Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim, #535

# 535   Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim

Text:  Charles Wesley

Tune:  Paderborn

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Composer:  Folksong arranged by Sydney Hugo Nicholson

The year this text was written, 1744, was a year of political and religious turmoil in Britain. The newly formed Methodist societies were suspected of being merely disguised Roman Catholic societies and were accused of attempting to overthrow the Crown. To strengthen and reassure his Methodist followers, Charles Wesley anonymously published Hymns for Times of Trouble and Persecution (1744). The original text, in seventeen stanzas, was the first of the "Hymns to be Sung in a Tumult." Of those stanzas,; the battle-song stanzas, which the small but heroic Methodist groups sang in the face of violent opposition, are now omitted. 

The text is a hymn of thankful praise to Christ for his victorious reign and for providing salvation for his people. It reveals the cosmic scope of Christ's kingdom and helps us to join our voices with the great doxology to Christ, the Lamb, as foretold in Revelation.

Sir Sydney Hugo Nicholson MVO (1875 –1947) was an English choir director, organist and composer, now chiefly remembered as the founder of the Royal School of Church Music. He was organist at Barnet Parish Church, Lower Chapel, Eton College, Carlisle Cathedral, Manchester Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey. Combined with his organist posts he edited the 'Hymns Ancient and Modern' supplement that was published in 1916, a task in which he was still engaged when the 1950 revised edition was being prepared.

This hymn has been paired with a number of tunes but only one, Paderborn, found its way into our Hymnal for this text.   You can find the other tunes in the Hymnal – Hanover {# 388]. Lyons [ # 533], and Laudate Dominum  [ # 432] to name a few.  If you do a search on YouTube of the hymn title, you can find some clips of the hymn being performed with a variety of tunes. You decide which you like best.    Here’s the hymn sung to Paderborn by the Aquia Church in Stafford, Virginia.  Listen to that organ!  And the choir member singing harmony. YOUTUBE

Christ, whose glory fills the skies, #7

#7 Christ, whose glory fills the skies

Words:  Charles Wesley


Music:  Ratisbon

Written by the great hymn writer Charles Wesley, this text was published in three stanzas in Hymns and Sacred Poems, compiled in 1740 by Charles Wesley and his" brother John. James Montgomery called it "one of Charles Wesley's loveliest progeny.” Titled "Morning Hymn" by Wesley, it is unusual in that it does not contain the customary reference to the previous night's rest or to the work and dangers of the day ahead. The text begins by placing the focus entirely on Christ, the "light of the world," the sun of Righteousness who rises with healing in his wings"; he is the "Dayspring" and "Daystar." Thus the "light of Christ" is to fill our lives and lead us forward "to the perfect day."

Enjoy this from the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Worchester, MA: YOUTUBE

Most High, omnipotent, good Lord, #406

# 406  Most High, omnipotent, good Lord

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Words:  Francis of Asssi

Music:  Assisi, Alfred Morton Smith

Sources:  Wikipedia and

Known as The Canticle of the Sun, also known as Laudes Creaturarum (Praise of the Creatures) and Canticle of the Creatures, is a religious song composed by Saint Francis of Assisi. It was written in an Umbrian dialect of Italian but has since been translated into many languages. It is believed to be among the first works of literature, if not the first, written in the Italian language.

The Canticle of the Sun in its praise of God thanks Him for such creations as "Brother Fire" and "Sister Water". It is an affirmation of Francis' personal theology as he often referred to animals as brothers and sisters to Mankind, rejected material accumulation and sensual comforts in favor of "Lady Poverty".

Saint Francis is said to have composed most of the canticle in late 1224 while recovering from an illness at San Damiano, in a small cottage that had been built for him by Saint Clare and other women of her Order of Poor Ladies. According to tradition, the first time it was sung in its entirety was by Francis and Brothers Angelo and Leo, two of his original companions, on Francis' deathbed, the final verse praising "Sister Death" having been added only a few minutes before

Alfred Morton Smith (1879-1971) was born in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and studied at the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Divinity School). An Episcopalian, Smith was ordained a deacon and a priest.  After a short time in Philadelphia and Long Beach, California, he served at St. Matthias Church, Los Angeles, for ten years. He was a chaplain in the U.S. Army during World War I, returning to Philadelphia in 1919, where he spent the remainder of his career. He retired in 1955. In 1963, Smith moved to Drium Moir, Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, and in 1968 to Brigantine, New Jersey, where he remained until his death. --The Presbyterian Hymnal Companion, 1993.

I regret I can’t find a good video/audio clip of this hymn.  I hope you will enjoy singing it in church on October 6. 

Jesus, all my gladness, #701

# 701  Jesus, all my gladness

Text:      Johann Franck, translated by Catherine Winkworth

Tune:     Jesu, meine freude

Composer: Johann Cruger


 It does my Lutheran heart good to share these comments about one of my favorite hymns.  Surely there are few hymns as moving, as personal as this.

