Sunday, November 29, 2009

When Our Hearts Are Bowed With Care

Today is the beginning of the church year, which begins with the first Sunday of Advent. This season of preparation is made up of several different threads: the prophetic voices of hope from the Old Testament, the witness of John the Baptist, the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, the approaching birth of Jesus, and even the return of Christ in the Second Advent.

These things don't proceed in a linear sequence; in fact, the story of the end times usually comes at the beginning of Advent. John the Baptist foretells the ministry of Jesus but that's many years after the birth in Bethlehem; John is still a baby when Mary and Joseph take their difficult journey.

This Advent hymn encompasses the beginning and the end as well as the promises of hope.

Jesus came, adored by angels,
Came with peace from realms on high;
Jesus came for our redemption,
Lowly came on earth to die.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Came in deep humility,
Came in deep humility

Jesus comes again in mercy,
When our hearts are bowed with care;
Jesus comes again in answer
To an earnest, heartfelt prayer;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Comes to save us from despair,
Comes to save us from despair.

Jesus comes to hearts rejoicing,
Bringing news of sins forgiven;
Jesus comes in sounds of gladness,
Leading souls redeemed to Heav’n;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Now the gate of death is riv’n,
Now the gate of death is riv'n.

Jesus comes on clouds triumphant,
When the heav’ns shall pass away;
Jesus comes again in glory;
Let us then our homage pay,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Till the dawn of endless day,
Till the dawn of endless day.

Godfrey Thring, 1864; alt.
John Hughes, 1907

One (Liturgical) Year Ago: Thousand Thousand Saints Attending

One (Calendar) Year Ago: John Haynes Holmes

Thursday, November 26, 2009

William Cowper

William Cowper, sometimes called the greatest English poet of his age, was born today in 1731 in Berkhampstead. Some sources continue to list his birthday as November 15, but this is under the Old Style Gregorian calendar, abandoned in England in 1752 for the Julian calendar.

He was educated for a career in law, but felt unequal to the pressure of the necessary examinations for a position as a clerk to the House of Lords and attempted suicide three times. This led to his first confinement in an asylum for the insane at St. Alban's. Modern diagnosis of his condition generally supposes it to be manic depression or bipolar disorder. Upon his recovery, he moved to Huntingdon to be near one of his brothers, and took lodgings with the Unwin family. Two years later the Reverend Unwin was killed in a fall from a horse, but Cowper continued to live with the widow and her children. During this time, Cowper and the Unwins met
John Newton, who suggested that they move to Olney, the parish where he was now curate.

Cowper and Newton shared an interest in hymnwriting, and each helped to encourage the other. Their influential collection,
Olney Hymns, was eventually published in 1779. Cowper's sixty-eight contributions to that volume include a good number that are still sung today. Today's hymn takes its themes from the Sermon on the Mount (today's Gospel reading for Thanksgiving in my church) and from Habakkuk 3:17-18. Though this one may not have remained among his most popular, it is still one of my favorites.

Sometimes a light surprises
The child of God who sings;
A light from One who rises
On gentle, healing wings:
When comforts are declining,
God grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God's salvation,
And find it ever new;
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow
Bring with it what it may,

It can bring with it nothing
But God will bear us through:
Who gives the lilies clothing
Will clothe all people, too:
Beneath the spreading heavens
No creature but is fed;
And God who feeds the ravens
Will give all children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their usual fruit should bear,
Though all the fields should wither,
Nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet, God the same abiding,
Whose praise shall tune my voice;
For, while in God confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

William Cowper, 1779; alt.
Scottish Psalter, 1615

The critic Hugh L'Anson Faussett, who later edited a collection of Cowper's poetry, claimed that Newton's influence on Cowper only served to “indulge and inflame his sensiblity in the dark ecstasies of Calvinism, while at the same time affronting all that was reasonable and humane in his nature.” It seems unlikely that Cowper would have agreed. At any rate, this hymn is surely as joyful an expression of hope and certainty as one could find.

