Wednesday, August 28, 2013

William Hiley Bathurst

Hymnwriter and Anglican minister William Hiley Bathurst was born today in 1796. He was actually William Hiley Bragge at birth, but took his uncle's last name in 1820, when he was installed as parish priest in the church at Barwick-in-Elmet, which was on his uncle's West Yorkshire estate.  He remained in that post for thirty-two years, but eventually left the church over doctrinal differences.

Bathurst wrote more than three hundred hymns and psalm paraphrases, but only one of them still appears in some hymnals. However, as you know, I never feel constrained by popularity (for better or worse).

Eternal Spirit, by whose pow'r
Are burst the bonds of death,
On earthly hearts your blessings show'r,
And stir them with your breath.

And thus you point the heav'nly way,
Each rising fear control,
And with a warm, enliv'ning ray
to melt the icy soul.

And thus you bring God's mighty word
And write it on our heart;
There its reviving truths record,
And there its peace impart.

Almighty Spirit, visit then
Our hearts, and guide our ways;
Pour down your quick'ning grace on us,
And tune our lips to praise.

William Hiley Bathurst, 1831; alt.
Tune: IRISH (C.M.)
A Col­lect­ion of Hymns and Sac­red Po­ems, 1749

Four Years Ago: Ira Sankey

Two Years Ago: William Hiley Bathurst

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Charles H. Gabriel

Charles Hutchinson Gabriel, one of the most prolific writer-composers of gospel songs, was born today in 1856, the son of a farmer who was also a singing-school teacher.  Most of his musical education was received at home, where he taught himself to play the reed organ at age 16.

He began writing and composing gospel songs which quickly proved popular, and began collaborating with others, writing either words or music or both.  After a time, most of his work was published by the firm of Homer Rodeheaver, who was also the music director for the evangelistic crusades of Billy Sunday.  This association caused his songs to be sung by many thousands more people.

Today's song was introduced in Sunday's Philadelphia campaign in 1915, and later that year was published in the Rodeheaver collection Songs for Service, but has since appeared in dozens more books (187, according to, which is probably missing at least a few).

What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
Since Jesus came into my heart!
I have joy in my soul for which long I had sought,
Since Jesus came into my heart!
Since Jesus came into my heart,
Since Jesus came into my heart,
Floods of joy o’er my soul
Like the sea billows roll,
Since Jesus came into my heart.
I have ceased from my wandering and going astray,
Since Jesus came into my heart!
And my sins, which were many, are lifted away,
Since Jesus came into my heart!
There’s a light in the valley of death now for me,
Since Jesus came into my heart!
And the gates of the city beyond I can see,
Since Jesus came into my heart!
I shall go there to dwell in that city, I know,
Since Jesus came into my heart!
And I’m happy, so happy, as onward I go,
Since Jesus came into my heart!

Rufus H. McDaniel, 1914; alt.
Tune: McDANIEL ( with refrain)
Charles H. Gabriel, 1915

I have to admit that the sound file here is a bit on the dull side, and doesn't give much of a sense of the song.  I recall some pretty raucous renditions (in the best sense o the word) by some accomplished keyboard players that raised the roof, as they say.

Four Years Ago:  Charles H. Gabriel

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Saint Mary the Virgin

Many Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Orthodox churches observe this feast day dedicated to Mary, the mother of Christ.  This hymn for the day begins with the same words as an ancient antiphon to Mary, Ave regina caelorum, which is still part of the daily office of the church.  It also refers to another title for her that you may have heard, the ocean star, or Star of the sea.

Hail, Queen of heav'n, the ocean star,
Guide of the wand'rer here below;
Thrown on life's surge, we claim thy care;
Save us from peril and from woe,
Mother of Christ, star of the sea,
Pray for the wand'rer, pray for me.

Sojourners in this vale of tears,
To thee, blest advocate, we cry,
Pity our sorrows, calm our fears,
And soothe with hope our misery.
Refuge in grief, star of the sea,
Pray for the mourner, pray for me.

And while to Christ who reigns above,
In Godhead One, in Persons Three,
The source of life, of grace, of love,
Honor we pay each day to thee.
Heavenly Queen, star of the sea,
Pray for all people, pray for me.

Latin; tr. John Lingard, 18th cent.; alt.
Tune: STELLA (
Henri F. Hemy, 1851

Henri Frederic Hemy was a Roman Catholic composer, and this tune first appeared in his collection Easy Hymn Tunes for Catholic Schools (1851).  It it supposedly based on an English folk melody and has been matched with this text ever since.

Five Years Ago:  Ye who claim the faith of Jesus

Four Years Ago: Hail, holy Queen

Three Years Ago: Sing, sing, ye angel bands

Two Years Ago: Virgin-born, we bow before thee

One Year Ago: Let this day, above all other

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a martyr for the civil rights movement in this country, is remembered today in the calendar of the Episcopal Church.  Daniels was a seminary student in 1965 when he heard a televised appeal by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for more clergy of all denominations to become involved in voter registration of African-Americans  in Southern states.  Daniels wrote that he was inspired by the words of the Magnificat, Mary's prophetic song of liberation from the Gospel of Luke, and became convinced that he was being called to engage in this work.

Daniels was working in Alabama when he and other protesters were arrested and jailed for six days.  On August 20, upon release, they were looking for transportation out of town when they were confronted by a man with a shotgun, who aimed at Ruby Sales, a sixteen year old girl.  Daniels pushed her aside and was shot in the chest himself, dying immediately. His killer was later acquitted at trial on the grounds of self-defense.