From The Hymnal 1982 Companion:

This famous text and tune, first matched in 1656, unite a profound and deeply personal expression of the yearning for spiritual union between the worshiper and Jesus Christ.  The text, originally 6 stanzas, was modeled on a German love song,” Flora meine Freude.”  The first translation of this text into English was by Catherine Winkworth for the Chorale Book for England, 1863.  The text as it appears in the 1982 Hymnal is a translation of stanzas 1,4, and 6 of the original and is a slightly altered version of the translation by Arthur Wellesley Wotherspoon  for the Scottish Mission Hymnbook, and then made its way into the 1940 Hymnal.  

Just for comparison, here is the translation of stanza 1 from The Lutheran Hymnal and the translation from our 1982 Hymnal.  You tell me which one you like best …


Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me.
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning, Lord, for Thee?
Thou art mine, O Lamb divine!
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Naught I ask beside Thee.


Jesus, all my gladness,
my repose in sadness,
Jesus, heaven to me;
ah, my heart long plaineth,
ah, my spirit straineth,
longeth after thee!
Thine I am, O holy Lamb;
only where thou art is pleasure,
thee alone I treasure.

Cruger wrote the tune in 1653.  Bach later based his great five-part motet on this text and tune and also utilized the tune in several cantatas and organ works.  It is considered one of the finest of post-Reformation tunes and texts.

Here is the hymn with the Bach harmonization [not in our Hymnal.]   I think the simple piano setting is very moving.  YOUTUBE  And here is the Bach motet using the tune. It’s 20 minutes long but well worth it.  YOUTUBE


There is a balm in Gilead, #676

# 676 There is a balm in Gilead

Words and music:  African-American spiritual

Sources: and Discipleship Ministries UMC


In the Old Testament, Gilead was the name of the mountainous region east of the Jordan River. This region was known for having skillful physicians and an ointment made from the gum of a tree particular to that area. Many believed that this balm had miraculous powers to heal the body. In the book of Jeremiah, God tells the people of Israel that though many believe in the mysterious healing power of this balm, they can’t trust in those powers for spiritual healing or as a relief of their oppression. He reminds them that He is ultimately in control, and only He can relieve their suffering. In the New Testament, God answers the suffering of His people by sending His own son to take our place. Jesus becomes our “balm in Gilead.” It is Him we are called to turn to in our times of trial for healing and comfort. We sing this song with that assurance: no matter our hardships or supposed shortcomings, Jesus loves us enough to take our suffering upon Himself.

Few chapters in the Bible may have resonated with the souls of enslaved Africans in North America as Jeremiah 8 did. Israel was in exile. The Babylonians were preparing to violate their holy places for treasure, dishonoring their dead. This is a chapter of judgment and hopelessness. The exiled Jews are forced to live in a “far country” (Jeremiah 8:19). They wondered what they had done to deserve this. It is the most desperate and despondent time in Israel’s history. Then the chapter ends with these three rhetorical questions: “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jeremiah 8:22, KJV)

The refrain of this spiritual offers encouragement and dares to respond with hope in the face of hopelessness, showing courage in the face of despair. African American theologian Howard Thurman (1899-1981) discusses the refrain of this spiritual: “The slave caught the mood of this spiritual dilemma and with it did an amazing thing. He straightened the question mark in Jeremiah’s sentence into an exclamation point: ‘There is a balm in Gilead!’ [italics in original] Here is the note of creative triumph.”

Enjoy this wonderful rendition by Paul Robeson YOUTUBE

What wondrous love is this, #439

# 439   What wondrous love is this

Words: American folks hymn, ca. 1835

Tune:  Wondrous Love

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"What Wondrous Love Is This" is a Christian folk hymn, sometimes described as a "white spiritual", from the American South. Its text was first published in 1811, during the Second Great Awakening, and its melody was derived from an English popular ballad. Today it is a widely known hymn included in hymnals of many Christian denominations

The hymn's lyrics were first published in Lynchburg, Virginia in the c. 1811 camp meeting songbook A General Selection of the Newest and Most Admired Hymns and Spiritual Songs Now in Use.  In most early printings, the hymn's text was attributed to an anonymous author, though the 1848 hymnal The Hesperian Harp attributes the text to a Methodist pastor from Oxford, Georgia named Alexander Means.

Most sources attribute the hymn's melody to the 1701 English song "The Ballad of Captain Kidd", which describes the exploits of pirate William Kidd (misnamed "Robert" in American versions of the ballad)

My name was Robert Kidd, when I sailed, when I sailed;
My name was Robert Kidd, when I sailed;
My name was Robert Kidd, God's laws I did forbid,
So wickedly I did when I sailed, when I sailed
So wickedly I did when I sailed.

