Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eliza Edmunds Hewitt

Today is the 150th birthday of lifelong Philadelphian Eliza Edmunds Hewitt, a prolific writer (and sometimes composer) of gospel songs. She graduated as valedictorian of the Philadelphia Girls' Normal School and began a career as a public school teacher. However, she was injured in the classroom by an unruly student who threw a heavy slate which struck her in the back, and this caused her to be bedridden for an extended period of time (and to suffer from back pain for the rest of her life).

It was apparently during this time that she began to write poetry which came to the attention of publisher
John R. Sweney (a gospel songwrtier himself), who invited her to try writing songs. She became one of his must successful writers, and he himself supplied tunes for several of her texts.

There's a clear fountain flowing
From the heavens above,
And its waters are glowing
With the sunshine of love;
Take the blest consolation,
Jesus came to bestow,
Take the cup of salvation,
Let the joy overflow.

O the joy! With this wondrous salvation
Be our hearts all aglow;
O the joy! Let the blessing run over,
And joy overflow.

Many hearts need the story,
Are athirst for that grace;
Go to them with Christ's glory
Shining out from your face;
Tell of Jesus your Savior!
And his mercies you know,
Show the light of his favor
Let the joy overflow.

Be our lives freely yielded
To the Savior's command;
By his care ever shielded
And upheld by his hand;
In the pathways of sadness,
Sweetest lilies may grow;
Let us sow seeds of gladness,
Let the joy overflow.

Eliza E. Hewitt, 1917; alt.
OVERFLOWING ( with refrain)
Charles H. Gabriel, 1917

Three Years Ago:
More Voices Found: Eliza Hewitt

Two Years Ago:
Frederick William Faber

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Philip Doddridge

Philip Doddridge (June 26, 1702 - October 26, 1751) is probably the third-most popular hymnwriter from the eighteenth century, behind Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, in the number of his texts which are still sung today.

Both of his grandfathers were ministers (though he never knew them); his mother's father lived in Germany for a time and returned to England with a Luther Bible, which was passed down to Philip, who was eventually to follow in his grandfathers' profession. His mother, Monica, taught him stories from the Bible when he was a child, pointing out the scenes as painted on Delft tiles surrounding the family fireplace.

For Doddridge's previous birthdays I have used more familiar hymns, but this one is probably not so well-known. Like all his texts, it was not published during his lifetime.

O Zion, tune your voice,
And raise your hands on high;
Tell all the earth your joys,
Proclaim salvation nigh;
Cheerful in God,
Arise and shine
While rays divine
Stream all abroad.

God gilds your mourning face
With beams that cannot fade;
God's all-resplendent grace
Is poured around your head;
The nations round
Your form shall view
With luster new
Divinely crowned.

In honor to God's name
Reflect that sacred light;
And loud that grace proclaim,
Which makes the whole world bright;
Pursue God's praise
Till sovereign love
In worlds above,
The glory raise.

Philip Doddridge, 1755; alt.
John Darwall, 1770

The church that Doddridge pastored in Northhampton for more than twenty years is still open today as the Castle Hill United Reformed Church (interior pictured below).

A note on the tune: The
Hallelujah meter, or as it is often written out, ( is not so widely used in modern hymnwriting, and overall there are fewer tunes written for it than some of the more oft-used ones. I think it could be due to the fact that there is only one truly great tune that has been written to fit that meter, the one above by John Darwall. I have used two others previously at the blog, BEVAN and SAMUEL, but neither is a good fit for these words. I looked at several others: ZEBULON was not quite right, and ST. SWITHIN was hopelessly Victorian. LAUS DEO and ST. GODRIC were both closer to the right feel, but really, if anyone was going to sing this hymn today, why would they not choose the familiar DARWALL, which is about as joyful a tune as you could want, proceeding to a powerful climax.

Three Years Ago: Philip Doddridge

Two Years Ago: Philip Doddridge

One Year Ago: Philip Doddridge

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trinity Sunday

O Trinity of blessed light,
O Unity of sovereign might,
Whene'er the fiery sun departs,
Shed thou thy beams within our hearts.

To thee our morning song of praise,
To thee our evening prayer we raise;
Thy threefold glory we adore
Forever and forevermore.