Cowper suffered at least two more periods of severe depression and confinement. The first, in 1773, seems to have ended his plans to wed Mary Unwin, though she remained his close friend and cared for him after his release from the asylum on that occasion. After her death in 1796 he never quite recovered, and died himself in 1800.

Cowper's primary fame as a poet in his own time came after the bulk of his hymnwriting, with the publication of works such as The Diverting History of John Gilpin (1782), The Task (1785) and his blank verse translations of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey (1791). However, his hymns have reached a much larger and broader audience, even though many thousands of singers may have never remembered his name.

The Song of Harvest Home

Our American Thanksgiving coincides with the end of the traditional harvest time. Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, which established the national holiday (thanks in part to the lobbying of Sarah Josepha Hale), made reference to the “blessings of fruitful fields.”

Harvest festivals of one kind or another have been celebrated in many nations and cultures. In England, the custom goes back several centuries, and was originally a secular holiday. The Reverend Robert Hawker was apparently the first to bring the celebration into church, on October 1, 1843. As these Harvest Festivals developed (especially popular in rural churches), hymns and prayers were written for them, and church buildings were decorated with home grown produce. This hymn which dates from those early years, by our old friend Henry Alford, was sung in many churches today (or at least this week).

Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come,
Raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field,
Fruit unto God's praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown
Unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear;
God of harvest, grant that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Living God shall come,
And shall take the harvest home;
From the field shall in that day
All offenses purge away,
Give the angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store
In God's garner evermore.

Even so, God, quickly come,
Bring thy final harvest home;
Gather thou thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In thy presence to abide;
Come, with all thine angels come,
Raise the glorious harvest home.

Henry Alford, 1844, 1865; alt.
George J. Elvey, 1858

In the words of the Presbyterian Handbook to the Hymnal (1935), this hymn “sweeps broadly through the whole regime of God's grace manifest in present worldly blessings and eternal salvation.”

Alford's text was first matched with this grand tune in the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861), though the editors of that book changed the text in ways that he did not approve, leading him to revise it for a collected edition of his own works. Naturally, there have been other revisions over the years. Some modern hymnals omit the third verse.

The tune by George Elvey, named for St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, where he was organist for nearly fifty years, was not written for this tune but they have stayed together in most hymnals for the last 150 years.

One Year Ago: All Good Gifts Around Us

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thomas Tallis

Today is the anniversary of the death of English composer Thomas Tallis, in 1585. Almost nothing is known of his early life, not even the exact year of his birth (best guess seems to be around 1505), let alone the date.

In 1532 he became the organist at the
Benedictine priory in Dover, and this seems to be the first date recorded in association with his life. Other organist positions followed until 1543, when he received a royal appointment as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, a musical job in which he sometimes sang in or led the choir, played the organ, and composed music for the services there.

Though Tallis did compose some works for keyboard, most of his compositions are sacred choral music. Due to the changes in the monarchs of England during his lifetime, he had to compose both in English for the services of the new Church of England, and at other times had to compose in Latin for the Catholic liturgy. Tallis himself was Catholic, and some scholars believe that his Latin pieces show his sympathy for that side.

The hymn tunes of Tallis (
some of which are still used today) mostly come from an edition of the Psalter that was translated in 1561 by Matthew Parker, who was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Queen Elizabeth I. Tallis wrote nine tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter, eight of which were used for multiple psalms (the ninth was solely used for a translation of the hymn Veni sancte spiritus). This particular tune, probably the most well-known by Tallis, was adapted from the eighth tune of the psalter.

All praise to thee, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light!
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath thine own almighty wings.

When in the night I sleepless lie,
My soul with heavenly thoughts supply;
Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of evil me molest.

Teach me to live, that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.
That with the world, myself, and thee,
I, ere I sleep, at peace may be..

O may my soul on thee repose,
And with sweet sleep mine eyelids close,
Sleep that may me more vigorous make
To serve my God when I awake.