The melody itself predates the Kidd usage, however, possibly by more than a century.  In the early 1800s, when the lyrics to "What Wondrous Love Is This" were first published, hymnals typically lacked any musical notation.  Camp meeting attendees during the Second Great Awakening would sing the hymns printed in these hymnals to a variety of popular melodies, including "The Ballad of Captain Kidd", which was well known at the time; this is likely how the text and melody came to be paired.  The text and melody were first published together in The Southern Harmony, a book of shape note hymns compiled by William Walker.

 Here’s the St. Olaf Choir performing this very moving hymn. Enjoy.  YOUTUBE

Joyful, joyful we adore thee, #376

# 376 Joyful, joyful we adore thee

Words:  Henry Van Dyke

Music:  Hymn to Joy, Ludwig van Beethoven

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Henry Van Dyke’s brilliant hymn of praise has many layers that add to the beauty of his text. As hymnologist Albert Bailey writes, within Van Dyke’s text, “creation itself cannot conceal its joy, and that joy is appreciated by God the center of it all; likewise all nature fills us with joy, caused fundamentally by our recognition of God as the giver” (The Gospel in Hymns, 554). We experience joy on many levels: we witness the joy expressed by Creation, we bask in the joy of God as He delights in us, and we experience our own joy as we reflect on all God has done for us and through us. We have all heard this line over and over again, but it’s worth repeating: we rush through life too quickly to stop and be filled with joy. We allow the phone calls we have to make, the laundry we need to fold, the paper we need to write, and the porch we need to fix get in the way of simply stopping, looking around, and being filled with joy and gratitude at the world God has given us. It’s a world where we have people to call, children to clothe, knowledge to express, and parties to host. And more so than anything, even when it seems to be crumbling around us, it’s a world redeemed by Christ. What can we raise to our Savior but this outburst of joy

ODE TO JOY or HYMN TO JOY is the adaptation of Beethoven’s famous final movement in his Ninth Symphony into a melody fit for congregational singing. Around 1908, Henry Jackson Van Dyke wrote his text to be “sung to the music of Beethoven’s ‘Hymn to Joy’” (Hymnstudies, The tune has an 87.87.D meter, which Austin Lovelace describes as having the “ability to carry massive ideas in its fifteen syllables per double line” (Anatomy of Hymnody, 74). It is a tune of grandeur and, fittingly, joy. It almost begs to be sung in a fast, upbeat manner; Jerry Jenkins writes, “the tune is so reminiscent of sprightly harpsichords that the words begin to bounce, and suddenly I’m singing it the way it was meant to be sung – at least in style” (Hymns for Personal Devotions, 132).

The only point of contention about this tune revolves around one note. In Beethoven’s symphony, there is a pick up note into the third line – many try to imitate this. Paul Westermeyer argues that using this syncopated rhythm allows the congregation to sing music “in its integrity” (Let the People Sing, 202). Austin Lovelace, however, argues that “syncopation is a stumbling block to congregational singing and does nothing to make the hymn easier to sing or understand” (Let the People Sing, 202). In this case, Lovelace is probably right. If you want to incorporate Beethoven’s interesting rhythm, try adding it as a bass note pickup to the downbeat of the fourth line.

The Hymnary.Org site lists a fourth verse, which unfortunately is not in our Hymnal.  I can’t imagine why it was left out. It surely captures the sentiments of not only Van Dyke’s words but Beethoven’s mighty chorus of his Ninth Symphony. 

Mortals, join the mighty chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
God's own love is reigning o’er us,
Joining people hand in hand.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music leads us sunward
In the triumph song of life.

Enjoy this rousing audience singing at the Royal Albert Hall in London. YOUTUBE

All four verses with wonderful orchestration.  And note, they do include that “pick up note” at the end of the 3rd line. Good for them.  As it should be! 

Morning Has Broken, #8

# 8  Morning Has Broken

Words:  Eleanor Farjeon

Music:  Bunessan, Gaelic melody

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 Eleanor Farjeon, (born Feb. 13, 1881, London--died June 5, 1965, Hampstead, London), English writer for children whose magical but unsentimental tales, which often mock the behavior of adults, earned her a revered place in many British nurseries.

The daughter of a British novelist and granddaughter of a U.S. actor, Eleanor Farjeon grew up in the bohemian literary and dramatic circles of London. Attending opera and theatre at 4 and writing on her father’s typewriter at 7, Farjeon came to public attention at 16 as the librettist of an opera, with music by her brother Harry, which was produced by the Royal Academy of Music.

Her success with Nursery Rhymes of London Town (1916), simple tunes originally for adults but adapted and sung in junior schools throughout England, spurred her writing. In addition to such favorites as Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard (1921) and The Little Bookroom (1955), which won the Carnegie Medal and the first Hans Christian Anderson Award, Farjeon’s prolific writings include children’s educational books, among them Kings and Queens (1932; with Herbert Farjeon); adult books; and memoirs, notably A Nursery in the Nineties (1935; rev. ed. 1960).

