Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fill Us With Refining Fire

Choosing one of our Sunday themes during ordinary time we come around again to hymns of the Holy Spirit. They come from many denominations and different musical styles, but most of them contain similar images of wind, fire, and the breath of God. They are often prayers for change and renewal, which I think everyone can sing together, regardless of your own background or circumstances.

Breathe upon us now from heaven,
Fill us with the Holy Ghost;
Promise of the Savior given,
Send anew your Pentecost.

Breathe upon us, breathe upon us,
With your love our hearts inspire.
Breathe upon us, breathe upon us,
O baptize us now with fire.

While the Spirit hovers o’er us,
Open all our hearts, we pray;
To your image, God, restore us,
Witness in our souls today.

Lift us, Spirit, lift us higher,
From our fears and doubts set free;
Fill us with refining fire,
Give us perfect liberty.

R. Kelso Carter, 1891; alt.
Tune: MEDJUGORJE ( with refrain)

Russell Kelso Carter was for a time a Methodist minister, though he later became a physician. He was associated with the Holiness Movement (like fellow hymnwriters Phoebe Palmer, Alma White, and Margaret J. Harris) and also organized and led campmeetings. He wrote both texts and tunes, sometimes together, as in this case, and sometimes separately. His most well-known song is probably Standing on the promises, which is still sung today, but I'd make a case for reconsidering this one as well.

Carter also collaborated on at least three gospel song collections, including Hymns of the Christian Life (1891), where today's song was first published (as the first selection in the book). He contributed 51 texts and 68 tunes to that book, in addition to arranging 26 more tunes from the melodies of others.

Two Years Ago: Oliver Wendell Holmes

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Saint Bartholomew

For thy dear saints, O Lord,
Who strove in thee to live,
Who followed thee, obeyed, adored,
Our grateful hymn receive.

They all in life and death,
With thee, O Christ, in view,
Learned from thy Holy Spirit’s breath
Thy healing work to do.

Thine earthly members fit
To join thy saints above,
In one communion ever knit,
One in the bond of love.

Jesus, thy Name we bless,
And humbly pray that we
May follow them in holiness,
Who lived and died for thee.

Richard Mant, 1837; alt.
Tune: ST. HELENA (S.M.)
Benjamin Milgrove, 1769

These "lesser"saints rarely have multiple hymns for their feast days, and for the most part, the useful ones have already been seen here (though I'm always looking). There are a great number of St. Bartholomew's Churches out there, but I'd imagine that many of them would be more likely to sing a general saints' day hymn like this one on their patronal feast.

The hymn presented here two years ago (see link below) is a good one, I think, but clearly not everyone agrees. Though technically it remains in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 it has been cut to half its original length, turning a hymn of four eight-line stanzas to one of four four-line stanzas, but maybe somewhere some church actually sings the whole thing. That's the nice thing about the internet - more resources are avaiilable than ever before and no one is really limited to the hymnal they happen to own.

Two Years Ago: Saint Bartholomew

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Seemly So to Do

We have often talked about psalm paraphrases, which in many places
were first used for congregational singing, but not so much about the tunes that were sung with those paraphrases.

John Calvin believed that congregational singing in the language of the people should be an integral part of worship, and that such singing would help to reinforce the message of his sermons. The psalms were chosen because there could be nothing questionable in their doctrine, and this argument was used for a long time to come in order to discourage the singing of anything but psalms.

The Genevan Psalter was developed under Calvin's supervision over many years. The earliest edition (1539) contained only 22 selections, but gradually all 150 were paraphrased and set to 126 different tunes in the 1562 edition.

Calvin had also given much thought to the music to be used. In the preface to one edition, he wrote:

...we find by experience that (music) has a sacred and almost incredible power to move hearts in one way or another. Therefore we ought to be even more diligent in regulating it in such a way that it shall be useful to us and in no way pernicious.

