Sunday, February 28, 2010

Catching Up

I haven't changed this to a weekly blog, but I'm still having trouble with my computer and the internet. Ordinarily I bring the hymns to you, but this week I'm sending you out to find some on your own.

These are some of the entries you might have seen this week.

Monday, February 22

James Russell Lowell (1819 - 1891) American poet and educator

Sarah Flower Adams (1805 - 1848) British Unitarian poet

Friday, February 26

George C. Stebbins (1846 - 1945) American gospel song composer and author of a 1924 book containing his personal reminiscences of his fellow composers (which I consult often when writing about them).

Saturday, February 27

William J. Kirkpatrick (1838 - 1921) American gospel song composer

Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848 - 1918) British composer

In addition, Wednesday, February 24 was the feast day of Saint Matthias. the first apostle chosen following the Ascension, who has had a few hymns written for him. Also, Tuesday, February 23 was the feast day of the lesser-known Saint Polycarp, about whom I might have written...

O Polycarp, Saint Polycarp,
We sound your praises on the harp;
We wish this hymn were longer, true,
But few have ever heard of you,

C.W.S., 2008
Geistliche Lieder, 1539
harm. Johann Sebastian Bach, 18th cent.
But I didn't, because of my computer troubles.

Hope to resume regular posting sometime this week. Come back again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Bread of Angels Sharing

The appointed Gospel lesson for the First Sunday in Lent has remained the same in many traditions since the sixth century, the story of Jesus' sojourn in the wilderness. He spent forty days there, fasting, praying and resisting temptation, which we now mark in the church calendar with the season of Lent.

The final line in the story, from Matthew 4: 11, reads: Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. This ties in to Psalm 91, also read today, and particularly verse 11: For God will command the angels to guard you in all your ways.

Which brings us to today's hymn, an anonymous Latin text from the seventeenth century which begins:

O esca viatórum,
O panis angelórum,
O manna coélitum,
Esuriéntes ciba,
Dulcédine non priva
Corda quæréntium.

This text has been set to music by several different composers, and translated into English a number of times as well. This version is drawn from a few different translations.

O Food of souls wayfaring,
The bread of angels sharing,
O Manna from on high!
We hunger; Christ, supply us,
Nor thy delights deny us,
Whose hearts to thee draw nigh.

O stream of love past telling,
O purest fountain, welling
From out the Savior's side!
Come now, thy love bestowing
On thirsting souls, and flowing
Till all are satisfied.

O Jesus, by thee bidden,
We here adore thee, hidden
'Neath forms of bread and wine.
Grant when the veil is riven,
We may behold, in heaven,
Thy countenance divine.

Latin, 17th cent.
Translation composite; alt.
Heinrich Isaac, 15th cent.
harm J.S. Bach, 1729

In one of the many stories from the life of Saint Dominic, his community of friars was unable to raise the necessary funds to feed themselves, after having given away their own possessions, and were visited by two angels who brought them sustenance. The mural below, picturing this story, is from the Convent of San Marco in Florence, painted by Giovanni Antonio Sogliani.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Transfigured in Remembered Light

Though the Feast of the Transfiguration technically falls on August 6, it seems to be more often observed these days on the last Sunday of the Epiphany season, before the beginning of Lent of Ash Wednesday. Apparently it was the Lutheran church which may have first moved this observance from August.

The story of Jesus' transfiguration is told in three of the Gospels. This morning we heard the version from
Luke 9:28-36. The disciples recognize this great wonder as another revelation of Jesus' divine nature, as in the other Epiphany narratives. As usual, they are so taken with the spectacle that their first impulse is to try to preserve the moment. They don't quite understand how it relates to their new mission.

The Unitarian
Frederick Lucian Hosmer takes the wonder of the story and brings it down the mountain into our daily lives.

Not always on the mount may we
Rapt in the heav’nly vision be:
The shores of thought and feeling know
The Spirit’s tidal ebb and flow.

“Lord, it is good abiding here,”
We cry, the heav’nly presence near:
The vision vanishes, our eyes
Are lifted into vacant skies.

Yet hath one such exalted hour
Upon the soul redeeming power,
And in that strength, through all our days,
We travel our appointed ways,

Till all this earthly vale grows bright,
Transfigured in remembered light,
And in untiring souls we bear
The freshness of the upper air.

The mount for vision: but below
The paths of daily duty go,
And nobler life therein shall own
The pattern on the mountain shown.

Frederick Lucian Hosmer, 1882; alt.
Tune: GERMANY (L.M.)
from William Gardiner's Sacred Melodies, 1815

Two Years Ago: Triple-Header

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fanny Crosby

Last week I mentioned that the Episcopal Church calendar has added many "provisional" commemorations this year, and today is one of the new ones most relevant to hymn lovers.