BUNESSAN is a Gaelic tune that was first published (melody only) in Lachlan Macbean's Songs and Hymns of the Gael (1888) as a setting for Mary Macdonald's carol "Child in the Manger." The tune is named after Macdonald's birthplace on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. BUNESSAN is also well known as the setting for Eleanor Farjeon's "Morning Has Broken" (1931), published in many hymnals and widely popularized by Cat Stevens, who recorded an arrangement of the tune in 1971.


 Enjoy Cat Stevens.  A real blast from the past, but so good.


Come, labor on, #541

# 541 Come, labor on

Words:  Jane L. Bostwick

Music:  Ora Labora by Thomas Noble

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 Jane L. Borthwick (b. Edinburgh, Scotland, 1813; d. Edinburgh, 1897) wrote this text and published it in her Thoughts for Thoughtful Hours (1859) in seven, six-line stanzas. Borthwick revised the text into its present five-line form and published that version in her Thoughts for Thoughtful Hours of 1863. The Psalter Hymnal includes stanzas 1, 2, 4, and 6 from her revised version. Inspired by the gospel parables that liken the coming of God's kingdom to the sowing of seed and harvesting of grain (see Matt. 9:37-38; Matt. 13; John 4:35-38), the text calls us to work for God's cause even in the face of Satan's opposition. Because our earthly time is limited, we must use our resources wisely and be diligent in our kingdom tasks until we hear the final “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). Borthwick was a member of the Presbyterian Free Church of Scotland and had a strong interest in the church's mission work. She also supported Moravian missions in Labrador, Canada, and was involved in social service work in Edinburgh. Both Jane and her younger sister Sarah Findlater Borthwick (PHH 333) are well-known translators of German chorales.

Thomas Tertius Nobel (1867-1953) was born in Bath, England, educated at the Royal College of Music, and was a noted composer and organist. He served as a church organist in Cambridge and Colchester. He moved to Ely Cathedral in 1892 as organist and choir­master, and in 1898 to York Minster, where he founded the York Symphony Orchestra, directed the York Musical Society, conducted the York Pageant, and revived the York Music Festival after a lapse of 75 years. He became an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Organists in 1905. In 1913, he moved to New York City, where he was organist at St. Tho­mas’ Episcopal Church, and established its choir school and a boys’ choir. In addition to composing, he wrote about music education, and helped ed­it the 1916 Protestant Episcopal hymnal, and served on the music committee that prepared its 1940 successor. He wrote a wide range of music, but only his services, anthems and hymn tunes are still performed regularly. Died: May 4, 1953, Rock­port, Mass­a­chu­setts

Enjoy this magnificent organ and strong congregational signing:  Gerre Hancock (1934-2012), Organist & Master of Choirsters at St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue plays "Come, Labor On", a hymn so closely associated with St. Thomas, and improvises the voluntary on his last Sunday at St. Thomas Church, the Feast of Corpus Christi 2004.  YOUTUBE

God of Grace and God of Glory, #594

# 594     God of Grace and God of Glory


Author:                Harry Emerson Fosdick

Tune:                    CWM RHONDDA

Composer:          John Hughes


Harry E. Fosdick was a well-known and controversial preacher in the early twentieth century. After Fosdick left his positon at one church, John D. Rockefeller asked him to become pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church in New York City, but Fosdick thought the church was too wealthy, and agreed only on condition that a new church would be built in a less fashionable place. The site selected for Riverside Church was on the banks of the Hudson, not far from Harlem. Fosdick wrote this hymn at his summer home in Maine in 1930 for the opening service of Riverside Church that fall. It was sung as the processional hymn for that service on October 5 and again at the dedication service on February 8, 1931. The first publication was in Praise and Service by H. Augustine Smith in 1932.

This hymn is a prayer for God's help for the church to live in God's power and love with generosity and progress toward social justice. Each stanza concludes with a two-line petition for wisdom and courage that was originally meant to be sung to one musical phrase. However, when it is sung to CWM RHONDDA, the final line of each stanza must be repeated to extend the text to fit the tune. This results in a needless repetition of the second part of the petition.

CWM RHONDDA is a well-known Welsh tune. It was written in 1907 by John Hughes, a Welshman who spent most of his life as a railway worker. The tune name literally means “Rhondda valley,” after the Rhondda River that flows through a coal-mining district of Wales. This tune has great vigor, and was at first circulated only in leaflet form because hymnal editors considered it too vigorous to be a proper hymn tune. They eventually succumbed to popular pressure, and since the 1930s the tune has been included in many hymnals, often with multiple texts, [most notably Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah].

