.

At First Presbyterian his preaching drew crowds to the church-- sometimes there was a two-hour line to get in. However, in 1923 a sermon titled Shall the Fundamentalists Win? was not well-received by the Presbyterian hierarchy and Fosdick resigned in 1924 to avoid formal censure at a church trial. He was immediately hired by the Park Avenue Baptist Church largely due to the influence of philanthopist
John D. Rockefeller Jr., who envisioned an important future for that church. Funded by Rockefeller millions, the Park Avenue Baptist Church under Fosdick's leadership became the interdenominational Riverside Church, moving into a vast new building (pictured below) overlooking the Hudson River in 1930.

Today's hymn was written by Fosdick for the dedication service of Riverside Church and has become one of the most widely-known and loved hymns of the twentieth century. I randomly pulled out six or seven hymnals of the last twenty years from varying denominations and every one included this hymn. Its message of social justice is as timely today as when it was written.

God of grace and God of glory,
On thy people pour thy power.
Crown thine ancient church’s story,
Bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.

Lo! the hosts of evil ’round us,
Scorn thy Christ, assail thy ways.
From the fears that long have bound us,
Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

Cure thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss the Savior’s goal,
Lest we miss the Savior’s goal.

Set our feet on lofty places,
Gird our lives that they may be,
Armored with all Christ-like graces,
In the fight to set us free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
That we fail not earth nor thee,
That we fail not earth nor thee.

Save us from weak resignation,
To the evils we deplore.
Let the search for thy salvation,
Be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Serving thee whom we adore,
Serving thee whom we adore.

Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1930; alt.
John Hughes, 1907

This hymn was first sung to the tune REGENT SQUARE by Henry Smart, but John Hughes's CWM RHONDDA (previously seen and heard on the blog) has become the accepted tune, used perhaps as early as the Methodist Hymnal of 1935. Though Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote three other hymns they are all but unknown today. His autobiography took its title from this text: The Living of These Days (1956).

Fosdick remained at Riverside Church until retiring in 1946. His radio program, The National Vesper Hour was heard across the country for nineteen years. He published more than forty books and sermon collections and several are still in print today. Though conflict over a sermon had driven him from the First Presbyterian Church, today on their website they honor his preaching ministry.

He did become more conservative in later years, believing that the Great Depression, the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin, and World War II raised questions about the essential goodness of humanity, and that modernism could "water down" the reality of God. "What Christ does to modern culture is to challenge it," he wrote, though this was not really in opposition to the words of his famous hymn: Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore.

One Year Ago: Emily Divine Wilson

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Feast of the Ascension

Today is the "official" feast day marking the Ascension of Jesus, though most churches will observe the day on this coming Sunday.

Many hymns for this day focus on the actual going-up portion of the story from
Acts 1:1-11: (Jesus) was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. But another theme of the Ascension expressed in hymns and prayers is Jesus taking his place in heaven as Ruler and Sovereign.

Look, O look, the sight is glorious:
As we see thee, Jesus, now;
From the fight returned victorious,
Every knee to thee shall bow;
Crown thee, crown thee,
Crown thee, crown thee,
Crowns become the Victor’s brow,
Crowns become the Victor’s brow.

Mortals crown thee! angels crown thee!
Rich the trophies thou dost bring;
On the seat of power enthrone thee,
While the vault of heaven rings;
Crown thee, crown thee,
Crown thee, crown thee,
Jesus, praise to thee we sing,
Jesus, praise to thee we sing,

Soldiers in derision crowned thee,
Mocking thus thy rightful claim;
Saints and angels now acclaim thee,
Own thy title, praise thy name;
Crown thee, crown thee,
Crown thee, crown thee,
Spread abroad the Victor’s fame,
Spread abroad the Victor’s fame.

Hark, those bursts of acclamation!
Hark, those loud triumphant chords!
As thou tak'st the highest station;
Claiming sovereignty's rewards!
Crown thee, crown thee,
Crown thee, crown thee,
O what joy the sight affords!
O what joy the sight affords!

Thomas Kelly, 1809; alt.
William Owen, 1852

BRYN CALFARIA (Mount Calvary in Welsh) is a rather rambunctious tune by William Owen (1813- 1893), first matched with the text Gwaed y groes s'yn codi fynny in Owen's collection Y Perl Cerdderol (1852). Owen reportedly composed his first hymn tune at the age of eighteen, but this one is certainly the most well-known of them.

