Sunday, June 30, 2013

Edward J. Hopkins

Composer Edward John Hopkins, born today in 1818, is known for his long tenure (fifty-five years!) as organist and music director at the Temple Church in London.   His first organist position was at a church in Surrey, in 1834, and after a few other posts he came to the Temple Church in 1843.

He described the choir he found there on arrival: 

When I first went (to the Temple) there were only two ladies and two gentlemen in the choir, and they used to sing in the organ gallery. The curtain would be drawn aside for a few minutes, the singers would sing, and everyone would turn west to look at them; then the curtain was banged to with a rattle of brass rings. What queer ideas they had of music and organists in those days.

As it happened, others at the church were also interested in improving the choir, though it would be another year before Hopkins was given control over the choir and the music.  Before long, the Temple Church and its choir of boys and men was known as a model for other churches in the choral services which were becoming popular in the Church of England. In 1869 Hopkins even published The Temple Church Choral Service Book, which remained in print for many years.

Few of Hopkins's hymn tunes are familiar today, but this one seems usable to me.  The text is a partial paraphrase of Psalm 77, one of the appointed psalms for today in the Revised Common Lectionary.

Thy deeds, O God, will I relate
And on thy wonders meditate;
Thy way, O God, is just and right,
None other is like thee in might.

Among the nations thou hast shown
Thy wondrous power and made it known;
Thou art the God that mightily
Redeemed and set thy people free.

At sight of thee the waters fled,
The quaking clouds their torrents shed,
The lightnings flashed, the thunder pealed,
The trembling earth its fear revealed.

Thy way, O God, was in the sea,
But, though thy paths mysterious be,
Thy people thou didst safely keep
As shepherds lead their wan'dring sheep.

The Psalter, 1912; alt.
Edward J. Hopkins, 1844

Now, Hopkins and his choir would have been more likely to sing Psalm 77 to Anglican chant, perhaps to one of the several chants also written by Hopkins (one of which you can see and listen to here).

On Sunday, May 8, 1898, Hopkins marked his final service at the Temple Church.  All of the music sung by the choir that day was composed by him.  Nearly three years later he died, only two weeks after the death of Queen Victoria.

Five Years Ago:  Edward J. Hopkins

Three Years Ago: Edward J. Hopkins

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bless Your Little Lamb Tonight

One theme that has been largely unexplored here is hymns for children.  We have seen hymns that were originally written for children that are now considered general hymns, such as Mrs. Alexander's Once in royal David's city and There is a green hill far away, and some Sunday School music (which developed into the gospel song), but have not looked at the vast number of hymns written for children.

Most denominational hymnals from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century contained a section of children's hymns, and there were also probably hundreds of separate children's hymnals published during those years as well.  The archive of my own church contains an 188os edition of The Sunday-school Hymnal edited by Charles Hutchins, an Episcopal minister in Medford, MA, and most denominations had similar books.

This text and tune combination came to America when it appeared in the 1871 Episcopal hymnal edited by J. Ireland Tucker, and went on to appear in many others over the next 75 years at least.

Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me;
Bless your little lamb tonight;
Through the night be always near me;
Watch my sleep till morning light.

All this day your hand has led me,
And I thank you for your care;
You have clothed me, warmed and fed me,
Listen to my evening prayer.

Let my sins be all forgiven;
Bless the friends I love so well;
Take me, when I die, to heaven,
Happy there with you to dwell.

Mary Lundie Duncan, 1839; alt.
Charlotte Alington Barnard. 1868

Mary Lundie Duncan (1816-1840) was a young mother when she wrote this and other hymns especially for her own little children.  Like many similar hymns that have been written since, the text reflects the specific concerns of a child.  Duncan''s hymns were published after her death, first in a memoir written by her mother, then in a separate volume, Rhymes for My Children (1842).