Fosdick did not like the use of this tune for his text, having written it specifically to fit the three phrases of the tune REGENT SQUARE. When asked about the tune change, he wrote, “My secretary has already written you the answer to your question about my hymn's divorce from 'Regent Square' [familiar to us as the tune for the Christmas carol Angels from the Realms of Glory] and remarriage to 'Cwm Rhondda.' The Methodists did it! And both here and abroad they are being followed” (quoted in Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Paul Westermeyer, p. 562).

Here is a rousing rendition for you from a performance at Manchester United Church. I’m sorry I can’t tell you what city/town.   Enjoy. YOUTUBE

O Worship the King, all glorious above, #388

# 388   O Worship the King, all glorious above

Text:  Robert Grant



Composer:  William Croft

From Hymnary. Org


“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” These may be some of the best-known words in the Bible, but in 1835, Robert Grant wrote a text that helps us see the creation story in a new light. His meditation on the creation theme of Psalm 104 consists of six verses that parallel the six days of creation. But rather than simply paraphrase the psalm or the first two books of the Bible, Grant focuses on how creation is a testimony to God’s “measureless might.” And Grant’s beautiful text doesn’t stop at Genesis Two. Rather, in the fourth and fifth verse we celebrate God’s saving grace to his creation. When God took that seventh day of rest, he was not signaling an end. He continued to bless His creation, even those as feeble and frail as us. In the last verse, Grant points to Christ as the ultimate reconciler of a broken, but still beautiful creation. An original last stanza that we no longer sing reads, “The humbler creation, though feeble their lays, with true adoration shall lisp to Thy praise.”

Albert Bailey wrote of this text: “It is no small accomplishment to combine, as this hymn does, the majestic, the tender, and a smooth-flowing poetical rendering” (Gospel in Hymns, 182). The text has not been changed much from Grant’s original. Some verses are not included in all hymnals – unlike most hymnals, the Psalter Hymnal leaves out the original third stanza, which reads, “The earth with its store of wonders untold, Almighty, thy power hath founded of old; hath ‘stablished it fast by a changeless decree, and round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.” The Psalter Hymnal does, however, include a verse many hymnals leave out, beginning “O measureless Might.”

William Croft was a boy chorister in the Chapel Royal in London and then an organist at St. Anne's, Soho. Later he became organist, composer, and master of the children of the Chapel Royal, and eventually organist at Westminster Abbey. He contributed psalm tunes to The Divine Companion (1707) and to the Supplement to the New Version of Psalms by Dr. Brady and Mr. Tate (1708), which included HANOVER. These tunes mark a new development in English psalm tunes. HANOVER was printed anonymously, but William Croft is generally credited with its composition. The name derives from the House of Hanover, the family of King George III.

Here’s a rousing rendition from Belfast, Ireland. YOUTUBE

Sing my soul, his wondrous love, #467

# 467 Sing, my soul, his wondrous love

Words:  Anonymous

Music: St. Bees, by John Bacchus Dykes

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 I chose this hymn because who doesn’t like a tune called St. Bees? St Bees is a coastal village, civil parish and electoral ward in the Copeland district of Cumbria, England, on the Irish Sea. It was originally in the historic county of Cumberland.  I can’t find a reference to who J. B. Dykes named this tune “St. Bees” or who gave it that name, but let’s assume he may have traveled there and was inspired.

I also chose this hymn as I am very fond of bees and am quite worried about what is happening to our bee population due to disease AND the overuse of chemicals in our gardens and farms.  It is a crisis not only for home gardeners but for commercial farms.  Please, before you spray your yard and garden with pesticides, think about the poor bees who are trying to pollinate our flowers and vegetables.  Have mercy on our bees.  We need them. 

This devotional hymn of praise has no known author and first appeared in 1800. The hymn made it into the 1826 Hymnal and was set to the tune of St. Bees – the tune to which it is now most often sung, by John Bacchus Dykes in 1854. St. Bees is a tune also shared by Jesus, Name of Wondrous Love composed by Wm. Walsham How. (#323). To read more about the text and the scriptural references, read the entire posting.

Enjoy the organ and congregation at  St John’s in Detroit YOUTUBE

Where cross the crowded ways of life, #609

# 609 Where cross the crowded ways of life

Words:  Frank Mason North


Music:  Gardiner, from Sacred Melodies, 1815, arranged by William Gardiner

Frank Mason North, born New York, Dec. 3, 1850, graduated at Wesleyan University 1872, and entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church 1872.

