Monday, October 31, 2016

More Voices Found: Alicia Adelaide Needham

Composer Alicia Needham was born today in 1863 in the Irish town of Oldcastle. Needham is still primarily known for her many secular songs, around four hundred out of her estimated seven hundred compositions, which also included works for piano, marches for brass bands, service music, and of course, hymn tunes. A brief 1904 article in The Sketch reports that she was "particularly happy both in composing martial music and in her lullaby songs."

She studied at Victoria College in Londonderry and later at the Royal Academy of Music (graduating in 1877) where her instructors included composers George Macfarren and Ebenezer Prout. Her songs frequently won prizes, such as for the Irish Music Festival whose competition she won six years in a row. Her most prestigious award was one hundred pounds for The Seventh English Edward, written for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902.  Researcher Christopher Reynolds, on the website of the American Musicological Society ranks her as sixth in a listing documenting the number of songs published by women between 1890 and 1930.

Among her many other accomplishments, she was the first woman to conduct at the Royal Albert Hall, and some of her songs are still sung during the well-known annual Proms celebrations which are held at that venue. She chaired the Pan-Celtic Association for a time and also the Royal National Eisteddfod.

Unfortunately, her hymn tunes are not particularly well-documented. The primary online hymn sites do not list her at all, and I have found only one tune, named SHANNON, which appeared in the Sunday School Hymnary (1905). There are several references to her having written more, but they have not surfaced yet in my research.

Needham died on Christmas Eve in 1945, but apparently stopped composing (or at least publishing) after about 1920.

Since we have no available sound files of her hymn tunes (as with Emma Mundella and so many other women), you can hear her Irish Lullaby (text by Francis Fahy) as sung by tenor William Matteuzzi. If you want to explore further on YouTube, there is also a recording of Needham's song Husheen sung by Dame Clara Butt (who also recorded The Lost Chord by yesterday's hymnwriter Adelaide Procter).

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Adelaide Anne Procter

In her day, the poet Adelaide Anne Procter (1825-1864) was second in popularity only to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and was a favorite of Queen Victoria. One of her poems, The Lost Chord, became even more well-known after her death when it was set to music as a parlor song by Sir Arthur Sullivan and its sheet music became a Victorian bestseller. 

She reportedly wrote poetry from an early age (her father was also a poet), and her first published poem came out in 1843, in the magazine Heath's Book of Beauty. Ten years later her poems began to appear in Charles Dickens' periodical Household Words. Since Dickens was a family friend, she had used the pseudonym of "Mary Berwick" to avoid any hint of favoritism, and he didn't discover her true identity for nearly two years. Eventually, her poems would make up about one-sixth of the verse that was published in Household Words throughout its lifetime.

In 1851 Adelaide and her sister joined the Roman Catholic Church and her poems start to reflect Catholic themes and theology, with a particular interest in the Virgin Mary. Her third book of poetry, A Chaplet of Verses (1862), was published to benefit the Providence Row Night Refuge for homeless women and children, the first such shelter in England to be sponsored by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy. Many of the poems in this book deal with Christian responsibility toward the poor. In the introduction to the book, she recounts the origin of the shelter two years earlier, describes its workings, solicits additional donations to support its work, and prays for its continued success:

May the Mother who wandered homeless through inhospitable Bethlehem, and the Saint who was a beggar and an outcast upon the face of the earth, watch over this Refuge for the poor and desolate, and obtain from the charity of the faithful the aid which it so sorely needs.

She did not, perhaps, intend for her poetry to be sung, but hymnal editors started to include some of her poems in their collections. Today's lesser-known Eucharistic hymn also comes from A Chaplet of Verses.

Give us our daily Bread,
O God, the bread of strength!
For we have come to know
The needs we have at length.
We need your Presence here,
Your people must be fed;
Give us your grace, O God,
To be our daily Bread.

Give us our daily Bread
To cheer our fainting soul;
The feast of comfort, God,
And peace, to make us whole:
For we are sick of tears,
The useless tears we shed;
Now give us comfort, God,
To be our daily Bread.

Give us our daily Bread,
The bread of angels, Lord,
By us, so many times,
Broken, betrayed, adored:
From grace and comfort comes
The feast that Jesus spread:
Give him — our life, our all —
To be our daily Bread!