Charlotte Barnard was one of the first women composers profiled here.  In addition to this hymn tune, she wrote several secular songs under the pseudonym of Claribel.  When J. Ireland Tucker edited The New Children's Hymnal (1892), he included more tunes credited to Claribel, and since he had first used BROCKLESBURY some years earlier, it may be that these tunes are also by Barnard and not someone else using the Claribel pseudonym, though there does not seem to be much scholarship on this subject.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Samuel Longfellow

Poet and hymnist Samuel Longlellow was born today in 1819, in Portland, Maine.He attended the Portland Academy, following his elder brother Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and apparently showed a talent for literary writing from a fairly young age.
 I have already recounted his days at Harvard Divinity School, where, with his classmate Samuel Johnson he compiled the Book of Hymns for Public and Private Devotion (1844).  In this book, as well as another they worked on later, Hymns of the Spirit (1864), several hymns we know today appeared for the first time, both those of Longfellow and Johnson, as well as some taken from the poetry of others that had not been originally conceived for congregational singing.

Longfellow's birthday does not quite fall during summer's official dates, but the weather is generally here by the eighteenth of June.

The summer days are come again;
Once more the glad earth yields
Its golden wealth of ripening grain,
And breadth of clover fields,
And deepening shade of summer woods,
And glow of summer air,
And winging thoughts, and happy moods
Of love and joy and prayer.

The summer days are come again;
The birds are on the wing;
God’s praises, in their loving strain,
Unconsciously they sing.
We know who gives us all the good
That makes our cup o’erflow;
For summer joy in field and wood
Songs lift from all below.

Samuel Longfellow, 1859; alt.
Traditional English melody;
arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906

After living in various parts of New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, Longfellow died in the city of his birth, while on a visit back to Portland on October 3, 1892.

Longfellow remains one of my own favorite hymnwriters, and many of his texts have appeared on the blog, not just on his birthday.  You can click on the tag at the very bottom for more beyond the birthday links.

Five Years Ago: Samuel Longfellow

Four Years Ago: Samuel Longfellow

Two Years Ago: Samuel Longfellow

Friday, June 14, 2013

William Chatterton Dix

William Chatterton Dix, born today in 1837, was a lay person who wrote hymns, rather than ordained clergy.  He was an official in a maritime insurance agency in Glasgow, but published four volumes of hymns and poems in his lifetime. 

Today's hymn is a bit out of season, being a harvest hymn, a theme no longer much celebrated in this country.  It's very similar to a harvest hymn that we do still sing, Come, ye thankful people, come. However, in former times, our grandparents and great-grandparents would likely have known this hymn, with its tune written by Arthur Sullivan specifically for this text.

To thee, O Lord, our hearts we raise in hymns of adoration,
To thee bring sacrifice of praise with shouts of exultation.
Bright robes of gold the fields adorn, the hills with joy are ringing,
The valleys stand so thick with corn that even they are singing.

And now, on this our festal day, thy bounteous hand confessing,
Upon thine altar, Lord, we lay the first-fruits of thy blessing.
By thee all human souls are led with gifts of grace supernal;
Thou, who gives us our daily bread, give us the bread eternal.

We bear the burden of the day, and often toil seems dreary;
But labor ends with sunset ray, and rest comes for the weary.
May we, the angel-reaping over, stand at the last accepted,
Christ’s golden sheaves, forevermore to garners bright elected.

O blessèd is that land of God where saints abide forever,
Where golden fields spread fair and broad, where flows the crystal river.
The strains of all its holy throng with ours today are blending
Thrice blessèd is that harvest song which never hath an endng.

William Chatterton Dix, 1861
Arthur Seymour Sullivan, 1874

Four Years Ago: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Three Years Ago: William Chatterton Dix

One Year Ago: William Chatterton Dix

Another Birthday Today: Miriam Therese Winter

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Saint Barnabas

The Son of Consolation!
Of Levi’s priestly line,
Filled with the Holy Spirit,
And fervent faith divine,
With lowly self-oblation,
For Christ an offering meet,
He laid his earthly riches
At the apostles’ feet.

The Son of Consolation!
Drawn near unto his Lord,
He won the martyr’s glory,
And passed to his reward;
With him is faith now ended,
For ever lost in sight,
But love, made perfect, fills him
With praise, and joy, and light.

The Heirs of Consolation!
O what their bliss shall be
When Jesus Christ shall tell them,
“Ye did it unto me”
The merciful and loving
The Lord of life shall own,
And as his priceless jewels,
Shall set them 'round his throne.