He believed that the psalms needed their own tunes, which should not be derived from or even suggestive of secular music. There have been various claims that some tunes from the Genevan Psalter were arranged from popular tunes of the time, and this is still apparently a subject of debate, though a few of the tunes do seem to have been derived from common chants used in the Catholic church.

The tunes and texts of the Genevan Psalter have survived to our time, some more widely used than others. Initially they were intended to be sung in unison in worship, and harmonized versions were only to be used at home. Over the centuries there have been many different arrangements and harmonizations, though some churches even today still sing them in unison. In our internet age, there are many sites devoted to Calvin's psalter, even some which still maintain that only the psalms should be sung in worship.

Today's tune comes from the Genevan Psalter, by Louis (or Loys) Bourgeois, who was the musical editor of the 1551 edition and composed several of its tunes. The name by which we know it today comes from its pairing with this paraphrase of Psalm 100, which was written by William Kethe for the Anglo-Genevan Psalter used by Protestant refugees in Geneva from England during the Catholic reign of Mary. At any rate, it is probably the oldest tune we know and sing regularly.

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to you, God, with cheerful voice:
Serve you with mirth, your praise forth tell,
We come before you and rejoice.

We know that you are God indeed;
Without our aid you did us make:
We are your folk, you will us feed,
And for your sheep you will us take.

We enter then your gates with praise,
Approach with joy your courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless your Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why? We know our God is good,
Your mercy is for ever sure;
Your truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

Wiliam Kethe, 1560; alt.
Louis Bourgeois, 1551

Though the melody is by Bourgeois, the great number of harmonizations done in the last 450 years make it difficult to assign this one to anyone in particular.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bernard of Clairvaux

The French monk who became known as Bernard of Clairvaux was born into a noble family in 1091, near Dijon, and died on August 20, 1153 (hence his commemoration today).

As a young man he was a soldier, but left the military with 30 others, including his brothers, and joined a monastery at Citeaux. A few years later he was asked to go and found another monastery, which he named
Clairvaux. During the course of his life he was involved with the founding of 163 communities across Europe.

His surviving writings became part of the theology of the Catholic Church. He was especially devoted to the Virgin Mary, and helped formulate much of the doctrine around her. He was canonized in 1174 by Pope Alexander III, only about twenty years after his death.

Bernard was much admired during the Reformation as well; both Martin Luther and John Calvin thought he embodied the best of the Catholic faith. Today, some of the poetry of Bernard is sung in many churches, several hymns excerpted from longer poems, a few of which we have seen here on the blog. Today's hymn is part of a longer one, Jesu, Rex admirabilis, translated by
Edward Caswall in 1849.

O Jesus, Light of all below,
Great Fount of life and fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire!

Thy wondrous mercies are untold,
Through each returning day;
Thy love exceeds a thousandfold,
Whatever we can say.

May every heart confess thy Name;
And ever thee adore;
And seeking thee, itself inflame,
To seek thee more and more.

Thus may our tongues forever bless;
Thee may we love alone;
And ever in our lives express
The image of thine own.

Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th cent.
tr. Edward Caswall, 1849
Henry T. Smart, 1867

P.S. The painting above is a portion of The Vision of St. Bernard by Fra Bartolomeo (1504), currently in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Two Years Ago: Bernard of Clairvaux

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

George William Warren

Composer and church musician George William Warren was born on this day in 1828, in Albany, NY. His family was descended from early American settler Richard Warren, one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact in 1620.

Though Warren reportedly showed some musical talent as a child, he did not study music in school. As a young adult, he spent several years in business only then teaching himself music in his spare time. He began to play the organ at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Albany and eventually became the regular organist there, giving up business for a career in music. While still in Albany he began coaching a soprano named Isabella Hinkley who went on to an important career on the opera stage in the mid-nineteenth century.

Warren moved to New York City in 1860 where he became the organist and music director at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn. He was also the Brooklyn correspondent for Dwight's Journal of Music, where he wrote under the pseudonym of "Jem Baggs." He had became friends with the composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk and the two worked together on some compositions, also appearing in concert together in pieces for two pianos (one of these was Warren's The Andes which is available for download).