Now to the great and sacred Three,
Creator, Christ, and Spirit be
Eternal praise and glory giv'n
By all the saints in earth and heav'n.

Ambrose of Milan, 4th cent.; tr. composite
Jeremiah Clarke, 1700

Three Years Ago: Trinity Sunday

Two Years Ago: Trinity Sunday

One Year Ago: Trinity Sunday

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Samuel Longfellow

Unitarian minister, hymnwriter and editor Samuel Longfellow (June 18, 1819 - October 3, 1892) was born in Portland, Maine, the younger brother of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

His first major hymnological undertaking was while he was still a student at Harvard Divinity School, when he and his friend
Samuel Johnson compiled a new hymnal for Unitarian churches, A Book of Hymns for Public and Private Devotion (1844). The book was successful, selling out and requiring a second edition two years later, which they revised and updated. Several years later the two collaborated again, publishing Hymns of the Spirit (1864), much of which they edited while on an extended European vacation.

These two books were criticized for the liberties which Longfellow and Johnson took with the hymn texts they included. They drew their material from a wide variety of sources, including the hymnals of several different denominations, and were not hesitant to alter the texts to conform to Unitarian beliefs. Longfellow explained their reasons to another Unitarian minister in a letter not long before his death.

It is the principle of adaptation to a special use which is the only justification of changes in hymns that I can offer. It is a question of using or not using which makes it needful to change (1) some verses originally written not as hymns, yet which one wants to use as such; (2) some hymns written by persons of different beliefs from those who are to use the hymn-book, phrases in which could not be conscientiously said or sing by the latter, yet which from their general value of strength, fervor, or tendeness could ill be spared. If I had been making a collection of hymns or religious poetry for private reading, I should not have altered a single word.

Nothing here is particularly unusual; as I have said many times, hymnal editors have always done this, long before Johnson and Longfellow, and right up to the present day. However, they were particularly known in their own day for their editorial changes. The sister of one of their friends,
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, wrote the following limerick:

There once were two Sams of Amerique
Who belonged to a profession called clerique.
They hunted up hymns and cut off their limbs,
These truculent Sams of Amerique.

Of course, the hymns that the two men wrote themselves did not have to be altered, though sometimes they were altered when included in later hymnals edited by others (no one gets a pass). This hymn of Longfellow's has appeared in at least a hundred collections, according to Hymnary.org.

God of the earth, the sky, the sea!
Maker of all above, below!
Creation lives and moves in thee,
Thy present life in all doth flow.

Thy love is in the sunshine's glow,
Thy life is in the quickening air;
When lightnings flash and storm winds blow,
There is thy power; thy law is there.

We feel thy calm at evening's hour,
Thy grandeur in the march of night;
And when the morning breaks in pow'r,
We hear thy Word, “Let there be light.”

But higher far, and far more clear,
Thee in our spirits we behold;
Thine image and thyself are there,
Indwelling God, proclaimed of old.

Samuel Longfellow, 1864
John Hatton, 1793

Longfellow's collected texts were published after his death as Hymns and Verses (1894), edited by his niece, Alice Longfellow. They continue to appear in hymnals today, and not just Unitarian ones. I have presented a number of others over the last few years on other dates than his birthday, which you can find by clicking his tag/label below.

There is a fairly recent Longfellow biography, The Quiet Radical (2007) by Joseph C. Abdo which I have not yet read but hope to soon. And tomorrow, at least one of Longfellow's hymns will be sung in
this hymn festival in California, though I have not heard which one yet.

Three Years Ago: Samuel Longfellow

Two Years Ago: Samuel Longfellow

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Feast of Pentecost

This ancient hymn for the day of Pentecost is used as a processional in many places, though it's not for everyone. The musical setting is a bit more complex than a standard hymn, beginning with a refrain and proceeding to two different, alternating melodies for the stanzas.

Hail thee, festival day!
Blest day that art hallowed forever;
Day when the Holy Spirit
Shone on the world with God's grace.

Lo! in the likeness of fire,
On them that await her appearing,
She whom the Lord foretold,
Suddenly, swiftly, descends.

Down from the heavens she comes
With her sev'nfold mystical off'ring,
Pouring on all human souls
Infinite riches of God.

Hark! in a hundred tongues
Christ's own, the chosen Apostles,
Preach to a hundred tribes
Christ and his wonderful works.