Thomas Ken, 1693; alt.
Thomas Tallis, 1561

This hymn by Bishop Thomas Ken, originally had eleven stanzas (and he added one more a few tears later), but most of them have not been sung in the last two hundred years or so. One that I find interesting, though it was perhaps a bit too vivid for the Victorians:

Dull sleep, of sense me to deprive!
I am but half my days alive;
Thy faithful lovers, Lord, are grieved,
To be so long of thee bereaved.

P.S. This hymn was Number Four on the list of The Best Church Hymns seen here last week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saint Cecilia

November 22 is the feast day of Saint Cecilia, traditionally the patron saint of music and musicians, and certainly an appropriate subject for this blog.

She lived in either the second or third century (accounts differ) and was martyred along with her husband and brother-in-law, whom she had converted to Christianity. Her sainthood was conferred as early as the fifth century, when a church named for her was built in Rome. Her connection to music is also attributed to different stories; one states that she sang a hymn to God in her heart during her wedding ceremony to block out the profane worldly music of the Roman rite, while another tells of her singing boldly while she was martyred (by beheading). She is often depicted playing the organ, with an angel present.

Many pieces of music, particularly sacred choral music, have been written in her honor, including masses by Gounod and Scarlatti, extended odes by Purcell, Britten, Handel, Howells, and Parry, and many shorter works.

Older Catholic hymnals contain a handful of hymns for her feast day, and there are probably untranslated hymns from the Eastern Orthodox churches. This particular one comes from the St. Mark's Hymnal (1910), published by St. Mark's Parish in Peoria, IL. Julia C. Dox, one of the hymnal's compilers, also wrote this text.

Saint Cecilia, you who sing
Praises ever echoing,
Make our hearts your instrument
In God's service ever spent.

E'er to music give your pow'rs
Thus to aid in troubled hours;
Music, the divinest art,
Ever of our lives a part.

Inspiration still it brings,
Earthly words are given wings;
May we sing, when heav'n is won,
Praise to God, great Three in One.

Julia C. Dox, 1910; adapt.
Tune: EVELYN (
Emma L. Ashford, 1905

Today is the last Sunday of the church year -- Advent begins next week! In many churches, today is marked as the Feast (or Solemnity) of Christ the King. But I do know of a few places where they are including one of the choral anthems to Saint Cecilia in addition to the traditional Christ the King music. I wonder what they're singing in Peoria?

One (Liturgical) Year Ago: The Feast of Christ the King

One (Calendar) Year Ago:
If Jordan Above Me Shall Roll

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Voices Found: Ada Cambridge

Ada Cambridge was born today in 1844 in the eastern English town of Norfolk. Her education was taken in hand by a succession of governesses, which she apparently did not like, and by one maiden aunt, whom she later credited with much of her intellectual development.

In 1870 she married the Reverend Mr. George Frederick Cross, and only a few weeks later they moved to Australia, where he was to lead several missionary parishes of the Church of England over the next forty-three years. A few years, later, to supplement his small income and support their growing family, Ada began to write novels, many of them first serialized in magazines. Her reputation grew and her works became popular in England and the US as well as in Australia. She eventually published twenty-five novels, a few books of poetry, and two memoirs, including Thirty Years in Australia (1903). Her novels and other books were published under the name of Ada Cambridge (or, earlier, A.C.) rather than under her married name.

Her views were modern and somewhat unorthodox, especially as expressed in her poems. One of her poetry collections, Unspoken Thoughts (1887) was withdrawn from sale at her request only three days after its publication. Apparently, some of the poems were challenging to the religious and sexual attitudes of the day, and would not have been considered proper from the wife of an Anglican clergyman.

However, her first literary attempts were published a few years before her marriage and emigration. She had written verse as a girl, but her first two books were of hymns:

Hymns on the Litany (1865)
Hymns on the Holy Communion (1866)

The second of these books contained this hymn, which I believe was not taken up by very many hymnals, though I find it interesting. The exclamation points in the first two stanzas give an ecstatic feeling to the communion theme.