Adelaide Ann Procter, 1862; alt.
Tune: DENBY (
Charles J. Dale, 1904

Procter considered her philanthropic deeds to be much more important than her poetic words. The "useless tears we shed" in the second stanza above may reflect her own preference for action over contemplation or regret. A long and interesting poem in A Chaplet of Verses titled The Homeless Poor lays out the conflict between words and deeds in a dialogue between two angels talking about how best to meet the needs of the destitute. That one is called the Angel of Prayers and the other the Angel of Deeds may give you a clue to the final determination.

She fully demonstrated her own commitment to deeds over words, contracting tuberculosis during her work with the poor of London.  She suffered with the disease for fifteen months before her death on February 2, 1864 (coincidentally, the Feast of the Purification, which she called Mary's "first feast" of the year in her poem Christmas Flowers).

Eight Years Ago: Christopher Wordsworth 

Seven Years Ago: Adelaide Anne Procter 

Six Years Ago: Adelaide Anne Procter

Two Years Ago: Christopher Wordsworth

Friday, October 28, 2016

Saint Simon and Saint Jude

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

For thy dear saints, O Lord,
Who strove in thee to die,
Who counted thee their great reward,
Accept our thankful cry.

They all in life and death,
With thee their Lord in view,
Learned from thy Holy Spirit’s breath
To suffer and to do.

Thine earthly members fit
To join thy saints above,
In one communion ever knit,
One unity 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: NARENZA (S.M.)
Catholicum Hymnologium, 1584;
arr. William Henry Havergal, 1847

Eight Years Ago: Thou who sentest thine apostles

Seven Years Ago: Let the church of God rejoice

Six Years Ago: When thou, O Christ, didst send the Twelve

Four Years Ago: Blessed feasts of blessed martyrs

One Year Ago: By all your saints still striving

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Henry Smart

English composer Henry Thomas Smart was born today in 1813 in London. His father was a well-known violinist who taught him much about music in childhood, but young Henry was also fascinated by mechanical objects. When his uncle procured a regular seat for Henry at Covent Garden, the boy was as interested in the instrments themselves as in the music they produced.  It it perhaps for this reason that he became an authority on pipe organs and organ building as well as a prominent (though self-taught) composer.

As a young man his late mother's relations pushed him into a career in the law, but after four years he found a loophole in his employment agreement 
that enabled him to leave the profession. He became a church organist for several parishes in London, and also began composing sacred music of various types, including anthems, chants and service music, organ music, and of course, hymn tunes. He also wrote some secular music: an opera (Bertha), a cantata for women's voices (The Fishermaidens), and about 140 part-songs and trios. He was the music editor of some hymnbooks, including The Choral Book (1858) and the Presbyterian Psalter and Hymnal (1877).

In Handbook to the Church Hymnary (1927), James Moffatt writes that Smart's hymn tunes "are of great purity and excellence," but they have not been included in modern hymnals to the same degree that they were in earlier times. In my own opinion, many of them are worthy of another look, as they generally rise above the tunes of several of Smart's Victorian contemporaries. Today's tune, HEATHLANDS, first appeared in Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1866) and went on to many other hymnals, sometimes matched to texts such as For the beauty of the earth and God of mercy, God of grace (neither of which we probably sing it with today).

Every morning mercies new
Fall as fresh as morning dew;
Every morning let us pay
Tribute with the early day;
For thy mercies, God, are sure;
Thy compassion doth endure.

Let our prayers each morn prevail,
That thy gifts may never fail; 
And, as far as east from west,
Lift the burden from each breast;
Feed us with the Bread of Life;
Fit us for our daily strife.

As the morning light returns,
As the sun with splendor burns,
Teach us still to turn to thee,
Ever blessed Trinity,
With our hands our hearts to raise,
In unfailing prayer and praise.

Greville Phillimore, 1863; alt.
Henry T. Smart, 1867

Sir George Smart, composer of the tune WILTSHIRE (published in 1795, and which still survives in some places today) was Henry Smart's uncle. The book Women Composers (1902) by Otto Ebel lists another musical relative of his, sister Harriet Anne Smart, "the author of a number of hymns and other vocal music." I have not yet discovered any of these tunes, but given my interest in women who wrote sacred music, you can be sure that I am still looking.