P.S.: The window above is from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, CA.

One Year Ago: The Feast of the Ascension
and Ascension Sunday

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Unnumbered As the Sand

But you could make an attempt...

Over at the blog Semicolon, the writer is conducting a survey, and asking everyone to submit ten favorite hymns (in order!). The results will be compiled into a list of Top 100 Hymns. She plans to countdown the list over the summer.

Deadline is Sunday, May 31, which fortunately gives you some time to plan and prioritize your list.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kindly Earth With Timely Birth

In some English traditions, this last Sunday in Eastertide (also ennumerated as three weeks before Trinity Sunday) is celebrated as Rogation Sunday. The original rogation customs are varied, but involved the days just before the Ascension. Prayers were offered for the growing crops; in modern times this is broadened to God's whole creation.

O Jesus, crowned with all renown,
Since thou the earth hast trod,
Thou reignest, and by thee come down
Henceforth the gifts of God.
Thine is the health, and thine the wealth
That in our halls abound;
And thine the beauty and the joy
With which the years are crowned.

Thus in their change let frost and heat
And winds and dew be giv’n;
All fostering power, all influence sweet,
Breathe from the bounteous heav’n.
Attemper fair with gentle air
The sunshine and the rain,
That kindly earth with timely birth
May yield her fruits again;

That we may feed the poor aright,
And, gathering round thy throne,
Here in the holy angels’ sight
Repay thee of thine own.
That we may praise thee all our days,
And with our Maker's Name,
And with the Holy Spirit's gifts
The Savior's love proclaim.

Edward White Benson, 1860; alt.
Traditional English melody
arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906

Edward White Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury, was the headmaster of Wellington College when he wrote this hymn. Originally in six verses, this version first appeared in the Episcopal hymnal of 1916. As we have seen in other cases, some verses are omitted and some combined with lines left out, giving a sharper focus to the theme for congregational use. The last four lines are found nowhere in Benson's original, but were added by someone on that 1916 committee to give the hymn a Trinitarian ending.

I do like this verse, originally the third of eight:

And as, when ebbed the flood, our sires
Kneeled on the mountain sod,
While o’er the new world’s altar fires
Shone out the bow of God;
And sweetly fell the peaceful spell—
Word that shall aye avail —
“Summer and winter shall not cease,
Seed time nor harvest fail."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Samuel Webbe

Composer Samuel Webbe may have died on this day in 1816 (his birthdate in 1740 is unknown). The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (1996) confirms the May 15 date, which is good enough for me, but I've seen three other possible dates in May in various sources (including two different dates in the Wikipedia entry linked above).

Webbe served seven years as apprentice to a cabinetmaker beginning when he was eleven. Following that, he studied Latin, French, and Italian, supporting himself by copying music for a London publisher. Continuing his musical interests, he took lessons from the organist of the Bavarian chapel. He formed singing groups for men and composed many popular
catches and glees. Later in life, he was known for giving free music lessons on Friday evenings.

A Roman Catholic, Webbe was appointed organist at the chapels of both the Portuguese and Sardinian embassies (at this time in England, the Catholic mass was only allowed to be performed at foreign embassies). He published books of
anthems and motets that were widely used in his time. His hymn tunes mostly derive from his book An Essay on the Church Plain Chant (1782), originally written in plainsong style and later arranged and harmonized by others into the forms we know today.

Over the years many people have known and loved this hymn with its tune by Webbe, though it may seem a bit dated to some.

Come, ye disconsolate,
Where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat,
Fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts,
Here tell your anguish;
We have no sorrow
That heaven cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate,
Light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent,
Fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter,
Tenderly saying,
“We have no sorrow
That heaven cannot cure.”

Here see the Bread of Life,
See waters flowing
Forth from the throne of God,
Pure from above.
Come to the feast of love;
Come, ever knowing
We have no sorrow
But heaven can remove.

Thomas Moore, 1816;
rev. Thomas Hastings, 1831; alt.
Samuel Webbe, 1792

Webbe's Essay on the Church Plain Chant seems to be the first place that ADESTE FIDELES was priinted in England, and it's due (in a roundabout way) to Webbe's association with the Portuguese embassy chapel that that popular Christmas tune is called the "Portuguese hymn" in many older sources, though it's now more generally believed to be the work of John Francis Wade.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sir Arthur Sullivan

The birthday of composer Arthur Sullivan (May 13, 1842 - November 22, 1900) is probably observed today by a good many of his admirers, though most of them have far less interest in his church music and hymn tunes than in his comic operas written with W.S. Gilbert.

