Thursday, February 20, 2014

Emma Mundella

Emma Mundella, a somewhat obscure British composer, died on this day in 1896, but her birth date in 1858 seems to be unknown.  She is described in Otto Ebel's Women Composers (1913) as "a highly gifted lady" who had written part-songs, piano pieces, and "some church music."  She also wrote an oratorio, Victory of Song, for female voices and strings which was published by Novello.

Among her music instructors were Arthur Sullivan and John Stainer, and she attended the Royal College of Music, becoming one of the first students to receive the Associate of the R.C.M. degree.

I mention her here because she was the editor of The Day School Hymn Book (1896)., which was also published by Novello.  She writes in the foreword that it was her aim to

...provide a Hymn Book for school use which should combine throughout an elevated tone of thought and feeling, both in the words and the music, with sufficient sympathy of ideas to make it acceptable to the young people for whom is is especially intended

Of course, dozens, if not hundreds, of other hymnbooks for the use of young persons had already claimed and would continue to express similar intentions.  At any rate, this book included hymns in German, Latin, and French in addition to many standard Church of England hymns.

In the foreword she also thanks her former teacher John Stainer for "his invaluable help and the unfailing interest he has shown throughout the preparation of this book." Stainer had provided her with a previously-unpublished tune by John Bacchus Dykes as well as composing six new tunes for the book.  

Twelve of Mundella's own tunes appear in the book (remember, the best way for women to get their tunes or texts into a hymnbook was to edit it themselves).  Several of these tunes are in unusual meters that would make them unlikely to be used today, but there are a few possibilities. Unfortunately, none of her tunes are available to hear online.  The Cyber Hymnal does not list Mundella at all, and only acknowledges her as the editor of a hymnbook, without listing any of her tunes.  Maybe someday.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Hush of Expectation

In some traditions we are still in the liturgical season of Epiphany, which will run until the Sunday before Lent -- March 2 this year (when we hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus).  It's a long season in 2014; often we have already passed Ash Wednesday by this time.

There are still hymns that can be used for the season without singing about the three kings and the star over Bethlehem, even though some worship planners are out of ideas.  Light is a recurring Epiphany theme, as well as the spreading of the awareness of Jesus.  Today the light comes from the dawn of the coming day of God, which seems appropriate for Epiphany, and also for other times of the year as well.

I encountered this text in an interesting collection I recently found, Social Hymns of Brotherhood and Aspiration (1914), though I suspect it was not first published there.

There’s a light upon the mountains,
As we greet the coming morn;
When our eyes shall see the beauty
And the splendors of the dawn;
Weary was our heart with waiting,
And the night-watch seemed so long,
But the jubilee is breaking
And we hail it with a song.

There’s a hush of expectation
And a quiet in the air
And the breath of God is moving
In the fervent breath of prayer;
Then we hear a distant music
And it comes with fuller swell;
’Tis the triumph-song of Jesus,
Promised One, Immanuel!

Christ is breaking down the barriers,
He is casting up the way;
He is calling for his angels
To build up the gates of day:
But his angels here are human,
Not the shining hosts above;
For the drumbeats of this legion
Are the heartbeats of our love.

Henry Burton, 1910; alt.
Thomas J. Williams, 1890

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thomas Turton

Bishop Thomas Turton (February 5, 1780 - January 7, 1864) was born in the town of Hatfield, in South Yorkshire, the son of Thomas and Ann Turton.

He graduated from St. Catherine's College (part of the University of Cambridge) in 1805, and treturned there to teach, eventually serving as Professor of Mathematics (1822-1826) and of Divinity (1827-1842). In 1834 he published a pamphlet opposing the admission of non-Anglicans for univerity degrees.  During his teaching career, he also served in various clerical capacities following his ordination in the Church of England in 1813, which led to his inclusion in The Extraordinary Black Book (1832) by John Wade, a catalog of corruption and abuse in church and state. After leaving St. Catherine's, he became Dean of Westminster Abbey for three years, and in 1845 he was made Bishop of Ely.

He was also a composer of some church music, and two hymn tunes (including today's) were included in Hymns Ancient and Modern.

O thou, in all thy might so far,
In all thy love so near,
Betond the range of sun and star,
And yet beside us here.

What heart can comprehend thy Name,
Or searching, find thee out,
Who art within, a quick'ning Flame,
A Presence 'round about.

Yet though we know thee but in part,
We ask not, God, for more,
Enough for us to know thou art,
To love thee, and adore.

Frederick Lucian Hosmer, 1876; alt.
Thomas Turton, 1860

This tune was named for Saint Etheldreda, the patron saint of the Diocese of Ely, while Turton's other tune in Hymns Ancient and Modern was called ELY.

Turton was in poor health during much of his term as Bishop and died in 1864, leaving much of his estate to charity.  He was buried next to his friend Dr. Thomas Musgrave, Archbishop of York.

This text, by Frederick Lucian Hosmer, written while he was pastor of the Unitarian congregation in Quincy, Illinois, is described in Hymn Lore (1932) by Calvin Laufer as suggestive of Psalm 139.

Five Years Ago: Joy is like the rain

Four Years Ago: Roger Williams

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Feast of the Presentation

 Joy! joy! the Mother comes,
And in her arms she brings
The Light of all the world,
The Ruler of all things,
And in her heart the while
All silently she sings.

Saint Joseph follows near,
In rapture lost, and love,
While angels 'round about
In glowing circles move,
And o'er the Mother broods
The everlasting Dove.

There in the temple court,
Old Simeon's heart beats high,
And Anna feeds her soul
With food of prophecy;
And see! the shadows pass,
The world's true Light draws nigh.

Frederick William Faber, 1854; alt.
Tune: BACA (
William Henry Havergal,
19th cent.

P.S - The illustration above is from The Presentation of Christ in the Temple by Albrecht Durer.

One Year Ago: In the temple now behold him

Three Years Ago: In peace and joy I now depart

Four Years Ago: O Jerusalem beloved

Five Years Ago: Hail to the Lord who comes

Six Years Ago: O Zion, open wide thy gates