Food of heaven! Feast of angels!
On this holy altar spread;
Symbol of the life immortal,
In our sight unfathomèd.

Love celestial! Hope undying!
Here unto our faith revealed;
Light, whose mystery we know not,
Truth, which lips divine have sealed.

Gate of the Eternal City,
Where the angel-echoes ring,
Where our Mediator standeth
With a smile of welcoming.

Jesus stands in light and glory,
Patiently disburdening:
Strength divine, and peace and blessing
On the captive soul to bring.

And the promise stands forever
That each faithful one shall be
Guarded by this grace and power,
By this love, eternally.

Once the gift was freely offered
Now may we its blessing take
Drink the chalice of salvation,
Eat the bread that Jesus brake.

Ada Cambridge, 1866; alt.
William H. Monk, 1850

The Crosses returned to England in 1912 upon his retirement. Though their early years in Australia had been difficult, Ada returned there after George's death in 1917 and remained until her death in 1926.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Best Church Hymns (1899)

Since it's been a slow week for hymnic birthdays and such I have been looking though some old books on hymnody that I've downloaded from the internet. Today I'll talk a bit about one that some of you may find interesting.

The Best Church Hymns was published in 1899 by the Presbyterian Board of Publication. It was compiled by Louis F. Benson, who was the editor of that denomination's Hymnal of 1895. In his introduction, he lays out the criteria:

The hymn is the people's share in God's praise, and is intended for congregational use. It can be tested only in actual use in the worship of the Church; and to propose any other test (such as the opinions of critics) is to confound literature with liturgics. (...) The “best church hymns” are those... which have come into actual use over the widest area, and by consent of the largest number of Christians in the different churches.

Benson then lists these thirty-two hymns which appeared most often across 107 different US and UK hymnals of the late nineteenth century, spanning several denominations, and ranked from most frequent to least (all were in at least 80% of the hymnals).

1. Rock of ages, cleft for me (106)

2. When I survey the wondrous cross (104)

3. Jesus, lover of my soul (104)

4. All praise to thee, my God, this night (103)

5. Jesus, I my cross have taken ** (103)

6. Sun of my soul (103)

7. Awake, my soul, and with the sun (101)

8. Hark! the herald angels sing ** (101)

9. Abide with me (101)

10. Jerusalem, my happy home ** (101)

11. How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds (101)

12. Nearer, my God, to thee (100)

13. From Greenland's icy mountains ** (100)

14. O God, our help in ages past (100)

15. Jerusalem the golden (99)

16. Lo, he comes with clouds descending (94)

17. Jesus shall reign wher'er the sun (94)

18. Glorious things of thee are spoken (93)

19. Hark! the glad sound, the Savior comes (92)

20. Come, let us join our cheerful songs (92)

21. All hail the pow'r of Jesus' name ** (92)

22. Hail to the Lord's anointed (91)

23. O worship the King (91)

24. Christ the Lord is ris'n today (90)

25. Guide me, O thou great Jehovah (90)

26. Just as I am, without one plea (90)

27. God moves in a mysterious way (90)

28. Jesus, the very thought of thee (89)

29. Children of the heavenly King (87)

30. There is a land of pure delight (87)

31. Thou whose almighty Word (86)

32. Brief life is here our portion ** (86)

The ones I have previously written about (for some reason, mostly from the middle of the list) are linked; those which I have at least mentioned are marked with (**). Several of them will be coming up in the next few months, and there are only a handful here that I would be unlikely ever to write about.

The next two, which Benson assumed would pass his 80% guideline when a few more hymnals appeared, were Holy! Holy! Holy! (which would certainly still be on the list today) and Lead, kindly Light (which would certainly not be). Were someone to compile a similar list today, 110 years later, others from the list would definitely be replaced by newer ones.