After ten years in Brooklyn he was named organist at
St. Thomas' Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. His first Sunday there in 1870 was also the first service held in a new building for the congregation (the third of four they have had up to the present). Most of Warren's church music, including anthems, service music, and hymn tunes was written during the next twenty years at St. Thomas', and he became one of the best-known Episcopal musicians of his time. In 1888 he compiled many of his tunes into a book published by Harper Brothers: Hymns and Tunes as Sung at St. Thomas's Church, New York.

His one tune that we would recognize today (which we have already heard here) was written later, in 1892, for a commemoration of the centennial of the United States Constitution, and to be paired with a text that had been written for the centennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1876. NATIONAL HYMN is still sung in many churches on Independence Day and other national occasions.

But there were those other tunes as well, many of them for texts that we would recognize, though we sing them to different tunes today, for one reason or another. We all know today's hymn, but I suspect that it is so familiar because it has been paired with a great tune. However, that tune had not yet been written in Warren's day, and he wrote this one, which we might still know today if CWM RHONDDA had not been written 23 years later.

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer
Be thou still my Strength and Shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.

William Williams, 1745
tr. Peter Williams, 1771; alt.
George W. Warren, 1884

Now, it's also possible that with Warren's tune, which I think is not at all bad, but lacks that certain something that CWM RHONDDA has, this text might not be particularly well-known today.

In 1890 Warren added the organist position at Columbia University to his duties at St. Thomas, and he also lectured on music there despite having no degree in music except an honorary doctorate awarded by Racine College in Wisconsin. The Episcopal Diocese of New York honored him with a special service to mark his twenty-fifth year at the church, which was reported in the New York Times on November 4, 1895.

His obituary in the Columbia University Quarterly began: On Sunday morning, March 16, 1902, the soul of George William Warren separated from the body by the process called death. It continued:

Years before there was in this country any intelligent appreciation of church music, or adequate facilities for the scientific study of any kind of music, George William Warren became the apostle of a movement which largely through his efforts and influence has come now to be recognized as an integral part of the instruction of a university. (...) Those who laid foundations are not to be ignored when the roll of those who are great is called in any field of work.

You might think that Warren has been largely ignored by many in the century since his death, but NATIONAL HYMN, at least, will still be sung for years to come. There is also a current exhibit on his life and work at the Albany Institute of History and Art (from which I got the photograph of Warren above) which is running through the end of this month.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saint Mary the Virgin

August 15 is the feast day of Saint Mary the Virgin, or the Feast of the Assumption, or the Dormition of the Theotokos, depending on your church; different names all referring to the same event, the Mother of God going up to heaven following her death. The painting above is part of a huge fresco in Parma by the sixteenth century artist Antonio da Correggio, depicting Mary, borne aloft by angels, joining the saints.

For appropriate hymns, we generally have to turn to the Roman Catholic church, and I found this one in the Catholic Church Hymnal of 1905. Though it may not be sung anywhere but here today, its author is certainly remembered.
Frederick William Faber was a convert to Catholicism from the Church of England and was one of the first to write new hymns in English for Catholics as opposed to translations from Latin.

Sing, sing, ye angel bands,
All beautiful and bright!
For higher still and higher,
Through fields of starry light,
The Queen of heav'n ascends,
Like the sweet moon at night.

A fairer flow'r than she
On earth has never been;
And save the throne of God,
Your heav'ns have never seen
A wonder half so bright
As your ascending Queen.

O happy angels, look!
How beautiful she is!
See, Jesus bears her up,
Her hand is locked in his;
Oh, who can tell the height
Of that fair Mother's bliss?

On then, dear pageant, on!
Sweet music breathes around;
And love, like dew distils
On hearts in rapture bound;
The Queen of heav'n goes up
To be proclaimed and crowned!

Frederick William Faber, c. 1861
Francis H. Champneys, 1889

The picture below shows the ascending Mary with (I think) her hand held by her son, described here in the hymn but generally not a part of artistic depictions of the event.