Maud Oswell Coote, 1871; alt.
Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864

Five Years Ago: Saint Barnabas

Three Years Ago: Saint Barnabas

One Year Ago: Saint Barnabas

Monday, June 10, 2013

Minot Judson Savage

Minot Judson Savage (June 10, 1841 - May 22, 1918) was first ordained as a Congregationalist minister (his family background) but later became a Unitarian, having 'struggled with his orthodoxy,' according to one source.

We see, perhaps, some evidence of this in today's hymn by Savage.  While ordinarily I prefer to select hymns that, while often little-known, could still be sung in churches today, this one would probably not be very useful.  It may never really have been sung anywhere; it was published in Savage's own collection of hymns in 1899.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was in circulation by the mid-nineteenth century, and different religious denominations had different reactions to it, many of which continue to this day.  Not all those reactions have been negative; there certainly have been people of faith who accepted evolution as part of the story of creation.  Minot Savage wrote a book titled The Religion of Evolution (1876) in which he sought to reconcile faith and evolution rather than to declare them incompatible.  He dedicated the book to the Boston Unitarian congregation he was then leading, the Church of the Unity, which was, as he wrote:

"...willing to bear the pain of thought, brave enough to hear what is new, and having faith that God will lead the free and the earnest to himself..."

This is Savage's (perhaps unsung) hymn on the sublect of evolution.

The one life thrilled the star-dust through,
In nebulous masses whirled,
Until, globed like a drop of dew,
Shone out a new-made world.

The one life on the ocean shore,
Through primal ooze and slime,
Crept slowly on from less to more
Along the ways of time.

The one life all the ages though
Pursued its wondrous plan,
Till, as the tree of promise grew,
It blossomed into man.

The one life reaches onward still:
As yet no eye may see
The far-off fact our dreams fulfil --
The glory yet to be.

Minot Judson Savage, 1899
Hugh Wilson, 1800;
arr. Ralph E. Hudson, 1885

Even for those that accept the theory of evolution, this is probably a bit too much.

Two Years Ago: Minot Judson Savage

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Before Thy Mercy Seat

In honor of the anniversary of the consecration of my own church's current building (June 9, 1930). we have today a hymn of dedication.  Unfortunateky, we do not know what hymns they sang on that day.  One possibility might have been Christ is made the sure foundation (sung to the well-known tune REGENT SQUARE), but the parish at that time considered itself rather "high church," and unfortunately the more likely possibility from their hymnal of that time (Christ is our Cornerstone) does not have an available sound file for the tune they would have sung.

Thou, whose unmeasured temple stands,
Built over earth and sea,
Accept these walls that human hands
Have raised, O God, to thee.

And let the Comforter and Friend,
Thy Holy Spirit, meet 
With those who here in worship bend
Before thy mercy seat.

May all who seek be guided here
To find the better way;
And they who mourn, and they who fear,
Be strengthened as they pray.

May faith grow firm, and love grow warm,
And pure devotion rise,
While 'round these hallowed walls the storm
Of earth-born sorrow dies.

William Cullen Bryant, 1820; alt.
Tune: ST. FULBERT (C.M.)
Henry J. Gauntlett, 1849

Sunday, June 2, 2013

To Do and to Endure

This Sunday begins the long journey to the end of the church year, with few particular commemorations or feast days falling on a Sunday until late November.  The Sundays after Pentecost do go on a bit.

As in previous years I am thinking about a few different themes to explore in hymns for this period, some new, some not.  I always think that hymna of the Holy Spirit are approprioiate for this time, as they are sometimes overlooked during the earlier part of the church year as the life of Christ is explored.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with thee the perfect life
Of thine eternity.

Edwin Hatch, 1878
Robert Jackson, 1888

Edwin Hatch was ordiained in the Church of England and also spent time in Canada.  Some of his hymns and poetry were published after his death in 1889 as Towards Fields of Light (1890).  This pariuclar hymn remains in several hymnals today.

Of course, new hymns of the Holy Spirit are still being written and sung today.  One of these  more modern texts was introduced to my own church at last week's Thursday Celtic Eucharist service, Soaring Spirit, set us free by Carl P. Daw.  You can find it at the Hope Publishing Company website.