P.S. (October 27) While putting away my reference materials for writing this post, I somehow saw a passage which gave me Harriet Smart's married name (Callow).  It turns out that I had previously unearthed one hymn tune by Harriet Ann Callow named SOLITUDE, from the Scottish Hymnal (1898). Now I had another clue to look for more, and then discovered that, credited as "H.A. Callow," her SOLITUDE also appeared in 3 American hymnals (as listed on Still more to find.

Eight Years Ago: Henry Smart

Seven Years Ago: Henry Smart

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hymns in the News

A few hymn-related articles have caught my eye in recent days that you might be interested to read.

On Friday, the website of the Baptist Press brought tidings of a new online resource for hymn researchers. The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is starting the process of scanning their 400 rare hymnals (in a library of 5000+) to make them available on the web. Though at present they seem to have scanned less than ten percent of their collection, they have started a Center for Hymnological Research where you (or I) can view or downlead them. It sounds like many of these have not previously been available online, and are older than the majority of hymnals you can see at Google Books or the Internet Archive (which are mostly nineteenth century or newer).  The article is also quite informative about the process of scanning books for online posting, if you've ever wondered about that.

From Wisconsin, the Wausau Daily Herald brought news of a concert held last Sunday in tribute to hymnwriter and composer Joy F. Patterson, who is celebrating her 85th birthday and her fortieth year of creating congregational song. Patterson's congregation (since the 1950s), the First Presbyterian Church of Wausau, filled their "Afternoon of Joy" with her hymns and choir anthems, which have been sung across several denominations and across the country.  According to their Facebook page, it was a "most festive event."

I know that many readers here are church musicians themselves, and understand the unique, powerful, and long-lived commitment that we often see in each other. For this reason, I always like to see those commitments recognized (personal shout-out to Merion F!).  Last month, the Mankato Free Press told the story of Iris Davis of Lewisville, MN, who was retiring as the organist of Zion Lutheran Church after 65 years and "thousands of hymns." She plans to continue teaching piano lessons and to write her autobiography -- I wish her the best.

Eight Years Ago: Saint James of Jerusalem

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

John White Chadwick

Today is the birthday of the poet, critic, and Unitarian minister John White Chadwick (1840-1904).  He graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1864 (and wrote a hymn for the occasion) without having gone to college and was ordained later that year at the Second Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, where he served as pastor for the next forty years. Samuel Longfellow, a former minister of that congregation, participated in the ordination service and urged Chadwick to proclaim "the gospel of the immediateness of the Spirit" in his work there

Chadwick was eager to address the social and scientific advances of his day, and in his preaching, poetry, and other writing he often combined these "outside" concepts with his religious thought. He wrote of his desire "to reconceive the Bible, to reconceive the life and character of Jesus, to reconceive the universe and man and God, not with my own poor strength, but with the help of all the deepest, highest, noblest philosophical and critical and scientific thinking of the time." His sermon to the National Unitarian Conference in 1876 was titled The Essential Piety of Modern Science, and his book The Faith of Reason (1880) encapsulates much of his thought on these themes.

Several of his hymns also include these ideas, even this one for today,  written for an anniversary occasion, where he sets "truth" against the "bounds of sect and bonds of creed."

O God, whose perfect goodness crowns
With peace and joy each sacred day,
Our hearts are glad for all the years
Your love has kept us in your way.

For common tasks of help and cheer,
For quiet hours of thought and prayer,
For moments when we seemed to feel
The breath of a diviner air;

For truth that evermore makes free
From bounds of sect and bonds of creed;
For light that shines that we may see
Our own in every neighbor's need;

For this and more than words can say,
We praise and bless your holy name.
Come life or death, enough to know
That you are evermore the same.

John White Chadwick, 1889; alt.
Tune: WOOLMER'S (L.M.) 
Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley, 1861

Eight Years Ago: Emily Swan Perkins

Seven Years Ago: Emily Swan Perkins

Seven Years Ago: John White Chadwick

Three Years Ago: Claudia Frances Hernaman

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Saint Luke

Today is the feast day of Saint Luke, author of the Gospel of Luke as well as the book of Acts.  At the end of Paul's Letter to the Colossians (4:7-18), Paul adds greetings to the church at Colossae, and includes "Luke, the beloved physician," the only direct reference to Luke's occupation.

Today's anonymous Latin hymn (Exultet coelum laudibus) comes from an eleventh century manuscript in the British Museum, translated by Richard Mant and published in his collection Ancient Hymns from the Roman Breviary (1837). Not specifically written for this day, it nevertheless refers to the healing graces of the followers of Jesus.