Two Years Ago: Saint Mary the Virgin

One Year Ago: Saint Mary the Virgin

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sir Joseph Barnby

Composer and conductor Joseph Barnby (pictured here at work, on a Victorian postcard) was born today in 1838. His father was an organist, which led to his early training on that instrument. Young Joseph also sang in the cathedral choir at York Minster beginning at age seven.

in 1854 he went to study at the Royal College of Music, and two years later was one of nineteen applicants for the first Mendelssohn Scholarship in England. Unfortunately, he came in second to Arthur Sullivan. After graduation, he held organist and music director positions as well as teaching positions at Eton College and the Guildhall School of Music.

In 1867 he began as the conductor of a group that became known as "Barnby's Choir." In 1872 that group combined with another choir started by Charles Gounod and became the Royal Albert Hall Choral Society, which still sings today. Barnby conducted the first English performances of several important works, including the Stabat Mater of Dvorak (1883) and Wagner's last opera Parsifal (1884), and earlier, the first English church performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion at Westminster Abbey in 1871.

As noted here before, Barnby wrote several anthems and other sacred choral works (his oratorio Rebekah is now downloadable at the Sibley Music Library site) and 246 hymn tunes. collected in one volume after his death in 1896 (and mostly unknown today). The 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship is perhaps the most recent hymnal to contain as many as six of his tunes (someone on that committee must have liked Barnby!); these days, if a hymnal has any of his tunes at all, this is the most likely one.

When morning gilds the skies
My heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evening shadows fall,
Then rings my curfew call,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

When mirth for music longs,
This is my song of songs:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
God's holy house of prayer
Has none that can compare
With: Jesus Christ be praised!

No lovelier antiphon
In all high heav’n is known
Than, Jesus Christ be praised!
There to the eternal Word
The eternal psalm is heard:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

All ye of humankind,
In this your concord find,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let all the earth around
Ring joyous with the sound,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Sing, suns and stars of space,
Sing, ye that see God's face,
Sing, Jesus Christ be praised!
God’s whole creation o’er,
For aye and evermore
Shall Jesus Christ be praised!

Katholisches Gesangbuch, 1828;
tr. Robert Bridges, 1899; alt.
Joseph Barnby, 1868

This quintessential "summer hymn" is sung in many different churches across denominations, though they may be singing different translations. The text, published in German in fourteen stanzas (by one account) is now thought to be older than 1828, though I'm not sure it has been specifically traced to any earlier hymnbook. Edward Caswall translated it for his collection The Masque of Mary (1858) and this version later made its way into Hymns Ancient and Modern, where Barnby's tune, written specifically for Caswall's text, appeared in the first Supplement of 1868.

Caswall's last stanza may be the most familiar to many:

Be this, while life is mine,
My canticle divine:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Sing this th'eternal song
Through all the ages long:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Today's version, however, is a translation by Robert Bridges (later the poet laureate of England)which appeared in his Yattendon Hymnal (1899), and in several other hymnals since. Some hymnals even combine stanzas from both translations, which works of course because both are written in the same meter and thus can be sung to the same tune. Unfortunately, none of the major online hymn sites have sufficiently separated the two versions so that you can easily see Caswall's whole translation and Bridges' whole translation.

Two Years Ago: Sir Joseph Barnby

One Year Ago: Sir Frederick A. Gore Ouseley

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mary Artemesia Lathbury

Today is the birthday of Mary Lathbury, born in 1841 in northern New York state. She attended art school after high school graduation, and went on to teach art for some years before turning more to writing, primarily for childrens' magazines and then books, which she illustrated herself.