Following the list, the text of each hymn is printed, with notes on many of the various text changes that had occurred since the text was first published, and also Benson's brief thoughts on each hymn (almost like little blog entries!). The book is only 99 pages long, a good size for easy downloading and a good length for reading.

Friday, November 13, 2009

George W. Chadwick

Composer George Whitefield Chadwick was born today in 1854 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Though he dropped out of high school in 1871, the following year he was admitted to the New England Conservatory of Music as a special student. He was successful in his musical studies, and taught music at Olivet College in Michigan after graduation. While there, he became one of the founders of the Music Teachers National Association, and also published some of his first compositions.

He then traveled to Leipzig and Munich for two more years of musical studies; at the time European study was considered a necessity for an American composer. After returning to the US, he went back to the New England Conservatory as a teacher, and eventually becoming its director in 1897, serving for 33 years. He was also the organist at Boston's
South Congregational Church and conducted annual choral festivals at Springfield and Worcester.

Chadwick composed in many different forms, including choral music, symphonies and chamber music, and opera. His works were popular in his own time both in this country and abroad; he was thought to be one of the best American composers of the day. He became known as one of the Second New England School of composers, with
Amy Beach, Horatio Parker, John Knowles Paine, and others. Each of these composed some hymn tunes, and Chadwick added another handful (a few more than you can hear at the Cyber Hymnal site).

I sought thee, Lord, and afterward I knew
Thou mov'dst my soul to seek thee, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
No, I was found of thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm vexed sea.
’Twas not so much that I on thee took hold,
As Thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole
Of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee!
For thou were long beforehand with my soul,
Always thou lovedst me.

Author unknown, c. 1880; alt.
George W. Chadwick, 1890

This anonymous hymn text may have first appeared in a collection published in Boston titled Holy Songs, Carols, and Sacred Ballads (1880). One subsequent source attributed it to the British poet Jean Ingelow, but apparently there is no consensus on her authorship. Chadwick is said to have written the tune specifically for this text, though other sources say that the text did not appear in an American hymnal until 1903. Of course, it still could have been sung earlier by Chadwick's Boston congregation. The hymn later appeared in several twentieth century hymnals, but nearly always with a different tune. Chadwick's other hymn tunes fared equally badly; I don't believe any of them appear in current collections.

From my own bookshelf, A Book of Choruses for High Schools and Choral Societies (1923) states of Chadwick (admittedly, one of its editors):

Probably no American composer has had a larger influence on the development of music in this country. Mr. Chadwick's works have won a permanent place in the repertoires of orchestras, choruses, choirs, and singers the world over...

Not so permanent, as it turned out. Some of his orchestral and chamber works have been recorded, but almost none of his choral or vocal music.

I've always thought it would be interesting to attend a New England Classical Christmas concert, with choral excerpts from Chadwick's oratorio Noel (1908), Parker's cantata The Holy Child (1893), Paine's cantata The Nativity (1883) and Amy Beach's Christmas pieces Bethlehem (1893) and Constant Christmas (1922). But I've also come to realize that if I ever want to hear it I will probably have to start the choral group myself.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Martin Luther

German reformer Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 - February 18, 1546) was born in the town of Eisleben. In college, at the University of Erfurt, he studied many subjects, even law briefly, but eventually entered the Augustinian friary in Erfurt and became a monk.

His conflicts with the Catholic Church are better documented elsewhere, but it's useful to remember that theological disputes in his time were not polite exchanges across dueling dissertations or magazine articles. When he refused to recant his Ninety-Five Theses, which had been declared heretical by church authorities in Germany and in Rome, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V presided at a trial in 1521 (the
Diet of Wurms) which pronounced him an outlaw, subject to arrest. Luther's writings were banned and it was now a crime for anyone to give him food or shelter. Fortunately he still had influential friends; Frederick III of Saxony had him taken to Wartburg Castle, where he remained in protective custody for a year. It was during this time that he translated the New Testament from Latin to German. He remained committed to bringing religious practice into the language of his people, both through his translation of Scripture (eventually completed after his Wartburg stay and updated frequently until his death) and his hymns in German, meant to be sung by the congregation.