Caleb T. Winchester, an editor of the 1905 Methodist Hymnal, challenged Frank M. North (to write a hymn text on city missions. North had intimate knowledge of urban life because of his work for the Methodist Church in New York City. Inspired by Jesus' words "Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find" (Matt. 22:9), North wrote "Where Cross the Crowded Ways." After making various revisions and adding a title ("A Prayer for the Multitudes"), he published the text in The Christian City (June 1903), a mission’s journal he edited. The text was also published in the 1905 Methodist Hymnal and in many other twentieth-century hymnbooks. Modern hymnals have changed the original "thous" and "thees" to "yous." One of the earliest and finest modern "city hymns," this text focuses on the ills of our great urban centers (and ignores their benefits) with the insight and compassion of a Christian worker in the city slums. North's descriptive phrases may have been startling at the turn of the century, but they are even more accurate descriptions of the massive cities in our world today. His prescription to follow in the footsteps of Christ and bring the gospel in word and deed is relevant as long as the Lord delays in bringing the New Jerusalem. Primarily a churchman, North devoted himself to loyal service in the Methodist denomination and to various ecumenical ventures. He was educated at Wesleyan University, Middleton, Connecticut, and ordained in the Methodist Church in 1872. A minister in several churches in Florida, New York, and Connecticut, he also held administrative positions-secretary of the New York Church Extension and Missionary Society (1892-1912) and secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Church (1912-1924). He was involved with the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (forerunner of the National Council of Churches) and was the council's president from 1916-1920. Editor of the periodical Christian City, North was active in many organizations that promoted and carried out Christian ministries in urban life. North contributed hymns to Sursum Corda (1898) and the Methodist Hymnal (1905) and was a charter member of the Hymn Society, which republished his eight hymns in a booklet in 1970. Liturgical Use: For urban ministries and other occasions that emphasize missions and diaconal work. --Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1987 

William Gardner, 1770-1853, showed his musical gifts ear­ly.  At age six, he sang a so­lo at the wed­ding of his friend’s fa­ther. He lat­er learned to play the pi­a­no and vi­o­la, and as a teen­ag­er wrote a march for troops re­turn­ing from war in Amer­i­ca. As his mu­sic­al tastes ma­tured, he be­came an ad­mir­er of Beet­ho­ven and Hay­dn. He be­came a mem­ber of the His­tor­ic­al In­sti­tute in Par­is in 1843. His works in­clude: Sacred Mel­o­dies from Hay­dn, Mo­zart, and Beet­ho­ven, Adapt­ed to the Best Eng­lish Po­ets and Ap­pro­pri­at­ed to the Use of the Bri­tish Church (Lon­don: 1812-15)


Enjoy this from St. John’s in Detroit. YOUTUBE


Love divine, all loves excelling, #657

Hymn # 657 Love divine, all loves excelling

Words: Charles Wesley

The Sacred Heart of Jesus by Józef Mehoffer, 1911

The Sacred Heart of Jesus by Józef Mehoffer, 1911

Tune: Hyfrodol

Composer: Rowland Prichard

I really love this hymn.  It’s the perfect match of a lilting Welsh tune paired with lovely words to inspire and move us.   I especially love the very last phrases: “changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.”  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Considered by many to be among Charles Wesley's finest texts, "Love Divine" was published in four stanzas in his Hymns for those that seek, and those that have Redemption in the Blood of Christ (1747). Many hymnals, including the Psalter Hymnal, omit the original second stanza, which contained the questionable line "take away our power of sinning." A verse from John Dryden's poem beginning with the words "Fairest isle, all isles excelling" used by Henry Purcell in his opera King Arthur were undoubtedly Wesley's inspiration for writing this text. In fact, "Love Divine" was set to a Purcell tune in John and Charles Wesley's Sacred Melody (1761).

Addressed to Christ, this text begins as a prayer for the indwelling of his love in our lives: "fix in us thy humble dwelling" and "let us all thy life receive" (st. 1-2). A tone of praise and adoration runs throughout the text. But the final stanza is clearly a prayer for sanctification, for consistently holy lives. Though this stanza was an outcome of the Wesleyan doctrine of perfection, it is our fervent Christian prayer that our sanctification will ultimately lead to glorification. As is customary in a Charles Wesley text, biblical allusions abound.

One of the most loved Welsh tunes, HYFRYDOL was composed by Rowland Hugh Prichard in 1830 when he was only nineteen. It was published with about forty of his other tunes in his children's hymnal Cyfaill y Cantorion (The Singers' Friend) in 1844. 

Here is an arrangement by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Sometimes I think they are bit over the top, but this is very nice.  Enjoy.  YOUTUBE

There is another Welsh tune for this hymn, Blaenwern.  Enjoy it here as part of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.  YOUTUBE

The Church’s one foundation, #525

#525  The Church’s one foundation

Words: Samuel John Stone


Music:  Aurelia,  written by  Samuel S. Wesley


In the mid-nineteenth century, Bishop John William Colenso of Natal raised a ruckus in the Catholic Church when he challenged the historicity and authority of many of the Old Testament books. Bishop Gray of Capetown wrote a stirring response of defense, which, in 1866, inspired Samuel Stone, to write this beloved hymn, basing his text on Article 9 of the Apostle’s Creed: “The Holy Catholic (Universal) Church; the Communion of Saints; He is the Head of this Body.”