As we know, Sullivan did write a good number of hymn tunes, probably around 50, and arranged or harmonized several more.
This link takes you to more than 60 (including some arrangements), with sound files and printable scores, while the Cyber Hymnal, which we most frequently use here, only lists 33. Having been interested in Sullivan's tunes for many (many) years, I can say that I'm not sure that the list at the first link is even complete and that there may be a few more. If you click on the Sullivan tag following this entry, you can revisit all the tunes I've used so far on the blog (I'd even forgotten using one or two).

Since we are still in the season of Eastertide for another week or so, this seems to be the most appropriate tune for today. I think it's his second greatest tune, though it's far less known than
his first, which we saw last year. Yes, it's a little trickier to sing, particularly the last line. The text, by Christopher Wordsworth, is "seeded" with spring-ish references to new life and growth to complement the resurrection theme.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Hearts and voices heavenward raise:
Sing to God a hymn of gladness,
Sing to God a hymn of praise.
Thou, who on the cross a victim,
For the world's salvation bled,
Jesus Christ, the Word of glory,
Now is risen from the dead.

Now the iron bars are broken,
Christ from death to life is born,
Glorious life, and life immortal,
On this holy Easter morn.
Thou hast triumphed, and we conquer
By thy mighty enterprise:
We with thee to life eternal
By thy resurrection rise.

Christ is risen, Christ, the first fruits
Of the holy harvest field,
Which will all its full abundance
At the second coming yield:
Then the golden ears of harvest
Will their heads before thee wave,
Ripened by thy glorious sunshine
From the furrows of the grave.

Christ is risen, we are risen!
Shed upon us heavenly grace,
Rain and dew and gleams of glory
From the brightness of thy face;
That with hearts in heaven dwelling,
We on earth may fruitful be,
And by angel hands be gathered,
And be evermore with thee.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Glory be to God on high;
Alleluia! to the Savior
Who has won the victory;
Alleluia! to the Spirit,
Fount of love and sanctity:
Alleluia, alleluia!
To the Triune Majesty.

Christopher Wordsworth, 1862; alt.
Arthur Sullivan, 1874

This tune is heard as a bit of an in-joke at the very beginning of the film version of The Pirates of Penzance, starring Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kline (not yet on DVD, unfortunately). The camera swoops in from above on the seaside village of Penzance, stopping in the village square, outside a church where we hear the congregation singing. Most fans of Pirates probably don't know it's this Sullivan hymn tune they're hearing. But, since the operetta takes place on February 29 (pirate apprentice Frederic's birthday), and presumably during Lent, I hope they are not singing this Easter text yet! (it's hard to make out the words, as I recall)

Just two weeks ago, we saw another Sullivan tune, ST. KEVIN, which is most often set to another Easter text. As it happens, there are two more of his tunes that are also associated with Easter hymns: FORTUNATUS, most often sung with Welcome, happy morning; and RESURREXIT, written for a less familar text that begins Christ is risen! Christ is risen!

Four tunes for Easter texts from the same composer may seem excessive, though I would not be surprised to learn of a church where all four were sung in the same service. On the other hand, could we really expect several Lenten tunes from the composer of H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance? What better season for "happy" tunes? I think that Sullivan was temperamentally drawn to more joyful texts, and that these four tunes are all somewhat better than some of his more "serious" ones, though you can judge for yourself if you want to slog through a few of those sixty-some others linked above.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Frances E. Cox

Frances Elizabeth Cox was born at Oxford on this day in 1812. Almost nothing is known about her life, but her translations of German hymns have survived and continue to be sung today.

Congregational hymn singing in Germany was part of their worship long before the practice took hold in England. Yet German hymns were nearly unknown in England until the middle of the nineteenth century, except for some that had been translated by John Wesley. Catherine Winkworth would come to be the most prolific translator, but others such as Frances Cox made their contribution.

In 1841, Cox published Sacred Hymns from the German, containing 49 translated hymns. Her second volume, 23 years later, Hymns from the German, contained many of those 49 with an additional 29. Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology says that there were a few other translations published in magazines that appeared in neither collection.

It seems that everyone who ever translated a German hymn took a crack at Martin Luther's Ein feste burg. Cox's translation begins:

A Fortress firm and steadfast Rock
Is God in time of danger
A Shield and Sword in every shock
From foe well-known or stranger.