This hymn of Luther's may not be particularly well known, even to Lutherans, but it caught my eye because I had been looking at All Saints' Day hymns last week. In 1523, two Augustinian monks, were arrested and tried for heresy in Brussels and were burned at the stake. Luther was incensed by the actions of the Inquisition and inspired by the martyrdom of the monks. He must have thought that the same fate could have come upon him.

Flung to the heedless winds,
Or on the waters cast,
The martyrs’ ashes, watched,
Shall gathered be at last.

And from that scattered dust,
Around us and abroad,
Shall spring a plenteous seed,
Of witnesses for God.

Their loving God received,
Their latest living breath,
And vain is any boast
Of victory in their death.

Still, still, though dead, they speak,
And, trumpet-tongued, proclaim,
To many a wakening land,
The one availing Name.

Martin Luther, 1523
tr, John A, Messenger, 1843: alt.
Geistliche Kirchengesäng, 1623

One Year Ago: Martin Luther

Sunday, November 8, 2009

No Price I Bring

This rock by the side of the road in Burrington Combe, Somerset, has become famous for inspiring one of the most loved hymns in our repertory. The story goes that during a bad thunderstorm, Augustus Montague Toplady (whose birthday I missed earlier this week), then the curate of a nearby village, sought shelter in the cleft of the rock. There is now a plaque installed on the side of the cliff which recounts the legend for tourists.

The story has been the subject of debate for the last hundred years, with many scholars now rejecting it for one reason or another, but it will go on nevertheless. Whether or not there was an actual sheltering rock, Toplady may also have taken his inspiration from 1 Corinthians 10:4: For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save me from its guilt and pow'r.

Should my tears forever flow,
Should my zeal no languor know,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
And behold thee on thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.

Augustus Montague Toplady, 1776; alt.
Robert Hastings, 1830

Toplady's text has been much altered in many hymnbooks since its first appearance in the Gospel Magazine in April 1776. Probably the first change was in the final verse, which originally read "when my eye-strings break in death." The tune by Robert Hastings is nearly always used in the US, but in other parts of the world they sing it to REDHEAD. Regardless of text or tune changes, this hymn has ranked at or near the top of many hymn surveys over the last hundred years.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Will L. Thompson

Hymn writer and composer William Lamartine Thompson was born today in 1847 in Smiths Ferry, Pennsylvania, but shortly thereafter his parents moved to East Liverpool, Ohio, where Thompson was to live for most of his life. He graduated from Mount Union College in nearby Alliance, continuing studies in music at the New England Conservatory of Music (not long after its founding by Eben Tour­jée, the father of hymn composer Lizzie Tour­jée), and later in Leipzig, Germany.

While still studying in Boston, Thompson wrote his first successful song, Gathering Up the Shells at the Seashore, inspired by an excursion to nearby
Nahant Beach. While he went on to write many secular and patriotic songs, becoming known as “the Stephen Foster of Ohio,” he would become even better known for writing gospel songs.

Back in East Liverpool after his education, he encountered some obstacles to having his music published so he started the W.L. Thompson Music Company which published and sold sheet music and song collections in addition to selling musical instruments and other supplies. He later opened a similar successful company in Chicago.

Will Thompson wrote many gospel songs that appeared in various hymn and song books between 1875 and 1920. The Cyber Hymnal
lists only a few that you can examine, and lists many more, though only by title. One of his songs stands out above the others, loved and sung by millions. First published by Thompson in Sparkling Gems No. 1 & 2 (1880), it has since appeared in hundreds more collections.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O wand'rer, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

O for the wonderful love that is promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, there is mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

Will L. Thompson, 1880; alt.
Tune: THOMPSON ( with refrain)

You might also remember this song as sung by actress Geraldine Page in her Academy Award-winning performance in The Trip to Bountiful (1985). And if you haven't seen that film, you should.