Now an affirmation of Christ as the foundation of our faith, we sing this hymn with those who have gone before us and with Christians around the world, declaring that beyond any theological differences, cultural divides, and variances in practice, we are all part of the same body, the body of Christ.

Composed by Samuel S. Wesley, AURELIA (meaning "golden") was published as a setting for “Jerusalem the Golden” in Selection of Psalms and Hymns, which was compiled by Charles Kemble and Wesley in 1864. Though opinions vary concerning the tune's merits (noted English organist and composer Henry J. Gauntlett once condemned it as "secular twaddle"), it has been firmly associated with Stone's text since tune and text first appeared together in the 1868 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern.

Enjoy this lovely a capella rendition by the Choir of  Kings College, Cambridge.  YOUTUBE

Sing praise to God who reigns above, #408

Hymn Notes # 408

Sing praise to God who reigns above

Words:  Johann Jacob Schutz

Music:  Mit Freuden zart



Johann Jakob Schütz wrote this hymn of praise in German with nine stanzas. In 1675 he published it in his Christliches Gedenkbüchlein. The most common English translation in use is by Frances E. Cox from 1864, which was published in Orby Shipley's Lyra Eucharistica and her own Hymns from the German.

This hymn is typically published with four stanzas. [Note: our 1982 Hymnal has 3 stanzas].  Stanza 1 always opens the hymn, and the original stanzas 2 and 6 are never used. Deuteronomy 32:3 was the basis for this hymn of praise – “For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!” (ESV) Using a variety of metaphors for God and for His works, this text overflows with proclamations of God's loving care for His people. This hymn extols the greatness of God in giving all good things to His people and calls on us to continue to give God the praise He richly deserves.

The most common tune used with this text is MIT FREUDEN ZART, which is an anonymous German tune named after an Easter hymn by Georg Vetter. It first appeared in a Bohemian Brethren hymnal in 1566, hence the alternate title BOHEMIAN BRETHREN.

Enjoy the organ, choir and congregation of First Presbyterian, Houston. YOUTUBE

Holy, holy, holy, #362

# 362   Holy, holy, holy

Words:                 Reginald Heber


Tune:                    Nicaea

Composer;          John Bacchus Dykes

Holy, Holy, Holy is surely one of the most inspiring and beautiful hymns.  Published in 1826,  it  first appeared in Anglican Hymnal in 1871.   Here is the story of its origin:

In 325 AD, Church leaders convened in the town of Nicaea in Bithynia to formulate a consensus of belief and practice amongst Christians. What resulted was the Nicene Creed, a document passed on through the ages as one of the pillars of church doctrine. The primary function of this creed was to establish a firm belief in the Trinity, countering the heresy of Arius, who believed that Jesus was not fully divine. It was this creed that inspired Reginald Heber to write this great hymn of praise to the Triune God, with the intent that the hymn be sung before or after the creed was recited in a service, and on Trinity Sunday – eight weeks after Easter. The tune, composed by John B. Dykes for Heber’s text, is also titled NICAEA in recognition of Heber’s text. The words evoke a sense of awe at the majesty of God, and call on all of creation – humans, saints and angels, and all living things – to praise the Godhead three-in-one.

I don’t know about you but the imagery of “casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea” never fails to give me chills.  Truly,  a magnificent hymn. 

Here is a glorious playing, organ only, played by the organ maker.  YOUTUBE

And here is congregational singing with organ and strings from the Church of St. Michael, Stillwater, MN. YOUTUBE

Note: I would have included a video from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but they changed the words:  not “God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity” but their version, “God in thy glory, through eternity.”

Come down, O Love Divine, #516

# 516  Come down, O Love Divine


Text:   Bianco di Siena; translated by Richard F. Littledale

Tune:  Down Ampney

Composer:  Ralph Vaughn Williams

Bianco da Siena entered the Order of Jesuates in 1367 consisting of unordained men who followed the rule of St. Augustine.  Richard Littledale was a 19th century scholar and curate who devoted the latter years of his life to literature, including the translating of hymns.

This hymn is the ideal pairing of text and tune, the inspiring verse sung to a simple, lovely melody.  The first verse addresses the Holy Spirit as “O Love divine” and “O Comforter,” asking for His presence in our lives. The middle verses (2nd in our Hymnal) ask the Holy Spirit to purge us of all pride and evil passion, and to purify our love and light our path. The final verse anticipates the greater love for God that will ensue from such purification, and recognizes that, as Paul wrote, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

The original third verse is not included in our 1982 Hymnal – why?  It’s so lovely and moving I had to share:

Let holy charity
mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing;
true lowliness of heart,
which takes the humbler part,
and o'er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) the son of a vicar, was a celebrated English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many folk song arrangements set as hymn tunes, and also influenced several of his own original compositions.  How ironic that his second wife described him as "an atheist ... [who] later drifted into a cheerful agnosticism."      The tune name comes from his boyhood home, Down Ampney, Gloucestershire.