Two of Cox's translations we have already seen here: one for Easter and one of my favorite hymns, for All Saints' Day. This one is, I suspect, more widely known in various denominations.

Sing praise to God who reigns above,
The God of all creation,
The God of power, the God of love,
The God of our salvation;
With healing balm my soul is filled,
And every faithless murmur stilled:
To God all praise and glory.

What such almighty power hath made,
God's gracious mercy keepeth;
By morning glow or evening shade
God's watchful eye ne'er sleepeth.
Within the realm of God's delight,
Lo! all is just and all is right:
To God all praise and glory.

For God is never far away,
But through all grief distressing,
An ever present help and stay,
Our peace and joy and blessing.
As with a mother's tender hand,
God gently leads the pilgrim band:
To God all praise and glory.

Then all my toilsome way along
I sing aloud God's praises,
That all may hear the grateful song
My voice unwearied raises:
Be joyful in the Lord, my heart!
Both soul and body bear your part!
To God all praise and glory.

O ye who name Christ's holy name
Give God all praise and glory;
Let all who know God's power proclaim
Aloud the wondrous story!
Cast each false idol from its throne,
And worship God, and God alone!
To God all praise and glory.

Johann J. Schutz, 1675
tr. Frances E. Cox, 1864; alt.
Bohemian Brethren Kirchegesang, 1566

This hymn by the Lutheran Johann Schutz was originally in eight verses, though most hymnals print only four or five. One that is rarely seen:

I cried to God in my distress --
In mercy, hear my calling!
My Maker saw my helplessness
And kept my feet from falling;
For this, Lord, thanks and praise to thee
Praise God, I say, praise God with me!
To God all praise and glory.

The tune, MIT FREUDEN ZART, may have been traced back to a medieval French secular song, Une pastourelle gentille, though the more martial setting we know today seems a little heavy for a French shepherd girl.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More Voices Found: Phebe Hanaford

Today is the 180th birthday of Phebe Hanaford (1829 - 1921). Born into a Quaker family, she reportedly played at preaching as a child, gathering a little congregation of friends together to hear her. Years later she would become the fourth woman minister ordained in this country.

Phebe became a teacher at age sixteen, and married at twenty. She converted to the Baptist denomination of her husband, but her interest in womens' rights and abolitionism eventually led her to
Universalism. She delivered her first sermon in 1865, and was soon recognized for her preaching. In 1868 she was ordained into the Universalist ministry and went on to serve churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

She was well acquainted with the leaders of the
women's suffrage movement: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (and officiated at both their funerals many years later). Lucretia Mott, in fact, was her cousin.

Phebe edited a women's Universalist magazine, The Ladies' Repository, around this time. She also wrote at least fourteen books, including a best-selling
biography of Abraham Lincoln (the first published after his assassination) and a volume of poetry, From Shore to Shore. The total number of her hymns doesn't seem to be known, but it was probably small. I chose this one because we are still in the Easter season.

Christ is risen! Lo, the day
Glows with love's divinest ray;
Light is come, the gleam divine
On each human path to shine;
So with grateful gladness sing,
Christ is risen, our glorious King!

Christ is risen! Lo, the grave
Holds him not who came to save,
Save from sin and death and pain,
Save from doubt's beguiling reign;
So with joyful hope we sing,
Christ is risen, our conquering King!

Christ is risen! Lo, a voice
Calls from heav'nly heights, "Rejoice!"
Angels welcomed him whose birth
They had heralded on earth --
Of his triumph let us sing,
Christ is risen, our Savior King!

Christ is risen! Lo, we'll be
Witnesses, O Christ, for thee;
Men and women strong and sweet
By thy grace disciples meet;
Till this song in heaven we'll sing,
Christ is risen! behold our King!

Phebe Hanaford, 1883; alt.
Trier Gesangbuch, 1695

Phebe and her husband separated (but never divorced) when he would not move to Connecticut with her when she accepted a call to the Universalist church in New Haven. She then lived with Ellen Miles, a writer and poet, for the next forty-four years, until Miles' death. In 1877, the church she pastored in Jersey City did not renew her contract, supposedly over her support for womens' rights, but papers and letters from the period reveal that Phebe had been asked to "dismiss" Ellen Miles (referred to as "the minister's wife") and she refused. She and her supporters formed another congregation in Jersey City, where she remained for another seven years.