Praise to the Spirit of life,
All praise to the Fount of our being,
Light that dost lighten all,
Life that in all dost abide.

God the Almighty, who fillest
The heav'n, the earth and the ocean,
Guard us from harm without,
Free us from evil within.

God, who art Giver of all
Good gifts and lover of concord,
Pour thy balm on our souls,
Order our ways in thy peace.

Venantius Fortunatus, 6th cent.;
tr. Gabriel Gillett, 1906; alt.
Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906

The original Latin text Salve, festa dies (Hail thee, festival day) by Venantius Honorius Fortunatus is much longer, and there are other modern hymns also taken from it for Easter and Ascension. It became popular in his time and stanzas were added by others over time. In fact, much of this Pentecost text is apparently not by Fortunatus, but derives from a later medieval version used as a Pentecost precessional in York.

Three (Liturgical) Years Ago: The Feast of Pentecost

Two (Liturgical) Years Ago:
The Feast of Pentecost

One (Liturgical) Year Ago:
The Feast of Pentecost

One (Calendar) Year Ago:
Harriet Martineau

Friday, June 10, 2011

Minot Judson Savage

Minot Judson Savage was born on this day in 1841 in the small town of Norridgewock, Maine (which certainly sounds like an interesting place to be born). His family were committed New England Congre-gationalists, and he attended the Bangor Theological Seminary and was ordained in the Congregational Church upon his graduation in 1864. He had served a year in the Christian Commission during the Civil War, and now he was sent to California as a missionary, returning in 1867 to pastor a church in Framingham, Massachusetts.

His views and beliefs changed over time, and in 1873 he resigned from his pastorate in Hannibal, Missouri and became a Unitarian minister. Over the next thirty years he led congregations in Chicago and Boston, and was finally the associate pastor of the
Church of the Messiah in New York City (now the Community Church).

He championed the causes of progressive Christianity in his day, including comparative religion and modern biblical criticism. His 1876 book The Religion of Evolution, less than a quarter century after Darwin's theory was published, was very influential. Many of his sermons were published, and he also wrote poetry and hymns.

While in Boston he began compiling a hymnal for the use of his own church, as he was not satidfied with the available choices, but when this became known he was encouraged to publish it for wider cicculation.
Sacred Songs for Public Worship appeared in 1883. This book included several of his own hymns, and in 1899 several more were collected with those, published as Hymns by Minot Judson Savage. These texts follow his particular themes, bearing titles such as Evolution, Education, and All Truth Leads to God.

His thoughts on the hymnwriting process may be gleaned from a verse on the title page of the later collection.

But one hymn let me write
Which men will keep alive
For strength and hope and light
As up and on they strive,
And I will ask no more of fame;
For loving hearts will love my name.

His hymn O star of Truth, down shining still appears in the latest Unitarian hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition (1993), and while it is not more widely known in other denominations, that may be enough for Savage. In looking through his later collection, this one caught my eye for today.

New blessings ev'ry morning,
New blessings still at eve,
Our lives with mercy crowning,
We as thy gift receive.
As are the stars in number,
As are the seashore sands,
So many are the bounties
Still flowing from thy hands.

But of thy gifts the sweetest,
Divinest is that we,
Our own small needs forgetting,
May work and give like thee.
The world and all it's sorrows
Our hearts, like thine, can feel,
And we, as thy co-workers,
Can trust and hope and heal.

Then to this holy mission
We pledge ourselves anew:
We give our minds to seeking,
Our hearts to love, the true.
So, grateful for thy goodness,
We join with thee to prove
All service shows thy teaching:
The way of life is love.

Minot Judson Savage, 1890; alt.
Emily Swan Perkins, 1924

The footnotes indicate that this hymn was written for a meeting of the New York League of Unitarian Women in December of 1890, so it seems appropriate to match it with a tune by Emily Swan Perkins, as the original tune to which it was sung is unrecorded.

Savage retired from the Church of the Messiah in 1906 due to poor health, but he remained active in the American Unitarian Association. He died in Boston on May 22, 1918, while attending a national Unitarian conference.