Let all on earth their voices raise,
Re-echoing heav’n’s triumphant praise
To thee, who gave thy loved ones grace
To run on earth their glorious race.

Thou, in whose might they spake the word
Which cured disease and health restored,
To us its healing power prolong,
Support the weak, confirm the strong.

To us thy heav’nly light impart,
To glad our eyes and cheer our heart.
Jesus, with them pronounce us blest,
And take us to thine endless rest.

Latin, 11th cent.; tr. Richard Mant, 1837; alt.
Catholische Geistliche Gesäsange, 1608

P.S. The window above is from the St. Luke Chapel at Norwich Cathedral, designed by J. Hardman & Co. In some traditions, Luke is also considered the patron saint of stained glass workers.

Eight Years Ago: Come sing, ye choirs exultant

Seven Years Ago: What thanks and praise to thee we owe

One Year Ago: By all your saints still striving

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Frederick Lucian Hosmer

The dean of Unitarian hymnwriters, Frederick Lucian Hosmer, was born on this day in 1840. Many details of his life and career have been shared here in previous years (see links below).

This year I discovered a nice article in the November, 1920 issue of The Pacific Unitarian, a church magazine published in San Francisco, marking Hosmer's eightieth birthday. A celebration of the occasion on the exact date was planned by the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley (CA), where Hosmer had been named pastor emeritus in 1915, upon his (second) retirement. However, it was not certain that he would be present, as he had left California three years earlier "to visit his friends in the East." He had been staying in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester for much of that time, but when he learned of the planned celebration he cut his extended trip short and returned to Berkeley, to the evident delight of his former parishioners.  According to the article: "He was as glad to meet his old friends as they were to have him back, and his informal hand-grasping reception had nothing perfunctory about it." Various speeches of acclamation were also delivered that night.

The article also recounts a celebration held in Boston three days earlier at a board meeting of the American Unitarian Association. Unfortunately, Hosmer was not in attendance as he would have already been on his way to California, but it's not unlikely that the Board thought that he would be there as he had been staying nearby for many months.  A portrait of Hosmer was given to the Association by a committee of his friends, and Association President Samuel Atkins Eliot II spoke warmly of Hosmer and his accomplishments, and recalled his many hymn texts.

They bear witness to the unceasing revelation of truth and to the reality and perpetual influence of the life of God [...] They are prophetic utterances of the cheerful and confident faith that we associate with the animating and radiant personality of our friend.

The article also included the following hymn by Hosmer, which he had written to mark the 75th anniversary of the American Unitarian Association twenty years earlier.

From old to new, with broadening sweep,
The stream of life moves on;
And still its changing currents keep
A changeless undertone.

In prophet word and martyr faith,
Visions of saint and seer, 
The poet's song, the Spirit's breath --
That undertone we bear.

A sense we have of things unseen, 
Transcending things of time;
We catch, earth's broken chords between,
The everlasting chime!

And light breaks through the rifted haze
In shining vistas broad;
We stand amid th'eternal ways,
Held by the hand of God.

Frederick Lucian Hosmer, 1900; alt.
John Bacchus Dykes, 1868

It seems to me that there must be more references to Hosmer in The Pacific Unitarian, since he lived in California for most of the last thirty years of his life. He is one of the hymnwriters that most intrigues me, so I will have to investigate further.

Eight Years Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

Seven Years Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

Six Years Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

Two Years Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

One Year Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Knowles Shaw

Today is the birthday of evangelist and gospel song writer Knowles Shaw, born near New London, Ohio.  He began to play the violin at the age of ten (the instrument was given to him by his dying father), and eventually played at public dances.  One story claims that his conversion to Christianity happened suddenly, in the middle of a dance, and he immediately stopped the song he was playing and left the building.

Shaw was baptized in the Churches of Christ in 1852, and over the next few years he married and started a family, initially supporting them by working as a farmhand. In 1858 he was first asked to speak in a worship service, and before long his gifts for speaking and music would lead to the career he would follow for the rest of his life.

He became known as the "Singing Evangelist," traveling around the western and southern United States leading revival meetings.  During the day he would introduce himself around town, inviting people to the meeting that night, which he would begin by leading about a half hour of congregational singing, followed by delivering a sermon, and sometimes baptizing several people. Estimates of the number of persons he baptized range from 11,000 to 20,000, depending on which source you read.