She became the associate editor of Sunday School publications for the Methodist Episcopal Church where she continued writing and illustrating. John Heyl Vincent, a Methodist minister and later bishop, was a friend and Lathbury regularly attended the summer sessions at the Chautauqua Institution, which Vincent founded in the 1870s. Lathbury began writing hymns for worship and sometimes for Bible study classes at Chautauqua, often based on particular requests from Vincent, and sometimes set to tunes by the Institute's music director, William Fisk Sherwin. She became known as the poet laureate of Chautauqua, and her songs are still sung there today. In her own time, several were published in Chautauqua Carols (1878) though she continued to write new texts practically every year for many years after that, often for special occasions (such as when President Grant visited Chautauqua) or anniversaries.

Her two most familiar hymns have already been covered here on previous birthdays, and they each have appeared in hundreds of hymnals. Today's hymn is not nearly so well-known; has only found four appearances of it thus far. Worship at Chautauqua was (and is) always nondenominational, and it may be that the theme of unity expressed here accounts for its scarcity.

O Shepherd of the Nameless Fold,
One promised church to be,
Our hearts with love and longing turn
To find their rest in thee;

And even now its heav’nly walls
Unseen around us rise,
And deep in loving human hearts
Its broad foundation lies.

From out our old, divided state,
And centuries of strife,
Thy hand, O Shepherd of the flock,
Is lifting us to life.

O blest dominion, happy fold,
The unity to be,
Our hearts in love and worship turn
To find themselves in thee!

Its bounds are known to God alone,
For they are set above;
The length, the breadth, the height are one,
And measured by God's love.

Mary Lathbury, 1881; alt.
William Jones, 1789

Mary Lathbury also strongly supported the cause of temperance, and some of her hymns appeared in the White Ribbon Hymnal (1892) published by the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Earlier she had co-written the book Women and Temperance (1883) with Frances E. Willard, the president of the WCTU.

Though people had often requested it, Lathbury published no single collection of her verse in her lifetime. Two years after her death in 1913, Poems of Mary Artemesia Lathbury, Chautauqua Laureate was finally issued. including a foreword by Bishop Vincent and a brief sketch of her life by Frances Willard.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Maltbie D. Babcock

Presbyterian minister Maltbie Davenport Babcock was born today in 1858. He began his career in 1882 and served congregations in Lockport, NY, Baltimore, and New York City.

Though he became widely known for his preaching and his ministry in his thirteen years in Baltimore, (which led to a promotion of sorts when he was later called to a Manhattan congregation) he did not publish his sermons, or write a book, as many of his popular contemporaries did.

After his death in 1901 at the relatively young age of 42, his wife, Katherine Tallman Babcock, was apparently asked by many of his admirers to publish some of his writings. She collected what she could gather into a book called Thoughts for Every-Day Living. His sermons had always been delivered from notes rather than full manuscripts, so those were unavailable, but many people had taken their own notes of memorable quotes from his sermons, and some were included in the book along with magazine pieces he had written and some personal correspondence.

At the end of her foreword, she writes "The verses, which were written in moments of recreation, are added..." I can't quite tell if this is somewhat apologetic on her part, thinking perhaps that his poetry was of less value. At any rate, within a few years, several of the verses were set to music and published in many hymnals. Some of
Babcock's resulting hymns, I believe, are known to many more people today than anything else once collected in Thoughts for Every-Day Living.

This particular text has not been widely sung; according to the Hymnary site, it has only
appeared in two hymnals that they have catalogued. I think it deserves to be better known.

God's boundless Love! As arching sky
Above us when we wake and sleep,
Above us when we smile and weep,
Above us when we live and die.

God's tireless Love! Beside the cot
Of her sick child the mother sleeps.
Our heavenly Father ever keeps
Unweary watch -- and slumbers not.

God's changeless Love! The wand'ring one
Forsakes, forgets, dishonors; yet,
Repenting, going home, is met
With no reproach -- "Welcome, my son!"

God's mighty Love! On Calvary's height,
Suff'ring to save us from our sin,
To bring God's wide dominion in,
And fill our lives with joy and light.

God's endless Love! What will it be
When earthly shadows flee away,
For all eternity's bright day
Th'unfolding of that Love to see!