One anecdote is told in nearly every account of Thompson's life. Evangelist Dwight Moody, who had traveled the world with singer and songwriter Ira Sankey, was on his deathbed when he learned that Thompson had called to see him. Insisting on seeing Thompson, Moody then told him that he would rather have written Softly and tenderly than any of his numerous other accomplishments in life.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Baptist Scholarship

This isn't exactly Hymns in the News, but I thought some of you might be interested in a recent collection of scholarly papers on various aspects of Baptist hymnody that were presented at the September 24-25 Colloquium on Baptist Church Music sponsored by the Center for Christian Music Studies at Baylor University. Even if you're not from a Baptist background, you'll probably find something of interest.

Just to whet your appetite, some of the papers include:

  • Collecting Baptist Hymnals
  • Hymns and the Baptist Presidents
  • Chinese Hymns in Chinese Baptist Hymnals
  • The Growth of Calvinism in Southern Baptist Churches
and the one I'm most looking forward to reading, with the intriguing title of More Than Half a Fool, which discusses the use of Anglican chant in Baptist churches in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

You can download and read them all at this web page:
Center for Christian Music Studies,

On other matters, the amount of traffic on this blog seems to be spiking this week for some unknown reason, with more than forty people visiting on both Sunday and Monday (average daily visits have been closer to 25-30 in recent months). Big change from the days when I pretty much knew everyone who was reading. Not that I'm complaining but it's also odd to note that at the same time, comments have substantially decreased.

If you're new to the site (or even if you're not new), please feel free to introduce yourself and join the conversation.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Feast of All Saints

This year All Saints' Day falls on a Sunday, meaning that it may be celebrated in more churches than usual (though many places simply observe it on the Sunday nearest November 1). This hymn will undoubtedly be sung by many congregations around the world today, probably as the opening hymn of the service. My own choir will sing this in the “long procession,” the figure-eight path around the sanctuary reserved for special occasions, so it's good this hymn is a long one. In An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (2002), editor J.R. Watson says: The hymn's length is there for a purpose; it allows the mind to dwell on the arduous struggle and its final end in glory.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in their loneliness, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The host of glory passes on its way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
They sing to Creator, Christ, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

William Walsham How, 1864; alt.
Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906

This hymn by William Walsham How first appeared in an 1864 collection called Hymns for Saints' Days, and Other Hymns by a Layman (the layman was Horatio Bolton Nelson, not How, who was then a priest and later a bishop in the Church of England). There are three additional stanzas (originally the third, fourth, and fifth) which are not often printed in modern hymnals.

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Though this hymn is generally linked with All Saints' Day it has also been sung on individual saints' days. In some early printings of the hymn, instructions indicated that one of these three stanzas could be sung depending on the status (Apostle, Evangelist, Martyr) of the saint being commemorated.

How's text first appeared with music in the Sarum Hymnal (1868), where, as I've mentioned before, it was matched to a tune by Joseph Barnby, also called SARUM, which survived well into the twentieth century. Church Hymns (1874), interestingly, sets it to an Anglican chant tune. Charles Villiers Stanford wrote the tune ENGELBERG for this text in the 1904 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, which might have caught on, but two years later, Ralph Vaughan Williams's tune SINE NOMINE appeared in his English Hymnal. SINE NOMINE (literally, “without a name”) is thought to suggest the thousands of saints whose names are unknown to us.

SINE NOMINE did not catch on immediately, but by the mid-twentieth century it had generally come to be considered the standard tune for this hymn. Hymns Ancient and Modern resisted the trend, perhaps seeing The English Hymnal as their primary competitor, and matched For all the saints with four different tunes in their 1950 edition (including ENGELBERG and SARUM) but not with SINE NOMINE! However, by 1983, when their New Standard edition was published they finally conceded and used the Vaughan Williams tune, with no alternate suggestions.

One Year Ago: The Feast of All Saints