He also turned his musical skills and scriptural knowledge to the writing and publishing of gospel songs (sometimes the words, sometimes the music, often both) which he then introduced in his meetings (much like his contemporary Ira Sankey).  Between 1868 and 1878 he brought out five songbooks, largely made up of his own songs, including Sparkling Jewels (1871), The Golden Gate (1874) and The Morning Star (1877).

In looking at the writers of hymns and songs from previous generations, it's always a bit remarkable to encounter someone who wrote dozens and dozens of songs, and yet only one of those remains known today. This song by Shaw soon became his most popular, while the dozens of others faded away. The online hymn sites only list a fraction of his work, apparently not having thoroughly mined his five collections.

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Savior,
Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, Christ will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Knowles Shaw, 1874; alt.
Tune: BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES ( with refrain)
George Minor, 1880

When this song was first published in The Golden Gate (it was #9, if you want to check the link above) Shaw had written both text and tune, but that tune was replaced by another after Shaw's death. 

On June 7, 1878, Shaw was traveling by train to McKinney, Texas when the train derailed.  He died saving the life of another passenger. The Reverend William Baxter, also associated with the Churches of Christ, wrote The Life of Knowles Shaw, the Singing Evangelist (1879).

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cecil Frances Alexander

Today is the anniversary of the death of Irish poet Cecil Frances Alexander, who died in 1895. The date of her birth in 1818 is still unknown. She was born in Dublin to Elizabeth and John Humphreys, and began writing verse at an early age. 

Two of her earliest collections contain poetry that was later taken up by hymnal editors: Verses for Holy Seasons (1848) and Hymns for Little Children (1848). The latter collection was edited by the esteemed hymn writer John Keble, and went through sixty-nine editions before the end of the nineteenth century.  

In 1856, her poem "The Burial of Moses" appeared in the Dublin University Magazine (anonymously, for some reason). Alfred, Lord Tennyson declared that it was the only poem that he had read by a living author that he wished he had written himself.

She married the Reverend William Alexander in 1850. She was six years older than he, which was said to cause "great family concern," so the year of her birth was "adjusted," and many older sources claimed that she was born in 1823.  William became Bishop of Derry and Raphoe in 1867, and Archbishop of All Ireland in 1896 (after his wife's death).

Alexander's hymns still appear in modern hymnals, though most of the ones we still know were originally written for children (All things bright and beautifulOnce in royal David's cityThere is a green hill far away). Today's hymn, for adults, originally appeared in Hymns (1852), published by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, an organization that was largely responsible for sending Church of England missionaries to the American colonies in the eighteenth century, and remains active today as a publishing house.

Spirit of God, that moved of old
Upon the waters' threat'ning face,
Come, when our weary hearts are cold,
And stir them with an inward grace.

For you are power and peace combined,
All highest strength, all purest love,
The rushing of the mighty wind,
The brooding of the gentle dove.

Come, give us still your pow'rful aid,
And urge us to that higher place;
Nor leave the hearts that once were made
Fit temples for your quick'ning grace. 

Nor let us quench your sev’nfold light;
But still with softest breathings stir
Our wand'ring souls, and lead us right,
O Holy Ghost, the Comforter.

Cecil Frances Alexander, 1852; alt.
English folk melody; arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1919

The score for the folk tune TRUTH FROM ABOVE, can be seen here, which may help you to better match the text with the tune, which I believe is a good combination.

English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1957), the arranger of this tune, was also born today, which also makes the match appropriate (to my mind, at least).  Originally sung with the carol of the same name, Vaughan Williams published his version in his Eight Traditional Christmas Carols (1919) and he had previously used the melody in his Fantasia on Christmas Carols (1912).

The memorial window to Mrs. Alexander below, at St. Columb's Cathedral in Derry, was dedicated in 1913. The left window represents Once in royal David's city, the center window, There is a green hill far away, and the right window, The golden gates are lifted up

(Photograph of the window is attributed to Andreas Franz Borchert)

Eight Years Ago: Ralph Vaughan Williams

Eight Years Ago: Cecil Frances Alexander

Eight Years Ago: Healey Willan

Seven Years Ago: Ralph Vaughan Williams

Six Years Ago: Cecil Frances Alexander

Four Years Ago: Ralph Vaughan Williams