Maltbie D. Babcock, 1901; alt.
Musikalisches Handbuch, 1690;

harm. William H. Monk, 1847

This little hymn with a large theme seems to walk us all the way through the Bible from beginning to end with different aspects of the love of God. I think the opening stanza suggests the vastness of Creation, followed by the Old Testament God, the guardian of God's people who "slumbers not, nor sleeps" (Psalm 121). Next we get Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, then the Passion, then conclude with a description of the life to come.

I tried literally dozens of different tunes for this one, but sometimes in the end it's best to stick with something familiar.

One Year Ago: Maltbie D. Babcock

Sunday, August 1, 2010

More Voices Found: Alice Nevin

Today we celebrate the birthday of the little-known composer Alice Nevin, born in 1837 in Pittsburgh. Her father, John Williamson Nevin, was a theologian in the German Reformed Church and taught at various seminaries before becoming the president of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1866. It was in Lancaster that Alice lived for most of her adult life, and where she is still remembered today.

As with many other women hymn tune composers, only scraps of information can be gathered from various sources. For example, a house that she lived in after 1903 is today part of a walking tour of historic homes in Lancaster. By that time she was quite well-known there, having founded the Iris Club in 1895. She invited seventy women to her home and proposed the formation of a women's club (to be named for the the Greek goddess of the rainbow) which would "further the education of women and encourage movements for the betterment of society, and foster a generous spirit in the community." The Iris Club founded the first free kindergarten in Lancaster and also a well baby clinic in its early years. It remains in existence today, and its facilities (a historic house bought by the club in 1898) can apparently be rented for special events. Another Lancaster history site adds that Nevin was active in the cause of women's suffrage.

For several years Nevin was the organist at the First Reformed Church. While there, she edited a hymnbook which was published by the Philadelphia firm of J.B. Lippincott, Hymns and Carols for Church and Sunday School (1879). Unfortunately it is not yet available online, but it was well-reviewed in its day. From the Reformed Quarterly Review:

The object of the author was to provide something above the light, jingling tunes that have run Sunday-school singing into a sort of secular jollification, and that are fast becoming a nuisance. (...) It is music that will wear. Let our Sunday-schools test it by a fair trial, and we are sure it will win favor.

More succinctly, The Churchman said that the book was of "a much higher order than usual, and it deserves to become popular."

Today's tune by Nevin was published in that same year (probably in her hymnal) but it had perhaps been sung earlier in her church. It was written for The Lord of Life is risen, an Easter hymn originally in German that was translated by Henry Harbaugh, an earlier pastor of the First Reformed Church, in 1860. Since we're rather past the Easter season, I've matched it to another general text (also originally in German and translated by Catherine Winkworth).

The golden morn is breaking;
I thank you, God once more,
Beneath your care awaking,
I find the night is o’er.
I thank you that you call me
To life and health anew;
I know, whate’er befalls me,
Your care will still be true.

O Israel’s Guardian, hear me,
Watch over me this day;
In all I do be near me.
For others, too, I pray;
Grant us your peace and gladness,
Give us our daily bread,
Shield us from grief and sadness,
On us your blessings shed.

You are the Vine -— oh, nourish
Your heirs on shore and sea,
And let them grow and flourish,
A fair and fruitful tree.
Your Spirit pour within us
Such boundless gifts of grace,
And life eternal win us,
That all shall sing your praise.

Johannes Mühlmann, 1618
tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1863; adapt.
Alice Nevin, 1879

Nevin's tune has also been matched with The day of resurrection, another translation by John Mason Neale, but the tune name shouldn't limit it to Easter texts alone. I think it's pretty singable. Though the Cyber Hymnal lists only this tune by Alice Nevin, I have found three others in various hymnals, and I suspect that her own hymnal might contain more.

She died in 1925, and The Lord of Life is risen was sung at her funeral, which was held in the chapel at Franklin & Marshall College. As described later, the people gathered there heard Nevin's RESURRECTION once more, "its triumphant notes ringing from the old organ which had often responded to her own fingers..."