A view of the two women's home life is depicted in
a 1905 article in the New York Times. Ellen Miles is here referred to as a "writer of hymns," though I have not located any yet.

Phebe Hanaford's obituary in that same paper (June 2, 1921) summarized her accomplishments thus: "All forms of feminine advancement she supported." She lived to see the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution passed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

T. Tertius Noble

Thomas Tertius Noble (1867- 1953) already appeared here last year, but like many composers and hymnwriters, he produced more than one work worthy of our consideration.

In addition to his compositional skill, Noble was also a renowned organ recitalist, gaining an international reputation during his years living in England. He was on a recital tour of the US when the vestry of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in New York approached him to become their organist and choirmaster. Once hired, he naturally made suggestions regarding the new pipe organ they were having built that would make it comparable to the organ he played while employed at York Minster, which was considered to be one of the finest in England. After the new organ was installed, Noble began a series of weekly recitals on Sunday evenings at 8 pm, which further enhanced the musical reputation of St. Thomas. He continued to play concerts across the country, for occasions as diverse as the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Vassar College.

O God, the Giver of all good;
Thy people live by daily food;
And daily must our prayer be said,
“Give us this day our daily bread.”

What large provision thou hast made!
As large as is thy people’s need;
How wide thy bounteous love is spread!
Wide as the want of daily bread.

The life of earth and seed is thine;
Suns glow, rains fall, by power divine;
Since every day by thee we live,
May grateful hearts thy gifts receive.

Samuel Longfellow, 1864; alt.
T. Tertius Noble, 1917

In my research thus far I've found seventeen hymn tunes by Noble, a few carols, and several harmonizatrions of other, older hymn tunes. I'm sure there are more of each. I'm also curious about his anthems and other choral music, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Where Living Waters Flow

Good Shepherd Sunday, observed in some Catholic and Protestant traditions, falls on the Fourth Sunday of Easter. Sheep and shepherd references abound, and the readings generally include Psalm 23. That particular psalm, a favorite of many people, is also a popular subject for hymn texts. Already on the blog we have seen two different ones (here and here) and today we have a third, a gospel song which adds a refrain partially taken from Matthew 11: 28-30. There are many more paraphrases of Psalm 23, spanning several centuries and musical styles, so I'm sure we'll get to more of them.

Since God is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
God maketh me down to lie
In pastures green God leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

God's yoke is easy; God's burden is light.
I’ve found it so; I’ve found it so.
God leadeth me by day and by night
Where living waters flow.

My soul crieth out: “Restore me again,
And give me the strength to take
The narrow path of righteousness,
E’en for thine own Name’s sake.”

Yea, tho’ I should walk the valley of death,
Yet why should I fear from ill?
For thou art with me, and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.

Ralph E. Hudson, 1885; alt.
Tune: GOD'S YOKE IS EASY (Irregular with refrain)

Ralph Erskine Hudson was a Methodist minister who began his own publishing firm to produce hymnals and songbooks, many containing his own texts and tunes. He became a popular traveling evangelist, promoting his company's output.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Saint Philip and Saint James

The Episcopal calendar of saints marks today as the commemoration of two saints: Philip and James. We've talked before about the multiple saints named James (here and here) -- this one seems to be James the Lesser, though there isn't complete agreement on that. Philip appears a bit more often in the New Testament, and apparently he is always the fifth in the lists of the twelve apostles.

Today's hymn by
Cecil Frances Alexander uses familiar themes from John 14. Philip is one of the disciples asking questions of Jesus in this chapter.

Our chosen Way, and Truth of God
That Jesus came from heav'n to show,
One Life, that Christ's redeeming blood
Has won, for all the saints below.

The lore, from Philip once concealed,
To us is fully known in Christ,
Our great Creator is revealed
And all our longing is sufficed.

And still unwavering faith holds sure
The words that James wrote boldly down;
Each day we labor and endure,
And finally win the heav'nly crown,

O Way divine, through gloom and strife,
Bring us our Maker's face to see,
O heav'nly Truth, O precious Life,
At last, at last to rest in thee.

Cecil Frances Alexander, 1875; alt.
Edward Hodges, 1841

Composer Edward Hodges was born in England, but crossed the ocean to accept church musician jobs first in Toronto then in New York City, where he was the organist at Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. He is best known for his hymn tune arrangement of the main theme from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, known to us as HYMN TO JOY. I also mentioned him (though not by name) last week when talking about his son, John Sebastian Bach Hodges, the composer of EUCHARISTIC HYMN.