Fanny Crosby has been newly placed on this calendar (one day before the anniversary of her death in 1915), though, as the linked lectionary site points out, none of her works appear in the current denominational Hymnal 1982 (or its immediate predecessor, the Hymnal 1940). In fact, I'm not yet sure whether any of her gospel songs made it to the "official" denominational hymnals of 1871, 1892, or 1916; their indexes are not as robust as modern-day hymnals generally boast, but I haven't found any yet.

However, she has often appeared in supplemental Episcopalian books, from the current Voices Found (2003) which has Blessed assurance and To God be the glory, to Lift Every Voice and Sing II, all the way back to The Mission Hymnal (1885) and the earliest one I've found, the Hymnal for Children (1877), which included Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.

This one probably did not appear in any Episcopalian collections, but it's my most recent Fanny "find."

When the clouds hang low and heavy,
And the rolling surge we hear,
When no earthly pow’r can shield us
From the storm that most we fear,
O ’tis then our Savior’s presence
To the trusting heart is shown,
In a bright and glorious vision
Of the rainbow 'round the throne.

O the rainbow 'round the throne!
Lovely rainbow 'round the throne!
Ever brilliant, ever sparkling
Shines the rainbow 'round the throne.

When we stand amid the conflict
Of the battle raging high,
When the tempter seems to triumph,
And our friends despairing fly,
With the fleetness of an arrow
God’s protecting care is shown,
In the brightness that descendeth
From the rainbow 'round the throne.

When the veil of time is lifted,
And the shadows melt away,
When we fall asleep in Jesus,
And awake in endless day,
When the battle march is ended,
And our cares and tears have flown,
We shall gaze, and gaze forever,
On the rainbow 'round the throne.

Fanny Crosby, 1891; alt.
Tune; RAINBOW ROUND ( with refrain)
John R. Sweney, 1891

I think Fanny would have appreciated this honor, even though she herself was a Methodist. She knew that her songs were sung across many denominations, and we know that they still are.

I like the prayer appointed for this day:

O God, the blessed assurance of all who trust in thee: We give thee thanks for thy servant Fanny Crosby, who, though blind from infancy, beheld thy glory with great clarity of vision and spent her life giving voice to thy people’s heartfelt praise; and we pray that we, inspired by her words and example, may rejoice to sing of thy love, praising our Savior all the day long; who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God in perfect harmony, now and for ever. Amen.

One Year Ago: Washington Gladden

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mending Our Fisher Nets

One of the readings today was Luke 5:1-11, with Jesus bringing an enormous catch of fish to fis disciples and explaining its wider meaning. This hymn brings that experience and that calling to us, the modern congregation.

Holy, holy, holy, Christ, thy disciples
Gather in devotion to sing and speak of thee:
Holy, holy, holy, beautiful and gracious,
Still in our hearts we dwell in Galilee.

Holy, holy, holy, still in the morning
Mending our fisher nets, we hail thee by the shore;
Friend and guide and brother, by the wells of evening,
Deep from thy voice we drink thy healing lore.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord, thy disciples
Ever through the ages live again because of thee;
Holy, holy, holy, all thy ways we follow,
From Bethlehem to bleak Gethsemane.

Percy W. MacKaye, 1920; alt.
Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 19th cent.

Short entry today; I'm off to the Cathedral of St. John The Divine to sing a Choral Evensong with about 130 other singers this afternoon. Should be much fun!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Roger Williams

Last summer, the Episcopal Church added dozens of new individuals to be commemorated in the church calendar on what they're calling a provisional basis. Today is set aside for Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, religious leaders in colonial times, and considered the founders of the state of Rhode Island.

Williams was born in London around 1604 and emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his wife in 1631. Already somewhat notorious in England for his views on religious freedom, he became equally controversial in Massachusetts. He clashed with the Puritan leaders and left the colony to found a settlement farther south which he named Providence. His new government was set up to expressly provide religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

He also started what many believe to be the first Baptist congregation in this country, still in operation as the
First Baptist Church of Providence. Before long he found the Baptists too restrictive as well; his famous quote was "God is too large to be housed under one roof."

Williams was also known for his support of the Native American tribes of New England. He wrote the first study of the language of the Narragansett people, A Key Into the Language of America (1643). The book also included some "moralistic poems" such as this one, which were sung as hymns in some places (and thus are among the earliest hymns written in this country).

God makes a path, provides a guide,
And feeds in wilderness;
God's glorious Name, while breath remains,
O that I may confess.

Lost many a time, I had no guide,
No house but hollow tree;
In stormy winter night, no fire,
No food, no company.

In God I found a house, a bed,
A table, company;
No cup so bitter but made sweet,
Where God shall sweetening be.