Here's a lovely rendition by the King's College Choir, Cambridge. YOUTUBE

All hail the power of Jesus’ name, #450

# 450 All hail the power of Jesus’ name


Text:  Edward Perronet

Music:  Coronation, by Oliver Holden

I think this is a splendid hymn.   I especially like the reference to Earth as “this terrestrial ball.”

“It is interesting that those who express the most eloquent praise are often the people we would deem the least likely to have the ability. Yet David, the adulterating, murdering, lying king of Israel wrote a good deal of the Psalms, which we still use today as our guide for worship. In the same way, all accounts show Rev. Edward Perronet (1721-1792) to be a sharp-tongued, difficult personality, who would rather pick a fight over theology than display brotherly love. Though Perronet was a minister of the established Church of England, his evangelical, or "dissenting" roots grew deep. His father had been associated with Whitefield and the Wesleys, and Perronet himself worked with the Wesleys until they split over the question of administering the Sacraments. Perronet then found work as a chaplain for the famous patroness of the evangelical movement, Countess of Huntingdon, but was soon removed from his post due to his violent attacks on the established church. (Acidic remarks like, "I was born and I am like to die in the tottering communion of the Church of England; but I despise her nonsense." are the kind that force even the hardiest dissenter to keep their distance!) The text first appeared anonymously in 1780 in Gospel Magazine with the title "On the Resurrection." Many argue that the hymn has experienced continued popularity due to the hymntune MILES LANE which appeared with it in Gospel Magazine and the tunes CORONATION and DIADEM which have accompanied the text since that time. The poem was edited and added to by Rev. John Rippon for his book A Selection of Hymns, from the Best Authors intended to be an Appendix to Dr. Watts's Psalms and Hymns (1787), and his edition is the one commonly used in hymn books today. --Greg Scheer, 1997” 

Like the tune MILES LANE [see Hymn 451] , CORONATION was written for this text. Oliver Holden (b. Shirley, MA, 1765; d. Charlestown, MA, 1844) composed the tune in four parts with a duet in the third phrase. The tune, whose title comes from the theme of Perronet's text, was published in Holden's Union Harmony (1793). It is the one eighteenth-century American tune that has enjoyed uninterrupted popularity–from the singing schools of that era to today's congregational worship. CORONATION is a vigorous marching tune with many repeated tones that delighted Holden's contemporaries. The tune requires the jubilant repetition of the last couplet of text for each stanza. Sing in parts and accompany with a firm sense of rhythm. Holden was reared in a small rural community and had only a minimal formal education–a few months in a "common school" in Groton, Massachusetts. He worked as a carpenter and was involved in community service in Charlestown, holding posts in the Anti-Slavery Society and serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In addition, he worked very profitably as a merchant and real estate dealer, and served as a Puritan lay preacher. Very interested in music, Holden became a composer and singing-school teacher in the tradition of William Billings. He was involved in publishing various tune books, including The American Harmony (1792), The Massachusetts Compiler (1795), Plain Psalmody (1800), and The Charlestown Collection of Sacred Songs (1803). --Psalter Hymnal Handbook.


Enjoy this video from First Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska YOUTUBE

Christ is made the sure foundation, #518

# 518 Christ is made the sure foundation

church on rock.jpg

Words: Latin, ca 7th century, translated for Hymns Ancient and Modern by John Mason Neale

Music:  Westminster Abbey

Composer:  Henry Purcell

A favorite hymn since it was first entered the Hymnal in 1871, this text has gained an even greater measure of favor and us in the Episcopal Church since it was matched with the Purcell tune Westminster Abbey in Hymnal Supplement II, 1986.  This text/tune relationship was first introduced to Americans through the broadcast of the marriage ceremony of Princess Margaret of England and Lord Snowden in 1960.  It is now often used as a processional hymn at weddings in Episcopal churches.

One of the oldest Latin hymn texts, it was found in manuscript collection of hymns from the ninth century, but perhaps dates back as early at the sixth century.  The stanzas are actually part of a much longer hymn traditionally associated with the dedication of a church. 

The tune Westminster Abbey is derived from an anthem by the great English composer Henry Purcell. The tune name obviously reflect Purcell’s various associations with the great London church. From 1674-1678, Purcell tuned the organ in the Abbey and later succeeded John Blow as the organist.  On November 25, 1695, his funeral and burial were held there.

Here is a glorious YouTube of the hymn, from an Ecumenical Celebration at, yes, Westminster Abbey, 17 September 2010.   Be sure to watch as well as listen to the end.   Wow.  YOUTUBE