This murder of a young seminarian brought more attention to the civil rights struggle.  In 1991 Daniels was declared "a martyr and witness to the Gospel" by the Episcopal Church, to be commemorated on this day, the anniversary of his arrest (because August 20 was already marked for another saint). I have used this hymn before, several years ago, but it seems appropriate again on this day.

O pure reformers! not in vain
Your trust in humankind;
The good which bloodshed could not gain,
Your peaceful zeal shall find.

The truths you urge are borne abroad
By every wind and tide;
The voice of nature and of God
Speaks out upon your side.

The weapons which your hands have found
Are those which heav'n has wrought:
Light, truth, and love -- your battleground,
The free, broad field of thought.

Press on! and if we may not share
The glory of your fight,
We'll ask at least, in earnest prayer,
That God will bless the right.

John Greenleaf Whittier, 1843; alt.
Hugh Wilson,1800; arr. Ralph E. Hudson, c.1885

A fellowship in his name has been established at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Daniels was a student.  Next fall, the Episcopal diocese of Rhode Island plans to open the Jonathan Daniels House in Providence, where Daniels also engaged in ministry before traveling south.

Ruby Sales, the girl whose life was saved that day, has continued her involvement in the civil rights struggle up to the present day.

Four Years Ago: Samuel Sebastian Wesley 

Two Years Ago: Samuel Sebastian Wesley

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sir Joseph Barnby

August 12 is a shared birthday between two prominent hymn tune composers of the Victorian age: Joseph Barnby (1838-1896) and Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley (1825-.1889).  Though I have treated them fairly evenly here on the blog, I admit to a slight preference for Ouseley's tunes, though his reputation faded earlier than Barnby's.  Barnby continues to appear in modern hymnals thanks to LAUDES DOMINI, his tune for When morning gilds the skies.  The brand-new hymnal of the Christian Reformed Church, Lift Up Your Hearts (2013) and the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s upcoming Glory to God (Fall 2013) both include LAUDES DOMINI.

Today's Barnby tune is much less known, but it seems to me to be a sturdy tune in Common Meter which could be sung today without embarrassment.  It's matched here to a text by Isaac Watts based partially on Psalm 119.

God, I have made your Word my choice,
My lasting heritage:
There shall my noblest powers rejoice,
My warmest thoughts engage.
I'll read the histories of your love,
And keep your laws in sight,
While through your promises I rove
With ever-fresh delight.
A broad'ning land of wealth unknown,
Where springs of life arise;
Seeds of immortal bliss are sown,
And hidden glory lies.

Isaac Watts, 1719; alt.
Tune: POWER (C.M.)
Joseph Barnby, 1869

The names of Barnby's tunes were probably not all assigned by the composer.  This happened because many of his tunes first appeared in The Hymnary (1872) where they were identified by numbers rather than by names, even though Barnby was the musical editor (the book is often referred to as Barnby's Hymnary).  Perhaps he didn't think proper names for hymn tunes as significant as many of his contemporaries did, or perhaps he found himself with too many new tunes to name and a fast-approaching deadline.  When those tunes were subsequently used in later hymnals, their names were probably invented by the editors of those books, which is why some of his tunes are known by more than one name.

P.S.: The portrait of Barnby above with his conductors' baton is by the artist John Wallace Knowles, and was retained by Barnby's descendants for nearly a century before being donated to a museum.

Five Years Ago: Joseph Barnby

Four Years Ago: Frederick A. Gore Ouseley

Three Years Ago: Joseph Barnby

One Year Ago: Frederick A. Gore Ouseley

Another Birthday Today: Katharine Lee Bates

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mary Artemesia Lathbury

Mary Lathbury, born today in 1841, will always be remembered for two simple hymns that she wrote for the Chautauqua Institution: Break thou the Bread of Life and Day is dying in the west.  Charles Sumner Nutter, author of Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church (1905).wrote:

It could be wished that we had a dozen or more hymns from her pen in our Hymnal if all of them could be as poetic and devotional as these two beautiful lyrics. 

Nutter's book was specifically about hymns and their writers which were contained in the Methodist Hymnal of 1905, which did not, in fact, contain any more of Lathbury's hymns, though she wrote many more.

Today's hymn comes from a collection called Crystal Songs (1877), which contains many texts about water, used in various metaphorical ways.

O river of the Life of God,
Foreseen by saint and seer
No witness of thy glory tells
Thy coming drawing near,
The rising of the tides we feel,
The living floods we hear.

Beyond the waters, crystal clear,
The Holy City lies.
Its glory groweth day by day
Upon our raptured eyes
Who watch upon the shore until
The sacred river rise.

Then rise, O holy waters, rise,
Till waste and wilderness
Shall feel the overflowing tide;
And truth and righteousness
Shall spring, a miracle of bloom,
The whole round earth to bless.

Mary A. Lathbury, 1877; alt.

James Leith Macbeth Bain, 1915

ater was often a sort of code word used in hymns and songs on the topic of temperance in the late nineteenth century and some of the material in Crystal Songs reflects this.  Though Lathbury did write more overtly pro-temperance songs, this does not appear to be one of them.  Frances Willard, one of the founders and later president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union was a close friend of Lathbury, and wrote of her:

A high courageous faith, a loyalty to the best ideals, and a devotion to the truth that gave inspiration to all with whom she came in contact, characterized 'our Mary.'

Five Years Ago: Mary Artemesia Lathbury

Four Years Ago: Mary Artemesia Lathbury

Three Years Ago: Mary Artemesia Lathbury