Roger Williams, 1643; alt.
Scottish Psalter, 1650

Roger Williams's co-commemorant today, Anne Hutchinson, did not write hymns, but she's very interesting in her own right and you could do worse than to read more about her.

One Year Ago: Raindrops On My Window

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

William Howard Doane

The prolific gospel song composer and writer William H. Doane was born today in 1832 in Preston, CT. He attended the nearby Woodstock Academy, a private high school, and directed the school choir there at the age of fourteen. At twenty he began conducting the Norwich Harmonic Society for two years.

His musical endeavors might have been considered a sideline, since his primary career was with
J.A. Fay & Company, a manufacturer of woodworking machinery, where he worked his way up to the presidency. For most of his life he lived in Cincinnati, where he was also the Sunday School superintendent at the Mount Auburn Baptist Church. But it's surely Doane's music, sideline or no, that makes him still remembered today.

He composed more than two thousand gospel song tunes, many to words by
Fanny Crosby, a close friend who visited him in Ohio several times. He also edited more than forty collections, including the Baptist Hymnal for Use in the Church and Home (1883).

This song by Doane and Crosby appeared in one of his early collections, The Silver Spray (1868), which was a great success; the royalties from the book went to purchase a large pipe organ for the YMCA Hall in Cincinnati. This song is not so well-known as some of his others, but worth hearing, I think.

Come to the fountain of mercy and live,
Come, and a pardon receive;
Drink of the water that Jesus will give,
Freely to those that believe;
Weary and burdened with sorrow,
Sweet is the message to thee,
"Learn of the meek and the lowly,
Come, heavy laden to me."
Come to the clear flowing river,
Drink of its waters forever,
Hungry and thirsty, O, never,
Blessèd are they that believe!

Look unto Jesus, ye nations of earth,
Victor o'er death and the grave,
Though he was humble, and lowly his birth
Jesus is mighty to save.
Christ is our Rock and Salvation,
Christ is our Strength and our Song,
Onward from glory to glory,
Leading us ever along.

Fanny Crosby, 1868; alt.
Tune: BLESSED BELIEVERS ( with refrain)
William H. Doane, 1868

Some of Doane's correspondence with his fellow song writers, including Crosby, Ira Sankey, and Robert Lowry, is preserved at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton University.

One Year Ago: William Howard Doane

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Feast of the Presentation

Forty days after Christmas comes the Feast of the Presentation (or Candlemas) for some, the true end of the Christmas season. Some churches will celebrate today; some probably already did this past Sunday.

The story is told in
Luke 2:22-40, of Mary and Joseph bringing their baby son to the temple forty days after his birth. The prophet Anna and the old man Simeon had waited there for many years in expectation, and were rewarded by seeing the ancient prophecies fulfilled. Simeon and Anna are seen here with the child Jesus in a window from the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire.

The feast of Candlemas actually predates Christianity, with various rituals observed at this time of year. Apparently you can even trace the origins of Groundhog Day to this ancient festival, but that's rather outside the scope of this blog.

This hymn by
Christopher Wordsworth comes from his hymnal The Holy Year (1862) which, like several nineteenth century hymnals, gives specific hymns for each Sunday of the church year as well as for other feast days and saints' days. It's a bit grand for a midweek observance with its long stanzas, and might work better with a larger Sunday congregation.

O Jerusalem beloved,
Joyful morn has dawned on thee;
Sing with joy and exultation,
Sing a song of jubilee!
Jesus Christ, whom thou art seeking,
Christ for whom the nations pray,
Now in human flesh appearing,
To the temple comes today.

Glorious and bright the temple
With its gold and silver shone,
Which by royal hands was builded
Of the peaceful Solomon;
But thy latter House is brighter,
Dwelling there this heav'nly Guest,
Child of God, the everlasting
Rose of Sharon manifest.

Light, the entire world to lighten,
And thy glory, Israel,
Shines in Christ the heav'ly dayspring,
God with us, Emmanuel;
Now the entire world receives him
in its arms with faith's embrace
And with Simeon rejoices
In the light of Jesus' grace

May we, Christ, with holy Anna,
And with Simeon, wait for thee
In the solace of thy temple,
May our hearts thy temples be;
So, with saints and holy angels,
May we all forevermore
In Jerusalem the heav'nly,
Thee the Lord of all adore.

Christopher Wordsworth, 1862; alt.
Ganther (?), 19th cent.

The tune ST. HILARY, which appeared in a few nineteenth century hymnals, was traced back at far as an 1855 German collection, Zionsharfe, edited by Conrad Kocher. The name of "Ganther" appeared with it there, apparently as composer, but nothing further has been uncovered about the bearer of that name.

One Year Ago: Hail to the Lord who comes

Two Years Ago: O Zion, open wide thy gates