Three Years Ago: Saint Ephrem

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sir John Stainer

Sir John Stainer (June 6, 1840 - March 31, 1901) was one of the most well-known English church musicians of his time. Though he wrote many hymn tunes, anthems and service music, not many of them are still in use today. His one enduring work was an oratorio, The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer (to give the full title), words by William J. Sparrow-Simpson, which was first performed on February 24, 1887, which was the day after Ash Wednesday. This work is still often performed by church choirs all over the world.

Of particular interest here is that there are six hymns interspersed between the choral movements, which were intended to be sung by the audience/congregation. At least two of the tunes of these hymns by Stainer have retained some life of their own, ALL FOR JESUS and CROSS OF JESUS.

But by far the most well-known section of The Crucifixion is God so loved the world, which has been sung by thousands of choirs who would never sing the entire work. The video below is the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, where Stainer both sang as a boy chorister, and served for many years as organist.

God so loved the world
That he gave his only-begotten Son
That whoso believeth, believeth in him
Should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world
But that the world through him might be saved.

John 3:16-17

Three Years Ago:
Sir John Stainer

One Year Ago: Sir John Stainer

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Seeking Thee Beyond the Skies

The Feast of the Ascension, forty days after Easter (and thus always a Thursday), is often moved to the Sunday after.

Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia!
Glorious to his native skies, Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia!
Enters in the highest heaven, Alleluia!

Circled round with angel pow'rs, Alleluia!
Their triumphant Lord, and ours, Alleluia!
There the glorious triumph waits, Alleluia!
Lift your heads, eternal gates, Alleluia!

See! He lifts his hands above, Alleluia!
See! He shows the prints of love, Alleluia!
Hark! His gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
Blessings on the church below, Alleluia!

Grant our hearts may thither rise, Alleluia!
Seeking thee beyond the skies, Alleluia!
Ever upward let us move, Alleluia!
Wafted on the wings of love, Alleluia!

There we shall with thee remain, Alleluia!
Partners of thy endless reign, Alleluia!
There thy face unclouded see, Alleluia!
Find our heav'n of heav'ns in thee, Alleluia!

Charles Wesley, 1739; alt.
LLANFAIR ( with Alleluias)
Robert Williams, 1817;
harm. John Roberts, 1837

Short entry today as I am off to NYC to sing a performance of Haydn's Creation in a memorial concert fot Johannes Somary, a famed choral conductor who died earlier this year, with a chorus of 200.

Three Years Ago: The Feast of the Ascension

Two Years Ago:
The Feast of the Ascension

One Year Ago:
The Feast of the Ascension

Friday, June 3, 2011

Charles H. Steggall

British composer Charles Steggall (June 3, 1826 - June 7, 1905) was born in London, where he was to remain the rest of his life. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music under William Sterndale Bennett, and later became the chief professor of the organ there from 1851 to 1903. It's claimed that he taught more organists than anyone else in England in the second half of the nineteenth century.

His own career as an organist spanned several London churches, particularly
Lincoln's Inn Chapel, where he served from 1864 until his death. He began writing hymn tunes and worked as musical editor on two early collections: Church Psalmody (1849) and Hymns for the Church of England (1865).

In 1889, after the death of
William H. Monk, Steggall succeeded him as musical editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern. Unfortunately, the next published edition, in 1904, was not popular, considered to be too severe in its changes.

Unlike many of his Victorian age counterparts in church music, who wrote at least one or two tunes that we still sing today, Steggall's tunes (a few of which you can hear at the Cyber Hymnal site) have not survived well. I liked this one, which was written fairly late in his career and apparently was first published in this country in the Presbyterian Hymnal of 1933 matched with O holy city, seen of John.

Beyond, beyond the boundless sea,
Above the dome of sky.
Farther than thought itself can flee
Thy dwelling is on high;
Yet dear the blissful thought to me
That thou, my God, art nigh!

We hear thy voice when thunders roll,
Through the wide fields of air;
The waves obey thy firm control,
Yet still thou art not there;
Where shall I find thee present, God.
Who yet is everywhere?

O, not in circling depth or height,
But in the conscious breast,
Present to faith, yet veiled to sight,
There doth thy Spirit rest;
O come, thou Presence infinite,
And make thy people blest!

Josiah Conder, 1824; alt.
Charles H. Steggall, 1890

One Year Ago: Brian Wren